First signs of winter.

Living in the north of Saudi and 2000 feet above sea level we experience a few cold months usually from November through til March. This year, the temperature has stayed unseasonably high but now there is a definite chill in the air and signs of the approaching winter months are all around.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.


The mandarine oranges are ripening.

The mandarine oranges are ripening.


And in the downtown shops the traditional Arab coats, called Farwa, are on sale.
This year's range include some bright colours.

This year’s range include some bright colours.


I went with the intention of buying 1 to take home and ended up buying 2!
My bright Syrian farwa.

My bright Syrian farwa.


And the back view.image
And also from Syria a more conservative farwa.image
I doubt that I will ever wear them out and about in UK unless it’s to a fancy dress party but for summer evenings in the garden they will be great to keep any slight chills at bay:)
So how cold does it get in Tabuk? Today it was a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 19, but later in the week they’re forecasting 0 degrees! Time to put the sandals away for a few months I think!

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Procrastination

It’s the weekend here in Saudi so a perfect time to catch up on some serious study for my Open University course. Having received my books a few weeks ago I’ve been really proud of how far ahead I’ve been able to get with the reading. Now comes the first assignment. This week I’ve been trying to get together the notes I think I need to make a start on writing my essay.

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So this was how much of my day should have been spent.
Wrong!
This is what was achieved instead.

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Five flower brooches that I hope will appeal to a few people at the Christmas Fayre on our compound in December.
I’m really happy with them -only feel a little guilty about doing zero work on my essay and feel positive that tomorrow I’ll be in a more literary mood- Inshallah! As they say in Arabia!

Ma’asalama.

Expat life is filled with positives and negatives. One of the great things is the selection of people you get to meet. Even here in a compound for a British company there is quite a range of nationalities. Mostly the men are British or Australian but their wives come from a diverse range of countries- Thailand, Poland, Czech Republic, Somalia, South Africa – to name just a few. The reason for this is partly to do with the itinerant nature of the men who have sometimes worked in a few other countries before ending up here or a result of both being expat workers here.
Over the years I have therefore had the pleasure of getting to know some really lovely people and becoming great friends with many of them. However an inevitable part of expat life in Saudi is that none of us will ever make it our permanent home and so there comes the time that we will leave.

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This past week has been a week of ma’asalamas or goodbyes as 3 different families have been preparing to move on to new ‘adventures’. All 3 have been in the community for a number of years so it is sad to see them go and I’m sure I won’t be alone in remembering them fondly.
Having been here for nearly 28 years I have had to say goodbye to many people and only kept in touch with a few, but now with the ‘miracle’ that is Facebook I have become reacquainted with so many. Somehow, the parting of the ways to whatever far flung corner of the world that is involved is not so sad anymore and

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as the time comes closer for my turn to ‘leave on that Saudia jet plane’ I know that keeping in touch will be so much easier than it ever was before.

School visitor!

Look what visited us in school today!

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And it was alive!
One of the teachers spotted this scorpion crawling up the outside wall of the building this morning. She fetched another teacher to catch it in a jug- brave, foolhardy people!
All the classes had a visit from it and in my class we had a great nature & keeping safe lesson from the experience. I was pleased to hear from the 5 and 6 year old children just how much they were aware about the dangers of some of the wildlife here and how to keep themselves safe.
For the adults I think it definitely made us think how close we are living to nature even although we don’t encounter it very often on our concrete walled in compound!
After we all had a good look, and no doubt planted an image that may well be the source of a few nightmares, the headmaster took it outside the compound and released it on some waste ground. Lets hope it will live happily ever after there and not feel the need to revisit us again!

Brussels sprouts in June!

What is it about brussel sprouts that they always seem to get such a reaction when mentioned? They definitely are a vegetable that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp and have been that way since I can remember- in fact I am so weird that for along time they were my favourite vegetable!
Living in Saudi has meant that many winters and therefore Christmas meals have come and gone without a single brussel sprout to be seen in the supermarket. Occasionally there is talk of some being available in Riyadh and then if you are fortunate to know of someone visiting there you might be lucky enough to have some brought back for you.
Imagine our surprise when shopping on Thursday to see these in the veg section!

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We have no idea where they have come from as they are just labelled ‘imported’ and for a change as imported goods they aren’t horrendously priced- 8 sr. Which is about £1.30- not cheap I know but compared to paying £5 for a small tub of blueberries or £5 for a head of celery, not bad.
Were they worth it- definitely. I blanched them earlier. Counted out 5 each for my husband and I to have for dinner and froze the rest for another time. They were sooooo good:)
Okay so we live in a desert etc. so having to have lots of fruit and veg imported should be expected, but this is a little known fact. Flowers are grown in this this area using hydro culture and are exported to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to sell in the flower market there!!
As well as our imported brussel sprouts and blueberries we also bought this bunch of beautiful Saudi grown lilies!

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Something to ponder next time you’re buying flowers- they might have been grown on a farm in Saudi Arabia!

T.A.I.W! (Thank Allah it’s Wednesday)

It’s Wednesday and for many expats (and Saudis) it’s the end of the working week and a welcome couple of days off:) Saudi is one of the few Middle East countries that take Thursday and Friday as their weekend. Most other countries here take Friday and Saturday and there has been talk of Saudi changing too, but so far it doesn’t seem to be going to happen soon. In business terms this means that Saudi is out of line with companies and banks not just with Europe and U.S. but also with its neighbours which narrows the days that transactions can be done.
So what to do with 2 lovely, free days to oneself and one’s family?
That depends very much on where in Saudi you live and also what kind of people you are. In a city there are more opportunities for shopping and eating out- which seems to be a popular weekend activity for many.
Here in the smaller town of Tabuk a visit to town is still a popular activity and a bit of a necessity to stock up with food items. Not very exciting but teamed with a visit to a fast food outlet is a Thursday morning must for many people I know.

Venturing further afield a visit to the beach is a common weekend trip for families and divers. The Red Sea is about 2 hours drive away and many popular camping sites are dotted over a couple of hundred miles of the coast.
And then there’s my favourite- exploring the nearby desert. A lovely feeling just being at one with nature and enjoying the peaceful feeling I always seem to experience there.
However, this weekend there’s no trip for me- I have a university assignment due and I need to do some serious study- so my downtime will be watching a DVD and getting a takeaway from the compound restaurant.
Enjoy your weekend whenever it happens:)

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My favourite place to be at the weekend.

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Fast food street.