Blogs from Saudi Arabia, Middle East - page 16

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Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Jeddah December 23rd 2008

As everyone in our group came to know (and probably got tired of hearing!), I was a student of Ottoman history in a former lifetime. The second part of our journey - to Jeddah and the Hijaz - was an opportunity for me to walk the walk of the Arabian Peninsula's Ottoman past. And with the end of the Hajj just a few days before our arrival, I got to experience the aftershocks of the most important of Islam's communal rites. An Ottomanist's dream! *** Landing in Jeddah's airport, I realized right away that we were in a very different Saudi than what we'd experienced in Dhahran, even considering our foray into the desert. Jeddah, from it's earliest days (which stretch back well over a thousand years), has been a cosmopolitan entrepot and the staging point ... read more
Jeddah as Crossroads
Coffee and Date
Empowering Saudi Women

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Dhahran December 23rd 2008

You know, warm, forthy camel milk straight from the source ain't so bad. I bet it would even go well with coffee. A Saudi Starbucks original! Starting in Houston, our group had been teased with the prospect of a visit to Shaybah, a major oil drilling development in the Rub' al-Khali (or Empty Quarter), an area of dramatic, towering red sand dunes. A desert's desert. But, alas, a tease was all it was. But, thankfully, our Aramco guide, sensing our disappointment, organized a venture into the desert just outside of Dhahran where we got to meet a camel herder. While perhaps not as spectacular, this visit was the first time on the trip that I felt: yes, I am in Saudi. It was also the moment I began to see just what a muddle of tradition ... read more
Road to No Where
Bull and Master
Watch out! Camels spit!

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Dhahran December 13th 2008

The lobster, I swear, was staring me down (despite its missing head), daring me to take one more bite, just one more. But so was the stuffed crab, the oysters, the prawns the size of my head, the calamari, the various forms of fish…the whole crowd of seafood sitting in front of me. But how could I eat anymore? The entire day, our first full one in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had been defined by exuberant hospitality, which invariably meant being plied with more food and drink than possibly could be consumed. Fragrant, cardamom-laced green coffee; stuffed dates; sweets of endless variety; a buffet lunch that included some roasted gazelle-like creature; now a mind-bogglingly huge four course meal at a seafood restaurant perched next to the causeway to Bahrain. I had consumed enough calories to ... read more
No, this is not how I got to Saudi.
Welcome to the Kingdom!
"Energy to the World"

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Jeddah November 26th 2008

OK.... well actually we are no longer in Saudi.... and are now in Kuwait. But... as these pics are from Saudi I wanted them to come under the Saudi section here on Travelblog. The tour is over... and we are now on our way home. From Jeddah we went to Dubai... had two nights there... and then 1.5 days here in Kuwait. We fly out in 3 hours. Everything went by so fast. Jeddah was great... and so liberal compared to the rest of the Kingdom. Hell... women can actually walk outside of the hotel without a man at their side!! Holy moly. We flew south to Abha and Najran.... where the landscape is quite different from the rest of the country. Mountains and a wee bit of greenery. Seemed quite conservative... and we were always ... read more
village in Souda.. southern Saudi
prayer section at the back of the plane on Saudi Airlines
Asir National Park in the south

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Abha November 20th 2008

Here in Abha.... and getting reading to set off for Najran tomorrow morning. Had a great day exploring old mud-brick villages and taking cable car rides down the edge of the escarpment. The city here is typically unattractive... but the sights in the area are great. All seem to be having a fun time... tough most have just sussed out that the tour is coming to an end soon. Just a few nights left. Staying here at the 5star Abha Palace has been great... and a nice upgrade. But, the location is a bit away from the center and the prices are high!!! Including this internet!! So... I am gonna try to send some pics.... and they will give you a better idea of what we have seen and what we have been doing. ok....have been ... read more
Mada'in Saleh
typical highway in the Hijaz region
old village of Al Ula

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Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Empty Quarter November 19th 2008

Well... we are now about 500km south of Jeddah. Had a great time in the city.... and surely could have used another day there (but without the group). It is the only city in the Kingdom that has somehow managed to retain some of the old architecture. Everywhere else in Arabia they knock the old down to build new. But Jeddah has kept a few gems. The heat and humidity were high there... being on the Red Sea. But not overwhelming at this time of year. Nothing killer like southeast Asia. Had a couple of great meals out ... and the women enjoyed the fact that Jeddah is more liberal than anywhere else in Saudi... and they could actually take their headscarves off at dinner!!!! WOW!!! Took a cruise in a large bay near the Red ... read more

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Jeddah November 16th 2008

OK... well, I have tagged this as 'Jeddah'.. though we are not there yet. So much has happened since my last post... and there is so much to tell. Sorry... but this may be kind of random. Right now we are in Al Ula... a stunning little oasis town in the northwest.. and gateway to Mada'in Salah. Mada'in Salah was the southern capital of the Nabateans (those who built Petra in Jordan)... and so is considered the Petra of Saudi. We spent 4 hours at the sight this morning... walking through the sand and admiring the magnificent tombs cut into the sandstone cliffs. Wow.. what a sight. Something truly amazing and probably the best archaeological sight in the country. Great place to hit in the middle of our tour. This area is also located on the ... read more

Middle East » Saudi Arabia November 13th 2008

at last....here are some pics. A bit of everything... read more
camel market - riyadh
camel market - riyadh
Qara Caves near Hofuf

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Dammam November 12th 2008

OK... I continue to try and add pics here.... but all attempts ahve failed. Quick update. Great train ride from Riyadh to Hofuf. Giant train station.... empty. Strange 'first class' lounge with free fresh arabic coffee and dates. Plasma tvs... internet access... and a Sony Playstation??. After 3.5 hours of driving across the worlds most uninspiring landscape we were there. Oh... Tom & Jerry Cartoons and Mr Bean played on the video in our train car to help pass the time.... and more dates were passed around. Balance of the day was spent trying to make the most out of our sightseeing schedule. Such a headache... as the places we wanted to see were either closed for renovation or inaccesible. Why did nobody tell me that before. Managed to visit some funky caves and a womens ... read more

Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Riyadh November 9th 2008

Yes... we are in Saudi Arabia. Crap... I can't beleive it. This tour has been a long time in the works.... and I truly am finding it hard to believe that we are really here. WOW WOW WOW. I have had a tour to Saudi planned in my head for ages.... and finally got it rolling a year ago. All the planning and plotting... staring at the map... reading ... and now I am in Riyadh. Chilled in Dubai for the morning... including the always mandatory mall visit... and then headed out. Met with the group for an orientation meeting before leaving for the airport. Spent an hour prepping them for what to expect and what not to expect. So much is contrary to what one usually experieces or is prepared for when travelling. Can't do ... read more




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