Category Archives: ….Here in KSA

Just a typical day in Yanbu, KSA.


One night, I walked into the kitchen to get something to drink. The curtain by the class door was still open. I don’t bother to close it, even at night, because there’s nothing outside of it except the yard and a wall.

But that night, I saw something. I turned on the light, and there it was. A rat! It was sitting on a bar of the iron door. It was as if it was sitting inside as far as I was concerned. 

Even though it was outside, I couldn’t stand the sight of it. So, I tapped on the glass thinking it would run away. Not only did it just sit there, it didn’t even flinch. Obviously I had to try something else. So, I hit the glass harder using the broom stick. This time, it acknowledged that someone was trying to get its attention.

It turned its head as if to say, “Do you mind?” And that was it. That rat didn’t give a tiny rat’s fill in the blank about me or my feeble attempts to get rid of it.

Apparently, there was a cat in the neighborhood, and the rat was hiding in a dark spot where it might not be seen. 

Now, whenever I’m in the kitchen at night, I check to see if there might be one. I’m still bothered by the fact that there might be others lurking about.

Just a day in the life…

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in ....Here in KSA


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Only in KSA

A few years back one of my colleagues talked about a visit she had at the doctor’s office. She mentioned that the doctor was chewing gum and how she thought that it was inappropriate. At the time, I laughed as I tried to picture it. But who knew I’d have a similar experience someday?

Well, my experience wasn’t exactly the same, but gum was involved. I went to the pharmacy in hopes of finding a particular type of shampoo. As is customary when I’m shopping, I picked up a couple other items I probably don’t need. I put them on the counter and asked one of the pharmacists about the shampoo. He went to get it and gave me instructions on how often to use it. And then the other “pharmacist” behind the counter started ringing me up. I watched in amazement as he scanned each item while chewing gum. And he wasn’t simply chewing. He was really going to town.

I remembered my friend and said to myself, “Smacking gum isn’t a good look on a pharmacist.” He was trying to tell me the total but all I could see was his mouth moving a mile a minute and also hear the sound of gum popping between his teeth. As you might have guessed, I can’t stand that.

Where on earth would you see doctors and pharmacists chewing gum like school kids while on the job? Maybe it happens elsewhere, but for now I’m going to say it’s one of those things found only in KSA.

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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in ....Here in KSA


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Just a Day in the Life…

Thursday, July 9, 2015. I had been waiting for that day for what seemed like an eternity. We would begin our long journey that day, the ninth. But, no vacation would be complete without a little stress to make you remember why it is you need one to begin with.

And this type of stress is all part of the whole experience, the whole package.

Wednesday, I got an SMS from the bank about “prohibited” countries. My first thought was, “What the heck does that mean?” I continued reading the message which stated that, “If you plan to travel to Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Macao, your ATM card will not work.” It then said something about contacting the bank to activate your card so that you can use it in previously mentioned countries. I looked at the message again and again. Why on earth would a bank block your ATM card? Who cares where you travel? It’s your money! And then I had a flashback. When I was in Thailand a couple years back, my ATM didn’t work. I had no idea why and I was fortunate enough to have some other currency I could exchange. The bank wasn’t so “courteous” at that time, so I didn’t receive the nice SMS.

I called the bank. I was told my card would be activated. I called the next day to make sure. I didn’t trust the situation, so I withdrew cash and exchanged money in the airport. And it’s a good thing I did because when I tried to use my ATM in the airport in Kuala Lumpur, it didn’t work. When I read, “Declined for insufficient funds” I nearly had a heart attack. What kind of trip was it going to be?

We hopped on a plane to Langkawi. An hour later we were getting our bags and looking for our transport service to the villa. I tried the ATM machine. And guess what? My card didn’t work. I was slowly coming to a boil. Not only did I have to worry about being able to access cash, I also had to make an international call while roaming. It was Friday night which meant I would have to wait until Sunday to call the bank.

Sunday morning, KSA time, I started my the phone call game. I must’ve made about 10 to 15 calls that day. Not only did I have to navigate through the silly phone menus to speak to a human, but I also had the misfortune of my calls being dropped or the person on the other end couldn’t hear me. I did finally get through and I was told that it would be working in 24 hours. And of course, I had my doubts.

Twenty-four hours later, we went to town with a driver and stopped to use an ATM. I tried one machine but it apparently hadn’t yet awakened from its slumber. It must’ve been a rough night for that machine. A bank worker then directed us to a different machine. I waited patiently for the card not to work. I told myself that if it didn’t work, the first thing I’d do one back in KSA would be to change banks. Thankfully it did work and we both breathed a sigh of relief. For one, we knew we could get cash if we needed it and two I wouldn’t have to endure the pain of trying to close my bank account. If I ever do, one post won’t be enough to tell the story.



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Weddings in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah

Who doesn’t love weddings?  It’s always nice to be part of the celebration of starting a new life together.  But for me, weddings are about more than that, especially since college when I first started to learn more about Arab culture.  I always wanted to go to weddings to see how different countries and cultures celebrated this life changing event.  I saw Palestinian weddings, Senegalese, Moroccoan-Iraqi and Iraqi weddings.  Each one had its on uniqueness.  And Saudi Arabia is no exception.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure where to begin.  I love and hate Saudi weddings, lol.  I hate the fact that they go so late though I’ve been told that in some areas of the country they don’t last that long.  I was most recently at a wedding that was supposed to begin at 10pm. Apparently in this part of the world, the time is a target time.  No one is ever on time.  If you say 10, it means at least 11, at least.  Unfortunately for me, I was already sleepy at 9.  But, it was important for me to go.  First, the bride was one of my best friends’ daughter and second I had never seen a wedding in Jeddah before.  I had seen Medinah and kind of Yanbu.  I was sick of what I had seen in Medinah so I was hoping to see something different.  Sadly, many things are in fact the same, for example the dresses and makeup.

Clothes and Makeup

When you walk into these weddings, you will see everything and I have a name for them all.  There’s the skanky dress, the gaudy, the elegant, the “eh” and the OMG.  You will see it all.  It should be a crime for some people to wear what they do.  Please think long and hard before showing yourselves in public, ladies.  I saw Punky Brewster style getups as well as the, “Who let you out the house like that?” While I saw much that entertained me, there was one dress that really stood out to me.  The lady reminded me of Little Bo Peep. You heard me, Little Bo Peep.  It was ghastly yet she was so proud.  And of course my friends and I  were the first ones to notice.  I heard my friends saying, “Wow!”  And all I kept thinking was, “Sorry, Little Bo Peep, we haven’t seen your sheep.  Now get back on your rightful page in that nursery rhyme book and we’ll call it a day.” What was she thinking?  I realize we all have different tastes, but come on!  Her dress wasn’t the only offensive thing I saw, but it was definitely the biggest offense.  I still have nightmares about it.  Then there’s the makeup.  What can I say about makeup?  Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about it since I’m not a fan of makeup.  I use light, very light makeup.  I don’t like putting gunk on my face.  Some women had on about 10 layers of crap which was then painted with various colors of the rainbow.  It’s not clown school.  I don’t know who told them that more makeup means more beautiful.  Less is more.  Not everyone opts for clown makeup, but many do.  I keep trying my best not to be so judgmental, but I simply can’t help it when I see it.  Often they were more attractive before the remanufacturing of their faces.


One of the things that can make or break the wedding is the entertainment.  If I didn’t mention it before, we westerners were on time.  We were there by 10pm.  Silly foreigners, lol.  Anyway, the “singers” didn’t begin until about midnight.  What was funny was that they performed one song and took a break.  The song sucked and then they had the nerve to take a break.  Really?!  Were they so exhausted that they needed a coffee break?  I didn’t even like the looks on their faces.  They seemed to have attitudes, bad ones.  They couldn’t keep people on the floor.  Lots of times people were dancing and they actually looked bored.  My buddies and I laughed at the scene we saw.  Interestingly enough, they got better later that night.  Unfortunately, many of us were half asleep.  I didn’t get back to my hotel until 5:30am.  I was awake with the roosters.  In fact, I could have done the cockadoodle doodling.  Who knows?  Maybe I did.

The last thing that I have to say about the weddings here is that I personally find them to be excessive.  I suppose it’s okay if you’re filthy rich, but contrary to popular belief, not all Saudis are wealthy and they don’t each have their own personal oil wells on their property.  Often people have to break the bank, maybe incurring debt, to pay for their extravagant weddings.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy seeing the wedding halls nicely decorated and the like, but I still believe it’s too much.  My advice to everyone is to consider toning it down a bit.  A grand wedding does not guarantee a grand, happy life.

I know that what I said might piss some people off and at the same time I know there are plenty of people who agree.  Feel free to comment, yell, scream or otherwise :).

Anyway, one wedding down, a gazillion to go.  Next up, a wedding in Yanbu.



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Special Report: Bravery in Action

We interrupt this series on Turkey for a special report…..

Once upon a time, I mentioned that KSA had taught me bravery, courage.  And today, I was given the opportunity to show this courage.  The story goes something like this.

I was sitting in my friend’s office talking about nothing, as usual.  Out of nowhere, my friend showed me a teeny tiny black “object.”  “What does this look like to you?” she asked.  It wasn’t a matter of what it looked like but what it was.  I told her, “It’s mouse poo.”  It wasn’t really surprising since we have seen these “gifts” around campus.  We saw one mouse run from one office around a corner and another set up camp in the librarian’s office.

She asked me where it was and I told her with confidence that it probably left already.  Perhaps it had left a present and left.  So we continued to chat, and like something out of a movie, I looked to my left and saw the mouse walking on the chair.  It felt like it was happening in slow motion.  It was so close that I wasn’t sure if it was on the chair or on me.  And being that I was now this courageous woman, thanks to KSA, I screamed bloody murder.  My friend, startled of course, started screaming, “What?  What is it?”  I said frantically, “It’s your mouse!”  And she jumped up out of her chair and we both headed for the door.

Fortunately, one of the cleaning ladies was nearby.  My friend called her name and she ran.  I guess so, my friend sounded like she was freaking out.  She said, “There’s a mouse in my office, can you kill it?”  She got her broom and went in.  That psycho mouse moved like he didn’t have a care in the world.  It was as if he was taunting us.  All the while she was swinging and banging the broom all over the place trying to kill a seemingly suicidal mouse.  And being the brave souls we were, we screamed and ran down the hall.  Sadly, there were a couple students around.  I put my finger to my mouth and said, “Shh, don’t say anything and don’t tell anyone.”
The mouse finally met his demise when he made a run for the door leading outside.  Soon, life went back to “normal.”

I am as brave today as I was before.  I’m actually quite proud of myself.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…..


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A Suburbanite in Jeddah II

It was Thursday and I knew that I would have no choice but to venture out into the city, the jungle known to others as Jeddah. I woke up early as is customary for me. I showered and had something that was supposed to be breakfast. I then spoke to the concierge in the hotel to make arrangements for a car. This time I decided to go with a regular taxi because it would cost me half of what the hotel charged.

I got in the taxi and the concierge told him to take me to the Mall of Arabia. I had seen it but had never been inside. Being a typical foreign tourist, I was carrying a super sized bag and my ginormous camera. It was so bad that I laughed at myself. I walked around looking and feeling lost. I marveled at all the stores I knew from home. I also marveled at their prices which were worse than home. Still, I walked around venturing into those that somehow caught my eye. Of course the assumption was that I spoke Arabic so I did what I usually do, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I stopped in a department store looking buy some mascara. I had very specific colors in mind but being the “wonderful” salespeople they were they tried to convince me to choose different colors along with some other crap I don’t use and don’t ever want to use. But my personal favorite was a woman who I told I wanted a color. Her reply, “مو حلو” or it’s not nice. I thought to myself, “Did I ask for your opinion, lady?” Instead I told her that I wanted it anyway. And I recorded a mental note to not shop at that store again. It should be pretty easy since the chances of me going to that mall again are zero to none.

I continued exploring the mall until I realized that I had walked in a complete circle. I was tired but I kept walking. The fact that there’s no place to sit helped. You would think a mall this size would have a few benches here and there. You would think. It was getting close to prayer time so I kept walking until I came to the food court. I looked around at all the restaurants I couldn’t eat at. After all, it was prayer time. I had seen Friday’s on the other side and had decided to eat there once prayer was over. When it was time, I started on my trek across town, I mean the mall. As I got close enough I noticed that the food court was actually pretty close but to my dismay I had take the scenic route.

I ate at Friday’s and was disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Another note to self to skip that joint if I ever see one again. I had finally had enough and decided to go back to the hotel. I went out a little later to get those darn passport photos. It was “warm” of course and I worried about having the same wonderful look for this new set. I fanned myself and prayed the driver would get to a place soon before my entire face melted off. As luck would have it I looked slightly less sweaty than the previous disaster. So I took them and said, “Oh well.” I was not going to spend the evening trying new photos with each one worse than the previous one. I made one more trip that day and decided to go back to the hotel.

Friday morning it was time for me to head back. Having no shame and being desperate, I asked the taxi driver to deliver my photo to the US Consulate. Of course I paid him extra and prayed he was trustworthy.

In the end I had one thought in mind…..

I am not a city girl.

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in ....Here in KSA


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A Suburbanite in Jeddah

They say it’s good to be an adventurer from time to time but when you’re a chicken it’s best to stick to what you know and ease yourself into adventure.

I went to Jeddah to take my application to renew my passport. In an attempt to be adventurous, I decided to spend the entire weekend in Jeddah. Problem is, I was raised in suburbia and was perfectly happy to remain in my quiet life of snobbery. I’m not really a snob but some people think that people from the suburbs are.

So, I set out on my journey which began with my driver barely getting me to the airport on time. Fortunately for me the boarding times on your boarding pass mean nothing. You will board at best, 15 minutes before takeoff. I said at best. It isn’t common for it to be less, especially at the airport here in Yanbu. In any case, I still made it on time. I got to the airport in Jeddah, got my bag and went to look for the driver from the hotel. I saw the man with his sign which read, “Mr Amal Ibrahim.” Come on! I’m in an Arab country where Amal is a pretty common name so they should have known better. Yada yada yada, I reached the hotel safely and the first thing I noticed as the car was pulling into the lot was this sign.

I laughed so hard inside. I had to try to control it since I didn’t want the driver to think I was nuts. And I knew that he might not appreciate the humor in it. All I could think about was getting a picture of it which I would tweet, email and spread in as many ways as possible to people I knew would appreciate it. Every time I thought about it I laughed. But then it was time to get serious. I had an appointment at the consulate at 2pm the next day and I needed to prepare myself mentally, reminding myself that I cannot slap anyone, no matter how tempting.

Wednesday morning I was up bright and early still trying to relax. After all, my last experience at the consulate wasn’t a pleasant one. I headed to the concierge desk around 1pm to arrange for transportation. I got in the car, prepared. I had left my phones and anything I had of value in the safe. All I had was my teeny, tiny, wallet-sized purse which had my money, passport, iqama and about a million passport photos.

When you arrive to the US Consulate you feel like you are in a war zone. It’s the only one that looks that way. I walked. in, jumping through the hoops they have ready for you. When I got closer I was asked why I was there and then it was time to go through security. I was asked to lift my abaya, show my face and put all the contents of my gigantic purse into a brown envelope. “You can’t take this. Big bags are not allowed.” I thought she was joking so I asked, “Is it big?” I kept saying to myself, “Patience, Amal, patience.” I had to remember that I was there on a mission, to get my passport renewed. I followed the yellow and white striped road to get to the actual office. It felt like I was on the yellow brick road. What is this, the Wizard of Oz? I wondered. There’s no rhyme or reason for this silly trail we have to follow to get inside. But, what to do? I got inside, took a number and sat down. When I was called, I went to the counter and told the lady I was there to renew my passport. I gave her my application and a photo. “Oh no, this is too small,” she said. So being the prepared person I am, I pulled out my backup photo and then she said, “Oh no, it has to be closer to the hairline.” Oh my God! I was told I could go across the street and get photos taken. I left and crossed the street with a fair amount of ease. Of course it was closed. Great! I found the driver and told him I needed a photo studio. Never mind the fact that I had been sweating like a pig. We got to the studio and I did my best to wipe the sweat off of my face with tissues. I looked in the mirror and I thought it was okay. Not wonderful, just okay. And let’s face it I didn’t really have time to worry about it. But when I saw the pictures, I was frightened. “Good God! Is that me?” I thought. Then I remembered that this horrible picture would be with me for ten years so I opted to try again. It was too late. I only had till 5pm to get them another picture and giving them the other one quite simply wasn’t an option. So that meant I’d have to go out on Thursday to get more pictures.

To be continued….

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in ....Here in KSA


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