My Yanbu: The Red Sea

When people say Yanbu, they could be talking about Yanbu Albahar, Yanbu Alnakhel or Yanbu Alsinaiyah (Industrial). I live in the latter, and it’s the place I’ve called home for almost 12 years.

It’s small, but in my opinion it’s a very nice place to live and raise a family. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you may find in larger cities like Jeddah and Riyadh, but it has its own charm. And one of the best things about living here is being able to go sit by the Red Sea anytime I wish.

My favorite time to go is early in the morning because I like the calm, and if you like birds, this is the time to see them. Also, if it’s not windy, the water is still. My morning trips to various spots along the sea have rewarded me greatly. I’ve seen birds and lots of fish without having to dive.

It’s very tranquil. If you want to relax, sit by the sea in the morning with only the sounds of the water splashing and the laughing seagulls. If you want to venture elsewhere along the corniche, you’ll experience different things as can be seen in the featured photo.

I’ve seen flamingos, herons and egrets, and other shoreline birds that I’m not likely to see in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Some people comment on how small Yanbu is, or they say it’s not as nice as other cities. But I say it has its own charm, and I like it the way it is.

This is my Yanbu.

 

Butterflies and More Flowers

Well, I met my friend at the Flower Festival, again. We wanted to try going on a weekday and early enough to possibly have a few “people-free” shots. Dare to dream! Of course it didn’t go perfectly, but it was a huge difference compared to the previous time. Since we had seen the birdies the first time, we decided to skip them this time and enjoy the ability to move without bumping into people.

This time we headed to the butterfly garden. There was one last year, but I didn’t go at all last year. And that’s why I really wanted to go this time. I also happen to love butterflies. I used to joke that there were only a total of 4 butterflies here because we just don’t see them that often. This gave me a chance to see more variety as well as hold a butterfly in my hand which I hadn’t done since childhood.

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I kept holding my hand out, hoping one would land. Instead one landed on the bridge of my nose. But it didn’t stay long enough for me to get a picture though I would have loved to have gotten one. Truth be told, I would have been happy to spend most of my time there. But, we were there to also shoot the flowers, with our cameras of course! As we were leaving, we noticed one rogue butterfly that was determined to be free. My friend kept telling it to go the other way, but it fluttered its way out.

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It tried to hide between flowers as it continued on a journey of escape, but I saw it.

We left the butterfly garden and walked around, stopping here and there to take more photos. I changed lenses multiple times. I’d see something I like and then move a few feet and think that I need a different lens for a different shot. Indecisiveness, but that’s neither here nor there.

We took pictures, lots of pictures. But I won’t bore anyone with those because there were some in the last post.

When it started getting dark, it didn’t stop us. We used whatever light was available and made the best of it. It’s truly great to see how different things look when you take away the light. As you may guess, I like fountains. More specifically, the water rather than the design of the fountain.

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It was time to go home. My battery was getting low and I had forgotten to take my backup. My friend and I parted ways and I headed out, with the following as the final shot for the day.

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It was a good day.

Yanbu Flower Festival 2018

It has been quite some time since I actually wrote about life in Saudi Arabia, so what better time than the present? And what better topic than the annual Flowers and Gardens Festival held in Yanbu Alsinaiyah? It attracts people from various cities which is still strange for me because it’s where I live.

As I said before, it’s an annual event though I did not see it at all last year. I couldn’t be bothered even though people I know raved about it. So, this time I decided to ask a friend and colleague what she thought about this year’s. I trust her judgment and she’s also into photography so her opinion really counted. She told me not to miss it because it’s lovely. And lovely it is. The only problem? I decided to meet her yesterday, Friday. Note to self: Do Not under any circumstances try to go anywhere on a Friday, especially any “events” or the like which may be taking place.

To say it was crowded would be an understatement. It was as if everyone woke up at the same time and decided to meet me and my friend. It made taking photos a challenge. We both like to have shots without people in them. That was nearly impossible yesterday, but I did my best.

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Last year there was also a butterfly garden which I’m hoping to see on a different visit. And this year, there’s a bird “thingy”. Again it was, it was super crowded but we managed to get a few shots after bumping into a few people.

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Those who know me well enough know that I love birds, especially as a photography challenge. My favorite shot was of an Amazon Parrot that was apparently not feeling his handler/owner. He took off flying, as birds do from time to time. The handler was calling him, telling him to come back but he couldn’t be bothered.

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See you, suckas!

I followed as best I could and managed to get the shot above. He seemed to enjoy the fact that he was driving his handler crazy. And seeing this was probably the highlight of my time there.

Hopefully, I’ll get to make it back again when there is less of a crowd.

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.

Women 2 Drive

Sometime back, there was a lot of hoopla about women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Things have quieted down considerably but that doesn’t mean that the debate hasn’t continued.  As a female expat, I’ve been on the fence about the issue ever since I first learned about it.  Let’s get one thing out of the way, the debate no matter what people say, is not a religious one.  It is completely cultural, if we can call it that. There is no verse in the Qur’an and no hadeeth from the sunnah that says that women are not permitted to drive.  If I am wrong, I invite anyone to show me otherwise.

When I first came to Saudi Arabia six years ago, I didn’t care much about not being able to drive even though I’ve been driving since I was 16 years old.  I didn’t know anyone and there weren’t that many places to go here in Yanbu, so I wasn’t in a hurry to drive.  Then there was the arcade game people refer to as “driving.”  A video game is the only other place people can drive like that and get away with it.  For example, you rarely see people use signals.  The no U-Turn sign is apparently a challenge because no one adheres to it.  Red light?  I laugh at your feeble attempts to stop me.  And before the light turns green, people start driving and are so impatient they beep their horns because the cars in front of them are still stopped.  And don’t get me started on the lines on the road.  What are these “things” and why can’t I seem to stay in between them?  So I thought, why would I want to share the road with these people?  A road I must also share with kids that need a step stool to get in the car and sit on a pillow so they can see over the dashboard.  So, for a good while I was in no hurry to drive.

But, let’s think about what they say about women driving.  There are those who say that if women drive, it’ll promote and/or facilitate immorality.  That is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard.  Do they think that women riding in the car with complete strangers promotes morality?  How can men feel comfortable ultimately handing their women over to strange men?  I am not a child and I actually had a driver propose to me.  What the….?  He had to be fired.  Anyway, the potential for immorality is more likely in these situations than if women were driving themselves.  Twice I’ve gotten in a car with a driver who was also driving others and I saw the same girl, if I can call her that, uncovered and obviously smoking.  If her mother could drive her, would she be so quick to uncover and light up a cigarette?  I think not.  At the end of the day, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If someone wants to do something, no matter how many restrictions and roadblocks you put up, he/she will find a way to do it.

Considering these things, I started leaning toward wanting to drive while I’m here in KSA.  I got sick of waiting, and I’m still waiting.  Husbands, fathers, brothers, drivers, etc., are in complete control.  We are dependent on them for simple things that don’t require a man.  I always think about being home in the US and not having to ask anyone to take me anywhere, not having to wait to go somewhere.  I get in the car and go.  I don’t want to have to beg to go get groceries.  I don’t want to beg to have someone take me to a friend’s.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I want to drive.  Am I scared of the idea?  Absolutely!  With all the car accidents and some sick men out there, it is frightening.  But how long can this last?  At some point, things have to change.  That’s just life.  I hope to see the day when women can safely drive in Saudi Arabia with confidence.

What do you think?

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