Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - The Red Sea

I start this day off early at Riyadh King Khalid international Airport. At 0900 I am in route to Jeddah, the second largest city of Saudi Arabia, for two days. It is Memorial Day weekend, I am off Thursday through Saturday, and so a short getaway to Jeddah is ideal. Jeddah is only an hour and 30 minutes by air and located on the Red Sea. After being in Riyadh for 8 month now, it will be a nice change of scenery and much awaited opportunity to see a body of water as infamous as the Red Sea.  I have a couple of hours to kill, so as I sit near the window watching planes get refueled or take off, I people watched the abaya and thope clad women and men coming and going. Western women are not required to cover their hair unless requested by the matawa (religious police), but I prefer to blend in. There are quite a few men in towels that are wrapped around their waist and one draped around their shoulders. I am told that Jeddah is the beginning of their journey to Mecca where they take their pilgrimages.

        With a slightly late departure, the plane takes off to Jeddah! I dozed a bit but am waken to the aroma of f
owl mudammes (boiled fava beans with spices) with miniature flatbread and fruit. By the time I sampled a portion of my entree, we were making our final descent into Jeddah! Though the descent was turbulent due to the heat, the view was spectacular with visible views sand dunes. 

         I debarked the plane and exited the airport right into the morning heat and humidity! Suddenly I felt as though I was in the Florida! I was picked up by a driver and whisked off to one of the compounds in which I would be housed for the next few days. I immediately noticed that Jeddah was more diverse and cosmopolitan than Riyadh.
My anticipation just wouldn’t let me get settled in. A driver was not available, so I asked my friend to ask someone, …anyone to take me to the Red Sea. We were privileged to be toted around by one of his friends on the compound who was gracious enough to grant my request to go to the Red Sea.  The trek was short, but once we turned onto Cornishe Road, there before me was the inlet to the Red Sea!!

We parked the car and made our way across Cornishe to the water side. I stood there for several minutes just taking in the significance of this body of water before me.  The association of the Red Sea, which is an inlet of the Indian Ocean lying between Africa and Asia, brought to mind the biblical account of the Israelites, led by Moses, escaping slavery and the rule of the Pharaoh King of Egypt in the Book of Exodus 14:21-29 and in the Quran it’s Surah 26: AL-Shu’ara’, 60-67.  I am not trying to “hold church”, but you can just imagine the ambiance of being at the Red Sea was surreal!

Until next time,….

Alhamdulillah! (Praise to Allah, in Arabic)


  1. Hi, great blog. My wife and I are moving toward Jeddah. We are wondering what was your experience with the dress code? Did you wear hijab in Jeddah? If not, did any of the religious police ask you to cover your hair? How did you respond? I'm a little worried that they may assume my wife is Arab, and mistake me for Egyptian. I'm African American, with your color. My wife is Colombian with dark hair, and she does have some Arab features because her great grandfather was Lebanese.

    1. Hello and thanks for the compliment! When I visited Jeddah, women are required to wear abaya but covering your hair is optional. I chose to be without the hijab. I did not encounter the Matawa in Jeddah. I found the place to be less strict than Riyadh. In fact, the restaurant I went to, men and women ate together! You too should do just fine! Thanks for your readership! GMarie

  2. Hey GMarie,
    Thanks for the response !!! This is good news. When we arrive, I'll post my contact info, and you can decide to be in contact. I'll be working at KAUST. Our VISAS just came today. Take Care.

    1. Wow, great to hear! Safe travels and keep in touch! GMarie.