Oh I come from a land, from a far away place where the caravan camels roam.
Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense
It’s babaric, but hey, it’s home…
- Aladdin, Arabian Nights
Greetings from the Middle East!
As some of you may know, Papa Bear is working over in Saudi Arabia and M. and I were given the opportunity to go over and visit him this month, so the next few blogs will be us sharing tales with you about what we have discovered and seen in the land that gave us, well, 1001 Nights and Other Arabian Tales!
We begin, obviously, with the flight over. The long, long flight over. We were travelling about 31hrs (not including the 3hrs to get to the airport, and the 2 hours spent waiting there) with a swift stop at Changi Airport, a brief we-didn’t-even-get-off-the-aeroplane stop in Columbo and then a long 7hr stint at Dubai. Now, of all the airports to be stopped in, Dubai is the one to go for. M. and I, stumbling around after very little sleep, had a bit of a look around and decided what we needed was a shower. More than anything.
Traveller’s Tip: If stuck in Dubai, find the elevators near the MAC store, go up to level 5 and go left until you see the health rooms. For $14US you can get yourself one of these for as long as your heart desires.
We spent some time exploring Dubai airport, and while we were at it proved the adage: “It doesn’t matter where you go, there is always an Irish Pub.”
After some duty free shopping, we hopped onto the final flight to Riyadh! In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to photograph any government building, or people without their permission. This somewhat limits what we can photograph and what we can put up on the blog, but trust me when I say the airport looks a bit like this, a sandy building in the middle of the desert. I know it’s ridiculous, but I am amazed at how bare it is. Because of all the sandstorms, the buildings are the same colour as the sand, and so the whole place looks empty and sparse. It’s amazing and beautiful, somehow.
Day one we decided to go to Masmak Fort and Deera Square, known locally as Chop Chop square because on Friday they hold public executions there. It was a huge empty space and a little intimidating to know that some people live out their last moments here. It was also somewhat less dramatic than I assumed.
We also went to check out one of the local souqs (markets) where we found the most amazing scarves, beautiful Turkish bowls and plates (which I will be getting later) and Persian rugs to weep over. M. grabbed herself a Janome sewing machine which, she was delighted and amused to discover, still uses cams for the patterns.
I think that will have to end our first tale, but we will continue the story in the next day or two. The next episode will involve Najd Village, the Old City, the shopping trolley and camels! Oh, and watch out for ‘In Papa Bear’s Kitchen’!
- M & E.