Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Jeddah Minus Open Abaya

It has taken me four years but finally I made it to Jeddah!  Jeddah, the Saudi city with a reputation of being much more 'free' and 'liberal' than the rest of the country.  (Well, than Riyadh anyways.)  Jeddah, where women roam with open abaya's, where lovers stroll the corniche (married lovers, of course), where life is just so much better, apparently.

I actually don't know how true all that is.
I only went for a weekend.
As part of a tour group.
For sightseeing.

I will tell you that Bandar from Nomad Tours is an excellent tour guide.  And the corniche really is a nice place to spend some time, put your feet in the waves, smell the sea air and have your hair tousled by the sea breeze.

We were at the ocean side within an hour of landing.  It's a great place to meet and chat with Saudi families.  Well, I met and chatted with one Saudi family anyway, though to be honest they didn't look too sure about the crazy lady making a video of herself while jumping about by the seaside.  They were rather entertained when said lady ran down to the ocean shore and started throwing water about, laughing like a six year old on her first visit to the sea.  And then bugger me if that same crazy lady doesn't stop to chat with the whanau in broken, very bad Arabic while the family are trying to enjoy some of their own together time looking at the waves and eating a sandwich.

Yep, that was me, finally in Jeddah!
And I quite liked it.
Mostly, I admit, because of the sea!

On our drive to, and along, the corniche we got to look at some of the contemporary art sculptures that adorn Jeddah's roadsides.  Some of it is pretty random!  We stopped at the Open Museum of sculpted pieces which actually has some rather interesting work in it, all of it designed by foreign artists (I was a bit surprised about that).

Continuing our seaside theme we visited the Fakieh Aquarium and I almost had to be dragged out.  Though it is only small it is quite a well put together place and it wasn't till this visit that I realized how much I missed the sea.  Back home in NZ we take it for granted because it's not that far away.

After a fish lunch at a dining spot that can only be classed as a dodgy looking dinner destination, but where the three different varieties of fried whole fish dished up were rather yummy, we went for a tour of the old city.  In electric cars no less.

The cars are a perfect way to tour the Old City.  On the way we learned about, and gained appreciation for, traditional Hijaz architecture and many a photo was taken of the wooden latticework adorning the facades of every building.  There were some newly restored buildings in the area, but most looked worn and tired, while others looked on the verge of collapse, their wooden beams bowing under the weight of years of neglect.  Although it recently became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, there is still a lot of work to do and people to convince that the area is worth all the time, money and effort required to do it up.

Bandar is quite passionate about the old city and it's restoration.  In fact, his office is in the old city.    He realizes raising interest in the district is a bit of an uphill battle - mainly I gather due to cost.  He also thinks that bringing life into the area is an important part of the restoration.  To that end he offers tours and engages locals to assist.  As part of our tour he had organised a group of youth to entertain us with demonstration of old style school learning (including discipline methods) and also games the boys used to play.

At the end of our Jeddah Old City visit the older blokes put on a traditional dance display.  One of our guys got to participate and looked completely lost, but it was fun to see the young (and not so young) men enjoying themselves and was a perfect way to end our busy day.

The next day bright and early we headed off for a traditional breakfast, a tour of a mosque (something most of the group thought they would never do here in Saudi Arabia) courtesy of the Jeddah Cultural Exchange Company, a visit to a couple of art galleries (one came complete with famous female Saudi artist in attendance having just arrived back in the country - we were very lucky), and a visit to what can only be classed as a living model museum - meaning the place is a model of the old city architecture but is actually used by school kids and various other peeps.  This was followed by a very relaxing afternoon tea at the home of a Saudi woman who is into media and theater studies - very nice lady.

The trip to Jeddah was quite a hectic one.  I'm glad I went but I have to say, I didn't see one open abaya the whole time I was there!

Ka Kite,

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hair colorist in Riyadh

Finding an experienced hair colorist in Riyadh took me longer than it should have.  It's not that there wasn't a good colorist out there, (though they are thin on the ground), it's more that, when it comes to getting myself sorted, I suck.

Granted, my first visit to a hair salon in Riyadh to cover the persistent grey that likes to decorate my head didn't exactly fill me with confidence regarding the hair dressing skill set available in the city.  The woman looking at my hair said she couldn't mix dark brown with plum (my usual colors) - she could only give me what is in the book.  I was shocked! What type of hair salon lets a hair colorist loose that can't mix colors!

It turns out the majority of expat Filipino women coloring hair in salons throughout Riyadh (and most are Filipion) aren't colorists at all.  Heck, I'd be surprised if most of them aren't even salon trained. They, like many of their male counterpart Worker Bee expats (and you can read about them in my post on Worker Bees), get sent to workplaces and are told 'Just Do It'.  So that's what they do.

Considering that even Hubster knows how to throw a packet color into my hair (though getting him to commit is like getting blood out of a stone and the end result varies depending on his state of mind at the time), if he can learn to do it, anyone can!  I have been known to throw a box of color at my head myself over the years, usually when going through 'budget restrictions', but no matter how careful I am, the stuff ends up splattered over anything in my heads vicinity.  Preparation for a self dye job requires covering most of the furniture in the room with old towels for protection.

One day, the gray afflicting my hair shafts required some serious attention.  I'd had enough of bad hair jobs, including Hubster's efforts.  (The last straw with Hubster the Hairdresser was when he insisted on having a movie playing while he did my hair.  Suffice to say, his attention wasn't really on the job which was a bit of a disaster!)  So, I called my compound neighbor who had been recommending Malonie, a colorist she had been visiting for some time.  The phrase 'She's not cheap' came with the recommendation and, to be honest, it was the reason I suffered so long with other hair care means for so long.

The cost, in the end, isn't that bad.  In fact, when you consider I get the color I want, she doesn't watch movies while on the job, there's no mess for me to clean up, it's nice to get out of the compound for a salon visit every month, she's a lovely lady and I'm happy with the result - then the cost is very little at all.

Currently Malonie is working a couple of days a week out of Four Nail Spa and Salon on the DQ.  She was working out of their space at King Faisal Hospital too, but the hospital recently started undergoing some serious re-development nearby, so getting to that branch can be a bit tricky.  The contact details, if you're interested are - Diplomatic Quarter (Al Kindi Square) + 966 11 201 4444,  King Faisal Specialist Hospital + 966 50 165 4444.  

Another recommendation is Sue, on The Arab Investment Compound (aka TAIC).  A few friends have been visiting her and are very happy with the results.  As an added bonus, Sue can cut hair too, which is really good to know because finding a hair stylist is yet another exciting adventure you ought to be prepared for if you ever decide to move to KSA.  To date I admit I haven't yet braved the land of the Saudi Stylist (and you can read about that here) - I prefer to get my hair cut at salons overseas (yes, I know, I'm a snob!)

Tomorrow morning I'm heading back to Malonie at Four because my roots need attention and although Madame Lily suggested I grow my hair out, I'm not brave enough to go without color in my hair just yet!

Ka Kite,

Saturday, 11 October 2014

King Khalid International Airport Overhaul

I have just arrived back from my Eid holiday.  In fact I'm waiting to collect our luggage.  And I have to say, the new look at the arrivals customs hall has inspired me to hop online and say 'Well done'.  The changes are looking fabulous.

There are organised lines, welcoming and helpful smiles.  And the new desks look modern and stylish.  And I love the blokes in their thobes instead of uniforms. I've always thought Saudi blokes look dashing in thobes.  

Being the last passengers out of our very full plane I was expecting a long wait as per usual.  Instead I was ooing and ahhing over a rather impressive revamp that has totally changed the personality of the place. And I wasn't alone.  A number of people were commenting too. 
Of course, we shouldn't forget that this is a customs arrivals hall, but it's nice to see the airport hierarchy have gone for a bright and modern feel.  I don't know who exactly is responible but I have to say, high fives all round! 

Ka Kite

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