Monday, 23 December 2013

Home Sweet Home: Jeddah!

Jeddah So Far!
Although it’s dreadful being away from DH for months at a time, it is nice to have a warm place to come for vacations! J I’ve been back in Jeddah for a week now, and it’s been a really nice visit so far. Jeddah still feels like home—wherever DH is home is! I was so happy to see him at the airport, but, of course, since it’s Saudi Arabia, a hello hug and kiss had to wait until we were home!
Toronto Snowstorm: December 14th, 2013
Toronto's Weather before I left. Brrr!!!!!!
When I flew out of Toronto, a big storm was brewing, and my flight escaped in the nick of time! I hope all my friends and family at home are staying safe—the power has been out in Toronto and the GTA for over a day in some places, and many people are being advised to stay indoors because of dangerous, icy road conditions. I hope for all of you that the weather improves and, for those without power, you get heat and electricity back as soon as possible!
Toronto Ice Storm
Toronto Ice Storm
(Okay, now I feel bad for pointing this out...) In contrast to the Toronto ice storm (see here:, the weather in Jeddah has been lovely—around 28-30 degrees and humid, and the evenings are nice and warm. That said, I still do wish I could walk outside, but it’s not really a “normal” thing to do here for the most part. The majority of people drive wherever they’re going—even if it’s only a 2 minute walk away!
Jeddah sunrise on my drive home from the airport 
My Welcome Home Gift from DH!
When I first moved to Jeddah in 2011, one evening I decided to venture out on my own (one of those lovely newlywed arguments compelled me to defiantly leave the house on my own in the evening lol), and needless to say—even with my face covered—I got a lot of stares and honks. Sigh!
Old City Gate
Beautiful Jeddah Sunset!
That said, the malls are a good alternative for a place to go walking, although there’s always the drawback of being tempted to spend too much money when all I want to do is go for a walk!!! A new mall opened not far from our house. It’s called Al-Salaam Mall, and, now that the majority of stores are open, it’s one of the largest in Jeddah. It even has my favourite Canadian store, Dynamite, which recently came to Saudi Arabia. Now I can buy my favourite brand TAX FREE!! Woo hoo!

Last evening, DH had to work late (until 10pm), and he dropped me off at the mall so I could get out and shop! He wasn’t sure that I’d be able to fill so many hours shopping, but in this new mall, I barely made it through half of one of three floors!! Inshallah I’ll go back soon!
Dynamite is Finally in Jeddah!
Al-Salaam Mall Jeddah
Dynamite (2) 
Perhaps the most exciting thing I finally got to experience since I arrived last week is getting to meet my first camel friends! Before moving here, I told DH that I MUST get to see some camels, and though we’ve seen some from a far distance on highway drives, until last week, I had yet to see any up close.

DH and I were driving along a road in our neighbourhood the other day, and low and behold, there were two small camels in the back of someone’s pick up truck! DH got out of the car and asked the camel guy if we could pet them and take some photos, and he agreed. Here are some photos:
Camels in Jeddah!
We think that the man may be selling the camels, because why would they randomly be in the city? Also, we’ve driven by twice since then and both times saw different camels. I hope they’re not food!!!

Road Trip!
This past weekend, we took a road trip to Mecca. We stayed in a hotel in the famous Clock Tower, and relaxed (i.e. I slept too much as I was still adjusting to the 8 hour time change!) I got to check out some shops, and bought my sister a cool scarf from the souk part of the shopping area. There were lots of great deals, as well as overpriced abayas and other things to lure tourists in, I guess!
Beautiful fountain in Mecca
The Famous Clock Tower 
Masjd al Haram
Another view of the fountain
Leaving Mecca...
Since Umrah (pilgrimage) visas are open to just GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations until, I think, January, Mecca was a lot quieter than usual. We’re hoping to go back once more before I leave.

Catching Up!
I’m also excited that I’ve been catching up with friends after 5 months away. I’m especially thrilled to go back to the university where I used to work to see some past students and colleagues. That place still feels like home to me, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again! J

Sometimes I get really nostalgic for life here—as hectic and fast paced as it was, and as much as I would get so frustrated with little things – or not so little – like, as a woman, not being allowed to drive, not getting out for walks outdoors, and the insanely long hours I worked at two jobs for most of last year. Alhamdulillah, though, it was worth it for the amazing people I met here, and I would definitely consider moving back here or somewhere in the Middle East after I finish my PhD.

The job market in Canada and the US – at least in academia and for tenure-track positions—is so depressing to think about, and it excites me to know there are lots of other countries that appreciate my education and would gladly hire me with a great salary at the end of my 5 years of my doctorate degree. All the blood, sweat and tears I'm putting in now don't have to be in vain! Only time will tell what will happen, though, and there’s always a (small) chance I will get a tenure track job closer to home (I’ll try, Mom!).

A friend (thanks, B.M.!) posted this (above) on Facebook this morning, and it really struck me: “You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” Moving to Saudi Arabia has opened a whole new world for me, and I appreciate all the lessons I’ve learned –and often challenging experiences I’ve had—over the past couple of years. I now know so much more about the world beyond the suburb where I grew up, and Toronto, the city where I’ve spent years living. 

I’ve always been quite open-minded, and moving abroad has made me even more so. Most of all, living here has helped me to see the literally endless possibilities for the future! Even if we don’t find our perfect jobs in Canada (i.e. for me, tenure!), DH and I can create the life we want in an exciting new environment. J

Hope to update you all with more adventures soon! Until then, stay warm and have a happy holiday!