I'm struggling to post at the moment and I chalk it all up to work and stress. As we wrap up our Ramadan program at work (I'm a teacher), I've also lost my voice. I have no other symptoms really, just no voice. Oh another note, the school I work for has renewed my contract for another year, and presented me with a certificate for ECE (Early Childhood Education) at 560 hours this year.
As this week nears its end, I am prepping myself for my "teacher" summer and will be off until September. This will give me the opportunity to proactively plan and post new content consistently, iA.
At work, we will be wrapping up the week with a "Color Run" tomorrow, a mock EID on Thursday and iftar Thursday evening with the team.
My first year working in Saudi has been an amazing roller coaster of experiences.
- American Hijabi
I've been MIA (missing in action) and now I'm back.
After starting my new job last September, my posts became few and far in between. I am now making a commitment to post at-least once a week, because I feel like I really need this outlet. My weekly post (maybe even more) will fall under my life here in Saudi or, my new category of Fitness and Nutrition.
I am very excited to keep you updated and to let you in on what has been happening in my life.
Ta’if is located a little over 2 hours southeast of Jeddah, and is reached by driving the Jeddah-Makkah highway. As one makes their way towards Ta’if, they are presented with two options; there is a route around the holy city of Makkah, being a requirement to take for non-Muslims and another directly through the city of Makkah, available for Muslims only. While there are the two options to reach the city of Ta’if, the route leading around Makkah, may add about 100km to the drive, it is far less congested.
Upon nearing the city of Ta’if, we are presented with a large mountain and road that seemingly disappears into the sky. Al Hada road has been reached, this road ascends over 1,800m or approx 6,000 feet into the sky toward the village town of Al Hada. There are many stories surrounding the road but, I would like to share the story that I’ve heard about how the road came to be…( I personally cannot speak to the credibility of this particular story but I like the aesthetic of it and found that it was too beautiful not to share )
“ Several years ago when the city of Ta’if and the surrounding areas began to thrive economically, the Kingdom began to look for simpler ways in order reach the city, situated within the mountains. As the Kingdom began researching companies and interviewing developers for the Al Hada road, they were faced with consistent difficulty. Companies began stating that the road simply could not be built as the mountain was too steep and the old pedestrian pathways would simply not suit automobiles. Finally a local company was interviewed, the Saudi Bin Laden Company. They too faced an initial difficulty of mapping the road; they then decided that the best way to do so would be to use goats. They began from the top of the mountain and set the goats on their descent. As the goats made their way from the top of the mountain to the bottom, they were followed and thusly the road was mapped and later built.”
As the town of Al Hada is reached, the road becomes less hostile and a much easier drive; the word “Al Hada” translates to “tranquility”; and between the foliage, vegetation and mild temperatures; one begins to truly understand that the name is most appropriate. The actual city of Ta’if is quite developed but will not compare to the metropolitan sense of cities like Riyadh and Jeddah.
As someone who lives in Jeddah give the proximity of the region, mild temperatures and rainfall, this area in the mountains is a great escape for the heat.
I was recently asked what it was like to live in a society like Saudi Arabia where, there is gender segregation and well... shit is about to get real honest. Living in a gender segregated society is amazing, I love it. Now, we’re not talking about women not being able to drive right now, so push that out of your head for the next couple months; because worry not, I will write about that one!
Gender segregation in Saudi Arabia seems like an archaic, out-of-date, and biased society to someone like me, who grew up in the US and never had to deal with such. Honestly when I was preparing to move to Saudi Arabia, I wasn’t even really sure how I felt about this. Growing up my best friend was a boy named Travis, and honestly if we would have lived in a society like Saudi Arabia; we would have never met. ↰ That all seems pretty negative, right? Let me tell you why I actually like it…
You see as a woman who was born and raised in the US to a very open-minded family, I was still faced with the day to day societal pressures that face all young girls; we have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, weigh a certain amount, or you won’t fit in. Often times in western society there is an emphasis placed on a woman's sexuality and femininity, and that can make some people (like me) feel a little self-conscious. You see, I wasn’t really in tune with being feminine until I grew older and even then being out in public, I was always aware of how people perceived me; in particular of the opposite gender. Living in Saudi Arabia and being segregated based on gender doesn’t always relieve that feeling; sometimes we women can be worse than men, but it does help.
When we look at segregated scenarios in Saudi Arabia you’re looking at more often than not restaurants, cafes, gyms, and women's “speciality” stores - not EVERYTHING is segregated; for instance malls, supermarkets, and shopping centers are not segregated.
Why do I like segregated restaurants and cafes? I don’t eat like a “girl”, if I get ribs (beef ribs, ya’ll calm down), I wanna pick them up, eat them with my hands and suck the bone dry; you can surely expect that I’m not going to be dainty eating them. If you eat like I do, people wonder one of two things “Where did she put it all?” or “Damn how the hell does she eat like that?”. Not all restaurants offer the private booths, but most are segregated and I feel far less judgement eating like that in front of other women than men.
I love the fact that I go to a segregated gym, I love the fact that my husband goes to a segregated gym...Why? For one, I don’t have to worry about someone coming up, interrupting my workout to ask me if I need a spotter. Two I can wear whatever I want, and still be comfortable. We all know yoga pants draw attention anywhere, if you don’t believe me? Click here for FouseyTube... This is not me being conceited or having a large ego, I seriously just want to be comfortable. I go to the gym to do my workout and leave, I don’t go to socialize and I don’t want to be bothered while there… I had the same sentiments in the US before becoming Muslim but sadly, the all female gyms are few and far between or are ridiculously expensive.
When it comes to women’s specialty stores, I’m talking bra’s and panties. I know that no matter where I go, whether it be here in Saudi or back in the US, I just do not want some random guy to fit me for a bra; that’s just me...maybe you feel different - but I am not about to have some guy feeling on me or asking what I’m looking for when it comes to my “undergarment”, or what will look sexy for my husband.
Now despite what I say or reasons as to why I feel more comfortable and enjoy living in a gender segregated society, not everyone feels the same; and that is okay! I feel an overall higher level of comfort when I don’t have to worry about some dude following me out of the gym at 10pm to ask for my number in the parking lot…which actually happened at the Gold’s Gym on E. Washington St. in Indianapolis, IN.
What do you think about potentially living in a gender segregated society.. Would you love it or hate it?
The Fakieh Aquarium in Jeddah is the only aquarium within the kingdom, that is open to the public. The impeccably designed aquarium is clean, and offers a glimpse life from bodies of water around the world.
My visit to Fakieh Aquarium began with the dolphin and sea lion show, which was spectacular. While watching the dolphin and sea lion show, one can see an incredible link between the trainers and animals. The animals are phenomenal with their abilities to follow command, jump through hoops and even dance. The show itself consists of 2 - 3 trainers at a time providing commands to 2 -4 dolphins, followed by 2 sea lions. The typical dolphin and sea lion show lasts about 45 minutes to approx 1 hour, afterwards we made our way into the actual aquarium.
As soon as guests make entrance into the aquarium, one is provided with facts pertaining to sea life, primarily in the Red Sea. As a guest proceeds through the aquarium we are faced with over 200 species of sea life; each one more fascinating than next. With each exhibit, there are facts and an information placard on the wall for guests to read and become further educated on what exactly they’re looking at. As we make our way through the aquarium we can see everything from groupers and seahorses to jellyfish. One of the main attractions in the aquarium is a fully enclosed 360* degree walk-through that even includes more aggressive sea creatures like sharks. As the tour comes to an end there will be a retail shop waiting at the top, with gifts for everyone - children and adults alike.
The Fakieh Aquarium is located right on the Red Sea, with parking available on-site. There are couple of different options when purchasing tickets at the counters; one can purchase a regular aquarium tour for $50 SAR or aquarium and dolphin show tickets for $100 SAR. The aquarium is fairly sizeable so if visiting with children, be prepared to walk.
TIP: Take your time; there is so much to see - slow down, read the informational placards.
If you would like to learn more about the Fakieh Aquarium in Jeddah, or plan your visit - click here.
When moving to Saudi Arabia, I knew that I would have a wedding more extrvagant that I could have possibly imagined. Weddings here are always extravagant because they act as a socio-economic status for families. In a sense, if you didn’t have a extravagant wedding, its almost like you never had a wedding. As my friend Asma stated, “They have to see it to believe it; if they don't see it, it didn't happen”, and while that is true - I was not expecting to have a wedding less than 10 days after I arrived. I must say that I was incredibly blessed when it came to the actual planning of my wedding as my sister-in-law had handled all major details.
Having prior knowledge of a impending celebration, I purchased a dress in the US and nothing else. My dress was a very simple strapless dress with a simple beaded applique; which I purchased from David's Bridal a week before our departure. My husband and I were already legally and religiously married at the time of our wedding here in Saudi; and we truthfully expected to have about 2 months to prepare for everything, we were even hoping to get to the gym before the wedding took place - needless to say... that didn't happen.
My first week in Saudi Arabia was a whirlwind experience as I was sent out shopping for diamonds, watches, shoes, a tiara, my veil, a bouquet, and we had to pick out our cake - supplied by the venue. The jewelry shopping was something completely different to me, as I’ve never had anyone just take me to a jewelry store and say “Pick whatever you like.”. I picked out several sets of jewelry, one of which was worn during my ceremony, and another displayed for guests to gawk at during the celebration. While the shopping for shoes seemed to take longer than expected, as both my mother-in-law and I had different ideas for the shoes. Being as simple as I am, I wanted simple satin shoes while my mother-in-law did not think that they would serve the "party purpose", I got the party shoes - 6" stilettos covered with swarvoski crystals. Shopping for the veil was a funny experience because I wanted something ever so simple, to match the applique of my dress; while the shopkeepers in every store continuously handed me veils with so much embroidery and beading, I thought my neck would break. After visiting countless stores all over Jeddah, I eventually got my simple veil with just a few swarovski crystals throughout, which I had to take from a mannequin. My bouquet was picked from the florist who provided the flowers already picked by my sister-in-law, and Alhamduillah I picked a lavender colored rose that coordinated with her choice perfectly.
Our venue set up was perfect for the event; as the guest pulled in and were dropped at the door before walking a red carpet into our hall. In the center of the entrance was a ornate water fountain and surrounding was fish tanks containing exotic fish often found in the Red Sea. The layout of our venue included rows of seating and colored chandeliers throughout. My husband and I had only briefly visited the venue previously, to pick out the cake. We had a pink and purple stage, which held our seating and a mirage of flowers located under an ornate dome. Our cake was vanilla with a white fondant and pink roses; all of which was impeccably done thanks to our wonderful coordinators and family. As the each part of celebration proceeded, my husband was ushered out after about 30 - 45minutes in the hall; and then women removed the abayas and hijabs that they donned to reveal amazing party dresses. Dinner was served, and the women danced the rest of the night away.
Our wedding was held at a beach resort and restaurant on corniche in Jeddah called the Belagio; which did a wonderful job from coordination and catering to providing the cake. In the end, everything turned out absolutely perfect, we even walked out to Halo by Beyonce; although my husband and I were completely clueless about how our procession through the ceremony and how things would progress; it went off without a hitch. I have selected a few photos below to share with you!
(Updated as of December 2016)
Moving is always stressful on everyone, including our pets. Moving to Saudi Arabia with a dog is even more of a challenge as it is not exactly "canine friendly". Our dog Nino is the like a child to my husband and I - leaving him behind was not an option for us. There are some prior requirements when bringing a dog into Saudi Arabia including vaccinations, tests, certified documents, and a import permit. Saudi Arabia also maintains a "banned list", which can be found in the Facebook link provided at the bottom of this post.
Issued by Vet
• Rabies Vaccination (sticker from vile including batch number and manufacturer)
• ISO Compliant Chip
• Tests Confirming No Parasites/Infections
• Letter Signed by Vet (blue ink)
• USDA APHIS 7001 (Must state that "Guard Dog")
(Update as of December 2016 Saudi Arabia requires a country specific APHIS click here)
The rabies vaccination must be administered to the dog at least 30 days prior and no more than 6 months, and only 1 year vaccinations are accepted (no 2 or 3 year vaccinations). I had my vet, Dr. Christina Belew of the Union Hill Animal Hospital (Kansas City) sign all documents in blue ink, including all lab results.
The country specific USDA APHIS must be completed by a USDA certified vet and must be endorsed by the governing states USDA office. I personally drove 3hrs each way to ensure the endorsement was done in a timely manner, as it was only valid for 30days from the date of issue. Once the USDA office has completed their endorsement, the APHIS must be endorsed by the Saudi Arabian Embassy and US Department of State. Given that I resided in Missouri at the time and was still working, I was unable to personally take the documents to DC and therefore utilized a visa service (Click Here For TraVisa). The visa service was able to complete both endorsements and had returned my documents within 7 business days.
Once these documents are returned, you can now apply for the Saudi Import Permit. This is typically applied for through an agent in Saudi Arabia however, if you are importing a pet I suggest checking out the Facebook page "Pet Imports Saudi Arabia", which is ran by Joy Nueman. Joy has a great deal of experience when it comes to importing a pet into Saudi, she also has posted the contact information for the vets who can issue the Import Permit through each city. When applying for the import permit it is important to provide the Saudi Passport or visa issued, all of the previous documentation issued and endorsed in the US, along with a deed/home instruments (indicating that the home in Saudi is not an apartment), and we were also asked to provide a electricity bill (provided by my in-laws). If you are moving to Saudi Arabia on a expat on a Employment Visa, most companies will be willing to provide housing documentation; some may even apply for the permit for you - given this, I would advise inquiring with your employer directly.
The import permit is only valid for 30 days but given the time length it takes to obtain the necessary paperwork, we only had about a week before our APHIS 7001 was set to expire and left just a few days after.
When importing a dog to any country, it is important to check with the airlines prior to booking to see what specific requirements is needed. My husband and I flew with Lufthansa, this airline only requires the same documentation as the country of import, and then of course a crate that is large enough for the dog to stand, sit, and lay down comfortably. The price to fly Nino from Chicago all the way to Dammam was only $200 USD. This price also included a stop at the "Pet Hotel" at the Frankfurt, Germany airport; where he was cleaned up, fed/watered, and allowed to stretch.
Due to some unforeseen issues with the vet in Saudi, my husband and I were not able to obtain permission to import Nino through Jeddah. We were able to obtain permission for Dammam; from here we shipped Nino on a domestic flight via cargo on Saudia Airlines, he did fly on the same flight as us and were able to retrieve him from the cargo pickup in Jeddah.
Everything in total was approximately $1500 USD compared to the quote from a pet relocation company, which quoted me $5000 USD.
I have heard that the process to import a cat is similar but still less restrictive.
Note: If you do not typically crate your dog; it is highly suggested to get them used to the crate a few weeks prior to departure; put them in the crate and utilize positive reinforcements and rewards for the behavior. This is something new to them and the extensive travel can be extremely stressful on them.
All information in the post is provided and to be utilized in good-faith, I will continue to update as new information becomes available.