Saturday, October 22, 2016

A day at the beach

In addition to the Embassy in Riyadh, the United States has two consulates in Saudi Arabia.  One is in the oil rich Eastern Province on the Persian Gulf in a city named Dharan.  The second is in the historical and commercial city of Jeddah, located on the Red Sea.  Jeddah is a sea port and the closest major city to the pilgrimage cities of Medina and Mecca.  Due to a staff shortage in the Consular Section in Jeddah, I volunteered to spend two weeks there in October helping them out.  Sara and Jack decided to join me.

The worst thing about Jeddah is how effing humid it is.  When we got off the plane we started sweating immediately.  As hot as it is in Riyadh, you don't sweat all that much unless you spend significant time in the sun.  Not in Jeddah - just boiling hot.

The best part about Jeddah is the sea.  The coast line is pretty and expansive.  They have an aquarium that Jack and Sara went to.  They have the world's largest fountain (take that Fountain Hills, AZ) and, of course, they have beaches.  The first question any Westerner asks about going to the beach in Saudi Arabia is "do women have to wear burkinis?"  The answer depends on what beach you are going to.  We passed by a few public beaches and we saw few women on the beach and the women we saw were just wearing regular burkas in the water.

But the real highlight in Jeddah are the private beaches.  These beaches are secluded, private, beaches that only admit foreigners (no Saudis allowed).  They allow western beach wear for both men and women.  In addition to the pristine white sand beach and the ocean, they had beach chairs, a lawn for sports, a nice pool, a bar (still no booze) and a restaurant.  You had to pay about $40/adult to get in, but the price was totally worth it.  We went with another family that I knew from language training who are posted in Jeddah and we had a great time.

* As an aside, we had a lost in translation experience on our beach day.  We wanted to have a place that Jack could nap while we were at the beach, so I booked a (not-cheap) room at the hotel attached to the club -- or so I thought.  The hotel I booked was a different hotel a mile away with a similar sounding name.  This hotel was a disaster - it was dirty, there were no towels, no crib, our neighbors were loud with kids screaming outside until 2 (I'm so old).  The hotel was technically on the beach, but this beach dirty and the water had trash in it.  Not what I thought I was getting when I booked the hotel.
World's tallest water fountain

Sunset at the private beach club

Our impromptu "crib" when the hotel didn't have one

This was not the nice beach

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