Saturday, May 3, 2014

Desi Corner: SUFI MUSIC

For our first post in the Desi Corner, about which we mentioned in our desi post, I had many many things to choose from. I even wrote about a few that will be showing up here in the coming weeks. But somehow I wasn't feeling that they were the right intro to the desi's. So the birth of yet another post.

 I don't know if this is true for everybody or not, but for us we get to know about many cultures through Music. Over the years many songs have become the mantra of youth and recognized by the world, songs that none of us understood but still they were on our lips like a religious chant. They were played in the clubs ( no personal experience, just a guess), they were blaring from the stereos of our cars ( personal experiences), and were full blast on  in the CD shops. There are so many of these, MACARENA, The Ketchup song, Papi cholo (it was really big back home) and many many more. I myself am not a music person, but i too get engulfed in the fad music, and somehow those artists of entirely different origins and completely different languages become a part of us and our minds for sometime. They sometimes give you glimpse, however wrong that maybe, into the world entirely alien to ours. Music does that, it brings people closer, It diminishes boundaries.

In my desi land, Music is a big part of people's life. We have all sorts of music pop, rock, folk. But what I want to talk about in this post is the SUFI Music.

What is sufism?   According to Wikipedia "Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God".Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one's inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits". And  Sufis believe they are practicing ihsan (perfection of worship) as revealed by Gabriel to Muhammad: "Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you". Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam.

 Sufi's are a big part of our culture. I myself am very new to this, but here is what i know a little about them. They've played important role in promoting peace and harmony in our society and one of the biggest reasons of promoting Islamic Virtues in densely populated Hindu society. Sufi's traditionally have had followers regardless of religion. I was exposed to sufi music since i was a little kid. Sufism is found all around the Muslim countries. Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan. Our sufis are famous for their poetry. Prominent names are Baba Bullah Shah, Waris Shah, Ghulam Fareed. To the masses their poetry reaches through the folk artists who sing their work. Sufi music is very popular thing in my desi land. We have many many artists, singing the poetry of the sufis. Nusrat Fateh Ali, Rahet Fateh Ali, Abida Parveen, Arif Lohar, Saeiin Zahoor are just a few names in a long list of artist. The song I am sharing here is one which has become famous in the past years. Its a fusion of a traditional folk and new age music. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Out and About: Jeddah Pepsi Street Art

Jeddah hosted yet another art event after the Jeddah art week called Pepsi street art. What made this event even more interesting was the sponsor which was Pepsi and people who know me can tell the affair I and Pepsi share ;). And you can know more about my art appreciation love here . So this event was a match made in heaven. Pepsi started this street art campaign for the football World Cup 2014. They brought together world renowned photographers, street artists and footballers to create interesting collage murals. To learn more about it read this article.

The event was organized by the 21,39 at Gold Moore, Souq Shatee and Dhad family. Dhad family are Saudi graffiti artists who also own the 1st Graffiti store in the whole of Saudi Arabia, where you can get everything and anything you need for Graffiti . So it was given that the event was going to be full of fun, energy and excitement. You can find the DHAD Store on facebook. Their website.

At the events the walls were covered in Graffiti style banners in the traditional Pepsi colors that are red, blue and white. Music was in the air and an overall happy feel in the environment. There were two artists doing Graffiti on a big wall. When I went, they were half way and it was looking great already, so I am pretty sure the final display must have been incredible. Two tables on opposite walls were surrounded by people having there souvenirs hand painted as well as other sport item that they wanted to have customized for themselves and also having there pictures taken and getting funny doodles and props drawn on them. Children as well as adults were getting first hand football tricks experiences.

Paul's was there to entertain people with their delicious delicatessens and coffee. And since it was a Pepsi event, how can you not have a Pepsi fridge full of the mega size Pepsi tins.

The most thing that I enjoyed in the whole evening was looking at the people in the event and how much they were enjoying it. There was this happy creative buzz in the air that was making every one joyous and energized. There was a slogan that said "Live for now" and it seemed everyone was living the moment at the event. We hope to enjoy more such moments and events in the future.

We post about the any upcoming events that we come to know of on our facebook page. Please like it to know about these events in advance.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Out and About: Ladies Trip to Madinah on Saptco

We take our own posts quite seriously so after writing the post about the spring break we decided to act on some of the things on the list. Well, more precisely the 1st one that was a trip to the holy cities.

Mom is in town and since I am on my spring break we decided to take advantage of this time. To make it a bit more interesting we decided to go by bus. When my parents were residing here we always followed the same ritual of going to Medina. We would leave by car on Thursday after Asar since that was a weekend. And after the Friday prayer will head back to Jeddah. We had our own traditions of where to eat, where to shop, the stop overs etc. I remember following this routine for almost 10 years, so when I first moved back and didn't had this routine, it felt wrong. But like what life does best i.e. "it moves on" I did too and started making my own little traditions and rituals.

So here is how my trip to medina went with my mum. I had either went on a car or by plane to Medina before but one of my colleague had visited Medina by bus and the way she mentioned seemed very easy so I wasn't very hesitant.

We left our home around 9.40am, took a taxi from my place and told the driver "Ballad Saptco". The first taxi driver apologized but we got lucky with the 2nd driver. He asked for 25sr but I think there is no place in Jeddah where you have to pay more then 20sr so we bargained and he agreed. The saptco station is quite a busy place. One because its in ballad, a hub for shopping especially for people who come for Ummrah and secondly you can find local drivers and cars to go to different cities including Makkah, Medina, Riyadh, Taif etc. Upon entering the station you will find a row of counters but in that whole row only two counters had people working in them. Taking your iqama, if you are an iqama holder and your passport (if on a visit) is a MUST.  For expats the presence of mahram is not necessary, its easy for women to travel alone. We went to one of the counter and said "Medina ithnain (two)" and the guy replied "Return too" in English, which was a pleasant surprise cause we've seen too many unpleasant incidents at the airport due to lack of communication on both ends. Anyway things are changing and hopefully for the betterment of all. We got a ticket for 11am. Its 47sr. one way and we bought for return too. I think its extremely reasonable. They have a big waiting area on the right of the counters and then a women waiting area on the end of right hand side.

 Cleanliness and upkeep of the place sadly wasn't really good. There are few things that will never be understood by me and one of which is being one of the richest country in the world, why things are the way they are in terms of the infrastructure of this country. I have been invited a lot of time to Saudi homes and most of them always have immaculate taste in décor, and cleanliness. So how come its not translated in there public places, where you truly get to show your culture in its best form :(.

Anyhow.. it took us almost 5hrs. to get to Medina with half an hour rest at a rest house. Again it wasn't the best or the cleanest, but we were quite tired and just prayed our Asar, took a cup of tea and came back to the bus. The Saptco station is just 10mins away from the masjid. Once arrived in Medina, we walked toward the masjid and started looking for a room. It was quite a busy time and usually I book a room before hand through but I think I was getting too adventures. After almost 30min. of room searching we finally got one. It was 5mins. away from the women gate #25.

The rest of the trip was just the same, with praying and staying at the Masjid. Going to the Rodah which still needs lots of organization in order to make it less chaotic, but when you think of the amount of people they have to cater on daily basis and from soooo many different backgrounds you kind of feel sympathetic. I actually would ask the visitors here to show some respect and patience. I have seen many a times, women being unruly in such a holy place, pushing and going over other people just to get a little ahead. We all should remember that our reason for being there is prayer, we are in the place where Prophet Mohammed made the people of Makkah and people of Medinah brothers, emphasizing the relations with fellow human beings. If we forget that lesson of all the places in Masjid nabawi, if we are not respectful of other people or our surrounding what good is our ibadah.

 One more interesting and nice thing that I saw this time around was a flyer outside the masjid that tells you in order for you to follow the Friday sermon in English or Urdu (I only saw these two flyers, not sure if there were any other language mentioned too) you can add a frequency in your mobile radio and listen to it while in the Masjid. I think its a great initiative and let your experience even more spiritual.

The journey back was quite similar and smooth. After the checkout we walked back to the saptco station and since we had our ticket from before, we went straight into the bus and 5hrs later back in the comfort of our home. It was a lovely experience so Inshallah will make a visit to Makkah and most probably via the bus :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Out And About: Spring Break!!!!!

Spring comes on the World --
I sight the Aprils --
Hueless to me until thou come
As, till the Bee
Blossoms stand negative,
Touched to Conditions
By a Hum.
(Emily Dickinson)

Sadly jeddahites don't necessarily relate to the blooming of flowers and the chirping of the birds. But that doesn't stop us from enjoying the spring break we get in our school and colleges. In addition to the spring cleaning there are lot of options to have a fun and relaxed break with your family and friends in Jeddah. We are listing some of our favorite activities in and around town.

Family activities:

  • A trip outside the city:  You may start the break by taking a break from the city. Head over to the holy cities and spend some spiritual time with your family. Visit the mosques as well as some other historical holy sites. Another place you may like to visit and see some real spring action would be Taif, city of the year with flower shows, parks and chair lift.
  • Breakfast with the kids: Jeddah is filled with so many restaurants that can caters everyone's taste buds.We love going out for breakfasts. The combination of family, lovely breakfast and Sun makes it such a heavenly trio. And with kids in school and adults at works, its so rare to have such an outing. We would suggest to have a nice family breakfast on one of the days to catch up in details about each others plans, stories and have a nice bonding time. Some of the places on our list would be Ihop, American Corner, Ikea, Aseil, Mug and Beans, Paul's. 
  •  An afternoon/evening with the dolphins: Spend a day marveling at under sea creatures and then enjoying a dolphin and seal show at Fakeih Aquarium in cornice. Our advice for making it a more hands on experience. Research about some different kind of  fish, take print outs for the family and play the game of finding them at the aquarium with your kids. It makes the trip more interesting. You may find more about their opening hours and fees on their website.
  • Enjoy the red sea water:You may do that either just by going to Obhour with your family or if the ladies of the house would like to enjoy the swim too maybe head over to one of the resorts. Popular ones would be Silver Sand, Al Nakheel, Dream Beach. If you don't feel like dipping in the sea water, Jeddah have few children water parks like Nemo garden, Fantasy stationary and Sail Island. We enjoyed our time at Sail Island recently. You may read about it over here.
  • Spend time with some literature: Even though Jeddah lack in public libraries, there are few places that are trying to provide with some literary time and experience especially to the young ones. Two of such places that we have come across are My Library and Senior Reader Library. Detailed post on them would be coming up soon. 

Activities with friends:

  • Restaurant hopping: Try as many eatery places by restaurant hopping around town. We did it few weeks back ourself. You may read about it over here.

  • Pamper time: Have fun with your friends over to your house and do some DIY masks or At home manicures and pedicures. Catch up with what's been happening in each other lives. You may also check out deals on cobone about massages and facials and have a nice beauty date with your girlfriends. Nothing against you boys but sadly haven't seen any grooming/pampering deals for you :(
  • Go for some physical activities: 60/70km out of Jeddah and you get surrounded by rocky little mountains well more like hills. Why not go hiking on those areas with a group of friends. If you aren't sure about going by yourself check if there is any group that is arranging any trip. Usually you may find such information on Facebook. Few of the groups that we know arrange such trips are Arabian treks outdoor adventures, Jeddah backpacker, JH3.
           If you are not cut off for wilderness adventure why not get the adrenaline pumping by going for paintballing or laser tagging with your friends. You may find Paintballing venue in Al Rawdah district and Laser tag in Serafi Mega Mall. There is go karting for boys in the Serafi mega mall too.

  •  Go under water or stay on the surface ;) : I am sure you must have read or heard that red sea has some amazing coral formations under water. Why not check it yourself by going for scuba diving or snorkeling. Some places to get more information would be here and here

  •  Let's fly over the city: Since women aren't allowed to drive why not fly over Jeddah then. West-sky aviation is the place where you can try doing gyrocopter or power parachute. You can check out there website here.

  • Go for an art exhibition: Jeddah celebrated Jeddah art week last month. Some of the exhibitions are still going like 21,39 . You can check it out and read our experience with it over here.

These were just few of our recommendations. You might probably be familiar with all of them but maybe reading about it makes you consider giving it a go again.

We would love to get some suggestions from you guys as well. We love to explore new places and experiences. Plus we will tell you about it later.

Disclaimer: All the places mentioned above are our own recommendation. We are not being paid by any of the organizations above to advertise.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Out And About: Someone's trash, Another's Treasure

Have you  ever heard the term "One man's Trash is another man's treasure".  Call it pre-loved, previously owned or thrifty whatever you want to call it, that term surely comes to life whenever you step into a second hand shop.

  But a second hand shop in Jeddah?? you might be wondering. Many of you may or may not know that Yes, there is a second hand shop in Jeddah. We first came to know about it a few years back. Why  haven't we posted about it?? There can be many reasons. The top most being ,we are really really lazy. Really sorry for that. We need to work on it. We know.

But we are in a groove these days so here is a post about this lovely lovely place. It is called Mawakeb Alajer. It is located on Khalidiyah behind Danube. Its timing are sat-thur 9am-8pm , fri 4pm-8pm. There instagram id is @mawakebalajer.

 Me being a mother and my sister being a teacher, we are always on a look out for books, toys and all sort of stuff that might be helpful in teaching aids. Plus have you seen the prices of books and kid's toys in stores???. I love coming here and finding books  and toys for 5sr which in the best of conditions and sometimes brand new.

 So, when we came to know about this place, it felt like a dream come true. The place is a great shopping experience. You can find books, antiques, designer clothing, bags and shoes,  kids toys, board games and home furniture and décor items. Anything under the moon, you will find there. The place is well organized with a good team who speaks good English plus they are really helpful. They have divided the things in different rooms. They even have a place for bridal gowns, which you can rent from there if you don't want to buy. The place is great to find costumes for kids on a good price. 

They also have a little refreshment area from where you can buy drinks and snacks, a good thing to have when you are spending hours digging for hidden treasures in the shop.

They occasionally have swings and slides as well for sale. Until they are not sold, free fun for my kids :)

The best of all about the place is that the proceeds go to help children in need. So you end up having double the fun. Find stuff at a bargain and help others in need. You can donate any of your stuff there as well.

Side Note: Such places are needed all over KSA. Especially Khobar so I don't have to wait till my visits to Jeddah :)

Old bookshops are a norm in Pakistan. We spend a good amount of revenue and time whenever we go back in these shops. I love the look of books stacked up from the floor to the ceiling, endless rows of books to choose from without having to break your bank. A good old book shop in Pakistan has a website. You can get new and old books from here. They do international shipping as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Let's learn some ARABIC

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time but some how never got around it and today while I was going through our archive I saw this blog entry written a few years back by my sister, and I thought its about time that I update you about it a little bit.
               No.... I wasn't going to say "Hooooorayy" we are fluent Arabic speaker now. Sadly we are still at "Maafi Arabi" phase   :( ... We had listed some reasons for not being able to learn the Arabic language like not having an Arabic speaking social circle or knowing that your own language (Urdu) or English language can get the work done when needed.

               But now since I have been working among mainly Arab speaking people, what can be the reason for not being able to speak? Well one reason that I had narrowed down to was where can I go and learn. At work place we use English as our mode of communication and you need to have some foundation before you start absorbing the language from your surroundings. You may find many places around Jeddah to learn English language but you wouldn't find many places advertised to teach Arabic language. Sadly that was my case too. I couldn't find a place where I could go and learn the vocabulary and phrases for my daily activities. Where I can learn the street Arabic more than the classical one!!

            Well, Alhamdulillah I am happy to say that I finally did find one class. It was recommended by a friend of mine via Facebook. Its called ICTA (I can talk Arabic). It is situated on King's road (Tareeq Malik) near Saudi Hollandi bank.

 They have an amazing programme that allows people to start learning from the very first class. It doesn't matter if you know any Arabic, or have some basic or more then basic Arabic language knowledge. They cover for all. They have an amazing team of teachers who have very interactive and creative ways of teaching that allows you to engage with people as soon as you leave the classroom. They focus on subjects like school, hospital, restaurant, shopping things that as an expatriate you need to know to function well in your new setting and be able to communicate well when required. They provide you with all the materials needed in an extremely homey environment that you forget you are in a class setting. It feels more like having a fun learning evening at your friends house.

Another amazing aspect about this class is the other students you get to meet. Even though Jeddah holds so many people from different nationalities, if you are not living in one of the compound setting you rarely get to enjoy the cosmopolitan feel of the city. But in this class you get to meet people from almost all continents except afcourse from Antarctica ;) or maybe who knows someone might have visited it too. You would have teachers, housewives, grandmothers, professors, nurses all coming together sharing their knowledge as well as there experiences with the city and the language.
ICTA doesn't only have an Arabic conversational class but also give grammar, Qur'an (tajweed) class and also have a book club. You can find more information about them on there website and join them on there Facebook to keep yourself updated with there classes and programmes.

Another interesting feature of this class is that you may pay for the whole session that usually runs between 7 to 8 sessions or if you aren't sure about making such a commitment you may also pay per class. But beware its usually hard not to come back to such fun and enjoyable class. And if not for the class, then you might come back for the tasty treats you get to enjoy after every class ;). The whole session then ends with an evening of activities or presentations where we are encouraged to exercise all that we learned in the classes during the weeks.


Two more places that I came across for learning Arabic while on my search was a morning class in IEF. You may find more details by contacting them on there Facebook

Also classes are provided at Jeddah cultural exchange center but for men. Contact them via here

Some other places to read about ICTA would be here and here

I would highly recommend you guys to try any of these places to learn the language. Its a rare opportunity that few of us get to learn, live and enjoy different culture from our own and language plays an important part in understanding a new culture. I would also hope and wish that programmes  like  ICTA can be operated across Saudi Arabia so that expatriates get to learn the language and be able to participate more in the development of the country and also enjoy their stay more in this unique country including my sis.!! Best of luck in finding something for yourself...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Out and about: Hop, Hop , Hopping

Even though it hasn't been long since the other sister has visited Jeddah but the number of new delicatessen have surely increased here that I wanted her to try. Especially the ones that I knew haven't opened up in Khobar and might take some time to pop up in the food scene there. But taking her to all these places meant we had to have abundance of days and money and that hasn't happened for a long time now :(

So it was time for "RESTAURANT HOPpING". Like most Jeddawian had gone berserk over the opening of Le Mall plaza with its 6 renowned restaurant, I was one of them too. But sadly after trying them all, I was from the group who couldn't really understand the whole hype about them. I liked few more than the others but definitely none of these places are on my "ooh I am craving...." list. So I came up with a small list of food items that I enjoyed the most on my visits to these restaurants.

Our restaurant hopping began on Tuesday around 4.00pm. Perfect day and time to avoid any crowd and queuing up. We went to Texas Roadhouse where I love the  complementary freshly baked warm sweet buns which are served when we are seated. We ordered rattle snake bite for our starter. The mix of melted cheese with the jalapeño kick do wonders in your mouth. It was  followed by delicious half portion of ribs. Many times I have heard people using the phrase "the meat just falls off the bone", I know what they mean now :). For the kids we had ordered crispy chicken basket. Even though my nephew said it tasted good, I know it would never be asked by me again. Side note: their service is impeccable.

After paying our bill we hopped to Shake Shack for some shake time. I had enjoyed a black and white shake with my colleagues when I was checking the place the 1st time. I tried there burger meal too but didn't  really enjoyed the burger but I knew I had to bring my sister to enjoy this creamy yummy velvety shake. And so we did!!!

Finally it was the last course turn. And we know which place had to be tried for it so we head over to "The cheese cake factory". They have quite a variety of cheesecakes let me tell you. Its always overwhelming for me when I have a long list to choose from. But we had a dear friend with us whose love of chocolate helped us to make the decision quicker and we welcomed chocolate raspberry cheese cake to our table.  The cheesecake was rich, creamy and tangy. Loved it.

There were more restaurants to hop on to but our tummies were full and wallets empty. But I loved this idea of restaurant hopping. It gave us a chance of trying out different places and food in a short amount of time. We would love to get suggestions from you guys, tell us your favorite items from different restaurants, and next time we go restaurant hopping we would love to try them.