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.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

What is a DESI??

As we published our blog on Facebook and were talking about it among our friends  we came across a question regarding our title, "Desi's in the Arab Land". Frankly speaking , to my naïve mind it never occurred that the term desi would not be comprehended by many. Yes in my mind, as the world knows the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans etc to be Asian they knew us brown skin people to be desi's. But I was kinda wrong. Sorry. So here is a better introduction :)

According to Wikipedia "the word 'desi' evolved from the Sanskrit term 'desha', meaning country. With time its usage shifted more towards referring to people, cultures, and products of a specific region .
Desi  is a Sanskrit term for the people, cultures, and products of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia and, increasingly, for their diaspora. Desi nations include India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Maldives".

Urban dictionary:

Word derived from Sanskrit. Means "one from our country"; a national opposed to a foreign. Usually refers to people from India, Pakistan, & Bangladesh.

For Indians/Pakistanis/Bengalis abroad, it has become a term that mainly identifies another fellow Indian/Pakistani/Bengali

Another meaning of desi according to oxford dictionary is "Un adultered or pure" as in desi ghee.

But for us DESI means everything home. The sounds, the faces, the voices, the smells, the taste. Its everything desi, pure. Don't get me wrong the sights, sounds and smells of KSA shouts home for us too. We are a confused species of desi, that call two places there home..... confused yet proud ;)

So, in honour of the desi in us we are going to start Desi Corner on our blog. In here we will attempt in our very small way to show you what desi is. Be Warned its going to be colorful!!!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Out And About: Jeddah And Sail Island

Whenever we are in Jeddah, we have a list of some must visit places. Sail Island is one of those places. We have been going there for a couple of years now and my kids haven't gotten bored of this one yet. My elder one who is 6yrs, have been coming here for the past 4yrs and the new addition  enjoyed it alot as well.
Sail island is on the corniche, just behind the cars stuck in the block roundabout. Its just before Balejio, and after Attallah happy land. If you cross the happy land you will its sails at the far back toward the sea. Hope it helps.
Anyhow, its a paid entrance, 50sr for adults and 40sr for kids. But the adults tickets can be redeemed for the food inside.
When we came to Jeddah this time around I was assuming as its a bit chilly we would not be making this trip, but Jeddah proved me wrong. After having a lovely lovely, breezy last week of February, bam out came the sun and the heat was, I wouldn't say blast on, but enough to make a trip for a swim.
Jeddah's weather being Jeddah's weather, the day we decided to go to sail island, the sun didn't show up. But it was ok so we went along. We went there around 4pm so there was nobody but us and a friend's family we invited there. Having Sail Island all to ourselves is a rare happening.Its a big place but it is normally full in the summers.We would not recommend going there in the holiday season cause its jammed pack then. Its hard to get a seat even though they have ALOT of seating area.
The timing is from 4pm-10pm.

They have 3 pools for different age groups, ranging from 1 1/2-12. The water is clean and they have many kinds of play things for the kids there. They have life guards there as well. They have one for the little ones and one for the older kids. They don't let the parents or helper get into the water. So if your little ones  are clingy attention seekers yelling look at me have a little separation anxiety like mine you would be walking around the pool a lot.

Ususally they don't allow to take photograph, mostly because to protect the children I think, but cause there were no other kids that day. They didn't stop us from taking theses ones. They ask the kids to be in proper swimming attire and no diapers. You can find swimming diapers for the little ones from BOOTS in Jeddah. The island has a lot of seating area, a shop, banquet area, a sand pit, prayer area and a place where you can shower off your kids once they are done playing in the pools.

The restaurant serves a wide variety of food and drinks. They even serve Sheeha which I am skeptical about cause this place is solely made for kids and with kids running around and having Sheesha's all over the place, accidents are just waiting to happen. And even though they have life guards there for the kids, they don't have a doctor or someone who can give first aid. My suggestion would be to chuck the sheesha out and get a doctor in the house.

 But all in all its a place we will keep on going to for a long long time. Cause my kids love going there. Its a fun place for families, for girlfriends to take there kids to, sit back and relax (just keep an eye on the sheehas) and  let the kids have some fun. Hope you will give it a try and love it as much as we did. Do share your stories with us.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Out And About: Jeddah's Fashion Scene

Here is a  quick post about an Abaya exhibition being held at Libra boutique located at Abdul Maqsoud Khoja road, across Munch bakery, Al Rowda district.

 We learnt about it via Destination Jeddah's page on Facebook, since they are the sponsors of the event. You can read the detailed review of the exhibition with the intro to the designers here. The event is called "Abayah Fashion Days" . It was launched in the first week of February and the exhibition continues till March 21st.

 Our love for Abayah's and especially less conventional style one's might be evident for you through some of our previous posts, so visiting this place was a must for us. The boutique, owned by Rana Ismail, showcases the work of 12 local and international designers. The layout of the boutique was very welcoming and had some very interesting displays. The collections varies from everyday Abayas to more of some formal looking Abayas thus, allowing you to shop under one roof.


In addition to the Abayas, the boutique offered some casual to semi formal clothing attire as well. Accessories including bracelets, wrist bands, hair bands , rings,jeweled collars, beautiful long necklaces and shoes that were quite different and bold in their designs. The boutique also housed some designer lamps. Pretty.

The boutique has a little restaurant at the top floor as well. The sales assistant was helpful and not nagging at all, a very big plus in us desi's book. 

If you are looking for some statement fashion pieces to go in your wardrobe for the coming season you know where to head now!!

As they are designer everything, they did had a hefty price tag with them. But dont be discouraged by that If thats not your cup of tea. Show up and support the fashion scene in Jeddah. Its a part of our education. Be inspired by the work of others. Get ideas of what's In and what's not and most Importantly SHOW YOUR SUPPORT.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Eating Out: CooKShop, Jeddah

Ok people, its been a long time since a restaurant review has been done in the blog. You might be seeing a couple of them making their way in this month or so. As the sisters are together we are hoping around some of the new places popping up on Jeddah's long list of amazing eateries.

So, the first place we went is the CookShop. CookShop is originally a Turkish restaurant. But don't get fooled by that cause its menu has a wide variety of food from Istanbul kebab to grilled salmon on Asian noodles (which we highly recommend). The restaurant is located at the end of Tahlia street, Astra Center. It is situated at the back nestled among many other eateries. On entering we were greeted by what looked like the owner of the restaurant. On our first visit I thought that was a mere coincidence but, it happened every time we went there. It gave us the feeling of how committed they were to the restaurant. The restaurant itself is decorated in a very modern yet homey style. We loved how they paired the hard wood dinning tables with mismatched upholstered chairs. The little nick nacks on the shelves, the mirrors, the glass floors added to the simple beauty of the place.

They have a wide variety of food selection. Salads, soups, appetizer, mains, desserts and drinks. We loved the way they had their menu. Their menu had little trivia info about little things like the origin of dinning tables and kitchen appliances etc. It was fun to read and  a good time pass until the delicious food arrived. The taste is great and price is reasonable. Match made in heaven for the desi's in the Arab land. One more thing that they had which was interesting was that they were asking for new recipes from their customers which on testing can be added to their official menu. So all the budding cooks, here's your chance.



CookShop recently launched their breakfast menu as well and sadly as much as we love the restaurant and their food, we were not big fans of their breakfast. It offers a reasonable variety of omelets and toasts and two breakfast platters but for us it just wasn't the same or up to the mark as the rest of their menu.

One more thing we want to add. We love the team they have. Yes, we said LOVE and we mean it. Why we love them you ask? When we first went to the restaurant my daughter got a little sick. By little sick I mean vomiting on everything sick. The food attendants their never flinched but rushed to help us. Even knocking the hell of the men W.C door cause somebody was in there and my daughter was out there vomiting. They were so helpful I could not thank them enough.

Hope you will give the restaurant a try and love it as much as we did. Its already our go to place.

You can find a map to CookShop from Jeddahfood.