Happy New Year everyone!
We hope all of our friends & family had a great holiday season, as different as it was from previous years.
I think everyone was happy to close the 2020 chapter and move forward but there was some great things that came out of the year! Tons of learnings for everyone, including an increased appreciation for the little things that we often took for granted - the opportunity to shop and enjoy patios with friends, the chances to visit family, the ease of travel, etc.
A Facebook memory from early January 2020 just popped up and us reminded us of a sunny Friday last year, we were golfing in Saudi and on the 5th hole. Someone said we should be in Bahrain at the rugby club having a beer on the patio. Silence overtook us, nobody spoke and we quickly rushed to finish off the 5th hole. We looked at each other, each hoping for others to provide a green light to leave for Bahrain, and then darted off to home to get passports, hop into the awaiting taxi, and head to Bahrain for the welcoming pints.
It was so easy.
Today, we would need a PCR test in Saudi, then one to leave Bahrain (waiting 8 hours for the result), then one back in Saudi, and would also have to quarantine for 3 days.
It was so easy.
We will never, ever take those things for granted again.
2020...thank you for teaching us!
And on to 2021...
Saudi Road Trip
Early 2021, we ventured out for a drive with our friends David & Nicky.
The entire trip only took about 6 hours but allowed us to see some very cool places in the Kingdom. The maps below will give some perspective of the road trip, as we drove from our home (Zamil Village in Khobar) to the city of Hofuf, then to the Al-Uqair fort along the coast, and then home for some well-deserved cocktails to reminisce about the day.
The landscape from where we live (Khobar/Dammam) to Hofuf is amazing, as you drive from an industrial city, to nothing but desert, to large land formations resembling something like you would see in Nevada.
Hofuf, also called Al Hasa, is a city built in the Al-Ahsa Oasis, which is the largest oasis in the world. There are over 2.5 million palm and date trees that are fed by a huge underground aquifer. The oasis became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. Hofuf is a small city of 150,000 (versus our city of 1.8 million).
We visited the Land of Civilizations attraction at Al-Qarah mountain, that included a museum and had amazing caves and tunnels you can walk through. We will let the pictures below tell the story.
We then ventured downtown to check out one of the famous souq markets. There were many little shops with traditional Saudi clothing, food, spices, and almost every place was selling the famous Al Hasa dates. The people were very friendly and welcoming.
We then drove on to al-Uqair, which is directly east of Al Hasa, and right on the Arabic Gulf.
This is home to the 1st sea port in the Eastern Province, built over 600 years ago by the Turkish to support the trade of timber, food, coffee, cardamom, spices, clothing, perfume, incense, and sandalwood from places such as India, China, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Oman. Saudi would ship out the famous Al Hasa dates, molasses, palm shoots and leaves, wool, and livestock.
The walls were corroded from the salt air and sun but you could see the remnants of the sea port, a fort built for protection, as well as the prince's palace.
We drove back to Khobar along the coast and Half Moon Bay, giving us a chance to see the many beach resorts and beach restaurants along the way, as well as several rental places for quads and sea doos. There were many people out enjoying the sunny day and the amazing weather - winter days in Saudi are typically mid-20's (Celsius), providing the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without igniting and melting.
Pretty cool to see this kind of history, especially since it is less than an hour from our place.
Other hope for 2021
COVID vaccinations are underway in Saudi and some of our friends have already received the jab. We are on the list and hope to get it in the next month. Hopefully, that will eventually allow for a bit more freedom to travel.
We were excited to hear the recent news that Saudi and other GCC countries and removed the blockage to Qatar via sea, land, and air. Since summer 2017, we have not been able to visit our neighbouring country. We will now be able to get to Doha, which is about a 4 hour drive, to see a new city, as well as visiting our friends Waco & Tosh, who abandoned us in early 2020. Qatar Airways is a top notch airline that also provides us with some new flight options, such as direct flights to Miami (very helpful when we get to visit our T&A friends!)
Our Saudi borders are now open for expats (opening for Saudi's March 31 for the first time in a year), so it is looking like we will be able to travel once again! So friggin' excited for that!
Some upcoming vacations for us:
April 5-14 - it is looking like it may be either Seychelles & Dubai or Tanzania safari & Zanzibar all-inclusive beach resort...anyone want to join??
May 12-17 - Eid holiday ... no plans yet
July 12-24 - South France and then a week somewhere - Spain or Italy
August 18-September 6 - CANADA... brace yourselves, this party is 2 years in the making!
October 25-November 3 - Jeff's birthday vacation...no plans yet
November 22-December 1 - Lisa's birthday vacation...no plans yet
So that's it! Just a quick update from us and wishes for a safe and healthy 2021 for all of you. Hoping to see you soon.
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa