Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekend Getaway on the Red Sea

L ast month we took a lovely weekend getaway out of town for my birthday, for three days and two nights, in a beautiful resort on the Red Sea north of Jeddah in an area called Obhur. (Weekends here in Saudi Arabia fall on Thursday and Friday). Our villa had one king bedroom, two other bedrooms with two twin beds in each, and included three baths, a full kitchen, dining room and a living room, plus a large patio area. It was nicely appointed and quite comfortable for our party, which included our little family of three and my hubby's brother and his wife H and their pre-schooler son Moe.

The first evening, my sister-in-law H's family came for dinner. There were about 60 people who came altogether, no kidding! H has six siblings who came, plus all the spouses and children, plus their maids, plus a cousin also showed up with her family. Her family is a bit more progressive than some, so men and women were not segregated - YAY! The women mostly wore skirts or pant sets in bright colors like lime, fuschia, turquoise, or purple with coordinated head scarves. The dinner was catered and consisted of four huge platters of chicken, beef and lamb kebabs on a large bed of rice and pita. Yummy!

Outside in the parking lot, a couple of men had set up a large barbeque on a eight foot long hand-turned rotisseries. On the lengthy rods hung two lambs and several chickens. The two men sat sweating in the sweltering night air, rotating the spits over the glowing coal for four hours. This feast was specially ordered by some guests at the resort for the evening.

Many of us went out for a stroll after the meal into the warm and humid evening air. The grounds of this place are beautiful, with bouganvillea of many colors, lit up palm trees, swimming pools including a separate and isolated pool for women only, an amusement area for kids, a sandy beach, outdoor cafes and gift shops, and a huge dock which housed dozens of incredible yachts.

One of H's brothers brought his decent sized touring boat and he offered to take us all for a midnight boat ride around the Obhur area. There were so many of us who wanted to go that he had to take two separate groups. The first group was pretty much all women and the second group consisted of the younger people. A few of the women in my group even removed their head scarves on the boat ride to enjoy the wind blowing through their hair! Everyone was smiling and laughing and really enjoying themselves.

Adam opted out of the boat ride in favor of playing pool with two other teenage boys in our group - at the clubhouse where women are not allowed. The clubhouse also offered ping pong, cards, pinball machines, and computer games.

The second day at the resort was relaxing and lazy. We walked around a bit but the heat was stifling, so mostly we just lounged around. While we were out on the dock, a large stingray swam right below where we were! Unfortunately I couldn't whip my camera out in time to snap a picture of it! But I got plenty of other photos of the beautiful lush grounds, the shimmering turquoise water, the abundant boats, and the playful jet skiers.

On the third day, more family came again for a luncheon of a fresh catch of fish. After lunch, most of the women and the children walked down to the sandy beach and the beckoning azure Red Sea. The kids relished swimming and building sand castles, while the women mostly sat in the shade on beach chairs, some of them occasionally venturing into the sea to wade up to their knees.

Signs were posted which forbade women from swimming in swimsuits.

Complying with this rule, I did see two women in the water - one was dressed in her black abaya and head scarf, and the other one wore a long sleeved, long legged loose spandex suit topped with a loose knee length top cover. Other women sat on the beach in their abayas, while men freely roamed the beach and ventured into the sea wearing only swim trunks.

By late afternoon it was time for us to head back to reality.


  1. Hi Susie!

    WOW! You are so luuuuuuucky girl! Ma shaa Allah.

    It seems that the men swimming in swimsuits was a little irritating for you? I am SURE there must be womens only beaches there, as there are in UAE? Women can wear swimsuits there in shaa Allah.

    When my husband and I went to the Red Sea here in Egypt, they didnt do that, in fact it was the opposite LOL. Even though it is an Islamic country, women must only wear swimsuits and no extra clothing allowed! Seriously they had a sign and everything!

    We wont go back there again - mainly cuz I dont want my hubby (or me!) looking at haram (half naked girls!) But in Islam, a man only has to cover from his navel to the knee (in front of men AND women) so I guess thats why it is that way.

    Anyway, Im glad you had a nice time - did you go swimming clothed? I went swimming once in niqab, it was really fine, the only bad part of course, as usual is the ignorant ppl staring like they saw an alien or something.

    Ah well! Thanx for sharing your lovely adventures!

  2. Looks like a little piece of heaven;-)

  3. Looks like a little piece of heaven!

  4. Happy belated birthday! Thank you for sharing your adventures. They really are an eye opener for us.

  5. Belated Happy Birthday to You. Reading your blog is very interesting for me because it provides me with insight in life from the part of world entirely unknown to me. Thanks!

  6. Oh, I would suffer greatly if I could not go swimming. It would be mental suffering to be sure but I grew up near water and always swimming. What good is it from keeping women away from swimming?

    The International Olympics would never permit women swimming in abayas plus such women would have zero chance, right!

    Oh, I just find this dress code terribly sad.


  7. ... I'd take the gamble of being put in the pokey to swim, sans abaya. They can avert their gaze.

  8. I'm moving to Khobar soon and enjoy reading your blog! Looks like a lovely trip, though I would have been disappointed about not swimming!

  9. Hi Susie,

    I would love to be able to email you a few questions re living and live if Jeddah but Im new to this and not sure how I go about in finding a link to be able to email you direct.

  10. Hi Susie!How wonderful!Looks like paradise and so warm!The water looks so inviting It's in the 20's here at night and I won't have warm feet till spring.

  11. Susie, I am glad you had such a wonderful birthday!

  12. New slideshow is fantastic! Enjoyed those sunsets. And the food! Ilse.

  13. Such a different life, it must have taken some ajusting, I can't imagine not being allowed to swim except in that great big black outfit, but I have seen the women doing so, in Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia.
    Greetings from New Zealand.

  14. enjoyed reading about your weekend sounds like you had a great time.

    enjoy your blog :)

  15. Aw! Susie, what a lovely place!
    Except that you can't swim normally ofcourse...

    It's cold here! Lots of sleet and I got caught in a hailstorm while cycling... My face hurt so much! And to top it off it allready gets dark at three o' clock! (This would be a good time to catch up your fasting)

    Lovely photo's too!