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.