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Archive for the tag “travel”

Taking your Pet Abroad – the Complete Guide

Summer has already begun. Many people have left for vacation, and still more will be ready to head out to cooler pastures after Ramadan. If you would prefer your pet to stay in the Kingdom, then appropriate arrangements must be made. However, if you would like to take your pet along with you, then the idea of travelling abroad with your pet can be quite overwhelming. How much would it cost? How soon should I start processing the papers? Will my pet be onboard with me? What documents do I need?  With the long list of what might seem like a never-ending endeavour, Sonja Svensek sheds some light on what pet owners should do if they wish to take their pet abroad.

Check Whether your Pet will be Allowed to Fly with You

The first thing to bear in mind is that different countries have different rules and regulations regarding the import of a pet.  Check online what is required as rules do change. Note that some exotic animals will not be allowed into specific countries. Parrots for example cannot be brought into Saudi Arabia, and certain animals are prohibited into the EU. Once you have been informed of the countries’ regulations, check with the airline you are flying with to  enquire about cost and whether you can take your pet onboard with you. Generally pets (weighing no more than 6 kilos) can be taken on board with you on most airlines as long as its carrier meets the airlines standards and can be put under the seat in front of you. Some airlines will allow small dogs onboard with you too, but others will not. 

Import Permits

If you are travelling to Europe, countries will require a blood test which should be done at least 3 months before your departure. This is why planning ahead is key-which depends on the destination you are flying to. Some counties will not allow your pet entry unless you show proof of an Import permit which is obtained by a vet in the country you are going to. This means having to research a local vet to fill out forms and send you the original for you to sign via courier mail post. Alternatively you can have a friend or relative pick this up and meet you at the airport to present this import permit. If this is required by law, and you don’t have one, your pet will be held in quarantine until you can present one.

You will need to get your pet microchipped.

Health Certificates

For most countries, your pet needs to be micro chipped and a rabies shot needs to be recent usually within the last 6 months before departure.  A week before you travel, (and not before) you need to obtain a Health certificate from your vet which confirms your pet’s health and that it is fit for travel and that your pet doesn’t have any health issues which would stop it from being allowed into the country. A health certificate usually costs between SR 100-200 from your local vet.

Get the Go Ahead from the Ministry of Agriculture

Once you have the health certificate in hand, head to the Ministry of Agriculture with your pet. It is a new regulation where they require to see your pet. It is a relatively straight forward procedure where a MOA representative will stamp and issue you an Export permit. 24 hours before your flight, head to the customs department at the airport which will issue you with a final export approval. It is always a good idea to inform the airline you are flying with, that you are traveling with a pet, and on the day of your departure to head to the airport at least 3-4 hours prior to your flight to ensure that all goes smoothly.

Your pet may be allowed in the cabin with you.

Boarding the Plane

If flying with Saudi Airlines, the check-in counter will direct you to the appropriate counter to pay for your pet and obtain an additional form which they will help you fill it out. Saudia Airlines charges SR 480 for a cat which is their standard fee however this could be subject to change. Generally cats do not travel well. So it is advised not to feed your cat on the morning of your flight.  Regardless of whether your cat is in the cargo hold or with you in the cabin, have a cloth over the carrier so your cat doesn’t get even more stressed by seeing all the people and movements around. Also ensure your cat carrier has a label with your name and address on it.  If you know your cat will act very stressed and constantly meow and cause disturbances, you might want to consider a mild tranquilizer before travelling. Check with your vet first.


Once you arrive at your destination, no matter how tempting it is to let your pet our of its carrier, only do so in the safety of your home. Give them time to adjust.

Should I ask the Vet to take care of all the Paperwork?

Some vets offer the service of taking care of all the paper work for you at high cost between SR 1500-3000 when you can do so for free if you plan ahead and manage your time in advance. Do seek your vets advice to assist you whenever possible as they can talk you through what is required and when. Its also beneficial to join animal welfare organization groups online where you can network with people who have been through the experience and could give you first hand advice and tips on making it easier for you. Some say certain airlines are better at handling pets than others, so it’s suggested to get advice from those who have flown with their pets abroad.

Give yourself Time to Plan

You hear many stories of people happily travelling with their pet around the world on numerous occasions. The bottom line is you CAN travel with your pet, just do a little research beforehand to learn what is needed and plan ahead.  If time is not on your side, you can ask a veterinary clinic to assist you with boarding your pet and arranging the papers and flight arrangements to send you your pet via cargo hold. Some people have used a relocation agency to take care of all papers which can be helpful for those who don’t have time, but be warned that this service can be quite costly.

Though it might seem like a long process to get your pet’s travel documents sorted, if you plan ahead and make the necessary arrangements well in advance, you will lower any risk of having missed something important that is needed for your pet to travel.

For further information you might find the following articles helpful:

 General information and useful tips about travelling with your cat

 If taking a pet to the United Kingdom

 If travelling with your pet to the States 

Join PIN Care group to network with fellow pet travellers

Ride for Free with icflix and Uber

icflix and Uber promotionicflix and Uber have teamed up to offer their customers a great new promotion. icflix, the Middle East and North Africa’s leading Internet streaming service are rewarding first time subscribers by offering them a premium ride with Uber, the smartphone technology company that links riders to drivers within minutes, when they sign up to

The promotional offer launched just this week will entitle customers to 81.73 SAR off their first ride and will be valid until July 25th 2015.

If you are a new Uber customer ordering your first ride using the Uber app, don’t fret. You can get a one-month icflix subscription for free.

Speaking about this great promotional offer, Carlos Tibi, founder and CEO says, “We like to think outside the box, and are always thinking of innovative ways to reward our customers. New Uber customers will have the chance to experience the service with the added benefit of enjoying movies and TV shows whilst on the move.”

“Technology and innovation sit at the heart of what we do, and something we very much have in common with icflix, especially when it comes to enhancing customer experience,” said Jambu Palaniappan, Regional General Manager for Middle East & Africa.

How Can I Access This Offer?

In case you wish to access this offer the following code must be entered while ordering:

UBERUAE  for the UAE


UBERBAH for Bahrain

UBERLEB for Lebanon

UBERQAT for Qatar.

Enter this code when you sign up to icflix. If you are already a member, simply go to “Your account”, “Manage Subscription” and enter your promo code.

Sponsored article

The Road Home. An Exclusive Interview with Director and Film-maker Rahul Gandotra.

Rahul Gandotra’s short film, The Road Home was short-listed for the Academy Awards in 2012. The Road Home is a short film about a boy named Pico who runs away from Woodstock, a boarding school in the Himalayas, with a return ticket to Britain in hand. Pico may look like he belongs in the Himalayas or that he’s from an Indian descent but his British nationality is something that others around him find hard to accept. Pico tries to get to New Delhi and encounters people who softly push him into realizing that others don’t see him the way he sees himself. After finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, Rahul attended the London Film School for Masters in Film Directing. For his Masters thesis he traveled to the Himalayas to shoot for The Road Home. He released the short film for free, and intends to make a full-length feature using the same plot. The trailer and additional information can be viewed on The Road Home Official Site. The underlying issues in the movie are pertinent in understanding today’s globalized society, and particularly poignant for the expat community. The short film leaves you with a deeper understanding of certain emotional issues surrounding globalization and the lingering feeling of displacement it leaves in many people. We at Jeddah Blog were very excited when Rahul Gandotra agreed to be interviewed, and our brilliant and resourceful writer Zareen Muzaffar set out to capture this exclusive story. You will all be surprised also, by a certain connection Rahul has with Saudi Arabia. Read on to discover more about Rahul Gandotra, his short movie, his life and experiences. How did you enter filmmaking and what was the journey like? I was pursuing professional sports at university when I got injured. To pass my time I picked up a camera which later graduated into a video camera and I started taking photography and film-making courses. At the same time I was about to graduate from university and started applying for management consultant jobs. My professor who had seen my work during the course told me I should seriously think of getting into the field. I think my fear of going into film-making had to do with the fact that I was disappointed with a lot of the films out there. So you could say the interest was there, but I kept delaying the decision till the very end. I started making short movies on my own. Sure, I was making mistakes but I was learning on my own. Honestly, I just slipped into this film-making profession and it has been a long path. The Road Home was part of my master thesis project. What led you to make this short film. How did this concept and idea come to you? While I was in Prague for a year, one of my teachers really encouraged me to make a movie about my life. I became interested in the idea, especially as I had built some connections, and had even written a script whose theme revolved around the search for home and identity. The topic was very close to me. The idea kept on flipping in my head till I decided to make an autobiographical account of my time spent at Woodstock.  Search for home and a search for identity became the main underlying theme of my short.

Rahul Gandotra filming on set.

Rahul Gandotra filming on set.

How long did it take to film this movie? I didn’t have the proper film budget but it took 2 years for the whole process and six to seven months to write the script. Once the script was finalized we got into some intense pre-production. We spent about two months in India shooting for the film. While you were making this movie, did you have a particular audience in mind? Who were you reaching out to? In a way it was in defense of my ‘self’ and my experiences as a traveler. There was always this constant question of who I am. It gets frustrating with time because how you feel is different from what people see you as. When I went to India to shoot the movie, I was introduced to this book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Van Ruth E. Reken. The book is basically about the children who have been raised in multiple cultures during their foundational and developmental years, such that they don’t really fit into any one culture. That book described me really well. I realized these are the type of people I am making the film for and that this film is for anyone who questions where they are from, at any time of their life. Any one who has had an outsider experience or has left their country can relate to this movie. You have traveled extensively and lived in different countries. Tell us about your experiences as an expatriate (particularly while you were in the Middle East). I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, grew up in eight countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and America. I lived in Riyadh between the age of 6 and 9. So my memories are from a child’s perspective. It was a lot of fun, I went to an American school, and lived in a compound. I spent some time living in Yanbu as well. The time I spent in Saudi Arabia was very enjoyable and I am sure my parents’ experiences were different than mine. So, where do you feel ‘at home’? Nowhere [laughs] Would it be safe to say home is everywhere? No [laughs again] What do you think is the impact of globalization on one’s authentic self? Does it survive? I would say in my case, it is a very extreme version because I have moved around quite a lot. I think it’s a double-edged sword. At one end, I had a very unique upbringing, for example I didn’t have to read about Ramadan, I lived through it while I was in Saudi Arabia. The sound of call to prayer is very soothing to me, so for me, all these are good memories. It may be something completely different to another person, so it depends on one’s personality too. You get to see the world in the flesh rather than reading about it. On the flip side, I moved around so much I feel I’ve lost the sense of community. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to throw away things and then had to buy them again. Building your community and home again gets tiring. People think its a vacation, but its not. They associate travel with vacation but it’s not the same thing. You are not coming back to your surroundings, you are building it all again. There are some unintended consequences of moving around too much; you forget how long it takes for people to put their trust in you or how long it takes to build your community. Can you tell us about your next project? I have written a full-length feature version of The Road Home and that will be my directorial debut. Working with Andreas Eigenmann, I have turned Pico’s story into a coming-of-age adventure road movie. The feature script is faster-paced than the short. Lastly, since The Road Home was an autobiographical account, what would you tell Pico, or how would you address the internal conflict he goes through in the movie? That’s a tough question. When I was a nine year old, I wasn’t so eloquent or knowledgeable. I didn’t have the third culture book to tell me whats happening. There is a certain level of restraint, and its too much to ask of a nine year old. I read that a lot of third-culture kids handle culture in 3 ways: There are chameleons, the ones who blend into the society and basically avoid sharing their rich history; there’s the wallflower, those who avoid people and don’t interact much and then there’s the screamer. They are the ones who say “I am going to tell you who I am no matter what you think I am”, and obviously Pico and myself is the screamer. I wouldn’t stand anyone telling me who I was, and the number of hours of discussions I’ve had in life are too many to count. Ironically, if I hadn’t been through all these experiences, I probably wouldn’t have made the film. It has been something that has been a large part of my life. Special thanks to Rahul Gandotra for sharing his thoughts and views with us. To see more, you can go through this sampler pack  including commentaries, interviews, photos, wallpaper, internet resources, and a link to the film for free.

What do you miss about home living here in Saudi Arabia?

I started out asking expat ladies in Jeddah which things they miss from their home country, and which were unavailable in Jeddah. I expected I would get a long list of grocery items in response, but some of the more detailed answers surprised me a great deal. I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of responses I received, and even though I know this’ll make a long blog post, I’d like to include them all.

Chilgozas,  Pine nuts

Pine nuts (chilgozas)

Among the edibles that people missed the most were cottage cheese (their own special local brand), falooda (a type of noodle in the form of a dessert eaten in Pakistan), chilghozay (roasted pine nuts) and ‘andaa shamee burger’ (burger filled with chicken and egg).

Clothing was another item whose absence is felt in Jeddah. In particular ‘lawn’ a very light, breezy material available in the Indian sub-continent and ready-made, quality shalwar qameez (long shirts and pants worn in South-East Asia). A recurring issue with regards to buying clothing here in Saudi Arabia is the absence of fitting rooms for ladies and the difficulty one faces in buying clothes without trying them on first resulting in much time and effort wasted when the ill-fitting clothes have to be returned.

Rehab, an expat from Egypt said she missed “getting out early in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays to the club in marvellous weather at temperatures of about 19°C”.


Exotic tea

One of the more moving responses was from Naureen who wrote: “I miss the people-ness of back home, the feel of a house full of humans, peering eyes, helpful hands, encouraging and reprimanding voices. I miss the chaos and the clutter, the disorder, and the synergy that seems to hold it all together miraculously and running forever. I miss the presence of three generations under one roof and the sense of security, continuity and connectedness it brings. I miss unexpected visitors. I miss the frequency and mystery of doorbells. I miss the fact that my child feels eternally loved and at peace and doesn’t need to be ‘entertained’ artificially like he needs to here. I love the luxury of having nature close at hand, my front lawn, my back garden, Model Town Park. Grass, mud, rain in full force, puddle water. I miss the free phone calls to my sister and friends. I miss the feel of seasons, the ruthlessness of extremes. The scorching, unforgiving heat and the chill biting to the bone. I miss the ceremonial ‘baksa-unloading’ (unpacking of suitcases) sequence before each season.”

Understandably, ladies missed being able to drive for the sheer convenience of it, and walking openly in the streets without getting strange glances from strangers.

Mandy, a lady from Canada says, “I miss driving my car, going to the movies and trying on clothes in a store. Getting something home and finding it doesn’t fit or looks awful on is such a pain. Shops being open all day would also be nice. Apart from those things Jeddah has a pretty good variety of goods available. I do find it hard to get good tea here so I have people send it to me or bring it from South Africa, Canada or UK.”

Basant, kite-flying festivities

Basant, kite-flying festivities

Qurratulain Sikander who originates from Lahore in Pakistan remembers, “the gol gappas from Liberty Market, Dahi Bhallay from Punjab University Bridge, and of course the Bhel Puri from Chatkhara!!! Sadly none have ever been brought here…and nothing here has been at par of that taste :(. I miss my freedom of owning and driving my own car/ second closet, which was my means of transport and my room outside the house. I miss the wedding season and the Basant (kite-flying) season. The celebrations, dressing up, food, hangama, dancing – nowhere else in the world is it the same!”

“I miss shops being open all day, driving somewhere to get something quickly, walking down streets looking in people’s front gardens and windows! seeing what girls are wearing out and about. BUT only missing it a little bit.” remarked A, a lady who recently moved to Jeddah.

'Flower heaven'.

‘Flower heaven’.

Alina Farhan, who hails from Lahore, Pakistan pines, “I miss the way the air smells in Lahore, like old dried leaves being burnt, like the earth after a sudden downpour, like the car/ motorcycle/ noisy rickshaw exhaust fumes coupled with the motia (jasmine) garlands the little boys at the traffic lights are selling, like when you enter Y-Block Defence and you can smell Packages from miles away, or when you cross McDonalds and you can literally see apple pies and cappuccinos swimming in front of your eyes, like when I reach Ami’s place and the lawn has been watered, or when you enter the house, you know what’s cooking for lunch – chicken pulao (rice) and yellow daal (lentils) and chicken karahi. I miss the sights of Lahore Liberty and the crazy shopping, lawn prints, exhibitions helter skelter, greenery so beautiful it makes your heart sing, flowers during spring. Have you ever been to the flower exhibitions or Defence Club or LUMS during spring? It’s like flower heaven. And then social butterfly type Aunties going around in their Honda’s with sunglasses perched high up their foreheads, picture perfect make-up and clothes, wearing the latest Gul Ahmed, the tongas (horse carts) and the donkey carts on the same road as an Audi. M.M. Alam road’s cafe crazy generation. But above all else I miss my people. One can still get food here. You just need to go to Azizyah and you can get halwa poori and samosay and everything. There’s even a great place for gol gappay and paans but for people there is no substitute.”

Ladies' Fitting Rooms

Fitting Rooms

Another lady, Amina, wrote the following in response to the things she missed the most in Jeddah: “playing in the rain, the ability to haggle on prices because you speak the same language, shopping because you have try-rooms and don’t have to change 75% of your purchases because you under-estimate your size all the time, and the ability to play and shout and giggle with your kids in a public place without people looking at you.”

A big thank you to all the lovely ladies who took out the time to answer the question posed and articulate their thoughts – you all know who you are!! And thank you to those of you who are regular readers of Jeddah Blog 🙂

Summer Breaks – Summer means fun, and the best kind of fun is with Jumeirah

Whether we’re talking about the summer holidays, or the upcoming Hajj break, the standard topic of conversation amongst Jeddawis is where they plan to spend their vacation. According to the Arab News, Saudis traveling abroad last summer were expected to spend a staggering SR40 billion, and Dubai remains the favorite tourist destination among Arab countries for them. 

If you have decided to visit Dubai, but not quite sure where to stay, then read on. Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts are regarded as among the most luxurious and innovative in the world and have won numerous international travel and tourism awards. The Jumeirah portfolio is unmistakable, including 6 stunning  hotels in Dubai; the world renowned Burj Al Arab, the world’s most luxurious hotel, the multi-award winning Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray in Dubai and the Jumeirah at Eithad Towers in Abu Dhabi.

The Jumeirah hotels are an excellent choice of hotel and we are here to tell you why.

Summer Breaks – Summer means fun, and the best kind of fun is with Jumeirah

Jumeirah Beach Hotel

Whether exploring the high seas in Sinbad’s Kids Club or enjoying an al-fresco family barbeque at Beachcombers Bar and Grill there is something for every member of the family at the idyllic family resort of Jumeirah Beach Hotel. While enjoying their sun-drenched beaches, sculptured swimming pools and manicured landscaped grounds you can relax safe in the knowledge that your loved ones are receiving the highest standards of hospitality and care.

Added value to customers and benefits

Don’t we all love a great deal and lots of complimentary benefits? From 10% off their Best Available Rate with a host of value-added benefits. The rate starting from AED 800 includes many exclusive complimentary benefits such as the complimentary breakfast.

 Complimentary exclusive private beach access

Situated in the vibrant city of Dubai, you can enjoy their stunning 2km golden beach nestling next to their beach-side properties or just a short, free shuttle bus service from their City hotels. If you are staying at the opulent Jumeirah Zabeel Saray you will also have access to an exclusive private beach on The Palm Jumeirah.

Complimentary buffet breakfast

As a guest of the JBH, you can take advantage of their bountiful buffet breakfast. From fantastic local cuisine to international favourites, you can be sure of a great start to your day topped off with the immaculate Jumeirah standard we have all come to expect.

Complimentary access to Kids Club

We all know that enjoying time away with your family is often a tale of two cities and it’s important that your loved ones are well taken care of. Sinbad’s Kids Club (Saleem ay JZS), available to guests staying at selected Dubai hotels, offers a safe, fun and friendly environment for your children to explore and make new friends in a closely-supervised environment.

Complimentary access to Wild Wadi Waterpark

Situated next to Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the Wild Wadi Waterpark is a Dubai legend with sample speeds of up to 80km per hour slide down the Jumeirah Sceirah. For the more adventurous, get a taste for the rocketing power of the Master Blasters or for those more laidback, enjoy a leisurely float along the Lazy River. There is always more than one helping of fun to have at Wild Wadi with the two thrilling rides: Tantrum Alley incorporates two large sections of downhill waterslides and three exciting tornadoes. Guests seated on a tube will travel downhill to enter the first tornado where they slide back and forth several times, then circle around and around in the eye of the storm before exiting and hitting the second and thirds tornados, after which you splash out into the pool.

The equally adventurous Burj Surj consists of two large sections of downhill waterslides and the looming ‘Bowl’. Guests are seated on a tube, travelling downhill to the bowl, where they are hurtled into two spiralling spins and then dropped into the slide, ending with a screaming splash in the pool.

Complimentary Internet access

We at Jeddah Blog know the importance of staying connected online while away on vacation. Whether to peek in at work, or to stay in touch with your family and friends, all of their Dubai hotels offer free in-room Internet access so you can make sure that you are never out of touch.

How do I book a place?

Make your dreams a reality, and book your next holiday online here.

Or call:

Dubai 800 JUMEIRAH (800 5863 4724)

Saudi Arabia 800 897 1439
* IDD rates apply

Or email:

Prices vary from property to property. Check the prices online. It is 10% off Best Available Rate. Burj Al Arab is offering 25% off their Best Available Rate.

Go ahead, book your vacation now and drop us a note to tell us all about your amazing holiday!

Medina Mint

If you’ve been to Medina, you’ve surely stopped at the little vendor-cart right on your way back, and purchased your little bouquet of mint – the handful of sparkling green goodness, that blast of aroma that takes you straight to heaven, and that inimitable, indefinable, unnameable hue of green that makes everything else seem dull. If you’ve seen it and smelled it, you’ll agree with us that the little green beauty deserves a post all to itself.
There’s more to it than meets the eye, or the nose, because apart from staring at it and smelling it, you can use it in a million different ways as well. So, tell us, what do you do with your mint from Medina, and help us compose our final ode to it.

Do you grind it in an aromatic chutney to go with fried snacks? Do you simmer it in a teapot and sip the light golden liquid? Or do you like it cold? Do you give it a whirr in the blender with a dash of lemon and whizz through your day? Do you mix it up with chocolate and bake sinful goodness out of it?

Mint icecream with chocolate. An irresistable combination.

Do you rev up your biryani with some leaves? Do you tie it up with a fancy ribbon, tuck it in an Ikea vase, and use it as an object of beauty? Do you scatter it in a platter with other petals? Do you dry its twigs out in the sun and brew it like ancient medicine?

Mint  chocolate brownies.

 Tell us what the mint from Medina means to you. Is it perfume, is it cure, is it zest, is it a hint or the whole flavor, or just plain eye candy? Write in and tell us, send us pictures if you want. Your contributions mean a lot to us.

The Mad Traveller Comes to Jeddah!

Paul Hudspith, British Airways cabin crew member, has been making videos of his travels every week since 2004. Paul always travels with his (very cool) Brompton foldable bicycle, cycling even under the sweltering sun of Saudi Arabia. The Mad Traveller’s videos can be found on his YouTube channel bromptonglobetrotter

While Paul had already been to Riyadh earlier in 2011, he most recently made a video on his visit to Jeddah where he talks about the scorching weather, the beautiful architecture, the open-air art museum around the Corniche and his visit to Balad. We were very lucky to catch hold of Paul and speak to him about his travels, his videos and his visit to Jeddah. 

Paul, you work for British Airways. Is this what inspires your love of travelling?

I’ve worked as a cabin crew with BA for nine years now and yes, the job does inspire me a lot but it’s mainly exposure to nature programmes as a young child that really gave me a huge appetite to explore the wider world around me. The job is really more of an excellent tool to enable many of my dreams to become a reality.

Paul's first camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member, Mo.

Paul’s first camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member, Mo.

Of all the Mad Traveller videos you’ve made around the world, which is your favourite?

I’ve been making videos ever since my first trip as crew – which was to Warsaw, Poland on an extremely cold winters’ day in January 2004. Since that first not-so-confident presentation, I’ve developed my shows to the programme format you’ve seen.

Choosing a favourite is always tricky but I would say my top three are: Hong Kong, San Francisco and Tokyo. India is also a fascinating place.

Paul's second camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member Toni Riethmaier.

Paul’s second camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member Toni Riethmaier.

You mentioned some myths and preconceptions about Jeddah in your video. What surprised you the most?

The myths and preconceptions I mentioned referred to Saudi Arabia in general and I would say that the biggest surprise so far has been how amazingly peaceful the cities are. There’s an eerie sense of calm everywhere you go. The allowing of men to wear shorts also came as a surprise.

A visit to the Gold Souk. Paul buys gold on his visit to Jeddah.

A visit to the Gold Souk. Paul buys gold on his visit to Jeddah.

Your favourite part of Jeddah?

My favourite spot in the city was the coast (Corniche) – beautiful clear waters and an easy ride along the shore line, and some very quirky public displays of art!

Cycling along the Corniche.

Cycling along the Corniche.

How long did it take you to film the video?

The video took around 6 hours to produce and included the time it took to cycle from Jeddah airport to the hotel. The second half was then filmed in the evening.

Presenting on the Corniche.

Presenting on the Corniche.

 How did you come to choose Jeddah as one of your destinations?

It wasn’t solely my idea to come to Jeddah – I was rostered to operate the flight as crew. I’m randomly rostered to fly to an average of  any 4 global cities served by BA from London per month which could be anywhere in North or South America, Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

And finally, here is the final Mad Traveller video, This Week in Jeddah:

Red Sea Diving in December

If the thought of it doesn’t make you go ‘Brrrr’, do you want to dive in the Red Sea in December? Our friend Meteb the tourist guide has cooked up a diving package complete with open time at the beach and ball games. See if it floats your boat?





Is this your idea of a December well-spent?




Following is an itinerary for those joining from Riyadh. Groups from Jeddah can always hop aboard. The fees of this trip for those coming from Jeddah = 1420 SAR per person (includes all services motioned on the program, except the air fare). Contact email address below for details.

On Wednesday (first day) 05.12.2012

17:00 meet at the airport.
18:00 departure to Jeddah.
19:45 arrival in Jeddah and bus ride (200km) south .
10:30 arrival to Allieth resort for rest and overnight stay

On Thursday (Second day) 06.12.2012

06:00 breakfast at the resort.
07:00 move to boats to private island for diving, snorkeling, fishing in addition to volleyball games on the island and many other activities.
15:00  lunch at camping site on the island, then open time.
19:00 two night diving sessions for “advanced certified divers”.
The rest of the night will be enjoying the beautiful calm atmosphere in the island and overnight stay there.

On Friday (Third day) 07.12.2012

07:00 breakfast.
08:00 fishing for lunch and snorkeling trip.
13:00 lunch at Alleith resort.
16:00 ride the bus back to Jeddah airport
20:00 departure from Jeddah back to Riyadh
22:00 arrival in Riyadh and end of trip.

Price = 1980 SR per person
Includes: tour guide + air tickets + transport from Jeddah to Alleith and vice versa + accommodation + meals + boats + camp in the island + diving instructor and master + tanks + weights.

The price excludes: snorkeling tools + diving tools (BCD and regulators ).

For registration, please send your information (name, nationality, gender, age, ID number and contact number) to
Reservation deadline is 20 October 2012 Backpacking to Europe 2012

What is is an overseas trip with a difference. It originated from a desire to bring together exceptional individuals who exhibit potential, promise, and a passion to excel. The trip provides participants with endless possibilities to learn new skills, enhance their capabilities, and to explore opportunities in an enjoyable, safe, and family oriented environment.

Pink Coffee Marketing & PR, based in Kuwait, are the creative people behind this exciting project. This is their third initiative, and this year participants will be backpacking to Europe, starting with Barcelona and ending at Saint Petersburg. Travel dates are from the 19th October to the 12th of November, 2012. promises to combine elements of adventure, voyage, and knowledge. It is a trip that will wrap stunning scenery, interesting cultures, vibrant history, and city life into one exciting package. participants are selected via high-level screening standards and impeccable judgment by specially qualified judges.

The Managing Director of Pink Coffee Marketing & PR Shamlan Al Bahar, while unveiling described how the participants go on a journey and gain a world of experience by travelling across the globe. Striding through busy streets, climbing up mountainous topography, and crossing vast farmlands, they will truly experience a country”s environment and culture. In an increasingly health conscious time, also promotes physical fitness, mental health, stress control, and a positive attitude.

How You Can Participate

Applications are being accepted from all across the world, including Saudi Arabia.  “However, be warned”, says Cleressa Pinto of Pink Coffee Marketing & PR. “This journey is no yellow brick road, but a roller-coaster of moments of elation and challenges”. Are you up for it? Then register online in just a few simple and easy steps by clicking on the official website.

Living the Dream – An Interview with Jane Stoops Smith

We, at Jeddah Blog, believe that beyond stereotypes and preconceived notions about people and places lies gold. For those who know how to dig for it. We are happy to showcase individuals who didn’t spend their stay in the Kingdom complaining about all that was wrong with the place, and who instead, interacted with the place in a positive and meaningful way. NaimaRashid tracks down Jane Smith, who fits our bill perfectly. We thank Jane for her time and for all the information she shared.

Few dare to dream, and even fewer make their dreams come true. Jane Stoops Smith, an 8 year-old girl from the sleepy little town of Yakima, Washington, saw a picture of the pyramids of Giza, and vowed to herself that she would see as much of the world as possible. Like someone possessed, she started writing to embassies of different countries for information and brochures. The fat packets from random embassies would be mailed to her, and away from the vigilant eyes of her mother, she would pore over them in wonder and amazement. She did that for ten years. At 18 years, right after high school, she joined the US army, and with her husband, Victor (also in the army), together they lived their great big travel dream. To date, they have been to thirty countries, and to some, more than once. ‘I have fulfilled my dream to an extent that even surprises me sometimes’, she says.

Dreams of pyramids, deserts, and faraway lands: a young girl gets dreaming of travels around the world.”Yakima, my home town, was a nice little place, but I was bored silly. I didn’t see any future for myself in that place, and needed to get out as soon as possible.”


Read more…

Up Close and Personal with Ingeborg Wissel

For our first blog post of the New Year, intrepid writer and aesthetician Naima Rashid, interviews artist Ingeborg Wissel exclusively for Jeddah Blog…

Ingeborg is a woman who’s trotting across the globe at 71. She did her Masters at the age of 43 in a class full of 20 year olds. I don’t know what’s more inspiring, she or her art.

Jeddah Blog had a little chat with her about the experiences and inspirations that defined her work. We share some excerpts with you here. We’d also like to thank Ingeborg for her time, and her daughter Annette for her translation throughout.

Ingeborg, tell us about your relation with Saudi Arabia. How did you end up painting in Jeddah?

It was thanks to my daughter, Annette, who lives here. I visited her some years back for three months. That was when I painted my series on Jeddah.

So, what was your first reaction? Culture shock?

Quite the contrary. As soon as I landed here, I felt this sense of peace, not peace, something deeper than that, a sense of déjà vu, as if I had been here before, as if I was returning home by coming here. I felt completely at ease here, completely at ease to soak up my impressions of the place and bring them to life on canvas.

Happy homecoming: Ingeborg returns happily to Jeddah to oversee her exhibition. Coming here the first time several years ago to visit her daughter, she felt a great sense of peace and warmth. ‘… if I’d been here before’. Of all places she has been to in the world, Saudi Arabia is her favourite. She would gladly return several times and paint her heart away.

I see a keen sense of place in your works. All the journeys reflected in your work, China, Djerba, was it choice or happy accident?

It was entirely by choice. I ‘sought’ the places out myself. I wanted to go and explore these different cultures, and then represent them in my art. I love world cultures, I love making contact with what’s foreign, what’s new. Once I’ve spent enough time with a place, I feel a sense of having ‘tamed’ it. That liberates me for my art.

Any particular order of choice …?

Let’s say these were countries I had always wanted to go to, so when I got the opportunity, I just started ticking them off my list. I just know that I love to travel and experience different cultures. It could be anywhere. I’d love to go to India…

Or Pakistan, for that matter?

Or Pakistan, why not?!

Simple things really; the way people sit down to relax in a certain place and culture…

…the way condiments figure centrally in life in some cultures, and how all these everyday details and peculiarities translate into visual compositions. That is the stuff of Ingeborg’s work.

So, Ingeborg, what are your strongest impressions from China, for example?

When I was in China, my head was filled with pictures of bicycles. They were so many of them, they were like an endless ocean. You saw them all the time! What I found remarkable was all that they used it for, the things they would actually transport on bicycles, towers and towers of things. It was crazy. Something that was visually completely foreign to me as a European. I also remember the pace of development in China, how before my very eyes, whole towns and villages were torn down to create high rise hotels.

You seem concerned about the new replacing the old here in Saudi Arabia as well, I’m referring to your picture with the cars blindly covering the façade of the old building.

Yes, all I see in Jeddah is just cars and more cars. There are these beautiful old buildings in Balad that nobody seems to care about preserving or restoring, but the cars just keep adding on.

Like the bicycles in China, endless…

Yes, it’s a sign of the direction in which they’re heading.

Your work seems to be divided in geographical zones. Do you finish one series, and then move on to another place and another series, or do you simultaneously tackle several places together?

I need to completely finish a series related to one place before I can move on. I generally need to live with my subject for two to three years. I like to absorb it so that when I paint, it feels like I’m painting with every atom of my body. I don’t move on to the next subject unless I’ve treated the first one as much as or as well as I want to. In a way, the subject has to leave me before I can leave it.

I notice that Europe doesn’t figure very prominently in your work.  Did it fail to inspire you, then?

Far from that! I have painted, worked, travelled, and studied extensively all over Europe, in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Italy. It just so happens that this particular body of work on display was selected to represent the Arab way of life, for obvious reasons.

Is there a story behind the colour red?

Well, I like to have a dash of it around me, though not ON me, mind you! I have an 18 year old red car. Apart from that, I just love the color red, it affirms life for me. It somehow stands its own.

Red-speckled canvasses; the colour red is sometimes the main subject …

…and sometimes, just a locus for the eye to orient itself on the picture plane. ‘ I like a dash of it around me’, she says. Her 18-year old Corrado/VW would be a case in point.

I love your red series, the dancing leaves.

Traditionally, when a leaf withers, it is considered to be dead. I don’t think so. As its boundaries begin to curl, I think it mutates into a new form paradigm where its periphery becomes wavy instead of straight. The change of form renews its existence. That’s why I chose the color red, it’s as if the leaf is dancing back to life.

Ingeborg, have you passed on the artistic bug to the next generation?

I’m afraid not. My daughter is a disaster with art! But I can dare to hope that the gene might skip a generation. My grandchildren seem much more nimble-fingered.

Any last words, Ingeborg, before we take leave?

All over the world, I’ve seen people letting go of their heritage all too easily, bringing down old, dilapidated buildings instead of restoring them. China, Djerba, Saudi Arabia, it’s the same story everywhere. This disconnect with the past is disturbing. I wish to tell people that they must, WE all must hold on to our heritage, value it dearly, and preserve any vestiges left thereof. It’s too precious to wipe out, it’s irreplaceable. They must understand that and remember it.

“These beautiful facades will vanish all too soon, taking with them a whole way of life.”

“Moving ahead in the march to progress, we must not forget to look back.” Ingeborg’s final message is one we’ve heard a million times over, but one we cease to pay heed to.


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