I’ve been really busy the past few weeks preparing for this trip, hence my silence on the blog. I’ve found, since having children, I have rather little brain space for anything else with the addition of any new projects, on top of the daily grind of cleaning, cooking, counselling, dhoby duties, librarian, nurse, you get what I mean. Or I could just be making excuses for myself.
As I sit here in the hotel room typing this, my three year old is next to me with the flu and demanding I tag her in a game of tag. It’s very hard to think in full sentences, but I will try.
Its been a challenge trying to find reliable information online about travelling to Jeddah. It turns out the best information is from helpful people already on the ground, people we are personally in touch with, but even that is hard to come by (we are trying to figure out why this is so, but can’t come up with an explanation).
We arrived yesterday morning in Jeddah, after a 8 hour flight from Singapore to Dubai, a transit (in the plane) in Dubai that lasted about 2 hours, and finally a 2.5 hour flight from Dubai to Jeddah. My daughter’s sore throat developed into a fever and runny nose, and as usual none of us slept very well (how does anyone sleep well on a flight anyway? Um, on Economy..). I was so relieved when we landed in Jeddah and got off the plane because we’d been cooped up for so long; I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel so I could wash up the kids and give the sick on some meds to make her feel better. We walked into immigration, trying to find the Diplomatic line, only to be shooed off by a guy in green uniform waving us vaguely in a different direction. We went looking but found more chaos and masses of people trying to form I suppose what they thought queues are. So we picked one to join, looked down to the start of the line at the immigration counters, and…nobody was there. At all the counters, it seemed all the staff had gone for a meeting or tea break, or something not related to allowing people into their country. We looked to the back of the line, and we had been joined by passengers from another flight..and then another. And still, nobody at the counters. I had a backpack on my back sweating in an abaya over my regular clothes, my son was exhausted and fiddling with everything, my daughter fell asleep in my arms hot with fever, and we stood there stationary for 1.5 hours.
It just so happened, we were queuing up behind another Singaporean so we chatted politely to pass the time. He was very forthcoming with helpful information which he volunteered generously, so there was some positive to being held up. We learnt that we cannot get a prepaid SIM card without an ID unless someone else is kind enough to offer to get one for us in their name (no one has offered), that the airport baggage trollies are not located very near the collection belts (which felt at that point, very far and like we would never see it for ourselves), and that in this country, one must practice much patience. At one point, because my son had undid the straps from the pole dividers and had inadvertently made an opening, someone dressed for pilgrimage made like he was about to enter the queue from the side, right in front of us, instead of the back of the line. His retort when we told him to go to the back, was that he was going for Umrah, so he can. Erm.. But he disappeared eventually of his own accord. Apparently, according to the experienced Singaporean man, this is the norm, people from the GCC who are going Umrah feel they are allowed to do close to anything. Right.
Finally, staff returned and we managed to get through immigration (the staff were all chatting and laughing with each other, seemed like a normal day), continued to the baggage collection (where the husband’s colleague was waiting for us, with trollies at the ready, so I didn’t even get to see where they’d come from), and retrieved our bags from a belt overflowing with tumbling suitcases and even a wheelchair, something I’d not seen ever in all the time I’ve travelled. I couldn’t help but laugh at the chaos and sneak in a picture.
We’re comfortably holed up in Movenpick hotel now, and figuring out how I can get around safely with the children while the husband goes to language class for the morning. Taxis are not an option. I’ve narrowed it down to Uber and Careem limousine services (which I’ve read online to be very safe, clean and reliable, but are smart phone app enabled which I have to get around since I don’t have a local SIM card so I can use local 3G. I need to find out if Malls are alright for people with ovaries to visit without their penis enabled family as escorts, so I can find a Boots chemist and the good food I read about in Destination Jeddah magazine (I see a shake shack on the map!). I want to visit The Store on Tahlia street because according to their instagram feed, they have good shopping and food available and is Ladies only. I’d like a nice abaya. We have appointments to meet with two International schools this week, and to visit one residential compound, before the kids and I attempt to exit Jeddah without the husband. If I’m not back on the red dot in 12 days, someone call the police.