07 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014!  I hope that you are all having a great start to the new year!  We got back from some traveling (Dubai, Muscat and Abu Dhabi) a few days ago and are settling back into life.  I'll be posting more about our travels soon, although it will take me a little while to work through all the pictures I took (over 1,000).  It was an interesting experience to travel to other Muslim/Middle Eastern countries (a first for us) and to see the similarities and difference between them and Saudi.  Saudi is definitely a lot more strict and conservative (a huge understatement) compared to a place like Dubai.

Since it is a question I've been asked a lot. . . a couple quick notes about Christmas (or lack there of) in Saudi.  Early in December we had a ladies lunch at one of the compounds.  I noticed that they had a Christmas tree up and decorated.  Little did I know, that Christmas tree would be the ONLY one I would see in Saudi this year.  No joke.  I would have taken a picture if I had known how picture-worthy it was.  :-)

Other than our Rec Center putting up some lights, there really were NO signs of the holidays.  Even the expats here don't do a lot of holiday celebrations and decorating since most of them leave the country for the holidays.  No homes or stores with lights and decorations, no bustling stores and packed parking lots, no snow, candy canes, tree lots, or Santa at the mall.  It was even hard to find wrapping paper!  And I'm not talking Christmas-themed paper, just any wrapping paper!  The only place I ever did see it (and buy it) was at the Toys 'R Us in Khobar--the 'big city' about 90 mins away from us.  But, interestingly some of the Saudis DO celebrate Christmas (complete with parties and gift exchanging), just very privately.

Since our sea shipment hasn't arrived yet, we didn't have our tree, ornaments or decorations.  But assuming they don't get confiscated coming into the country, we should have them for next year.  This year we had to be creative so that we could have a 'tree' for our Christmas morning.  (We actually celebrated Christmas a few days early since we were leaving for our travels on Christmas Eve.)

It was nice to spend Christmas in Dubai since they openly decorate the hotels, malls and stores for Christmas.  On Christmas Day we even went to a little Christmas Village one of the shopping areas (Madinat Jumeirah) had set up.  It made it feel a little more like Christmas.  :-)

The kids riding in the train at the Christmas Village:

A tree in one of the Abu Dhabi hotel lobbies: