Great American Western Road Trip: Summer 2018

4 weeks, 3 kids, 1 van, 16 different lodgings, 5400+ miles, 12+ National or State Parks and Monuments adds up to 1 Epic Adventure.

American Southwest Family Vacation 2017

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not recognize any religions other than Islam. The national ID cards have only two options for religion: "Muslim" and "Non-Muslim." Which makes it really hard for the Easter Bunny to get a visa. But we've got connections:
Don't let the bunny suit fool you, that's a Marine in there.
On the hunt for Easter eggs in a swimsuit, as one does.
Expat kids are just like other kids: they love candy.
While you might not expect it, the supermarkets in Saudi Arabia do sell holiday candies...but they are mostly the four-month-old Christmas candies that didn't sell elsewhere. Delicious irony, am I right?

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Return to Moon Mountain

Saudi Arabia is more than just a big sandbox. Before I arrived here, it never occurred to me to question the stereotype because all I ever saw in media was sand, sand, and more sand. One of the more unusual geological places we've been here is a place dubbed "Moon Mountain." About a year ago, we made our first visit to Moon Mountain. This time the kids were a little older, so I took our older one to the top and the younger one made it about halfway.
Now, this was the first time I went all the way to the top. Last year, I stayed with the kids while Kacey went to the top. This year, we switched...sort of.
Not a whole lot of photos in this area because of the slope.
Going up, we had to squeeze through a pass. Here's what it looked like coming down.
 And this is what she was looking at:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Diving in Yanbu

Yanbu is a Saudi Arabian city on the Red Sea. The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is one of the more restrictive countries to get into. So when the opportunity arose to go on a night dive and two day dives, we barely hesitated. In fact, we brought the kids and their grandparents, which made this trip even more memorable...but not for the reasons you might think. Let's just say it involved the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital.
From our first dive of the day
Because this trip was arranged through the American Consulate, we found ourselves included in the Consulate General's convoy. What that means is that we ended up spending the whole 3-hour drive between Jeddah and Yanbu in a high-speed convoy with Saudi police escorts joining and departing at regular intervals like fighters on a WWII bomber formation. It was a bit intense, especially with all the flashing lights and coordinated driving between the official vehicles... because you never know when this could happen, pretty much like this scene from The Kingdom. Of course, we're just tagging along behind them like ambulance chasers while also dodging the local Saudi drivers. I don't have any pictures of this because I was driving, and photos of diplomatic vehicles shouldn't be posted online anyways.

We checked in to the hotel where we met our American contact Tom, then dropped our bags in our rooms. Since not everyone was going out on the night dive, we switched car seats and shuffled folks around so that the night diving group was in one car and the group headed to the Yanbu flower show was in another. Kacey's father, David, ended up riding with Tom in a well-weathered town car that would put a 70's cop-show chase scene to shame. It really sticks out from the more common SUVs in the Kingdom and made going to our night dive site feel even more exhilarating.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Carpets and Culture

Carpets are a big thing in the Middle East. We're kind of into them, having added to our collection from Morocco, Turkey, Qatar, Germany (at a bazaar), and now Saudi Arabia. But here's where the story gets interesting: The last one we got is a Turkmen carpet sold to us by an Afghani in Saudi Arabia who just so happens to also have a store in Washington, D.C.
At least our daughter took off her shoes before climbing over the merchandise.
Feda Mohammed is a third generation carpet expert and runs the Afghan House Oriental Carpets and Handicrafts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's in a shopping center near the Rawdah and King Fahd intersection.
Feda and his rubab
When we arrived, he served us tea and dates. We talked about all sorts of things, but you can tell that he really loves to talk about Afghanistan.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hejazi Angawi House Tour

The character of a location is often formed by its architecture. In Jeddah, the Angawi house is a truly amazingly well-executed example of the features that can be found throughout the area. It's probably the top tour I'd recommend to anyone visiting Jeddah.

Photo: The Angawi house atrium


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