Friday, January 14, 2011

Hessa nafella

I have a colleague who moved here from Canada in October. She's a single female. I know, before I moved here, I had no idea it as possible to live in the Kingdom as a single female and not go crazy. But she is really flourishing. The fact that she's a great teacher and can adapt to her surroundings like a chameleon certainly doesn't hurt.

Anyway, because she can't go anywhere without a chaperon, she organized an extra curricular field trip for her Senior students to a town about 2 hours south of where we are. It was a town she wanted to see, and a town not many of the girls had been to, so it was a win-win. I tagged along, and so did our English cluster secretary that I love so much and another English cluster colleague. We had so much fun! I had no idea that so much history was so close to where we're living, and I learned a lot about the history of Saudi Arabia. Plus I got to hang out with a group of fantastic women and, thanks to our cluster secretary, I learned a lot more Arabic words!

Here are some photos from the day:

A great example of Arab hospitality: the mother of one of the girls made sandwiches for everyone! These were some sort of pink bread with filafel inside. YUM!!

Our first stop was the Ibrahim Castle in Al-Ahsa. It was really a fort, and it was where the first King Saud launch is efforts to unify the tribes and create Saudi Arabia. This is the outside of the mosque that's in the fort.

The fort was beautifully restored. The ceilings were palm tree trunks!

This was our guide at the fort. He was a nice Saudi man who didn't speak much English, so one of the girls had to translate his schpeal on the history of the fort. As we were leaving he said to me, "I thought you were Arab! You looked at me like you knew what I was saying!" Yess! Good listening etiquette win!

The mosque at the fort. The fort is 500 years old, and I believe the mosque was built at the same time as the fort. It was really beautiful.

Then we went to the Al-Mulla house in the "Old Kout" part of town. I had to get a picture of the sign!

This is the bed where the first King Saud slept the night before he pushed the Turks out of Al-Ahsa.

A secret room in the Al-Mulla house where the men hid their rifles in case of a sneak attack.

After a stop at the first school built in Al-Ahsa (photos on FB), we went to the Jawatha Mosque. It was built in 648 AD (7 AH). It was the second mosque in the world where the Friday prayers were performed. I wasn't exactly sure of the significance of this, but the girls told me that it is a big deal.

Then we went to a pottery place. It was such an odd, house-turned-maze-turned-storefront. This picture was taken after I wandered my way through a few "stores" that looked like houses. I went out the back door, and this is what I was greeted with!

Then we went to a dairy farm. For a lot of the girls, this was their first time being on a farm, and for some of them the first time seeing cows up close. The farm had this genius observation room where we could oversee the milking process instead of having to be on the ground in the stink. (the reason their abayas look so dirty is because we had just come from a park in the mountains where we went into these great canyons. Almost all of my pictures were of the girls, so that's why there aren't any posted here)

Our view.

The girls got to touch a cow for the first time.

Then we went to the farm's bottling factory. Because Sandra and I didn't wear the hijab, we had to wear the hair nets. We were tempted to use them as our hijab for the rest of the trip.

It was a really great time. The girls kept saying how grateful they were to have gotten the chance to go on this trip, but I think the grown-ups enjoyed even more than the kids.

Vicariously yours,

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