Christmas Eve Excitement

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Another day, another series of little stories to share with you all. I’ll try not to get too long winded as if I do that, I’ll never actually get these posts done 🙂 At the end of my last tale, we had just wrapped up day 1 with a great view of Riyadh at night, and head headed off to slumber to get ready for another day of fun. Andrea had to work once again, but only for a half day, but it was long enough that we had a chance to head out for a little more exploration with Patrick and Helena in their SUV. The target of our exploration this time around was to be the Wadi , or creek-bed that lies around Riyadh and the DQ. This area only gets rain a few times in the year, but when it does, it causes flash flooding sometimes. This is the area where it would happen, but for most of the year, it is actually a roadway of sorts. Read on for a little bit about that as well as some other things I did on Christmas Eve. As usual, don’t forget to check out flickr for more great shots!

I got a slightly later start to the day than the first time, but we were still all up before Andrea headed off to work. Once she was out the door, we got organized and headed out. The 4×4 once again proved to be the right vehicle to get the job done, as several times along the ‘roads’ in the Wadi, we had to pull off some heroic driving manouveurs that you probably wouldn’t do with a sedan. The Wadi has been the site of one of the great projects being undertaken at the moment in Riyadh. They are reinvigorating it to be more of a scenic area, with a great scenic road laid out, and lots of scenic things like plantings and rock structures. However, as this is all a work in progress, the roads are mostly dirt, and there is no signage or directions. As such, we made a few wrong turns and had to be redirected around obstacles like large earth movers!

At the end of our Wadi adventure was the site of Diryah, which is the historical location of the original palace and town where the king is from. At one point in time, this was an area with a lot of mud brick houses and walls, including the mosques and likely the palace as well. The government has declared this site an archeological site, but not in the sense you might think. Rather than preserving the beautiful structures that have survive, like, say, Macchu Picchu, in their infinite wisdom, they are instead tearing it down and rebuilding a recreation. Very odd approach considering how beautiful the place already is. However, they really aren’t too big on their history. They’d rather move on and re-invent the past. Point of the story is that we could see the site, but only by scrambling up an embankment and peering through locked fences. What I saw was quite impressive, but Patrick was rather annoyed by what they were doing.

Once we got our fill of this area, we piled back into the car and slowly made our way back to the diplomatic quarters. Andrea and Patrick were hosting a bit of a dinner party, and there was much preparation to be done. On the way back, we managed to visit a few other interesting parts of the town, including some newer developments that to me were more like Canadian suburbs, albeit with much larger homes that had massive walls around them. We also got to see a typical western ‘compound’ where north american ex-pats would live. Looked a bit like a prison, but I’m assured that inside them it is much more like suburbia, with kids out playing, and lots of amenities, etc. They are much more compact than the DQ, but lack the large spaces, such as the long walking and biking path, which is almost 20km around. Tough to say which would be the better place to live if you were posted here.

Once back at home, Patrick needed to run errands, so Jody and I took care of Helena for a bit (feeding, putting her down for a nap, etc.). Jody did most of the work though, as I was getting ready to go for a nice long run around the grounds. Patrick had explained roughly to me how I might get around, but basically I’d be exploring. I had my GPS with me and my camera, so as you might imagine, I did put together a custom map of my run for you to check out 🙂 The footpath around the DQ is actually an amazing thing. The entire perimeter is covered by this path which was created in a very beautiful way, with lots of stonework, including little side attractions like manmade hills, little huts, seating areas, side paths, etc. It’s a great piece of work, but very lightly trafficked. Before the bombings in 2003, the DQ was open to Saudis, and on weekends, all the little parks that dot this path would be full of young Saudi families, but since then, the entrances are completely closed to people that don’t have official business, so all these immaculate parks are empty. However, they are still maintained, so it’s certainly a nice place for me to run through. Needless to say, it was a very enjoyable run. The temperature was probably around 27, but there was no humidity to speak of, so it was pretty bearable. The only problem is that although I was sweating lots, it just gets wicked away pretty quickly, so you’re getting dehydrated, but have no idea.

After returning from my run, I had to pitch in to help get ready for this little dinner party we had going on that night. I think some of the preparation was a little underestimated by us all, so it required all 4 of us working together to get everyone set before the guests started arriving. Luckily, my tasks were not as labour intensive but still had to be done. I was primarily in charge of keeping Helena entertained and out of the way, but also responsible for getting some of the beverages sorted out for the evening, as well as doing some decorating by way of the smuggled Christmas tree I had brought from Canada. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to get anything done when there’s a 2.5 year old running around. Full respect goes out to parents everywhere 🙂 It seems like we had just gotten things done when the doorbell rang and the first guests arrived. Whew!

The remainder of the night at our place was spent more or less relaxing, meeting new and interesting people from all around the world, and eating and drinking in merriment. What more could you ask for on Christmas Eve right? Helena was cute as a button and kept asking if she could open presents, but we told her she would have to wait until the next day. How cruel, right? The meal and soiree were a success, but left us with quite a pile of cleanup in the aftermath. However, rather than do all that annoying stuff right away, Patrick, Jody and I opted to head out to another Canadian Christmas party around midnight at another ex-pat’s place. We spent a couple hours there where once again I got to meet a bunch of interesting people and talk about their view of the world around them. By the time we finally got back and that I headed to bed, it was after 3 am! Damn. Luckily, we didn’t have and heavy morning plans, so I’d be able to rest my weary body.

That’s Christmas Eve in a nutshell, and there’s lots more fun to write about for Christmas Day, so stay tuned for that blog post, should be a fun one!

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