Thursday, March 20, 2014

Abayas: A Whole New Fashion Item to Explore

When coming to Saudi Arabia and starting at KAUST, I was concerned about the abaya and making sure I bought one the right one.

So I did some research- which mainly involved trying to see what women were wearing on the local news sites. From what I could gather, they were wearing plain black robes with plain black veils.

Oh, how I was wrong. There is nothing plain about them.

I did buy this one and totally love it.
In my month here, I've learned that the abaya/robe is more like a long jacket that you wear 
when you leave your home and they have some really nice ones. I had assumed they 
were all black and drab, but most of them are decorated -- and they don't have 
to be black.

I think black is like our standard corporate suit that never goes 
out of style, but many women wear ones that have color, some sort of decorative accent on them. 

I’ve been watching my co-workers and checking the abaya fashion sites (yes, I actually do this) and it seems chocolate brown was hot for the winter months. But now that the weather is getting 
really hot, I'm seeing off-white, lavender and other colored abayas on the Saudi girls.

Now I’m getting excited. This is a whole new fashion arena that I never knew existed.  

In addition to the colors, you also have different styles that range from the button down, to the zip up, to belted, to umbrella sleeved, to the pullover. There are work abayas and some for casual wear.

And they wear them with dress shoes and heels and not flat sandals like I thought.

Oh yeah. I'm kind of regretting giving away most of my stilettos now, but they probably aren’t practical for running around the campus.

Then there is the veil. I admit I'm still trying to master that part as I seem to get caught up in it, but without it, it looks like you forgot something.

I’m sure if I had to wear an abaya and veil everyday, I would be less excited, but I only have to wear it for shopping or dinners when I go to the city and
 traveling. So basically, when I put it on, it means I’m going to go someplace fun -- so I might as well look fashionable when I go.

All the abayas featured on this page are from Aab Collection, my favorite abaya shop so far.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Picnic under the moon

Midnight in some countries is witching hour, but not in Saudi. Here midnight is beach time - and I find it just as magical.

I don't know how they do it as I'm ready for bed at midnight, but if you drive along the corniche in Jeddah at that time, you will find the shores of the Red Sea packed with families. Yes, that's right. Families with kids and everything are awake and enjoying the evening.


So are they swimming?

No. Many of them are eating.

I'm learning quickly that they love their food and their sweets - which is dangerous for me as I too love good food and desserts. But it is how they are serving the food is what I love. They do it berber style.

They literally bring a carpet, roll it out by the sea and then serve the food or midnight snack on it. Some also bring these special cushions made for relaxing on. And they eat and talk and eat some more. It's all very relaxing under the moonlight and for some reason - probably because it's dark - even though the beach is crowded, you really don't noticed anyone else except those sitting around your carpet.

It's one of my favorite things - along with their coffee tradition. And if they combine the two, then it's perfection.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fun and Food at Janadriyah

Saudi Arabia is so far been one amazing experience after another, and last weekend’s Janadriyah Festival was not the exception.  I have absolutely no regrets moving here. The people have been very welcoming and the country is one that needs to be lived in to truly appreciate the beauty it has to offer.

Me holding a hawk. So beautiful.

By back to this weekend and why I'm holding a hawk in the photo.

Janadriyah is a yearly event and it’s held in Riyadh. Approximately 30 of us from KAUST got up really early (like 3:30 a.m.) and took the plane to the city for the weekend to see what this festival that commemorates Saudi heritage, culture and history had to offer.

And that is why I'm holding a hawk.  In the past, hawks were caught and trained to hunt for the nomads living in the desert.  He was quite beautiful - and as nervous as I was.

My friend buying this leather bag that you put fat in for cooking.
Our group was given VIP treatment as we were allowed to tour the area a couple of hours before the masses arrived and enjoyed Arabic coffee and mint tea in the executive tent.

I was worried at first as I’m not a coffee drinker, but Arabic coffee doesn’t taste like regular coffee. It’s actually tasty – and I love the dates that come with it. I also learned that it's an insult not to accept the coffee when you come to a friend's home (good thing I like it) -- and it's very traditional to offer it as a welcome.

My friend enjoying some delicious Arabic coffee.

My favorite part of the trip was hearing about things from the perspective of a Saudi.

One of my friends here at the University had never been to Janadriyah, but while she’s very western, she had heard about the traditions from her parents and could explain them to me.

I think I got more out of the festival with her as she put things in context. I know I would have missed out on the spiced tea with condensed milk and I would have no idea what some of the things in the marketplace were for like the black leather bag in the photo above.  She said you store fat in it for cooking. Interesting.

Weird mushy grain stuff that was surprisingly tasty.
There were even some things that she had never experienced, like this strange mushy grain dish with honey on top. It was good and extremely filling, but neither of us knew what it was.

Saudi Arabia. Always full of wonderful surprises – even to those who are from here.

Traditional meal at one of the restaurants.