As I am up to date on the blog, let me use this chance to note down some more observations in relation to my stay in this country. I had made some observations concerning Ta'if city in my previous post on this issue. to read these, click here. Let me go ahead with some more observations concerning Ta'if.
- Truly, one can fall in love with this big, beautiful city. It is one of Saudi's tourist spots. The winter here can be very cold indeed, and I experienced a lot of chill every evening when I went out with Dr. Raid on the walk. As I was only carrying a fleece jacket, sometimes, the cold got to me so much that I had to abort the walk and go back inside the house at Mukhattat-ul-Visam.
- The market area of Ta'if is spread over large tracts of land and is mostly centred around two major junctions: the one where there is Abbas Mosque and Abbas Square, and the one around Panda and Ta'if's heart Mall. In addition, the Tareeq (=street) Abu Baker and Tareeq Shubra has several large food shops, banks, electronics and white-goods shops, pharmacies and many other businesses. There is a huge "mobile souk" to cater to the needs of the ever burgeoning but trusting population. The Children's hospital is located in the narrow streets that connect the two aforementioned roads.
- The Gazzaz mall is located at Abbas square, and is quite near to the Keralaite area of shops where most of the Keralaite Indian run shops are located. These include grocery shops, restaurants, shops that sell odds and ends, utensils, toiletry and so on. The "Thara Restaurant" here is a famous joint for Indian cooking food, albeit, with emphasis on Kerala food, such as mixed vegetable with parathas, dry chicken, large grain rice and similar stuff. However, you won't find idlis, dosas and the like. The food here is fresh and cheap. Located next to it is a calling cabin for people to call their near and dear ones back home at rates much less than the calls that I can make with my mobile call, but more than what I can do with video calling on Skype.Each has its own advantages. This area also has laundries which will wash and iron your clothes for a small fee of SR 3 per cloth.
- The Ta'if Burj (tower) is located a little distance away from the Abbas square, and at its foot is the Ta'if's Heart Mall, popularly known by the name "Panda" which, actually, is the supermarket located within the mall. The Arabs, of course, pronounce it as "Banda", since they lack the "P" sound in their language. The mall is really huge, and its food court has to be seen to be believed. It is vast, with over 30 counters, ranging from the ubiquitous KFC and McD to the more unique counters which are specific to this country. I had a plate of rice with chicken tikkas and accompaniments of sauces, a little cooked brinjal (very frequently eaten by all Arabs) for SR 17 on one occasion. On another occasion, I tried a Fish sandwich (SR 5) from Al Baik, the biggest and most popular food chain in Saudi. It is like a Saudi-ised version of McD or KFC, with very low prices. For example, the chicken dish here will have 4 pieces of chicken legs, 6 breads (burger style), sauces and cheese for just SR 10! The food court has a skating rink in the centre for children, and large dining areas with modern chairs and tables where one can just hang around for as long as one wants.
- On yet another floor they had an amazingly big electronics store with dozens of models and huge inventories of TVs, refrigerators, computers, laptops, etc. Finally, before I move on, I must say that they had escalators without stairs - they kept going up and down like ramps which are even suitable for those who are in wheelchairs.
- On at least 4-5 days, I went to Ta'if only to surf the net, either in Abbas square, where I would sit in a garden that is situated just opposite Gazzaz mall (see picture), or in Panda, where they did not mind me sitting for hours on end at one of the tables.
- Ta'if has broad roads, and their main road is called the Tareeq Shaher, which has big outlets like showrooms of Toyota and Mercedes cars, buiders' offices, food chain outlets, garments and jewellery show rooms, and so on.
- I will not be able to point out the exact location of the Muderiya to the reader, but suffice to say that it used to cost me either SR 10 or 15, depending on the idiosyncrasy of the dabbab driver who took me there from Mukhattat-ul-Visam. The Muderiya has a front entrance and a back one, and the offices of the guys who are in charge of the doctors who come to Saudi Arabia from all over the world are located close to the rear entrance. You are first welcomed to an outside cabin. Here, your passport and other papers that you brought from India are scrutinised; a clerical person then checks the photocopies of the certificates against the originals in your possession; finally, a medical form is given out to you to go to King Faisal Hospital for blood and urine tests, a chest X ray and a physical examination.
- I took the necessary things with me but I was not aware that I had to take my original certificates for verification. In the event, I was lucky because the clerk did not insist on my producing them. He merely took an acknowledgement from me on each of the certificate's photocopies that I had got my originals back after verification. He then made the medical form for me and sent me on my way.
- It came as a surprise to me that the formalities at the Muderiya turned out to be simpler than I had thought them to be. It helped that both Raid and Sobhy had already prepared me for the procedures. As a result, I almost breezed through the complete cycle.
- After I had the results of the tests on Monday (exactly 2 days after I had submitted my blood and urine samples), I re-visited the Muderiya. They were very quick and I was soon led to an Egyptian doctor Mohd. Ashref, who gave me my allotment letter to go to Al Moweh Hospital. I pleaded with him to post me in Ta'if, but he refused point-blank. When I reached Al Moweh, I realised why. One of the pediatricians had just left and they needed a replacement for his departure.