Sunday, April 27, 2014

Back Home news

It's been some time since I shared news of my homestead with you readers. As it happens, things are going well with my family. My mother is in fair health after we began respiratory care from a specialist last November when I was in India. She was under the impression that her breathing difficulties and so on were due to the old effects of heart disease, but the cardiologist in question, Dr. Shoaib Padaria, my college buddy, was clear that the heart was ticking quite well, thank you. He then asked us to see a chest physician. We met with Dr. Kedar Toraskar, a pulmonologist practising in Love Lane, Byculla, and he was like ... yes, she has old-age related inefficiencies in her lungs and some such problems, so we should give her inhalers and all ... and this seems to have worked. Alhamdolillah.

My wife Nishrin is in a groove, and her business at the Madonna Beauty Salon couldn't be better. She is sometimes irritated by the fact that she has to manage both my daughters, the household, and her business all by herself, and I can see that this is a legitimate grouse. I try to convince my kids to help her whenever they are free, and this seems to work. Plus a lot of praise and occasional pampering. 

Inas, my elder daughter, is very happy at the Juice Salon where she began over a year ago as a trainee, but where she is now a junior hair-stylist. She was planning to change her salon earlier when the pickings weren't so good, but now, it seems that she is content, and that is what I think is the most important thing.

Hannah is now into her fifth semester in her graduation. Besides this, her main academic pursuit, she is also learning how to play the piano with Furtado classes (at Breach Candy) and pursuing lessons in French (Level 2) with the Alliance Francaise. She is a bit lonely in the house, and misses me the most out of the three women in my life. I make it a point to speak with her at least 3-4 times a week.

That's it for now ... my life is on an even keel and aside of the fact that I am now the only Paediatrician in my hospital, there is nothing more to report to you all.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thursday, 24th April, 2014

As per my understanding with Dr. Yasser, my co-paediatrician, I left early from home, signed into the hospital muster, paid a visit to my two indoor patients, and then left at half-past seven for Ta'if in my own car. The reason was to courier my MRCPCH examination application form to the office of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in London! The form has now been couriered and so I am, inshallah, due to sit for the exams in September from Hyderabad, India. 

From the courier's office, I went here and there, purchasing eatables and a few other perishables to augment my stock in Al Muwayh. At about 11:05 a.m., I finally started my return journey. On the way, I stopped a few times - mainly to buy tea or coffee. At about 5 minutes after 1:00 p.m., I finally reached Al Muwayh. Before reporting to the hospital, I first went to my house and here, I unburdened myself of all the stuff I had carried in from Ta'if. Next, I went back to the hospital. I informed Dr. Yasser that I needed 15-20 minutes of aloofness so as I could cool down and shed my fatigue. Accordingly, I finished my mini-break and then went down to the O.P.D. just as Dr. Yasser was leaving.

The rest of the afternoon was relaxed. I barely saw three or four sick children, and chatted with a few nurses, had a cup of tea. Then, after the official end-of-the-day timings, I went to my upstairs room and sat there to relax further. It was at half-past-fve that I finally went home. 

The evening was typical: a bath, then some snacking (today I had a Sunfeast Pasta - cheese flavour), a lot of Times Now watching Mumbai vote for their candidates, and some Serial watching on the laptop (I saw an episode of  Breaking Bad), I next sat for my study session on Skype. Today, we had a lovely session lasting for nearly two hours. After this, I went out to purchase a few essentials, and then, I returned home for the night. There were no calls, and I went to sleep at about half past twelve in the morning of the next day.

That's all for this entry. Do read and leave behind some thoughts. Thank you. - Dr. Taher

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some stuff arrives for me from India; plus, a little loud thinking

Okay, so our local Indian TV-fridge-A/C repairer is Mr. Niyaz Shaikh, a good friend. I requested him to bring some things from my Mumbai home on his way back to the Kingdom from his holiday, to which he had gone over a month ago. He lives in Uttar Pradesh, but flies in and out of India ex-Mumbai, so this thing was doable. I sent a list of things I wanted to my family back in India, and over the last 45-odd days, they set about collecting all the stuff. This included, among other things, my original M.D. and MMC registration certificates (which I had sent to my place for some official work), my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (KPW) (which I had bought online and which had been delivered to my India address), a new 32-GB Sandisk USB drive which I had purchased online for a special price of just Rs. 900/=, some eatables, some masalas, etc. etc. 

Thus, it was a great pleasure to receive all these things safely from Mr. Niyaz when he arrived back in Al Muwayh. He had taken good care of the bag that all the items had been sent in. I am truly grateful to him. 

The Kindle is so easy to operate. However, used to Samsung smart phones and other tablet devices, the humdrum look of a book reader was a little unsettling and depressing. It has a great interface, no doubt; its fully charged battery should last more than a fortnight, and perhaps even a month, before being needed to be re-charged. I already have many free Kindle-books through my account, and occasionally read them on the Kindle PC or Android app. Once I connected my KPW to a wi-fi account, I was easily able to download all those books on to my device. Now, I can read them on the device whenever I want. Believe me, the experience is great, as the device allows you to change the font, the font size, the brightness of the screen, and so on, and also allows you to highlight text, book mark things you like, add notes, and check meanings of words through a downloaded Oxford dictionary (should you need to). Additionally, you can buy more books, or newspaper subscriptions, or magazine subscriptions through the Amazon store, and keep updating your library.

The Sandisk Cruze has a pre-loaded "Secure Access" program that you can install on to your computer. This allows you to store important documents into a "Vault" that is more like a cloud storage. This is additional to the disk space the device itself has, which, in my case, is 32 GB.

In other news, tomorrow, I will go to Taif to courier my application to sit in the MRCPCH Clinical exams in India in September 2014. I must leave early, and return by lunch, as Dr. Yasser has expressed his desire to go to Madina, Tomorrow happens to be his last working day in our hospital, and from the next day, I would be the lone pediatrician in Al Muwayh.

I made my first chapatis yesterday using the automatic chapati machine that I had brought back with me from India when I came back to SA after the last holidays in January. The result was not bad at all, but the chapatis looked a little undercooked and felt a little harder than normal. Anyways, I first viewed a nice 10-minute video (You Tube) on how to use these automatic devices. Hence, I am happy with my less-than-perfect result.

Lastly, as a Patient Safety director, my first three weeks have been quite okay. I have designed a new protocol (here they call it policy), had an inspection round of all the wards, had a meeting with all the nurses to refresh their knowledge on matters related to Patient Safety, and shot off many requests to the administration, such as requisition for equipment, etc. I also have an office on the upper floor, where they have given me a chair, a desk, a PC and a basic B/W printer to better manage my new responsibilities.

And, oh yes, I finally sent my June vacation papers from the hospital's HR department for sanctioning of my short holiday.

That's it for now ... more tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Once again, I appeal to you all, my dear readers, to let me know how you find the entry, and comment here if you wish. - Taher

Day 2 of the Relaxation trip: Thursday, 17th April, 2014 and the next day's account in brief

Today, I woke up around nine o'clock. My legs were aching a lot, owing to the hectic evening I had spent in Makkah the previous day. I took a breakfast of omelet and chapatis at the Thara Restaurant, then drove to the Muderiya to get some answers on my vacation as well as the replacement for Dr. Yasser. To this end, I first approached one Dr. Zohair. He is the one who handles the vacation requests of doctors from different hospitals of the Ta'if region. He was quite receptive today, and after looking at some tables and charts, he gave me a thumbs-up and informed me that I could, after all, go ahead with my June vacation for the course that I would be attending in Bangalore for the upcoming Clinical exams for MRCPCH (I am planning to appear from India in September this year.)

Relieved at this news, I next went to meet Dr. Ahmed Ashraf to ask him if any replacement doctors had come to Taif. He informed me that a pediatrician from Egypt had, in fact, come to the Muderiya for placement last month, but she refused placement in Al Muwayh. Whereupon, she had been sent off to be relocated to another region, perhaps Riyadh. Now, as Dr. Ashraf told me, he had a list of about 30 doctors who had been selected in interviews all over the world, and of these, 5 of them were pediatricians. Two of these had additional neonatology experience, and would be placed in Children's Hospital, Taif. That left three possible doctors, who, when they came to the K.S.A., might get located to Al Muwayh.

Thus informed, I left the Muderiya, and spent most of the remaining day doing nothing much in particular. In the evening, I had a meeting with a group of doctors who had checked in into the same hotel where I was staying. These doctors, who regularly get  together to stay in this same hotel, come from dispensaries in the surrounding areas. While three of them were from Pakistan, there was one Dr. Farrukh from Kashmir, India. The three doctors included one Dr. Rashid, one Dr. Shahbaz and one Dr. ___ - the last one was just a few weeks away from final exit as he was emigrating to Canada. I spent a long time with these doctors, then went to my room to have the daily study session on Skype, then went to the Asian restaurant for dinner, and finally got together with the doctors again to play cards and have a general chat with them. It was at 1:45 A.M. that I took leave of these doctors and retired to my room to sleep.

The next morning saw me get up late, see a little TV, then descend for lunch. At about half past 3 in the afternoon, I finally left Taif and returned to my village, where I reached by seven p.m., well in time for the evening Skype session with my study group. Thus my three day vacation came to an end.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Taif, then for Umrah, and then rest: Day 1, Wednesday, 16th April, 2014 - II

It is usual for people to try and do the Umrah after the sun has set, as the heat becomes considerably less and reduces fatigue. I did my prayer and changed into the ehram from my room itself. 

I left my hotel room at half past four, and crossed the main street to the taxi stand opposite ... the place from where pilgrims and others are taken to Makkah by the Saudi taxi-men. However, after I had booked one of the taxis with another co-traveller (we usually take one out of four seats to share the costs ... and we would have to wait for two more co-travellers before we could actually start), a police car came alongside and the cop asked the taxi driver to park on the side; he asked for that man's papers. We knew something was amiss. I tried to ask my co-passenger, a Pakistani. He, however, was as clueless as I. The cop next came to both of us and asked us to hand over our Iqamas (the ID card expatriates are all mandated to carry with us at all times). He asked us to vacate the cab. Within minutes, another junior cop got into the vacated taxi and drove it to a winch-car that had just appeared from, as it seems, thin air. He drove the car on to the ramp of the winch, and the winch-car driver fixed the wheels with some devices, and the cab was driven away. The driver of the taxi simply stood there, dumbfounded at his bad luck. 

I learned from the cop that the taxi stand for Makkah had been shifted from this place to a new place about 1/2 a km away. He asked me why I tried to board the cab from this place, whereupon I told him that I usually took the cab from there, and I wasn't aware that there had been a change of rules. He accepted my plea, returned my ID after entering the number on the back of some form and showed me how to reach the new pick-up point. My co-passenger and I both walked to the new place, which is at the junction of Shaher Street and the road diametrically opposite to Hassan bin Thabit St. After a considerable haggling over prices and juggling over which passenger would sit where, my taxi finally took off at half past five in the evening. We travelled smoothly, or as smoothly as is possible under the circumstances, but we reached the Haram mosque a few minutes before the adhaan for the Maghrib prayer was played over the loud-speakers. I ran to the ablution area, did my wudhu, and joined the congregating masses outside the haram gates. After the prayer, I went inside the Haram. The crowds were a lot more than I had expected, but saying Allah's name and his pardon for my sins, I began the Umrah. I completed my seven tawwafs just as the Ishaa prayer was being called out. I found a place opposite the post of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.), prayed the two-rakaah special salah in his name, and stayed put at that spot to join the Ishaa prayers. 

After the Ishaa prayers, I went to the Massa area to complete my "saai" - the seven up and down trips from and to Safa and Marwa. By the time I finished these walks, it was half past nine, and my legs were really aching. During my walks, I noticed not less than three women who had tied a small kid on their wrists with a leash. The child seemed not to care in each of the cases. The mother was immersed in her prayers while the child moved within his mother's range of the leash, skipping, jumping and running until the leash pulled her ambition short. The sight was humorous as well as pitiable for the child. However, under the circumstances, I see no other way the child could have been managed. 

After my "saai", I left the haram, retrieved my slippers (which I had carefully stowed away in an easily locatable and yet private spot to prevent it from being pilfered), and walked out to reach for a cafe or restaurant to have dinner and tea. Just before I could reach one of the many malls inside the big watch-tower hotel, an Indian man approached me and asked me if I  needed a hair-cut (the Umrah must be solemnised with at least a partial hair-cut, but I have heard that you get more blessings if you can get all your hair out. I went with the guy to one of the salons inside the watch-tower mall and got myself a trimming. Then I walked inside the mall to discover one of the restaurants with seating inside the area. This is where I ate my dinner, consisting of a chicken biryani and a soft drink. 

Having eaten my fill, I began to ask around for directions to the taxi-stand for returning to Taif. This used to be an easy task earlier as the stand was located bang outside the Haram. Now, it has been shifted over a kilometer out ... it was a painful task for me to walk to the place. However, thankfully, I got into a cab soon after reaching the stand, and I returned to my hotel in Taif around mid-night. 

I guess I went to sleep about an hour or so later. 

During the tawwafs and the saai, I tried to pray for whoever I could recall. Inshallah my umrah will be accepted by Allah.

Friday, April 18, 2014

In Taif, then for Umrah, and then rest: Day 1, Wednesday, 16th April, 2014 - I

The day is not far when my colleague will have left the hospital and I will be the sole paediatrician. In fact, Dr. Yasser has just over a week to go as I write this. This being my off-call week, I requested for a few days' leave. On Wednesday, the 16th of April, I drove to Ta'if. Someone had informed me (wrongly, as it later turned out) that there was a conference with CME credit in Ta'if at the King Abdul Aziz Speciality Hospital (KAASH). (CME is "Continuing Medical Education" and is a method for doctors to update their knowledge and earn points which can be redeemed for a continuation of their practicing license.)

Accordingly, I left Al Muwayh at about seven o'clock in the morning, arriving in Ta'if by about 10:00 a.m. In KAASH, I was directed to the "education office" in Building # 3 of the Administrative complex. I met with a young chap by the name of Faisal (he was a Saudi with decent spoken English). His information, though, wasn't all that great. He told me that there were two upcoming CME's in the following week, each for a day, but that they would grant just 4 or 5 points each.This is not good news since I was looking for CME's with more points. The reason is that we need 90-120 points to extend our practicing license by 3 more years. To go to Ta'if from Al Muwayh, which is   km away, to just get 4 or 5 points is certainly not value for money!

I then went to the Muderiya, our MOH office in Taif and met Dr. Ahmed Ashraf, the medical man who is also the liaison officer working there. I needed him to help me assure me a vacation in June, when I need to go to India to participate in a training course for the MRCPCH Clinicals. He guided me as best as possible, but I could not meet the concerned people. I also went upstairs to the salary department to enquire about the pending monies of Dr. Narendra. The person in charge informed me, however, that the chances of success in this endeavour were growing dim as the MOH file on Dr. Narendra had got closed in the system. Now, he said, he would try to get that money by other means ... but he did not explain how. It would seem that he would appoint someone who would go personally to the Riyadh office and try and get that money for Dr. Narendra in some months' time ... but he added it might take more than a month or two to get a response. It will then be my unpleasant task to inform this to Dr. Narendra ... something I dread doing.

I then returned to my hotel, the Ahle Saif, the one that I always stay in whenever I am in Ta'if. It seems that although the owner of the hotel is the same one as before, the management has changed hands; it is now being managed by Indians - these are Hyderabadi chaps and they are the very same guys who are running the Asian restaurant just below the hotel ... yes, the same one that I eat at. As one of the helps told me, the new management is even stingier than the old one. They have stopped giving tissue boxes, shampoo and such other simple things that this hotel always used to supply earlier, Mr. Munawwar Ali, the employee who spoke to me, is quite disillusioned with the new management. Not only are they stingy about supplies to the guests, they have also, it seems, or so Mr/ Ali had to tell me, cut down on facilities to their staff. I see portents of bad things here, and I foresee that I may have to switch to some other hotel if things continue in this way.

At about 5 p.m., I finally left for my Umrah.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The next few weeks

Since the past week or so, I am back into the mood to study. The good thing is that among us students, we have formed a group of 5-8 doctors, all with the aim of appearing for the final, Clinical part of the MRCPCH examinations later this year. Our group discusses cases daily evenings. One of us is actually living in the UK, one, in India and the rest of us in different localities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So far, we have sat for about seven sessions and the progress is tangible. 

I will be taking my off-days vacation starting Wednesday. I am hoping to go for Umrah this time. I also have work in the Muderiya, which will hold me up for some time on Wednesday morning in Ta'if. The next week, I would be on call for four days, and then I would be in Ta'if to attend a conference paid for by the MOH, with my name being submitted by my medical director Dr. Shehabeldin. Thus, my next ten-odd days will be crucial. At the end of the next week, Dr. Yasser, my paediatrician colleague, will complete his stint as a doctor for Al Moweh, and will proceed on a vacation before exiting the kingdom late next month and go back to Egypt.

That's it for now ... will connect with you, dear reader, within the next day or two.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

And one more weekend with news from Arabia

Yes, it is one more weekend as I write this. Actually, more than half of it is already over, since the weekend began after 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, and it is now nearly 1:00 p.m. on Saturday! Thursday evening was fairly routine, and I just relaxed in the house. There were no calls. I have ample food in my refrigerator, so there wasn't much I could do in the way of making new food in the kitchen. I spent the evening browsing the net, watching some videos and playing some games. In the night, I went to the children's garden and played tennis with Dr. Essam for a short while.

Friday was a quiet day. Again, I had not a single call until the afternoon, when I had one. Then, for the entire day, none. I continued my usual home-based activities, not going out at all. I have begun studies for part 3 MRCPCH and also for IELTS (the English proficiency test one must give if one wants to work in the UK). While IELTS is fairly easy as English is more or less native to me, the MRCPCH is likely to cause heart-burn as I am studying little every day. Mostly, a friend of mine who is an Egyptian doctor staying and working as a NICU registrar in Riyadh, and I sit on Skype every evening and discuss some cases. His name is Dr. Sherif and he is far younger than me (he is only 34). Like me, he is planning to appear for the final stage of MRCPCH later this year. Married, he finds it difficult to save money as Fridays are reserved for his wife and their family affairs. Even so, at my urging, he took out the time to sit with me and discuss cases for an hour. I think it is necessary for us to be disciplined as time will run out all too fast and then we will not be able to complete our studies in time. 

As a diversion, I am also doing an online course on "Creating a Business Model in Health Care" from an online MOOC site called eDX.com. This course is from the Harvard Business School and I am hoping it will help me understand how to go about starting a new venture related to health-care industry. Unlike pure medical studies, there are several MBA graduates, engineers, technologists, and pure business people studying this course along with doctors, health workers, nurses, and the like. I hope this course turns out to be as interesting as it looks to be. Sometimes, business concepts can be quite tiring and difficult to grasp for professionals like us. The chief teacher has 41 years of teaching experience in this field and has enabled hundreds of students to start their own health-related business ventures ... and says the size of the pie is more than 6 trillion dollars worldwide - twice the size of China's GDP! Of this, the US alone spends nearly 3 trillion in health care, and yet, more than 20 million US citizens do not get access to their health care system as they do not have health insurance. 

In the initial weeks, we are expected to socialise with other students and join a team of like-minded individuals with whom we can finalise a business proposal. This seems like a daunting task, and currently, I am just trying to negotiate the deep waters of this aspect of the course. 

My family continues to be in touch with me as I call them almost daily. Nishrin is busy with her own salon, as is Inas - deeply committed to make a success of her work as a hair stylist. Hannah has finished the second year of her BMS (Bachelor of Management Studies) and started her fifth of six semesters. Mom is doing fine, and her companion, Sakinaben, continues to stay with her. I barely hear about my brothers, but I guess they are busy with their own families and work. 

Here, in Al Muwayh, work and life remain static. However, the same cannot be said of the weather, which swings in disparate directions almost every day. Some days, there is a windy climate, bringing with it a lot of dust that coats everything ... such as the window panes of my house, my car, the small shrub-plants that grow outside my entrance ... and some days, it is unbearably hot, so much so that if one tries to use water from the tap that brings it down from external overhead tanks, the water is searing hot in the afternoon. Then again, some days, there is unexpected rain. And, to cap it all, occasionally, we get hailstones! This event occurred last about a month ago, and shocked me completely, as I had never seen such a thing in the kingdom before ... that too, in the hot, central part of the Kingdom! I even collected a few hail stones from outside my doorstep and took pictures of them to remember this highly unusual occurrence. 

That's about it, I guess, and I will, after completing this entry, go to sleep for a while. In the evening, it will be time to do my Skype studies and then, perhaps retire for some TV watching before sleep takes over. 

Thanks for reading this. Do leave your comments.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Weekend in Jeddah - Day 2: Friday, 4th April, 2014

I slept for a long time, waking up at nearly half past eleven in the morning. After my prayers, I decided to take my car and do a little local travelling and sight-seeing. My Note 3 was fully charged, and I would need that to turn on Navigation with Google Maps and the GPS, as well as to take pictures of interesting sights. I was raring to go. There was no time for breakfast or tea, so off I went, first reaching the sea-side near Corniche area, north Jeddah. This is a sea-front full of 5-star hotels, interesting street furniture, round-abouts with lovely sculptures, and a sea view to die for. They have constructed a viewing pier which has three spokes. People walk up to the end of this pier, and either just stand there, or sit, or fish. I just stood there and watched a few locals do some serious fishing. I mean they had these awesome professional fishing rods, and used squid as bait! 

At the Jeddah shore, waters of the Red Sea are crystal clear, dark blue and very deep. Swimming is prohibited. Fishing is the main reason people come here on weekends. Although I did not stay long to see the results of the endeavours of the locals, I did move around, watching the incessant movement of the sea water, the coastal birds, and the local people who had made their way to the shore to do some loafing around. 

The spoked pier in Jeddah at the Red Sea shore, Corniche

That is a squid being used as a bait

A view of the Island mosque

Black-winged stilt

Black-crowned night heron

A Ruddy Turnstone (name provided by my friend Salil Choksi, an avid birder)

A gull in flight

Gull waiting for its lunch

A sea gull in full flight
 After a long stay here at the beach, I proceeded to a Toys R Us store nearby. This store is also known as Iceland store as the store has a very big skating rink on its ground floor. The first floor is mostly full of rides for small children, as can be seen in the pictures below.

The skating rink at Iceland
 From here, I proceeded via a few brief detours, to the large and magnificent Red Sea Mall. This mall has over 12 entrances, is spread over several blocks and has almost all the things we need to buy from the shelves. Here is a picture of Gate #1 of the mall.

The main gate of the Red Sea Mall
The mall is spread over three floors. The ground floor has a lovely water fountain that seems to spring directly from the ground! The next floor has hundreds of show-rooms, while the top floor, in addition to shops, also has one of the largest food courts I have ever seen. It is a pleasure to simply do window shopping here. I spent nearly three hours here, visiting many shops, and purchasing  lots of this and that at the department store "Danube".  
The water fountain on the ground floor of the Red Sea Mall.

After leaving the mall, I had a troublesome time finding my way back to the hotel (Al-Husna Al-Mutatawerah) as I had no GPS ... my cell batteries had died completely. It was at about half past nine that I finally reached my hotel. I left my luggage at the counter, then drove a few km to reach a stretch of Street 70 that has over half a dozen Pakistani restaurants. I ate my dinner at Zahra Restaurant. I ordered "chaamp masala". The lamb meat was pre-boiled, as it mostly is in small restaurants all over the Kingdom. The gravy was super. After a rather heavy meal, I returned to the hotel, where I went to sleep at 1:00 a.m.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Weekend in Jeddah - Day I :Thursday, 3rd April, 2014

I was in Taif on Thursday the 3rd of April 2014. I visited the Muderiya to once again make enquiries regarding Dr. Narendra's pending salary. I also visited Dr. Ahmed Ashraf and repeated my request to arrange for another pediatrician for al Muwayh to help me. Finally, I went to the Dr. in charge of arranging vacations, one Dr. Zohair, and urged him to look into my holiday request for June.

After these, I had lunch in the Asian Restaurant, and then left for Jeddah. My motive was to spend the rest of the day as well as the whole of Friday in Jeddah, visiting the sea-shore and maybe trying out other things. I intended to return to Taif on Saturday morning and then travel back to Al Muwayh by that day's evening.

My car travelled very well. I decided to take the non-Muslim's route to Jeddah, thereby bypassing Makkah. A wrong decision, as although initially the road was nice, it soon turned into a large tract of asymmetrically arranged bumps on the two-laned affair with no extra place for manouvering. I reached Jeddah at around 4:30, and by trial and error, I found my way to a hotel on Street 70, just off Palestine street.

This was a funnily nice place. Funny because it has two wings; the main wing has five floors, and mostly caters to Saudi guests; it is readily accessible from the reception, and you can get to your rooms on any floor through an elevator. The second wing is hidden. To get to it, you have to first travel to the first floor in the original elevator, then walk down the lobby to the second elevator at the back. From here, you ride up any of the higher floors to find rooms from 11 to 18 for that floor. I had room 313. The room was well appointed, had a kitchen with a gas range and a gas cylinder, basic cooking and serving vessels, and a refrigerator. The sitting room had 4 large chairs, a center table, and a large wall-TV. The bedroom was a simple affair with a double bed and an almirah. It had its own split A.C. The bathroom had a good 2-tub washing machine in addition to all the routine conveyances. This entire room was rented out at S.R. 150 per night, which is a steal, because in Taif, I get just a single room with a window A.C. and a limited T.V. experience for S.R. 100/- per night. 

There was just one problem aside from the funny access system. There was no room telephone, as the cables of the entire telephone network had apparently recently got destroyed. Hence, I had no way of communicating with the reception. The helpers, though, were very nice - Bangladeshis, all. They even went out of the way to serve me tea at night. In return, I helped that particular guy to set up his new smart phone and enabled him to create a Google account and a Skype account, so that he was able to speak with his daughter the same day (she is in Bangladesh).

The first night, I had dinner at an unusual tandoori outlet owned by some clan of Arabs ... maybe Yemenis. I had a lovely mixed tandoori platter with khubz and salad, etc. The food was great. After this rather late dinner, I walked back home. 

I watched a movie on MBC Bollywood before going to sleep at a little after 2 a.m.