Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 8, Wednesday, 23rd November, 2011

As I write this down, I am reminded of a famous statement that sometimes, events take you in their grip, and things turn out unexpectedly different from what you had imagined them to be. A week ago, if someone had told me that life would deliver a very pleasant surprise before long, especially after the problems I had in the first two days of my sojourn in this kingdom, I would have probably kicked him or told him to buzz off. And yet, this is exactly what was happening to me! I had told several of my friends and relatives back in India that I would try and do Umrah from Ta'if as soon as possible, but many of my contacts who have information about such things had told me that this would have to wait till  my posting was confirmed. I had therefore revised my target to ONE MONTH instead of "as soon as possible" (mentally I had earmarked it to less than 10 days after my landing in Ta'if).

The decision to visit Jeddah was taken yesterday, and I was on my way before noon. Taking with me my overnight bag and my laptop bag, I reached the taxi stand at Ta'if by noon. The price was finalised at SR 40. We (that is my co-passengers and I) had to give our Iqamas and/or passports for the driver to generate a transit letter from the authorities. He came back after quite a long time, but not before I had started worrying about my passport. He came back and told us all that he was hiking the charge to SR 50 as one of his seats was going empty (the one next to me in the last row of our SUV). We all protested, but had to relent to his wishes as he is supreme in his own country and most of my co-passengers were expats from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh.

I reached Jeddah by 2.00 p.m or a little later, and Juzer came and picked me up in his Toyota Camry Executive. Juzer's car is lovely, and here is a picture of him sitting in his car. 

We reached his home within half an hour, and after I had unloaded my luggage and refreshed myself in their well-appointed bathroom, Memunabhabhi and Abi Talib welcomed me to their home and asked me to join them for lunch. In a word, the lunch was fully satisfying and like manna from heaven for someone who was surviving on dry pieces of broast chicken and the rolls and frankies I had brought from India. After lunch, I rested for a while (they arranged to have a mattress and various other stuff for me in their large hall, and I was given freedom to turn on or turn off the A/C, to charge my mobile or laptop, and to do whatever I needed to do. 

In the evening, we went for dinner to a place called Cafe Zahara, where the meal consisted of Nahari Gosht (which I skipped as it was a beef preparation), a chicken item whose name I forget, and large rotis (Tamiz) that are served as complimentary accompaniments to diners. Juzer also ordered Laban (curd) in bottles (like buttermilk, only less tangy or tasty). The dinner was a grand success, and after this, Juzer took us back home, but he and I went back out to see some of the sights of Jeddah by night.

Indeed, Jeddah's locales are very, very beautiful to see, especially a building with a facade that serves as a giant advertisement screen by night, a large gushing fount of water by the seaside that is lit up and sprays water all around to give an almost poetic effect, some very lovely shore-line structures and promenades that we walked up and down to, and large 5-star hotels that look nice when illuminated. 

We returned after an hour or so, and I spent the rest of the evening using the fast speed internet that Juzer's home had. He helped connect my computer to his home-net (he uses a router, and has a connection that boasts of speeds up to 8 Mbps (and actually delivers more than 1 Mbps when downloading something off the net). I downloaded some movies and a few medical books. It was nearly after 2.00 a.m. that I went off to sleep. 

Tomorrow, inshallah, we would travel to Makkah for Umrah.

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