Riyadh: Rodolfo Estimo Jr. | Arab News Staff
Published — Friday 12 July 2013
Last update 12 July 2013 3:03 am
The holy month of Ramadan has begun and residents of the Kingdom’s capital have drawn up plans on what to do during the holidays, including family bonding.
“Saudi nationals keenly await the advent of the holy month of Ramadan. It gives them and their families the chance to leave the capital for other parts of the Kingdom or the option to travel to favorite destinations overseas for quality family time,” said Abu Abdulaziz who works for a publishing firm.
But while Saudis visit other parts of the Kingdom or travel to destinations like Dubai or Malaysia, many expatriates have traditionally headed for the Eastern Province for a break.
They either drive alone with their families or in a convoy to make the three-to-four hours’ drive on wide and smooth concrete roads enjoyable.
“Going out of the Kingdom on Ramadan holidays makes you feel free — free from work and free from the confines of the city where residents are cooped up, so to speak, the whole year,” said a Sri Lankan working for a local bank.
He said the fact that there’s not much to see, if any, on both sides of the road except vast expanses of desert does not matter.
“In fact, we’ve been seeing the long stretches of undulating desert on both sides of the road as we go to the Eastern Province during Ramadan holidays. Every time we look at them, there seems to be something elusively new in them,” said Nour Nodi, a Bangladeshi working for a local firm.
Once they are in Alkhobar or Dammam, they rent a flat or stay with relatives or friends. Either they eat at restaurants or cook their own food, which includes fresh fish they have bought from the market or caught at sea.
To many of them, the sea is the reason for taking the trip. In fact, those who intend to stay only for a day just pitch a tent beside their car near the seashore. They love digging for shells at the water’s edge while the children splash around with abandon.
“For the kids, it is great fun to experience being close to the sea. It’s there, where the idea of learning how to swim starts. I’m sure it will be one of their childhood memories, which they’ll look back to when they grow up,” said Eric. P. Asi, a senior Filipino electrical engineer at a local company.
For a change, expats also go to Manama, Bahrain. Aside from enjoying the drive along the King Fahd Causeway, which links Alkhobar with Bahrain, they want to try Filipino dishes at different restaurants owned or managed by compatriots.
There are also restaurants in the Saudi capital for the Filipino community but they are fond of trying their native food if available in other countries they visit.
Others visit the malls or markets for souvenirs to buy.
“Those who have more time on their hand go to Dubai for a few days and see the famed Al Burj Tower,” an Indian working for a Saudi corporation said.