JEDDAH: Cidalia Espiguinha, a Portuguese mother often found exploring the streets of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad area, told Arab News that she “comes from a family of travelers.”
Commonly called Lia, the 38-year-old Espiguinha met her Spanish husband after he journeyed to Portugal to study.
On Instagram, Espiguinha can be seen traveling the world with her seven-year-old daughter, but many of the images were taken in Al-Balad.
“We are a family of travelers,” she said.
“The first time I traveled was in 2002, in my second year of university. You can buy a ticket for the train and cover all the European countries in a single month. I traveled with my friends.”
Asked how she developed her passion for travel, Espiguinha replied: “Ever since the trip around Europe I have started meeting lots of people who are travelers like me. The experience cannot be put into words. “I have basically spent my life traveling — it is my life now.”
Espiguinha’s husband moved to Saudi Arabia to complete a project. However, the couple feared Saudi Arabia would not be a good place for their daughter, and Espiguinha stayed behind.
However, a few months later, her husband urged her to come, saying he thought the experience would help their daughter. “A few months later, we arrived in Jeddah, and the first impression was overwhelming. It was extremely hot and we landed in the middle of a sandstorm. There was turbulence and the plane had difficulties landing. My daughter was only three at the time.”
The first few weeks in the Kingdom were hard, Espiguinha said. “I was in a foreign country with no friends. When you don’t know anyone and you don’t speak Arabic, it takes a long time to adjust to the abayas and prayer times.” She is disappointed at being unable to discover as much of Saudi Arabia as she would have liked in her years here. “In the beginning, I used to think I would have so much time to travel and explore, and now my years here are over — time has passed so quickly.
“My daughter doesn’t even want to leave, but one day when tourism is open I will definitely come back and visit all the places on my list,” she said. Espiguinha managed to visit the Madain Saleh archaeological site and Taif, outside Jeddah.
“I had a chance to visit the city of Petra in Jordan and Madain Saleh is much better. It just does not get the appreciation it deserves.”
Espiguinha hopes to visit the Asir region and discover more of the Kingdom’s geographic gems.
She described the experience of leaving Saudi Arabia as “bittersweet.”
“When I get the chance, I will definitely come back,” she said.