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Monday, January 14, 2013

Boating in Jeddah

As in the West, businesses in The Gulf have 5 day work weeks.  Saudi Arabian businesses view Thursday and Friday as the weekend, whereas in the UAE it's Friday and Saturday.  Our second day in Jeddah fell on a weekend, so with none of the places similar to what we'd been touring open, our Saad and Sultan decided to take us boating on the Red Sea.  We had been pestering them the whole trip to take us to Bahrain, so this was their gift for our benefit--and to get us to shut up about Bahrain.  Boats and jet skis seem to be pretty easy to rent in KSA because the little marina we went to had a ton of people coming and going on borrowed watercraft.  Two 20 or so foot boats were rented for our group.  Each boat had a captain that spoke only Arabic to us, but seemed to be of some Southeast Asian ethnicity to me.  
I saw a lot of residential development along this part of Jeddah

I don't think we were technically on the Red Sea, but we were definitely in a bay or river that  flowed into it.
Racing with the other boat captain

Saad and Matt, finally able to party in the open

Daredevil jet skiers, I never got to double check if women could rent jet skis, but I think they can

The perfect accessory for your water front home in Jeddah

My first observation was that water laws in Saudi Arabia are much less stringent than the rules along the Chesapeake Bay and in Florida, where I'm used to boating.  There seemed to be no enforced rules against wakes in harbors, and the lives of jet skiers seemed to be insignificant to all involved.  We were however told to wear life jackets, not that they would help much in the crashing of two speeding boats.

The students on the NCUSAR visit to Saudi Arabia had not expected to be given the opportunity to swim, especially outside of the hotel, so we were forced to do some serious improvising.  I swam in my pajamas, making my own waves of haram in spaghetti straps and under armor shorts.  
After sweating under a hijab and abaya for over a week, I felt naked in shorts

After being told by our captain to put on some life jackets and sit down before the Border Police came over
The scantily clad American sirens drew the attention of many a passing jet skier, and at one point, the border police.  Luckily, I succeeded in my primary goal of not being arrested in the KSA, but one of these encounters led us to head back to port and tie up a bit ahead of schedule.  


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About Your Author

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Troy, AL, United States
I am a Political Science student at Troy University in southeastern Alabama. I have been given fantastic opportunities to travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other brief trips, to study and glimpse other cultures. I believe there is much to be learned about other people while studying, and I want to share my experiences with you.