Monday, 23 December 2013

A Middle East Christmas....

Saudi Gazette - Snow in Tabuk, KSA
This will be my second time spending Christmas away from home, I spent one in Germany some years back and it snowed and was good fun, it was a change from the normal Christmas chaos that goes on back home.
This is my third Christmas as an Emigrant now, though my first not being home in Ireland to see the boys open Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning, however, I will be home just after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve.

Christmas here in Saudi, well,  just isn’t really Christmas !, the word isn’t used at all in this devoutly Islamic country, I’ve heard many references in recent week s to “end of year holidays” or “December vacation”. Unlike UAE, for example, even the commercial aspects of the season aren’t really apparent here, so you can actually just get on with life and forget about it until you’re on that flight home, which is pretty much my strategy this year !

The Muslim Holidays of Eid-Al-Fitr & Eid-Al-Adha are the big family holidays here and those of you who are familiar with the Hijri Calender will also know that the dates of these holidays move backwards every year as the calendar is lunar and not solar as the gregorian one is. This is the time of year, when you will see the street decorated and plenty of business being done at the shopping malls and families preparing for large gatherings at home, sound familiar ?

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Region is however not without some festive cheer, in the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of our Christmas Party in Dubai, eating outdoors by the Marina in very un-Christmassy weather, also a wonderful Breakfast at the Irish Embassy here in Riyadh, a smaller festive gathering of some Irish ex-pats and a really nice trip to Abu Dhabi last weekend to catch up with some old friends and also visit the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

I am of course however, really looking forward to seeing my boys in Ireland in a few days, even if it’s after Christmas Day, to catch up on what Santa brought, eat together, talk together and catch up, also a chance to catch up with others close friends on the short visit home. It’s amazing how Ireland has changed so much in the past few years and how so many are taking similar trips home this time of year, and sadly others who either can’t go home for Christmas or can’t get out of Ireland either to find work and improve their lot.
As for snow, well as you can see from this photo taken in the northern region near Tabuk, it does snow in Saudi Arabia !!!

Nollaig Shona Dhuit !