The residential compound called Amoudia had plenty of date trees, aloe plants, and mango trees scattered throughout. There were vegetables and herbs planted by the residents and the maintenance people. The cleaning and maintenance guys were not the best, and trash could be found strewn on the ground. The children’s playground showed signs of neglect. The apartments were not old, but in addition to a variety of maintenance issues, the window air conditioners were prone to leaks. Still, the high ceilings and massive bedrooms provided comfortable homes. I was pretty heartbroken when we moved to Jeddah in the Summer of 2013. My only brother had passed away the year before, and I was still grieving.
We arrived in Jeddah on the first of Ramadaan. My first Eid in KSA was spent at someone’s house, and I had a great time after many lonely Eids. Also, its proximity to the two holy cities was what made Jeddah a fantastic place to live. It took a few months for the jet leg to fix. Gradually, I came out of my shell and took in the beauty of the community around me. The women, all Pakistani, were incredibly supportive of each other. After the two holy cities, the Amoudia ladies were the best part of my Saudi Arabia experience. If someone had a question or asked for assistance, another person almost always had a solution or offered to help. My kids got school admission into the Pakistani school after a friend who knew someone in school administration put in a word. We shared drivers, sent food to each other, and lent all kinds of home items. There was little to no negativity amongst the Amoudia ladies, and I think the blessings of Mecca and Medina brought out the best in all of us.
During my second year, I joined a Quran group and took private lessons from our Jordanian Quran teacher. The time I spent in my Quran class was pretty special, and I loved every minute of it. The women had tremendous respect towards each other and enhanced each other. They boosted my self-confidence, healed my wounded self, and were always incredibly kind and hospitable. It was okay for ladies to drop in for tea, comfort, and food. I availed of the company around me and went for impromptu visits too. During the post-Hajj period, ladies went to Mecca together for tawaaf, Zuhr, and Asr prayers. We would reach Kaaba around 9:30 a.m. during cleaning and floor washing. The liquid used to wash the mosque floors has a pleasant smell and hits the nostrils as soon as you enter the grounds. It was during those trips that I kissed the black stone upon urging of the friend that had accompanied me. I touched the cover of the Kabaa at every circle of tawaf, put my forehead there, and felt the greatness envelop me.
Tea and sympathy were only a shout away in our compound, and occasionally I needed them both. There were occasions when a friend would ask for cilantro or some other kitchen item, or I would ask around for something that I was out of. On beautiful Jeddah evenings, I could open my window and say hi to friends walking by. After four years of Jeddah, Qatar was a culture shock with great people, great connections, and perpetual support. That said, every experience brings pleasure, pain, and fun. We have to learn to adapt and grow. Wallowing in self-pity does not serve any purpose except waste precious time.