Journey to Jeddah – Day One

(Background to the “New Arab Woman’s” project)

Well two things happened. One was before I even got to Saudi Arabia.

I arrived in Dubai airport and realised my Nokia 95 wasn’t picking up a service provider. Somehow international roaming had got switched off. I had it on when I went to New Zealand a while ago, but since then I had upgraded – certainly a new SIM card cos the Optus guys told me it was better to have U-Sim or whatever it was called. I was told – promised actually – that the settings would be the same, but clearly they were not.

Unfortunately it takes up to a day to activate pre-paid sims so that was out. I was able to pick up free wireless at Dubai airport – can you believe that? – even before I had gone through Departures. And during the 5am to 1pm layover was on Twitter. Kate Carruthers dived in to my rescue and phoned Optus. They turned on roaming for me, or changed something. Whatever. I was now riding off into Saudi Arabia with some kind of connection to the outside world. Whew! *cuddles Kate* I knew building up a community of 600 Twitterers would pay off one day. It wasn’t time wasted. Heh. Life support by Twitter Members: rocks!
A massive ‘tent’ city built at Jeddah airport for Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca and Medina. We chose to cover up (abaya and scarf) as we flew over medina (5 mins before landing) but not every woman did) (Photo: foxyguy)

Second event was a little more… jarring.

Last time my Dubai colleague, let’s call her Queen Sam had come to Jeddah, they let her through immigration, no question. This time, all women without a male escort were pulled from the queues and made to wait in a seated area. We had to phone and find a driver. One is never sure of the real story – was he really on his way, did they really turn him away to make him drive back to the office to find paperwork? – but from 4:30pm until 7pm, we waited. No one was rude but no way were they letting us through. I decided to not stress and ignore our bags out of sight on the carousel (they were fine). Eventually we were walked through, Sam had to open her bag but I didn’t.

I did have a moment of – I call it breathing. It’s when culture shock hits you and adrenalin and the need to run make you a bit shaky. I think it was as we went through the armed guards into the Hilton area. Breathing because that’s what you do – focus on breathing deeply, nicely and slowly. No stiff drink at the end of the day – but I did help Sam eat her chips while she ate a cheeseburger. So it was all good.

I just hope my headscarf stays on today, while I’m in the lecture theatre. It kept falling off and making a gosh-awful mess yesterday, just when I was trying to be the most unobstrutive blonde with grey eyes in the waiting area. I want to buy a stapler and staple it in place. Seriously.

Anyway, I can hear the first call to prayer, it’s 5:16am and I haven’t finished changing my presentation yet (avoid the word blogging (I’ll probably use citizen journalism) focus on social networks). Miss you! 🙂

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

9 thoughts on “Journey to Jeddah – Day One

  1. Keep up the citizen journalism, Laurel.

    This is way cool and a great way to travel to exotic places!

  2. I found out about your adventure from a Contributing Editor from BlogHer. I wish you the best,

    I know this extends far beyond blogging to establishing relationships around the world.

    Keep the faith and when you get a chance put up some photos (if it is safe to do so).

  3. i like ur exotic journey .. and really i wanna see ya with headscraf iguess its cool on u .. this is saudi arabia nothin interesting in it .. No nightclubs and No womens drive and No cool placese there . i had a Experience. i drove in jeddah and really there big mess on the roads yah I remembered somthin No one recpict you when u drive .. they’re savages .. and No one drives safley there . its rear to see someone drives well . theres A lot of Security guards on the gates at the mall why!! I’ll tell ya they’re stopping the boys and men .why again !! because just in saudi arabia ((you cant enter without your family !!!!!!!!..if u wanna get shopping u gotta get ur mom or sister or any famile to let u in ..(exotic place) by the way . No cinemaes there ..and All the reaturants got a 2 sections ! single – family !! if I wanna eat i cant set in A family section they gonna kick me out .. I am gonna call that kingdom retardation !! I hope guys loke my Experience ..

  4. I like your exotic journey . and really iwanna see u with headscraf I guess its cool on you .anyway .I had an experience in saudi arabia .I rented a car in jeddah and i found thigs they’re never recpict you when u drive and theres A big traffic and big mess in the roads . they’re savages . its rear to see someone drives well . No nights clubs there and No womens drive and No cool places and No parks and No cinemas .. how can I live there !!!!! 2 things more when u wanna go to the mall im takling about the men .(you cant enter without ur family)!! theres alot of scurity guards they wont let u in if u wanna get shopping u gotta get ur mom or ur sister or any famile To let u in !!!!!! and the resturants has 2 sections !! what that mean? I’ll tell ya it means there single section and family section . if ur a male u can go and eat in a singal section if ur a married u can go and eat with ur kids and wife in family section and famile also can eat in family section !! WTF this is saudi arabia , (exotic kingdom) ..im gonna call the saudi arabia (kingdom retardation)

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