Our time in Jeddah has been phenomenal. Day One was full of many pleasant surprises. We spent the early parts of the day walking around Balad (Old Jeddah) with our tour guide, Khalid. He pointed out many interesting architectural and historical facts. We got to see parts of the original wall that surrounded the city and we even got to walk through the house that King Abdulaziz lived in and ruled from in the early 1900's. Fun fact: up until forty years ago, Jeddah only occupied one square kilometer and had a population of 7,000 people. Today it is more than 1,500 square kilometers and is home to more than 3 million people. Talk about urban growth!
Once it started getting warm at about 10:30am (and by "warm" I mean full blown Texas-hot), we headed out to grab lunch. But as we were leaving Balad, Jordan, one of our group members, received a warm Saudi welcome from an overhead bird. I guess the bird found Jordan's eye as a welcoming target! Thankfully someone had some wet wipes! It brought a smile to most of our faces.
Khalid took us to the fish market where we picked our fish (which were still flopping around), chose how we wanted them cooked, and, quite literally, feasted.
This was followed by a nap. One of our group members was still suffering from jetlag and the rest of us used his sleepiness as a good reason to need some downtime. After we woke from the dead a couple of hours later, we spent the evening at the north corniche (a city-walk along the Red Sea). We ate some shwarmas, met several awesome Saudi nationals and were able to have great conversations and make some friends. One group of guys even invited us to go dune bashing in the desert! We're looking forward to that! Needless to say, the people here are beautifully friendly and welcoming. Every chance we get to chat with them is a joy.
Stay tuned for more thoughts! - Joe, for the group.