Monday, October 22, 2012

Spice Girl Caravan To Saudi Arabia

What you must remember when traveling overseas with three small children is everything that does not kill you will make the journey worth it. Each child establishes his own perceptions and memories of what happens and you can often find the humor in that.

A blistering morning in Saudi Arabia after traveling for 24 hours found us lost. No really, lost! Our company did not meet us as expected, so we had no idea what to do. Machine guns pointed us toward some cabs. My eight year old was separated from me to ride in another cab. Hysteria set in. A kind Englishman helped us find each other again.

Mohamed’s Camel Stand left me in abject terror. This was 1978 and the hotel had an ample supply of roaches and goats, not to my liking. Neither was the only milk I could locate for my babies. There were no pampers. Needless to say, it was relieving when we were at last met and taken to our villa. This was a huge concrete building with scary stonewalls around it. My children felt it was the most exciting adventure of their lives. They said goat tasted just like chicken. They later wanted to go back.

Across from our villa, a tent appeared with three camels. The next day, there were two tents and five camels. One day later, the tents caught fire. My eight year old, who had become a special friend to the camels was anxious and wanted to help. We had no hose or way to extinguish the fire. The poor Arab waved his skirt and yelled and prayed as his tents burned. Just as suddenly, they were gone. We never saw them again. We were very sad for his loss and missed his company. The children cried for the camels.

Shortly after this, I begged my husband to take us to Rome for Easter celebration. After seeing sand, scorpions and camel spiders for six months, the splendor of Rome was accentuated. I saw the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s cathedral and all the beautiful houses spread across the countryside.

My children only remember the cats in the Coliseum and the pigeons they chased in the Vatican plaza. They hid from me in the Coliseum prisons. I was frantic. They giggled. My 10-month-old saw the Pope at the Vatican but called him "the Poop." I was embarrassed. They wanted to go home. I explained that we could not go to the U.S. They cried for Saudi Arabia.

Our next vacation was to Athens Greece. To raise the money, I showed a little ingenuity and had a garage sale. The King’s Imperial guards visited, dressed in brown robes with gold trim, and asked what I was doing? Otherwise, it went splendidly. I met people from every country I had never heard of before in my life. A green pantsuit sold for $35 and old tennis shoes for about the same. Five thousand dollars later, I had pulled off the ultimate fantasy yard sale. Eat your hearts out American women.

In Greece, we saw the Acropolis and went on a fishing boat to an island. Couldn’t tell you the name of the island to this day. I only know the sea was aquamarine and lime trees plus azure and golden flowers bloomed everywhere. I saw an old fisherman wading in the surf then snatching an octopus onto a big rock to hit it with a smaller rock. Frantic for the poor octopus, I tried to stop him. He was incensed to say the least. I found out later that this was his dinner. He smiled at me and told me in unknown words but clear body language how stupid I was.

Brilliant orange sunrays sat on ancient whitewashed churches and little cottages, as crimson shadows slowly sank into the ground. Old men with weathered faces, mending fishing nets and exhausted by the days work, watched women swathed in black disappear into small chapels to pray. Gorgeous and peaceful people who walk in the footsteps of grandparents of old. Greeks are so unique I say prayers that they will never change. Once again, my children begged to go home to Saudi.

The friendly endearing exchanges that Saudi women had with my children are something they will never forget. The timeless easy peace that consumed the hours then turned into five years showed my children a people dedicated to their prayers and their families.

There is no larger sun to set than that on the Arabian desert or hovering over the Persian Gulf. Antiaircraft weapons surrounding their school did not seem to bother my children nor the scorpion roundup held by the other kids. I would not take anything for the years spent there or the education to my children.

Linda Hays-Gibbs is a spicy girl who lived in Saudi Arabia for five years. Unlike the famous British Spice Girls, she's not a ho and speaks comprehendible English. She's the author of the romantic novels My Angel, My Light and Angel In My Heart, Devil In My Soul.


  1. Traveling is a good way to get an education and develop personal character at the same time.

  2. Thank you. I think my children are better people for the experience. I would have loved to stay in Greece. It was so beautiful.

  3. What a great adventure. I bet your children will never forget.
    Sue B

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  5. Excellent post, Linda.

    Greece in particular is a place I have to see for myself, particularly having had written a good section of a book set there, and Italy as well.

    Saudi Arabia comes across to me as a place I couldn't understand- which I think is the appeal of seeing it, at least once. Particularly the Empty Quarter.