Visiting the second largest city in the Kingdom, Jeddah, has already crossed my mind a few years ago since I saw pictures of that UNESCO Word Heritage Site in Al Balad and the Corniche nestling in city. The site is a reminiscent of the “Ushaiger Heritage Village” in Najd region of Riyadh Province and “Calle Crisologo” of Vigan City in the Philippines. The salty ocean air is one of the natural panaceas I turn to for recharging in these tough times. I’ve been craving a holiday directly on the coast. Thank goodness for winning 3rd place in the photo competition titled “The Kingdom Through My Eyes” last September. I won an airline ticket that’s eligible for three (3) destinations: Jeddah, Al Ula, and Abha.
My first choice was Al Ula but its proximity to the airport and the absence of hotel in the package made it to my deferred list. Abha was the second but the full-blown winter and the dreading rising cases there also made it to the list. Jeddah was the least choice but became the final pick because it’s in the vicinity of Red Sea coastal plain (Tihamah) and the few number of “cases” in the city.
I booked a hotel that’s near the target places: the Jeddah Corniche and Al Balad.
This was my first two-day travel experience after the monthslong lockdown that started in March. My irrational fear back then was no longer misplaced by the time I was at the planning stage of the trip. My story for this wasn’t born out of necessity but a must-seized opportunity, albeit for leisure. I needed to go for it to develop more confidence in being mobile again amid this pandemic. With the few, ticked excursions on my bucket list since the restrictions eased in Riyadh, I realized that traveling is, though not encouraged as we speak, is possible. The success lies in ensuring that we engage in smart behaviors and strategies—always! The basics of which are wearing a mask; maintaining a physical distance; avoid touching the mouth, eyes, and nose; and washing or sanitizing the hands upon touching non-exclusive or frequently touched surfaces.
A few weeks before the flight, I was preoccupied with digging the internet for precautionary measures when traveling. I was concerned about how to handle airports, hotels, public toilets, restaurants, fast food chains, and taxis during these times. As we all know, going out since March this year comes with exposing ourselves to the risk.
A housemate drove me to the airport on the 30th of October two hours before boarding time, 11:05 AM. Two hours of waiting made me observe these notes that’s worth sharing: wearing a mask is a must at all times; face shield is not required when traveling locally but it is for all international flights; and web check-in must be done before going to the airport to enable electronic passes on airport scanners and gates. Handing of boarding passes in hard copies is restrained.
I’ve also observed how tamed people were at one point, not as ambulant as before for the obvious reason: awareness of and adhering to the established COVID-19 protocols. I couldn’t help but feel at ease amid the lurking paranoia. Good news, still!
The stifled movements of the people makes the ambiance somewhat a concrete lake of placidness.
The next thing I knew, the aircraft touched down after an hour and a half. The Wandering Feet & Mind landed in Jeddah!
It came as a trivia to me that the King Khaled International Airport in Jeddah is far more beautiful than in Riyadh’s, and that the weather is quite tropical. It felt home, somehow, out of the blue.
After a twenty-minute walk from the coach all the way through the exit, there I was booking a ride on Uber. Talking about one of the single supplement’s downsides of solo travel. It’s been ages since I dreaded on it.
While in the car, I see to it that my backpack will touch no other surfaces but my lap and chest. I also opened the window from start to finish of the twenty-minute travel from the airport to the hotel somewhere in Al Hamra District.
The first thing I did upon entering Room No. 7B on the 30th of October 2020 at about 1:30 PM was disinfecting all the handles, surfaces, and other “to-be-utilized” parts of the hotel in sight followed by washing my hands, taking a shower, having lunch, and taking a nap.
At 4:30 PM, I was already walking along the boulevard in the vicinity of Jeddah Corniche with its 30 km coastal resort area.
By the next twenty minutes I was already strolling along the esplanade. I so felt the vibe of Dubai Marina, especially with the presence of luxury cars waving like celebrities on the road. I was also reminded me of the most popular promenade in my country, Roxas Boulevard, running along the shores of Manila Bay.
The salty air I so wanted to inhale didn’t escape my nose. The expansive coastal and relaxing ocean views of the Red Sea gave my optical organs the kind of food they must feast on every now and then.
Further along the walkway, I stayed in one corner and meditated. In the middle of the chortles I hear and the frolic I saw around was a sanctuary. People were flocking into the place but, at the same time, the world seemed to have stopped at my fingertips. All I was hearing were the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks of the shore and the cantillation of few birds patrolling the area. All I was feeling was the medicinal caress of the Red Sea breeze. I closed my eyes for a few minutes. It was so peaceful. It was surreal.
I reveled in the fresh coastal air and salty atmosphere like never before. My appreciation was raised to the nth level. I owed it to this strange period of our lives that has brought the world to its knees. This moment made me feel hopeful and humbled. Hopeful that we’re slowly rising from the havoc and humbled for the gift of health and chance to experience the magic of nature. For a moment, I was far away from this frantic world.
I also stood, leaned on the railings of the esplanade, and, when possible, sat to pause on the available concrete benches of the scenic walkway snaking through several comfort rooms; picnic areas; bushy gardens; relaxing pockets for both singles and families; and, take note of this, recharge stations for mobile devices. It’s a shame that utilizing some of said amenities didn’t cross my mind particularly the latter. I’m sure it would have though had it happened under normal circumstances. I had a power bank in my messenger bag.
Thank heavens I still caught the setting of the sun, even though just for its ultimate glow. It wasn’t because of the sprawling distractions but because I concentrated more on being in the moment. I had no regrets for doing so.
I capped the activity and night off with another 10 km walk from that long stretch of pedestrian overpass down to the unfamiliar streets near the promenade.
The plans didn’t flow accordingly yet I was definitely happy and content with what I came up with and experienced on Day 1. I didn’t see the floating mosque as well as witness the 312-meter geyser of the King Fahd Fountain pumping the tallest fountain in the world, but proud of the few photos I took. My focus was on being in the zone.
I was more than glad I succeeded in carrying out the most important part of the itinerary, which is mindfulness by the Red Sea. Leaving the place felt like emerging from immersion baptism.
ONE DAY IN JEDDAH (travelingmin.wordpress.com)
What to Do and See in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (wanderwisdom.com)
City of Jeddah (destinationksa.com)
SAUDI TOURISM AND ECONOMY (blueabaya.com)
A Tour of Waldorf Astoria Jeddah (thepinktarha.com)
There’s a fine line between ridiculous paranoia and sensible caution (washingtonpost.com)