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Christmas in the Kingdom

This last year I was not able to take the festive season off and go home to Scotland, as I have done in previous years. A couple of the ex-pats have to stay and work, as our Saudi hosts work right through December and January, and this year it was my turn to do so. Elaine was torn wishing to be at home with our daughters but also wanting to spend time with me. So the arrangement we came to was that she would stay in Riyadh until after Christmas day, and then fly back to the UK in the early hours of the 26th, and be home in time for a late Christmas meal with the rest of the family. As my other ex-pat colleagues were already away, taking the 25th off work was not an option, I went into the office that day, and to all intents and purposes it was just another work day. However I did take a tin of Quality Street chocolates for my Saudi colleagues as a “winter” treat for them. Interestingly, although they all realised the significance of the day, none of them referred to it.

Elaine wanted us to have a traditional meal with turkey and trimmings, and so she tried to buy a small turkey. However, a trawl of supermarkets and butchers in our quarter of Riyadh proved fruitless and alternatives were being discussed when the restaurant in our compound circulated an advertisement offering to supply cooked turkey to residents on Christmas day. Even though it was a bit pricey we ordered a turkey for four (we had invited friends to dine with us), and it was delivered, cooked and hot, along with browned potatos, vegetables and even some gravy. This took so much stress out of the day for us and despite the cost it was worth every riyal. There was even some left over for our wee dog to have a treat, and for me to have turkey sandwiches at work later in the week, and a turkey curry after Elaine had gone home.

We opened our few presents after dinner. A surprise gift from our friends was a table-top game of “Poo Curling”. Well, that’s certainly different!


We can access the UK television and radio channels through an internet package we have bought so it was a but surreal to be sitting in 23 degrees and sunshine in a completely undecorated city and see pictures from home of cold and wet people, tinsel and decorations, seasonal programmes on the TV, and other events such as the King’s speech which are the staple of life at home.

After all was tidied up and the guests gone we had a quiet coffee and then I took Elaine to the airport for her flights home. She reported that immigration at LHR at 06.00 on Boxing Day morning was the quietest she had ever seen, and it made for a much reduced stress transit there.

New Year in the Kingdom was also a very subdued affair compared to Scotland where it is celebrated with gusto. Again with 1st January being a work day I just had an early night on Hogmanay and awoke to see social media posts of what the rest of the family had been up to. My daughter who is in the Police was also working, but the others had been to the traditional bonfire in Biggar and had seen in the new year in traditional fashion.

I will be heading home on 6th January – I do hope there are some mince pies left for me!

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