Christmas in the Desert.

You might imagine that celebrating Christmas in the desert is sort of difficult and doesn’t actually feel all that festive right, as a result of the sand, the sun and the absence of any Christmas goods? Well yeah, you’d be absolutely correct.

Today is the 21st of December, I’m wearing a t-shirt, I have sunburn, I haven’t eaten any mince pies, heard any Christmas songs, been stampeded by frantic last minute shoppers in Asda, or drunk too much mulled wine at a German market and bought crappy wooden musical instruments for my entire family’s Christmas presents. That did actually happen one year.

Most people at KAUST head home or on holiday over the Christmas break – I guess mainly so that they can have some sort of Christmas – now please note I’m not complaining here, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas so I don’t expect at all that they should support Western celebrations, I’m just trying to give any readers a realistic idea of the festive period at KAUST to give you the full picture.

When you are shipping your belongings over to KAUST, I think christmas decorations might appear on the ‘nope’ list. This is entirely my opinion and do not blame me if you get stopped and your Christmas goods don’t make it through customs – BUT there are many people here who have Christmas trees, decorations, fairy lights, the whole shebang. I wouldn’t suggest sticking anything overly religious in there such as an angel or a nativity scene, but I do think a Christmas tree and some festive bits and bobs should be okay. DON’T SHOUT AT ME IF ITS NOT OKAY, WHAT DO I KNOW?!
Tamimi do also stock some verrrrrrry low grade Christmas things, you just have to be there at the right time and see when they come in as it can be guaranteed that any Christmas trees etc will get snapped up quickly. Paul did actually manage to find me a poinsettia which has pride of place in our (devoid of all other festive decorations) house. My mam also shipped me over some vegan Christmas treats because she’s an absolute cutie, as well as a Rudolph costume for SuSu the one-eared street dog we are fostering. They all seemed to get here no problem at all, much to the dogs dismay. I will warn you though, Christmas presents will get opened at customs so it’s probably worth telling people at home not to bother wrapping them in elaborate giftwrap.

In Tamimi there have been chestnuts, sprouts, stuffing, mincemeat (allegedly – I didn’t see this) I’m told there are Turkey’s and apparently they do get the odd Christmas tree in and you can be on a secret list to get informed of the trees arrival, although I’m not sure how secret the secret list is being that I know about it and I didn’t even try to get a tree. Between here and Jeddah I’m very confident you could find everything you would need to put together a full Christmas dinner (excluding of course, pork products and alcohol) if you decided to stay in KAUST rather than leave.

As we have been here less than three months and as such are still under probation, we are not permitted to yet take any leave which ordinarily would have left us in KAUST working on Christmas day – however this year Christmas day happens to be on a Friday which means we are flying to Dubai after work on Christmas Eve (Thursday), staying in a fancy hotel, going to a four hour long brunch on Christmas Day and heading back to KAUST late on Boxing Day evening. It’s a pretty hectic schedule but it’s a bit depressing being away from your family at Christmas as it is, so at least by heading to Dubai it will be like a mini holiday (and more to the point I can drink champagne on Christmas day – I. AM. SO. EXCITED.

We are staying at the Dar Al Masyaf part of the Jumeirah Madninat resort and it looks pretty fancy:

Yeah I *think* I can put up with that, we even have a butler. A butler. What do you even do with a butler? Suggestions welcome. It will actually be the first time I have visited to Dubai and I will not have time at all to see any of the city, I’m intending to make the most of enjoying our hotel during this trip and to be honest I’ve seen enough shopping malls to last me a life time. I’m sure Dubai has way more to offer than shopping malls but the beauty of the place is that it is a two hour flight so undoubtedly we will be able to go back.

I will post about my experiences once I get back but in the meantime I hope you have a great time over Christmas no matter where you are in the world. As always, if there is anything specific you would like me to answer please let me know and feel free to follow me on Instagram @littletinypanda.

9 thoughts on “Christmas in the Desert.

    1. Wow fantastic! Congratulations to you both. I know exactly how you feel – it’s a whole mix of emotions, but if it puts your mind at rest at all I love living here, despite all the differences 🙂


      1. Hi there

        We were just wondering whether you had used the visa agency in London recommended by KAUST? Where did you have your medicals?

        Many thanks!


      2. Hi. Yes we did – I think the lady they recommended was called Yeti and she organised our Medicals (which were on Harley st) too. Just a couple of words of advice – don’t rush to get your medical done – they expire after three months and then you have to take another one (and pay again!) this is what happened to us because the process to move here took so long – five months.

        Also if you do go with yeti done panic when you turn up and it’s all very disorganised and you get sent across London; it’s something you’re going to have to get used to coming here and it all worked out fine in the end. I just remember panicking that we were never going to get here but it all worked out fine in the end 🙂 and by all means feel free to ask me anything you might be unsure about.


  1. Hi, thanks for getting back- very interesting to hear about the medicals, my husband has to give 3 months notice at work so good yo know! Which part of the process took the longest to arrange? Is it something outside of our control?

    Best wishes



    1. For us it took ages to get Pauls contract through from KAUST – without that you can’t begin the process to get your degree attested which also takes a while. You will be assigned a moving buddy who can help you with a lot of that stuff but we found it frustrating waiting for contracts to come through when there is NOTHING you can do to speed the process along….

      But, we got there in the end!! So keep smiling and just know soon enough you’ll be here.


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