So last year (as if its been a year already – utterly terrifying) I wrote about my first experience of christmas as an Expat in Saudi Arabia. It was a big adjustment from the over-the-top festive furore that Christmas can sometimes turn into at home in the UK, and we ended up escaping to Dubai for the weekend in an effort to reclaim some of that festive cheer. You can read that old blog post here.
This year is a little different as we are staying in KAUST for the whole holiday, initially it wasn’t from choice as I recently started a new job and I am still within my three month probation period, so taking leave isn’t really an option. However, the closer we get to the big day – and we’re pretty darn close now – the more I’m enjoying the DIY simplicity of celebrating the day with friends, gathering whatever pseudo-festive food we can find in the imported aisles of the local supermarkets and generally dialing down Christmas a notch or two.
Being here, Christmas becomes something different; we group together with friends to have ‘orphan’ christmases, each person bringing something to eat, something to enjoy – and as a result it becomes more about community, about friends, about remembering our traditions from home and that simplicity is kind of wonderfully magic in its own way.
Don’t get me wrong, I do miss many things from home this time of year – christmas markets where I inevitably indulge in too many mulled drinks and spend all my money on overpriced tat for my families christmas presents, the cold air on my face when I’m wrapped up warm, the traditional boxing day walk on the beach with all my family and their dogs, the smell of a real pine tree and so on – okay lets stop there before homesickness kicks in.
But this year is going to be special in its own right, Paul has been in Riyadh all week on a course so I have been left to my own devices, which has resulted in our home looking like a christmas rejects factory has thrown up on it. I have begged, borrowed and…had shipped in, some festive cheer which really helps to set the scene for our Saudi christmas this weekend. Which looks a little something like this:
- Tomorrow we will have our Christmas – which will consist of a beach day, then on to watch ‘fantastic beasts and where to find them’ at the KAUST cinema (YES!), followed by some sushi and present giving.
- Saturday we will be going to our friends house for Christmas Eve, a Christmas buffet, friends and plenty of laughs – its bound to be a great night. My mum came to visit last week and brought a real-life christmas cake with her (ooooh!) which I suspect may be the star of the show. Well done Elaine!
- Sunday which is Christmas Day proper I will be working sadly – but after work we are going to another friends house for a full slap-up Christmas dinner, someone has procured crackers from Dubai, I have a Christmas pud (again – cheers Elaine!) and some party poppers, we have turkey, we have sprouts, we have cranberry sauce… we even have secret santa.
So yes, it will be different from Christmas at home theres no doubt, but thats not to say that we can’t get creative and also have a great time here with our friends and a little bit of ingenuity. I’m really looking forward to this festive weekend and its all down to the great community here at KAUST. People here are so unbelievably kind, friendly and willing to share and open their home up to others – its a remarkable feeling and for me – thats really what Christmas is truly about.
**Do you think I win a WordPress award for how many times the word ‘Christmas’ can be typed in a blogpost?**
Wherever you are in the world I hope you have a truly amazing Christmas. As always comments and questions are always welcomed and (as usual) give my Instagram @livinginarabia a follow to see more pictures of life here at KAUST.