The Edge of the World

March 2016

Back in Riyadh again…

The Edge of the World… one of the major “tourist”attractions near Riyadh… a must see for any expat in Saudi Arabia. Check out Blue Abaya’s Guide to the Edge of the World as well… http://www.blueabaya.com/2012/08/guide-to-edge-of-world.html

Not too far outside Riyadh, the Tuwaiq escarpment drops away to nothing but hazy desert for miles and miles as far as one can see. The cliffs are magnificent and terrifying… but so breathtakingly beautiful.

We rode out across the desert in strong, sturdy 4×4 vehicles… across soft sand and rocky desert… through a small flat plain with scrabbly bushes and many camels…

…Up steep hills to the top of the escarpment.

The world just seemed to drop away. It did really seem like the “Edge of the World!”

In the bright sunlight, (thank goodness for the cool breeze!),  we climbed up loose rock covered hills, and down another steep rocky hill and over to a narrow point, protruding far above the desert floor below…

Heart pounding I stepped out onto the mandatory precipice for a quick photo… hoping the unruly wind wouldn’t suddenly push against me, as I felt quite feeble and insignificant so high up there on that rocky ledge…

A friend climbed up to a small cave at the top of an even higher rock formation… and dropped his sunglasses. We watched them free fall for what seemed like hours until they disappeared from view and smashed at the bottom of the cliff…

Ummm yeah… now I’ll definitely be even more cautious around that edge!!! :/

It was absolutely worth the bit of anxiety climbing over the rocks and standing on those rock Ledges… the view was just so stunning…

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So, If you’re not living in Saudi Arabia or have never had the chance to live in Saudi Arabia… I hope you do get the chance to go and visit this beautiful country  and experience its culture and unique natural beauty for yourself someday!

Riyadh Half Marathon

December 4, 2015

Since returning back to Riyadh at the end of October, I’d not been overly active, but I had participated in a couple runs with the Riyadh Road Runners. And suddenly, it was time for their annual Half Marathon.

I’d hardly trained at all. Actually, let me clarify. I’d not trained at all for a half marathon. I’m an average runner. I run a couple 8-10kms runs a few times a week during a good running spell. But I’d not been running regularly for months now!

But hey, I’m totally game for a challenge. Plus, I had friends to run with. And how cool is it to run a half marathon out in the desert?!!!

It was a fresh cool morning as we headed out of the city to Dirab Golf Course where the race would be held. I was a bundle of nerves. But so pumped!

The air was fresh and clean and the grass was so green as we walked through the golf course, jittering in anticipation of the start.

 

And then… before I knew it… we were off!! We ran a couple kms through the golf course before turning left down a long road with a gentle incline to the top of a hill, sharp escarpments rising up ahead of us in the near distance… turning back the way we came before turning left again to run out over another not so gentle hill to the end of the course before returning back to the start… to do it all over again as that was just one roughly 10km lap of 21.1km total!

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That last hill was such a challenge. Silly me forgot my energy snacks for along the race so I was just completely out of energy, it was getting pretty warm in the sun at that point… and I don’t know how I kept going through it…

But finally I was on the home stretch… running up those last 500 meters or so… the finish line (and the clock in sight..) it was almost 2hours and 10 minutes and I so badly wanted to be under 2:10… so I dug deep and found some untapped energy source… and busted out a sprint to the finish line… to finish in 2:09:44 !!!!!!

I’ve never felt an endorphin rush quite like the one that comes from finishing a first major race… with a time you’re happy with… out in the desert… it was incredible and I feel so lucky to have been a part of that race!!!

Now… to plan for and train for the next one… definitely stepping it up to a full marathon next!

Running (in) Riyadh

I think I’ve run more in Riyadh than I’ve ever run in my life.

Year 1 was good for me. But not that good. I joined a running club, but missed the majority of the Friday morning races as my Thursday nights were usually busy and a little too entertainment filled for me to get up early on a Friday morning and run. However… Did manage to win the 10km race series in my category as somehow they were the only races I actually made it to!

Year 2 in Saudi… I was determined to run more and party less. And it started off really well. (And I’m proud to say that 5 months later… its better than ever!) I’ve only missed a few Friday morning runs and one was due to Christmas, the other 3 Fridays I missed I was out of the country.

My first race back was a 10mile race (of which I only ran half) but it was a fundraiser for an awareness project I’d become involved in shortly after arriving back in Riyadh called 10KSA… an organization devoted to promoting health and wellness in Saudi and around the world. Our first event was to be a breast cancer awareness event, and part of that was collaborating with a running group in Riyadh to raise money and gain support for the organization and event.

We ran at a venue I’d never run at before… there were more hills than usual… and steeper… but the view from the top of the hills over the farm was incredible! It was a good distance outside the city with a great mix of date palm forest and hilly/rugged/rocky terrain to run through… making it really great scenery to pass the time!

And… the best part was reconnecting with friends from the running group/making new friends… I love the social aspect of it and talking times/training plans, etc with people who share similar passions and goals when it comes to running and fitness. And although the club has some intensely competitive members, there are people there who are not nearly so fit but yet push themselves to finish even some very challenging runs, not just the short runs! And everyone is so supportive of each other too.

One day… a month or so after I returned to Saudi, there was a significant rainstorm and there was a lot of water hanging around in the low areas… We went for a run one morning to the DQ around the wadi… but found out quite quickly that getting down into the date palm forest on our usual trail would be a challenge as it was all flooded!! We all ended up getting a little muddy… but to be honest… it was pretty cool because it’s rarely damp/muddy in Riyadh, just dry and dusty! And… we found a poor little turtle on a dry spot of the road… so we put him back in the mud to find his way to a little pond…

I forgot how much I love waking up early on a Friday morning to run in the fresh fall/winter air (which in Riyadh is a cool 10ish degrees, maybe slightly more…) to run, and get a good endorphin high first thing in the morning… to feel productive and accomplished and good about myself… and to get outside in nature too rather than being sluggish indoors all day like I would otherwise…

Over the last few months in Riyadh, I’ve had a variety of amazing runs throughout Riyadh… sometimes races at compounds… sometimes in the Diplomatic Quarters (most often actually!). There have been rainy runs… foggy morning runs… a lot of sunny runs (like the time I got sunburnt in November??!!)… trail runs or road runs… and super fresh clean and green runs after recent rainfalls that turn the DQ into a big of a green/flowery paradise actually… a lovely contrast to the drab/dusty brown scene it usually is…

When I think back, I’ve just had so many runs with so many good people! Especially my regular running crew, the running lemons. Unfortunately over the last year or so we’ve lost valuable team members as they moved out of Saudi and on to new adventures… but we’ve also gained some new lemons…. and I gained a new and fabulous training partner/running buddy/amazing friend… and… showed some new friends the great trails through the DQ!

So… I love a good run thats me… solo… thinking life through… but even more… I love the people in my running community and in running communities around the world!!

Hockey night in Riyadh

August 28, 2014

I absolutely LOVE this city… actually I love this expat community in this city!!!!

Best afternoon/night in Riyadh by far!!!

I went to the Diplomatic Quarters with a couple girls and guys to play street hockey in an empty tennis court. It was well over 40 degrees still, the sun was about ready to start setting… and we ran around in the heat for an hour!

Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually played a real game of hockey. (Being Canadian, I’m a little ashamed to say that!!!)  I have watched plenty of hockey… but its been years since I’ve even touched a stick.

I must have looked like the most gangly and awkward person ever attempting to hit that ball around the court… but it was SO much fun!!

There are two teams that play hockey… my team… the hodge podge of people who play hockey more for fun and to socialize than because of any significant talent… and the boys team that plays before us and consists of a highly competitive group of individuals! And everyone is so friendly and fun and the competitive juices start flowing regardless of talent… It even gets a little aggressive at times… people get thwacked by sticks or balls… bruises form… and it’s all a great time!

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It’s just a little crazy to think of it… A bunch of Canadians and some people of other nationalities, in Riyadh, in the middle of the desert, playing hockey in 40+ degree heat and having the time of their lives!!

And then… the best part of it all… going over to the Canadian embassy for some refreshments and socialization with a whole bunch more Canadians and all the hockey players!!!

Being at the Canadian embassy was like being back home… hanging out at your buddy’s house… or at the pub just down the road. Super casual and relaxed. Definitely casual as we were all just hanging out in our sweaty hockey clothes still!

Now, in Riyadh, whenever you meet someone new, there a standard set of questions that always get asked before the conversation progresses any further.

1. Name?

2. Where are you from?

3. How long have you been here?

4. What do you do here?

And then conversation proceeds based on your interest in finding out more information based on the 4 questions above.

So, I generally introduce myself as a Canadian from Vancouver, or I say that I live just outside Vancouver. Because really, who knows where Chilliwack is?! But… the Canadians here know where Chilliwack is!!! It’s amazing!!! I was so thrilled the first time I told someone that I’m actually from Chilliwack and they knew exactly where it is because once upon a time they had trained at the military base there!

Overall, it was such a wonderful night full of laughter and fun and stimulating conversation and meeting fabulous people from back home and around the world!! I felt so warmly welcomed into not only the Canadian community of Riyadh, but also into the whole expat community here! When you’re missing your family and friends back home, it is absolutely a blessing to be part of such a great group of people here!!

My love affair with Riyadh is definitely full blown now!!

More to come on the joys of life in Riyadh…

Much love,

Annemarie