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First Week
My Travels
Thursday, 29 November 2007
My New Website

 

http://reemasado.tripod.com/professor/


Posted by reemasado at 7:30 PM
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My New Website

 

http://reemasado.tripod.com/professor/


Posted by reemasado at 7:29 PM
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Tuesday, 15 November 2005
Taif
When I was in high school, my late father used to take us to Al-Hada, Taif on Thursday. My brothers, sisters and myself would get things ready for the picnic and load everything in the car. Soon we would set off towards Al-Hada. I takes about an hour to get to Al-Hada from Makkah. My dad would drive up the windy road which made me sick most of the time. Going up the mountain slope was inspiring and uplifting. Upon arrival we would unload the car and get things ready for our BBQ lunch. My dad was a very good cook. His BBQ was unparalleled. His hot salad made our tears fall down and made us eat more. After lunch we always went for a walk, played ball, went hiking and racing. The mountains, valleys, cool weather, green trees took my mind away to another world. I was always refreshing to go to Taif. In the evening we would pack and head home. We always arrived home fatigued and ready to go to bed. It is been more than 20 years since I last went to Al-Hada with my father. I still hear my little brothers and sisters' playing, running around and screaming joyfully. I wonder what Al-Hada looks like now and I wonder what memories it will bring if I go there for a visit!

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
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Tuesday, 8 November 2005
Korea 2005
Now Playing: Geoungju
I checked out at the Dong Seoul Hotel around 11 a.m. I checked my e-mail and read the news. The receptionist who remembered me from 3 years ago when I stayed at the Dong Seoul Hotel took me to the bus and helped me with the luggage. The bus station is next to my hotel. Yesterday she talked to me for about 2 hours and served me cold green tea. Today she served me cold green tea as well and was telling her colleague about me.

It took 4 hours to get to Gyeongju from Seoul by bus. The Asia CALL conference is going be held here this year (November 10-12).

I have just arrived at the Hyudndai Hotel in Gyeong ju city. A very very beautiful city indeed. The Hyundai Hotel is a luxurious hotel with 480 rooms, with a lake in the back an colorful mountains in fromt.

Gyeongju is a very beautiful city, surrounded by mountains. Very tranquil... very clean ... very refreshing .. cool weather. My room is on the 10th floor and it is facing the mountains. I can see the autumn leaves from the balcony: red, orange, yellow, brown. The lake is behind the hotel: Blue and serene.

When you enter the city, There is an a Chinese-like arch. You see houses, shops even a garage that look like Chinese temples.

I am going to go exploring soon.


Posted by reemasado at 11:18 AM
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Saturday, 5 November 2005
Korea

South Korea is a country of 50 million and Seoul has 10 million. Although it was completely destroyed during World War II and the Korean War, Koreans were able to re-build their country, and in just few decades it became a developed country. It is a highly industrialized country, and their computer and mobile technology in among the leading countries in the world. I had a chance to spend the Eid holiday in Korea. The weather was nice and cool. I found Koreans to be polite and respectful and they value their social traditions. When they meet a person, they bow. In parties and ceremonies they wear their traditional costumes.

Koreans are also patriotic and take pride in learning and speaking their native language, i.e. Korean. In Seoul there is a Techno Mart, in which each storey is devoted to computers, laptops T.V. sets, or digital cameras and 3 storeys are devoted to mobile phone models. I was overwhelmed by the variety and quantity of mobile phones displayed which makes it difficult for the shopper to choose. Moreover, each shop, restaurant or hotel is connected to the internet connection through computer terminals. When you ask a question, they would check the internet for the answer right away. At the airport, you can browse the internet for free.

Koreans love education. The illiteracy rate is less than 1%. 300 colleges and universities offer graduate and undergraduate courses to students and workers in a variety of disciplines. Reading is an extremely important to Koreans. Every year, 110,000 new book titles are published. While riding the train, people of all ages, even young teenagers, read, even late at night.

Seoul is a shopping haven. The city center consists of one shopping are after another: underground and above the ground. At night, you are dazzled by the lights. Signs with Korean script look like colorful paintings. It is difficult to walk through the crowds of shoppers. Around the lit water fountains, people gather to take pictures.

Korea has a sophisticated transportation system and people find it convenient and faster to travel by train. A huge underground system takes you everywhere in Seoul and trains and buses take you to all towns in Korea at a reasonable fare price. Going to Gyeongju, a city in the south of Korea where I had a conference, I was speechless when I saw the fall colors on the mountains along the way and in the city. The many Buddhist Temples and old Palaces are built in the heart of mountains that are green in the summer and colorful in the fall. Cable cars take visitors to the Sorak mountain top. Many visit hot springs, national parks, lakes, rivers, the sandy beaches, and fishing villages where one can eat raw fish on the beach or in a restaurant made of straw. Fruit sellers display their products along the main street and in the many narrow alleys, one can buy spices, dry fish, sea weed, ginseng and other local products. It is completely safe to walk around even late and night and the streets are always full of nicely-dressed people wandering around or going home from work.

When I first visited Korea in 2002, it was difficult for me to communicate with people as they only speak Korean. Koreans are proud and patriotic and they only speak Korean. I could rarely see a sign in English and very few speak English and if they do, they are difficult to understand. It was linguistically enriching for me as I could perform a pronunciation error analysis and learn something about the Korean pronunciation system. It was also difficult for me to read signs as they are all in Korean, a language than uses a non-Romanized alphabet. Despite that I was examining the Korean script and trying to learn something about it. When in Korea, it is important to get a map and a tourist guide at the airport Tourist Information Center and find where you are going before you leave you hotel. As a Muslim, it was difficult for me to eat at a restaurant where they serve mostly pork and non-halal beef, lamb or chicken. I could not order fish from the menu which in Korean. I could only buy milk, fruit, or French pastry at the supermarket. The cost of living is also very high: the hotels, food and clothes are expensive. In general, visiting Korea offers a person insight into a great cultural and great people.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
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Monday, 31 October 2005
From Riyadh to Spain
I had a conference in Castellon, Spain on Oct 27-28, 2005. Oct 26 was the last day of classes. I did not want to cancel Wednesday's classes. So I needed to fly Wed night and arrive in Castellon Thursday morning to be able to attend the sessions. (1) I had a hard time finding an airline that leaves Wed night. All airlines leave Oct 26 (Tuesday night). (2) Another problem was that there were no direct flights to Spain, and few connections to Valencia. I had to fly to a City in Europe. I checked flight to London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris and the problem was finding a connection flight to Valencia. All connections were either to Madrid or Barcelona. Castellon is about 2:300 hours from Barcelona and I hour from Valencia. (3) I also had trouble finding a return flight on Oct 30 or 31. If I fly to Barcelona, I will arrive in the evening or late afternoon. I would be tired and would want to take a nap as I would be traveling the whole night and changing planes and taking the train during the day. I searched the internet for few days in a row. I found that Alitalia flies from Rome and Milan to Valencia. The flight leaves around 9 a.m. That was perfect timing as the train ride from Valencia is only one hour and I will arrive in Valencia around noon. I checked the internet for flights to Rome from Jedda, Riyadh, Dammam, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi , but in vain. I found a flight from Jedda to Rome on Saudi but no return flight. I called Saudia and the agent said there were no return flight from Rome. Saudia makes several stops in Europe and those change from week to week. I went to my travel agent and when he checked, he told me that the return flight can be from Milan to Jeddah rather than Rome. I was so happy. I had to buy the Italy-Spain ticket right away as it was a special fare. However, the return flight from Valencia was 6:30 a.m. and my connection flight from Milan was 2:30 p.m and I arrive in Jeddah 8:45 p.m. but the return flight was November 1 (Ramdan 29). I was a sad because I wanted to be back Ramdan 27 to do Omra. Anyway, I had no other choice. I had another fligh to Korea on November 3 (Eid day). My flight on Singapore Airlines was from Jeddah. So I arrange d with my sister who lives in Jeddah to stay with her for 36 hours, after which she can go to Taif to celebrate Eid with her kid. I bought the ticket to Spain and Korea and was thinking of packing clothes for both trips( warn weather in Spain and cold weather in Korea) as I will not be returining to Riyadh in between flight to re-pack.

Monday, Oct 24, I went to pick up my glasses. When I got home around 12 midnight, I found a message on my answering machine from the travel agent. Saudia has changed the flight departure time form Milan to 7:55 a.m. this means that I will not make it as my flight to Milan from Valencia is 6:30 a.m. I called immediately and asked him to change the Valencia-Milan sector the day before. He did. He told me that I'll arrive in Jedda 8:30 p.m. When I asked why he said that the plane stops in Rome as well. I asked about the other stops but he did not know. I called Saudia for clarification. The agent said the plain stops in Riyadh before it continues to Jedda. He said it stops in Riyadh. This way I will be able to go back to Riyadh to rest and change clothes for my next trip to Korea. I had to make sure I could find a flight from Riyadh to Jedda on November 3. I found one. The following morning, I called my travel agent from work but there was no answer. I needed to re-issue the ticket and get a refund for the Riyadh - Jedda portion.

I went to my uncle's for Ramdan dinner Tuesday instead of Wed evening. Around 8:30p.m. I went home. I visited the travel agent in the evening. He affixed stickers with the new departure dates and said he could not re-issue the ticker as Saudi charges a 200-riyal penalty. He added that Saudia changed the flight departure time form Milan to 8:55 a.m. My ticket remained as is. I called my sister to cancel. I went on the internet to book a hotel in Milan, to check the weather and prayer times. I had to go to bed to bale able to wake up for Suhur.

On wed, I taught 3 hrs and finished around noon. I was planning to go home right away to pack, take a nap and cook dinner. As soon as got to my office, students can over ad were asking me questions. One student was asking me questions until 1:35 p.m. I missed the bus. I took a taxi and went home. I prayed and took a nap. I was up 4 p.m. and started to pack. I did not have time to cook, so I just fixed some foul medames and made some soup. After maghreb prayer, I finsihed my packing. At 7 p.m. the driver came to take me to the airport.

Check in and immigration procedures went smoothly. I sat and worked on my laptop sipping my soft drink. Soon we took off and then landed in jedda for our first stop. Around 1 a.m we left jedda for Rome. I took a nap for about an hour. One Saudi guy sitting in the row in front of me was talking and laughing in a loud voice. I could not sleep and did not know what to do. Despite that, everything went fine and soon we landed in Rome. Before we landed I ate some dates for suhur.

I got to the gate around 5 a.m. and my connection was at 9 a.m. Counters (even the transfer counter), shops and restaurant were closed. Very few people were in the airport.

I tried to sleep on one of the benches, but could not. The seats had arm-rests. I found 2 seats forming a right angle. I put my head and upper part on one and my legs and lower part on the other and tried to rest. Soon they were calling people to go to their gates and it was difficult to sleep.

After I got my boarding pass, we boarded and with difficulty I tried to get some sleep. We arrived in Valencia at 11 a.m. I waited for my luggage by the conveyer belt which soon stopped but it did not arrive. I told the luggage agent and he took me to another conveyer belt for international travels where I found my bag.

I went to the information desk and asked her to book a hotel next to the airport and asked how to get to the train station. She said she does not book hotels and asked me to go to the Tourist Info desk. I did. I took a taxit to the train station (15 euros). Went inside the train station bought a ticket for 3:50 euros and was just in time for the train. I got on and we left for Castellon 12:20 p.m. On both sides, orange orchards stretching in straight rows as far as anyone could imagine. They bore more oranges than leave. I was thinking how they would pick that enormous amount of oranges. The train made a stop every 5 or 10 minutes loading and unloading people.

An elderly lady sat next to me. Soon she started to talk to me in Spanish. She asked where I was going to get off, how I could travel without knowing Spanish, whether I was having relatives or friends. I took the Hotel address from my pack and showed it to her. She told me that I should get off the last stop and that I need to take a taxi. When we got off, she asked me to follow her. Soon she was talking to an elderly man who turned out to be her husband. They asked me to follow them. Soon the opened the car trunk and put my luggage in. We were driving along the streets of the city. They were afraid I was going to get lost as building number are not written and thought it will be difficult for me to recognize the hotel. Soon They stopped and unloaded my luggage. The lady kissed me good bye and I gave her my business card. That was a warm welcome to Castellon.

After I checked into the hotel, I took had to use the hotel internet (5 euros for 15 minutes) to find the building where the conference was to be held as I forgot the address I home. The receptionist called a taxi that took me to the Jaume I University.

It was not difficult to find the Economics Building. However it was difficult to find the registration area and meeting rooms. When I found the registration desk, nobody was there. The meeting rooms were closed and nobody was in the whole floor. It was 3:00p.m I checked the conference program on the wall and found that the lunch break was from 2-4 p.m. I forgot all about the siesta time that people in Spain take. I made a mistake by not examining the program carefully. I sat on the couch and closed my eyes. Soon they arrived and Sara and Fernando gave my conference bag. I asked for a complementary proceedings and they gave me one. Soon I took the bus back to the hotel. Although I showed the driver the hotel address, he let me off far away and pointed to the direction where the hotel it. I walked and walked through the narrow alleys and had to ask several people before I could find the hotel.

I was in my room waiting for the sun set. According to the Castellon prayer times that I printed from the Saudi Awkaf Ministry website, sunset time was 6:07. As I looked through the window, it was still sunny. I waited for about an hour before I started to see the twilight. I did not know how to check the iftar time. I went to the Hotel restaurant around 7 p.m. and thought I would order food and by the time they serve it to me it will be 7:30. To my surprise nobody was there, no waiters, and no diners. I asked the receptionist and he told me the restaurant is closed and it re-opens at 9 p.m. I told her I needed to eat right away, she said I could eat in the coffee shop. The waitress there did not know English. The receptionist told me that they have cold sandwiched. Since I needed something a hot meal, I asked her to recommend a restaurant outside the hotel. She gave me directions to a restaurant and gave me a map. I followed the directions but could not find the restaurant nor any other restaurant. There were coffee shops that served drinks and pastry. As I walked, I came to an avenue with cafes and saw a food sign. I sat down and asked the waitress who could not speak English for the menu. She got me a menu in Spanish and I picked dish by looking a the pictures (shrimp Paella). I asked if they have soup and she said "No". I asked he to bring me coffee after the meal, but soon another waitress brought my coffee. Anyway it was good to drink warm coffee and eat some dates while waiting for the food.

My flight from Valencia to Milan, Italy was 6:30 a.m, Monday October 31. I had to stay over in Valencia the day before . I booked a hotel next to the airport. The information desk told me it was 300 meters away. I thought it would be able to walk to the airport in case there is no taxi. When I arrived at the hotel I found out that it was next to a highway and a bridge. I asked the receptionist how I could get to the airport. He said I had to walk over the pedestrian bridge, cross the highway, and walk through the airport parking lot. I went around the hotel, walked along the pedestrian bridge, found that there is a short wall, jumped over it, crossed the highway but found out it was too long to walk with luggage. I tried to find a way to go over the bridge that leads to the airport directly but the entrance was far. There was a deep dig out and a fence around it. There was no way to walk to the highway from the front of the hotel. I thought the solution is to book a taxi. Another problem was finding a restaurant where I could break my fast. I walked in the streets around the hotel but they were closed. I wanted to go downtown Valencia and waited for the bus until 4:45 p.m. , but there seemed be no bus. So I went to look for a restaurant where I could break my fast but everything was shutdown. So I went back, sat in the garden and read Koran until sunset (6:07). I asked the receptionist to order a pizza for me. He called and they told him the earliest delivery would be 8:15 p.m. I had some dates and water. Then went down the main street where I looked at some souvenir shops (one euro stores). On the way back I had a good dinner at the Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel. Before I went to my room I asked the receptionist to give me a wake-up call at 4 a.m. and book a cab for 4:30. I was up on time, took a shower and changed clothes, checked out but the cab was not there. The receptionist booked a cab then (4:25) instead of having it ready. The cab arrived at 4:50 When I got to airport at 5 a.m. there was a long queue.

The check in procedures went smooth and I headed towards immigration and check in. There were few people a head of me. But the X-ray machine was closed and the officers were chatting. We impatiently waited for half an hour until it was finally open. The flight was 30 minutes late and we took off an hour later to scheduled.

Shortly before we arrived at Malpensa Airport, the pilot told us that it is foggy in Milan and asked that we shut off all electronic devices. When we arrived I could not see the planes, trucks and busses. We landed safely but the visibility was very low. The farthest I could see was 20 meters. I could see only shadows of the near planes but could not see the farther ones at all.

At Malpensa Airport, I tried to book a hotel. The agent quickly booked a family hotel near the airport.

I could not confirm my Milan-Jedda flight with Saudia from Spain as Saudia has no Office there. At Malpensa Airport I went to the Saudia office on the 3rd floor to reconfirm my reservation but it was closed. I went to the Tourist Office in the Piazza Duomo and she gave me their address and a telephone number (32 Piazzza Republica). I took the metro to Piazza Republica. I followed the numbers on the buildings and the highest was 27. I walked up and down the street and asked several people but in vain. Some people gave me the wrong directions and some did not know. So I went back to Piazza Duomo.

When I went out of the undergraound in Piazza Duomo, I tried to locate Gritti Hotel where I stayed in May 2004 when I went to the ABC Conference 2004 in Milan. I could not remember in which street it was. I walked up and down 3 or four streets.

I stayed at the family hotel which is 10 minutes away from Malpensa Airport. The room is too small and there is no elevator. The door opens with an old-fashioned key. There is no faucet in the sink. You have to press 2 handles in the floor with your foot for the water to come down. It was difficult to wash for salat. While washing one foot it is difficult to press the handlesw with the other. I had to put my leg down fill a glass, wash it, put it down again and fill the glass and do the same with left foot.

I took the train to Garibaldi. There was no ticket machine in the train station and nowhere to buy a ticket. I asked some teenagers and they did not know. I went on the train and was planning to get off at the next stop (Gallarti) to buy a ticket. Soon the conductor came and asked me for the ticket. I was expecting him to fine me for not having a ticket. I told him I was new and did not know where to buy a ticket. He sold me a ticket to Milan Garibaldi (like a receipt) a couple of stops later another conductor boarded the train and asked for my ticket. When I handed him the two yellow receipts he stared at them and then gave them back to me. Garibaldi station was a mess. All excavations and remodelling. I could not find the metro stop so I asked and the girl was kind enough to direct me.

I am at Malpensa Airport waiting to depart. It is foggy and wet outside. I hope there will be no delays.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
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Friday, 28 October 2005
Spain
I spent the last week of Ramadan in Castellon, Spain where I had a conference. I liked the large Jaume I University with the green campus and many modern buildings and facilities. The weather was nice and cool. it was refreshing to take a walk down the narrow alleys and look at the old buildings with a unique architecture. I found Spanish people very friendly and very helpful especially when you ask for directions. They'd walk out in the street to show you the way despite the language barrier. Since it was Ramadan and I was fasting, it was difficult to find an open restaurant around 7 p.m. when I needed to break my fast even the restaurant hotel was close and room service was not avialable between 4-9 p.m. Spanish people take a siesta time from 2-4 p.m. and restaurants close between 4-9 p.m. Spanish peole like to have their dinner late. People were wondering why I wanted to eat so early i.e, at 7 p.m. The first day I was in Castellon, I could only find cafes that serve drinks and pastry. No real food or even soup or sandwiches. However, I enjoyed sitting in one of the street cafes and had seafood paeia. I am glad I took a box of dates with me. Everyday I had dates and milk or juice to break my fast, then I'd have a proper dinner when the restaurants opened. When I went shopping downtown before noon, all the shops where open and the streets were crowded with people. But when around 2 p.m., stores started to close and streets were becoming gradually deserted. At night families with small children enjoyed walking in the streets, talking and laughing and eating ice cream or candy.


Posted by reemasado at 11:01 PM
Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005 5:10 PM
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Wednesday, 26 October 2005
Welcome to Spain
I had a conference in Castellon, Spain on Oct 27-28, 2005. Oct 26 was the last day of classes. I did not want to cancel Wednesday's classes. So I needed to fly Wed night and arrive in Castellon Thursday morning to be able to attend the sessions. (1) I had a hard time finding an airline that leaves Wed night. All airlines leave Oct 26 (Tuesday night). (2) Another problem was that there were no direct flights to Spain, and few connections to Valencia. I had to fly to a City in Europe. I checked flight to London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris and the problem was finding a connection flight to Valencia. All connections were either to Madrid or Barcelona. Castellon is about 2:300 hours from Barcelona and I hour from Valencia. (3) I also had trouble finding a return flight on Oct 30 or 31. If I fly to Barcelona, I will arrive in the evening or late afternoon. I would be tired and would want to take a nap as I would be traveling the whole night and changing planes and taking the train during the day. I searched the internet for few days in a row. I found that Alitalia flies from Rome and Milan to Valencia. The flight leaves around 9 a.m. That was perfect timing as the train ride from Valencia is only one hour and I will arrive in Valencia around noon. I checked the internet for flights to Rome from Jedda, Riyadh, Dammam, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi , but in vain. I found a flight from Jedda to Rome on Saudi but no return flight. I called Saudia and the agent said there were no return flight from Rome. Saudia makes several stops in Europe and those change from week to week. I went to my travel agent and when he checked, he told me that the return flight can be from Milan to Jeddah rather than Rome. I was so happy. I had to buy the Italy-Spain ticket right away as it was a special fare. However, the return flight from Valencia was 6:30 a.m. and my connection flight from Milan was 2:30 p.m and I arrive in Jeddah 8:45 p.m. but the return flight was November 1 (Ramdan 29). I was a sad because I wanted to be back Ramdan 27 to do Omra. Anyway, I had no other choice. I had another fligh to Korea on November 3 (Eid day). My flight on Singapore Airlines was from Jeddah. So I arrange d with my sister who lives in Jeddah to stay with her for 36 hours, after which she can go to Taif to celebrate Eid with her kid. I bought the ticket to Spain and Korea and was thinking of packing clothes for both trips( warn weather in Spain and cold weather in Korea) as I will not be returining to Riyadh in between flight to re-pack.

Monday, Oct 24, I went to pick up my glasses. When I got home around 12 midnight, I found a message on my answering machine from the travel agent. Saudia has changed the flight departure time form Milan to 7:55 a.m. this means that I will not make it as my flight to Milan from Valencia is 6:30 a.m. I called immediately and asked him to change the Valencia-Milan sector the day before. He did. He told me that I'll arrive in Jedda 8:30 p.m. When I asked why he said that the plane stops in Rome as well. I asked about the other stops but he did not know. I called Saudia for clarification. The agent said the plain stops in Riyadh before it continues to Jedda. He said it stops in Riyadh. This way I will be able to go back to Riyadh to rest and change clothes for my next trip to Korea. I had to make sure I could find a flight from Riyadh to Jedda on November 3. I found one. The following morning, I called my travel agent from work but there was no answer. I needed to re-issue the ticket and get a refund for the Riyadh - Jedda portion.

I went to my uncle's for Ramdan dinner Tuesday instead of Wed evening. Around 8:30p.m. I went home. I visited the travel agent in the evening. He affixed stickers with the new departure dates and said he could not re-issue the ticker as Saudi charges a 200-riyal penalty. He added that Saudia changed the flight departure time form Milan to 8:55 a.m. My ticket remained as is. I called my sister to cancel. I went on the internet to book a hotel in Milan, to check the weather and prayer times. I had to go to bed to bale able to wake up for Suhur.

On wed, I taught 3 hrs and finished around noon. Iw as planning to go home right away to pack, take a nap and cook dinner. As soon as got to my office, students can over ad were asking me questions. One student was asking me questions until 1:35 p.m. I missed the bus. I took a taxi and went home. I prayed and took a nap. I was up 4 p.m. and started to pack. I did not have time to cook, so I just fixed some foul medames and made some soup. After maghreb prayer, I finsihed my packing. At 7 p.m. the driver came to take me to the airport.

Check in and immigration procedures went smoothly. I sat and worked on my laptop sipping my soft drink. Soon we took off and then landed in jedda for our first stop. Around 1 a.m we left jedda for Rome. I took a nap for about an hour. One Saudi guy sitting in the row in front of me was talking and laughing in a loud voice. I could not sleep and did not know what to do. Despite that, everything went fine and soon we landed in Rome. Before we landed I ate some dates for suhur.

I got to the gate around 5 a.m. and my connection was at 9 a.m. Counters (even the transfer counter), shops and restaurant were closed. Very few people were in the airport.

I tried to sleep on one of the benches, but could not. The seats had arm-rests. I found 2 seats forming a right angle. I put my head and upper part on one and my legs and lower part on the other and tried to rest. Soon they were calling people to go to their gates and it was difficult to sleep.

After I got my boarding pass, we boarded and with difficulty I tried to get some sleep. We arrived in Valencia at 11 a.m. I waited for my luggage by the conveyer belt which soon stopped but it did not arrive. I told the luggage agent and he took me to another conveyer belt for international travels where I found my bag.

I went to the information desk and asked her to book a hotel next to the airport and asked how to get to the train station. She said she does not book hotels and asked me to go to the Tourist Info desk. I did. I took a taxit to the train station (15 euros). Went inside the train station bought a ticket for 3:50 euros and was just in time for the train. I got on and we left for Castellon 12:20 p.m. On both sides, orange orchards stretching in straight rows as far as anyone could imagine. They bore more oranges than leave. I was thinking how they would pick that enormous amount of oranges. The train made a stop every 5 or 10 minutes loading and unloading people.

An elderly lady sat next to me. Soon she started to talk to me in Spanish. She asked where I was going to get off, how I could travel without knowing Spanish, whether I was having relatives or friends. I took the Hotel address from my pack and showed it to her. She told me that I should get off the last stop and that I need to take a taxi. When we got off, she asked me to follow her. Soon she was talking to an elderly man who turned out to be her husband. They asked me to follow them. Soon the opened the car trunk and put my luggage in. We were driving along the streets of the city. They were afraid I was going to get lost as building number are not written and thought it will be difficult for me to recognize the hotel. Soon They stopped and unloaded my luggage. The lady kissed me good bye and I gave her my business card. That was a warm welcome to Castellon.

After I checked into the hotel, I took had to use the hotel internet (5 euros for 15 minutes) to find the building where the conference was to be held as I forgot the address I home. The receptionist called a taxi that took me to the Jaume I University.

It was not difficult to find the Economics Building. However it was difficult to find the registration area and meeting rooms. When I found the registration desk, nobody was there. The meeting rooms were closed and nobody was in the whole floor. It was 3:00p.m I checked the conference program on the wall and found that the lunch break was from 2-4 p.m. I forgot all about the siesta time that people in Spain take. I made a mistake by not examining the program carefully. I sat on the couch and closed my eyes. Soon they arrived and Sara and Fernando gave my conference bag. I asked for a complementary proceedings and they gave me one. Soon I took the bus back to the hotel. Although I showed the driver the hotel address, he let me off far away and pointed to the direction where the hotel it. I walked and walked through the narrow alleys and had to ask several people before I could find the hotel.

I was in my room waiting for the sun set. According to the Castellon prayer times that I printed from the Saudi Awkaf Ministry website, sunset time was 6:07. As I looked through the window, it was still sunny. I waited for about an hour before I started to see the twilight. I did not know how to check the iftar time. I went to the Hotel restaurant around 7 p.m. and thought I would order food and by the time they serve it to me it will be 7:30. To my surprise nobody was there, no waiters, and no diners. I asked the receptionist and he told me the restaurant is closed and it re-opens at 9 p.m. I told her I needed to eat right away, she said I could eat in the coffee shop. The waitress there did not know English. The receptionist told me that they have cold sandwiched. Since I needed something a hot meal, I asked her to recommend a restaurant outside the hotel. She gave me directions to a restaurant and gave me a map. I followed the directions but could not find the restaurant nor any other restaurant. There were coffee shops that served drinks and pastry. As I walked, I came to an avenue with cafes and saw a food sign. I sat down and asked the waitress who could not speak English for the menu. She got me a menu in Spanish and I picked dish by looking a the pictures (shrimp Paella). I asked if they have soup and she said "No". I asked he to bring me coffee after the meal, but soon another waitress brought my coffee. Anyway it was good to drink warm coffee and eat some dates while waiting for the food.

Posted by reemasado at 11:01 PM
Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005 5:08 PM
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Tuesday, 23 August 2005
Madinah
During my late teenage years, we always spent the last week of Ramadan in Madinah. We used to drive for 5 hours to get to Madinah. The long journey was always fun and exciting with my father's tales about the history of Madinah and about prophet Mohammad's battles. The weather was always cold. My father used to rent an apartment and we would take some blankets, pillows and mattresses for extra warmth with us. We used to pray all five prayers and Taraweeh prayer in the Prophet's Mosque. Everyday, my father went grocery shopping and my mother prepared Ramadan Dinner. The meat, chicken, vegetables and fruit always tasted different. Everything had a special flavor in Madinah: the food, the mosque, the narrow winding streets and the small shops selling souvenirs and dates, and the old building surrounding the Mosque. To go to the Prophet's Mosque, I had to walk along narrow winding streets and looked at those shops and houses with excitement. They made me imagine that I was living during Prophet Mohammad's times and made me picture how the Prophet's companions lived and all the battles they fought. In addition, my father always took us to an oasis and all of the ancient mosques in Madinah. For about 20 years I have not been to Madinah. Last year, I had a chance to go to Madinah. As the taxi went through wide streets I was looking for those narrow streets and ancient houses that I had in mind. I could hear the call for prayer but could not see the Prophet's Mosque. All the ancient houses, small streets have been demolished and replaced by tall modern buildings surrounding the Prophet's Mosque. I did not feel the history and could not picture anything. Madinah has become a commercialized city with skyscrapers like Dubai or any other modern city. I felt even more sad when the driver told me that they were planning to build a cable car that would take visitors to the top of Mount Uhud.

Posted by reemasado at 11:01 PM
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Sunday, 10 July 2005
Around Holland
Today I took a full day tour around Holland. The bus picked me up at the hotel. We picked up other people from their hotels. Had a chance to go around Amsterdan early in teh morning. At the office in Damark St. we boarder a double-deck bus (69 peole where on board). the tour guide is multi-lingual. She could switch from dutch to English, French, Spnish, Italian and German with no problem at all. She looks so young. I wonder how long it took her to learn and master all those languages. We visited a village with windmills and a wooden shoes factory. They have 1000 windmills left and most are not being used. They were used for water and to grind wheat and other things. They have a huge weeden shoe, like a boat, outside with 4 large wooden shoes where people can ste and have their pictures taken. The wood is carved by a machine. The walls and ceilings of the shop are covered with wooden shoes: different sizes, colors and designs. Some are used as key chains and others as money boxes. When you first enter, they have some on display in glass cases. A funny pair: one is a real shoe and the other shows a toe on it. Then we went to the cheese factory where we tasted different kinds of chees (smoked, with honey and mustard). In Volendam e walked along the narrow streets and viewed the houses and their flower gardens. We stopped for an hour and walked along the main street where fish restaurants and stalls are lined up. Could see the fishing boats and boats with masts in the small harbor. I had small sardines and raw fish for lunch. Everybody was eating fish. We boarded the boat for a half-hour ride to Marke (it used to be an island). Walked along the streets and saw the beatiful houses and flower gardens. The bus drove us back to Amsterdam.

Holland is only 2 regions of the Netherlands. The netherlands is flat and below sea level. They drain water into the north sea 24 hours a day. Reclaim land.

Another multi-lingual tour guide took us to Delf Blue factor whare craftsman paint small jars. We watched them and listened to abriefing. The showroom has all kinds and sizes of paltes, boxes, jars and nicknacks. Everything was so exquisite and beautiful but expensive. You pay 20 euros for a very small jar. The tour guide told us about the diferent names of Den Haag. Drove by many ministries, embassy buildings & houses of of parliament, the beach and then to Madurada. Maduradam is a park with small miniature houses, train station, Schiphol Airport Palaces, Castles in the Netherlands. You can see the whole of the Netherlands in nust an hour. The park is smaller than i thought. There is a similar park in France called "Miniature France". The one in France is a lot larger.

After Maduradam, we drove back to Amsterdam.

The driver went crazy as one young Kuwaiti boy pushed the button and opened the bus door (while waiting for theother people to leave the Delf Blue Factory), because he wanted to board the bus.

Posted by reemasado at 11:01 PM
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