My first day in Saudi Arabia was spent in Riyadh. I was supposed to be at Al Khaleej headquarters at 9 am, so I decided to go for a walk and explore the city for a while. Honestly, I fell in love it, so you can imagine my disappointment when the head of the company decided to move me to a city called Buraidah 3 hours away. I knew that there were conditions I agreed to in my work contract that I may get relocated, but I didn’t expect to not only be relocated so quickly, but to also be relocated to my last choice.
While I was waiting in the office and finalizing paperwork and taking care of other business, I met a very kind lady named Eman. She came here from Jordan and I am pretty sure she is an angel. She was so nice and sweet and made me feel a lot better about being relocated. She was also moving that day, so the company was going to take us to a bus station together.
Whenever the company van came, two other people joined Eman and I on the way to the bus station- a lady from Sudan and a man from Tunisia. They were all very kind, and I was a little upset to find out that they were going to a place different than I was.
Their bus left the station at 2 pm, and mine left at 230. We had to wait at different gates, and I was a little nervous because after they left I was totally alone and didn’t speak any Arabic. Shortly before the boarding started for their bus, the Sudanese lady brought me a bag of snack food she bought for me. Really it was so kind of her.
I could see them boarding the bus from out the window at the bus station, and suddenly I saw Eman running back inside the station. She ran straight to the station security and explained to them in Arabic that I am foreign and that I did not speak any Arabic, and asked them to make sure that I got on the correct bus. They checked my ticket, and the security guard assured her not to worry. Whenever the bus started boarding, the security guard came and got me first to ensure I was safely on the bus.
The bus driver asked that all women sit in the front of the bus, and all men sit in the back, married couples would be in the middle. When we finally departed, we had to make a few extra stops at other bus stations and places. The trip usually takes only 3 hours or less by car, but it ended up taking us over 6 hours total. About an hour into the trip I received a phone call from Eman, asking me if I had safely made it on the bus.
Part way through the trip we stopped at a place that had a restaurant, a small convenience store, a place to pray, and some restrooms. The bus driver announced in Arabic what was happening, but since I don’t speak Arabic I had no idea. I was the only person sitting on the bus and he started talking to me, and I told him that I didn’t understand what he said because I didn’t speak Arabic. He spoke very good English, and explained to me that we would be taking a 30 minute break. He was very friendly and asked me where I was from and what I was doing here, and told me if I needed any help to ask him. I bought a bottle of water and stood outside with the other people on the bus.
One older lady tried talking to me, but I didn’t understand her Arabic. She was traveling with another lady and a male, all similar age. They were very polite people and very sweet, and through a mixture of my very limited Arabic and their very limited English I was able to deduct that they were from Egypt, and that they were interested in knowing if I was a muslim or not. I recited Surah-Fatiha for them in Arabic, and they were very impressed. The lady was drinking a cup of tea, and she handed it to me and insisted I drink it. It was a little weird that I drank from the same cup that she was just drinking from, but I didn’t really know what to do in that situation.
The man kept saying “maghrib! maghrib!” and pointing to the prayer rooms. One of the women told me to come and they guided me to the prayer room with them. We all prayed together, and it was very nice to feel so welcomed by them. We attempted to talk for a few more minutes, then we all got back on the bus.
When we were back on the bus the driver asked me if I was able to get food and drinks during the break, and asked if I needed anything. I told him that I was okay, and then he proceeded to drive. As he was driving I heard him talking to an employee that the bus station sent to him, and he pointed behind him and said “that girl is now my sister.”
It was getting kind of dark by this point, and so I couldn’t help but fall asleep. When I woke up we were almost to the bus station. As soon as we arrived, my bus driver asked me for my phone number and the phone number of the person who was supposed to come pick me up, to make sure that he had arrived. He took my bags and gathered them for me and made sure that I made it to the place to meet my driver. About 10 minutes after I was in the van on my way to the compound, the bus driver called me to make sure that I was safely with my company. He told me if I ever want to visit Medina to call him first and he will try to take that bus route to make sure he is the one driving me so that I arrived safely. I thanked him and we ended the call.
Once I arrived at the compound I was given my keys and apartment. I had to meet with the head of the compound, so he came over to introduce himself and give me a tour of everything. I really enjoyed it, and it seemed like a great place. My driver brought me food, and they left me alone to sleep because I was so exhausted. And because I had to start classes the next day at 7 AM.
Everyone I met from my journey from Riyadh to Qassim was so incredibly kind and helpful. I don’t think I could have received a better welcome than the one they gave me.