The next day, Thursday, June 12, started another weekend. It was really hot already, with temperatures ranging from 109 to 111 degrees in the shade. Keith and Vicky went on one of the student group outings, west of Abqaiq to the Andar area to hunt for sand roses. These are interesting rock formations that look amazingly like a rose or clusters of roses and are found on or very near the surface just in certain areas of the desert. While they did that, Oran and I went swimming. Later we had our first social gathering at our apartment for the Steindorfs, Todds, Kings, Marge Williams, and Vicky's friend, Mike Smith. She played tennis with him Friday morning before I cooked a big breakfast for all of us.
Vicky and Keith with
Mohammed came by later, picked up Keith and Vicky and drove them to see Dammam and more of the area where he lived near the Persian Gulf. We decided it would be o.k. since it was both of the kids and we had come to an understanding about his relationship with Vicky. He did seem to be a nice, respectful young Arab man, and that proved to be true. He had enjoyed living in the United States and the freedoms that we enjoy, but once back in Arabia he rejoined the Arab social structure, which has a very definite place and status for each man, woman and child. In Dammam he drove them through the Al-Matrood family’s large farm consisting of many acres of irrigated date palm trees, the dairy, where milk and ice cream were made from reconstituted powdered milk (the only concession for this product in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia at that time) and past his father's large walled compound. After that they drove across the causeway from Qatif to Tarut Island, saw the ruins of an old Turkish fort, and the dock area, which berths so many Arab dhows, the characteristic fishing boats of the Persian Gulf. Back down the coast highway to Al-Khobar, they ate at the Kamik Glas Resturant on Pepsi Cola Road before returning to Abqaiq. It was a very interesting and enlightening trip for them, and I was so grateful they had been able to see all of that.
Oran went back to Ras Tanura the next morning, Saturday, June 14, for his second week there, but Keith was feeling sick so stayed in Abqaiq to go to the doctor.
I selected a punch recipe for the Women’s Club General Meeting the next day, talked to our travel agent, Kevin, about the kids tickets, and relaxed at home with them. Marge Williams brought her son, Joe, by to meet us as he had just arrived from the States. He was about Keith's age.
Marge and I went to the suqs to get the punch ingredients the next morning, before working in the portable to get things set up. After the General Meeting that afternoon, I cooked supper for the kids and Mike Smith. Later, we walked back to the portable to call Oran on the phone there. We could have some privacy, but it was really getting frustrating not to have the phone in our apartment working, especially for such a long period of time.
There was a terrible sand storm (shamal) the next day, which always made everybody a bit uptight. The kids were beginning to get bored, too, even though they had been doing things with the Student Group, like trips to the beach, progressive dinners, pool parties, bowling, and softball games. They both said Arabia was an interesting place, but they wouldn't want to live there again.
The phone finally did get fixed the next day, so that helped take the strain off everyone, somewhat. Vicky went to a softball team dinner the next evening, so Keith and I just had supper at home, had a nice talk, then went bowling.
Oran came home from Ras Tanura at the end of his special schooling the next evening. We just relaxed with the kids, looked at pictures, ate dinner, played spades, and discussed their trip home and the weekend plans.
We started the next day, Thursday, June 19, with a big breakfast. Then Mike Smith came over and he, Keith, and Vicky went to a beach-picnic outing for the rest of the day. That evening, Oran and I went next door to Sharon and Jim Morris' for margaritas and a Mexican dinner, which was excellent and enjoyed so much in Arabia because the ingredients are not always available.
Friday was a relaxing day, as well. After sleeping late, then having another big breakfast, we all went bowling before trying the watermelon I had bought in the Commissary. It wasn't bad, but, of course, it wasn’t like good ole' stateside ones.
Mike Smith came over for awhile and gave Vicky a gold necklace. Later we ate dinner at the Dining Hall, played pool and ping pong, then watched TV at the apartment.
Keith and Joe Williams flew to 'Udhailiyah the next morning with Oran and Marvin, Joe's father, to check out the bachelor camp where they worked.
There was a racket ball court in Dhahran, so Vicky bussed there to see about playing. She met and played with Scott Taylor, the son of one of the doctors in Dhahran. I talked to Kevin about the kids tickets, as he came to Abqaiq on Saturdays.
That evening we had “the girls” over to play bridge. Keith and Joe flew back to Abqaiq the next day on the afternoon plane. They both thought ‘Udhailiyah was interesting, but too isolated. After cooking supper for the kids, I league bowled. Mike and Vicky bowled afterward, then came back to the house, where we all watched TV until it went off the air about 10 p.m.
Mike drove Vicky to Dhahran the next day to play racket ball with Scott Taylor again. Oran came back home that evening so we could all go to the Student-Parent Welcome Dinner at the swimming pool. Oran was rather depressed about having to go back to ‘Udhailiyah after working in Ras Tanura for a couple of weeks, but had to fly on back there the next day. I made some spaghetti sauce which the kids and I ate that evening after we had been to the suqs. I talked to Oran on the phone before going to visit with Sue Todd. At least we could talk on the phone now.
Vicky had made a date with Scott Taylor, so the next day, he picked her up and they drove to Hofuf. I had time to go to the Commissary and Jeanine’s before Keith got up and I fixed breakfast for him.
Later Vicky and Scott came back from Hofuf, so we visited awhile before they went bowling and I played cards with Keith. When Oran came home that evening I fixed a fried chicken dinner, one of our favorites, then the kids went to the Recreation Center. All of these activities had been going on while the temperature climbed to 110 degrees that week.
The next morning, Thursday, June 26, 1975, we rented a taxi, and the whole family went to Hofuf one last time before the kids went back to the States. It is one of the largest and oldest cities in Arabia and is set in a large oasis of date palms, so is very interesting. That was really the best day of all for their visit there. The taxi driver knew just where to take us. We started at the camel and goat market, where both kids got to ride a camel. We also saw the only cow we had ever seen in Arabia. Some Arabs had decided to bring some there to see if they would do all right in the extreme heat.
Our next drive was to a large open air market called the Basket Market, located near Hofuf town center, which was extremely interesting. It was comprised of a large, open, dirt area at the foot of a low jebel used as a parking lot, where Arabs bring all their wares, set up little lean-to shelters, if possible, and sell to other Arabs – as well as foreigners, who had started to investigate its unique atmosphere. It was called the Basket Market because the Bedouins weave crude baskets and mats out of date palm stems, or fronds, to sell. But you could see and buy everything – vegetables, fish, nuts, chickens, rabbits, goats, dates of course, and much more. A few blocks away from that, we shopped in the old, or junk yard suq, as the Americans called it, and the more modern (by comparison) covered suqs, or bazaar, where Vicky and I had shopped before. We felt much safer there with men with us that time. More things found there were all the Arab wearing apparel, rugs, spices, bedouin jewelry, plus some very old, interesting knives, guns, chests, brass trays, and of course, the authentic copper or brass Arab coffee pot with the long, curved spout. Antique lovers would go crazy there. About a block away, across a traffic circle, past a mosque, and into an "L" shaped, narrow, dirt alley, we had to "shuf" (look at) what was known as the Gold Market, which is unbelievable – small, narrow, side by side shops of nothing but 18 and 24 carat gold items of all kinds, mostly jewelry. There is so much of it, you feel like it couldn't possibly be real, and you are just in a cosmetic jewelry area.
After the shopping, we drove out of the town center, through the date palm oasis on Jafar Road, and around the base of Al Zarah Jebel, a large outcropping of rocks that form very interesting caves, consisting of small, narrow, passages and large rooms. Oran, Keith and Vicky climbed to the top of the jebel and back down again before we all went inside. It was very cool in there, a welcome relief from the heat, (it had reached 112 degrees so far). The Arabs love it and go there to picnic a lot.
On the ride back to Abqaiq we talked about all the interesting things we had seen and enjoyed. We had lunch in the Dining Hall, then rested all afternoon, because we weren't through yet.
At 5:30 we caught the shoppers' bus to Al-Khobar (it went directly there, bypassing Dhahran). We walked up and down King Khalid and several side streets just watching the people and shopping a little. The Arabs were really out in large numbers, since it was their weekend. There were side walk peddlers of various foods and outside places to eat on a number of corners. Whole roasted chickens were turning on multiple rotissaries in tall, glass-fronted ovens and Arab bread sandwiches were being made from thin slices of meat sliced off, what looked like, a large piece of lamb cooking on a horizontal spit. (We found out later these were called Schawarmas). Others were frying flat, round chickpea or fava bean cakes, called falafels, in deep fat in a heavy black pot. The emitting smells were heavenly, so we sampled the cakes, and almost decided to eat an assortment of these things, but had discovered a very fancy restaurant about 5 blocks from the fountain on King Khalid street, upstairs over some shops. It was called the Yildizar, and there we enjoyed lamb shish kabob, rice, an eggplant dip called Baba Ghanouj, and shrimp cocktails, a fine ending for our visit to Al-Khobar.
By the time the bus deposited us back home in Abqaiq we were all really worn out, but it had been a very special day. The Kings had been assigned a different house and also received their shipment, so we went over to see all that the next day. Kathy and Roy Steindorf had also received their shipment, so we went to see that too. I guessed at that time that we would be in our apartment at least the first year as people with children living in the field got houses first. The size of our back yard would make everyone in the States laugh. We didn't have any patio parties, that’s for sure. The company said they would fix up our apartment some with paint and re-pairs, etc. and we just hoped they got it done before our shipment arrived. The boat it was on had docked, and they were delivering from it, so we were expecting it any day.
Vicky and Keith with Mohammad on the
entrance to the Floating Restaurant in
Keith and Vicky took one last trip to Madinat the next morning, Saturday, market day. Later we picked up their tickets from Kevin, our travel agent. Sunday I made samboozies and french bread for the progressive dinner they went to with the student group that night.
One more daytime trip to Al-Khobar was warranted, so we went on Monday, June 30th. The kids bought all the rest of the souveniers they wanted and could carry back without being overweight. Coincidentally, we ran into Vicky's Arab boyfriend, Mohammed, and he took us all to lunch at the Floating Resturant, where we said our goodbyes to him.
Back in Abqaiq that evening, Oran came home again to be with the kids as much as possible before they left. Count down time for the end of their visit was underway so we picked up their passports the next morning. I took Vicky to Jeanine's and Kathy's to say "goodbye", and that evening made enchiladas and chalupas which we enjoyed very much – although the kids could hardly wait to get back to the States to eat at El Fenix Mexican Resturant again.
Our Commissary had been out of cheddar cheese for a couple of weeks, but we finally found some in Al-Khobar the day before, so they welcomed the preview. Besides the poor beef from Australia, the company Commissary got temporarily out of stock of certain items all the time, usually just as you were about to make the dish that needed it. The fresh vegetables and fruits were pretty sad looking, but the local towns had a good selection, if you could ignore the smell and cockroaches running around the store. We found okra and squash, but not one sign of a black-eyed pea. We had to make do with dry ones until we got back to the States. Everything was measured in kilos, which is equivalent to 2.2 lbs, and the rate of exchange for the money we used was 1 dollar equals 3.465 riyals at that time. I needed to take a calculator with me every time I went shopping locally, but it was interesting and thrilling when I found something I hadn't seen in a long time.
Mike Smith came by that evening to say goodbye to the kids. They all decided to go bowling, then came back to our apartment to watch TV.
A shipment of cherries and plums had arrived in the Commissary the next morning so we enjoyed some of those for lunch before Keith went to the Hobby Shop to help on the 4th of July floats for the parade the next day. That was July 3, 1975, the last full day the kids were in Arabia. We started out with a big breakfast, then they went to the suqs to get last minute souvenirs and came back to pack. Sharon Morris came over to say goodbye, then we went for one last lunch at the Dining Hall so they could say goodbye to the regular Arab workers there.
That afternoon we went to the actual parade, which was celebrated on July the 3rd, as the next day was Friday, the Moslem Sabbath. Vicky was in it, riding on the Abqaiq Roadrunners Softball Team float, helping to throw candy to the crowd as they rode by.
Following the parade, we went to the company sponsored picnic on the Recreation Patio, which was fun, and a fitting climax and last night of activity for the kids visit.
At home we made a cassette tape of everything for them to take home to play for relatives and friends. We also gave them our last minute instructions and advice for their trip home and for the rest of the year until our vacation and hoped they would take it. Keith would be living in our home in Richardson, Texas, while he attended college at North Texas State University, and Vicky would return to Prove, Utah in the fall to continue college at Brigham Young University.
July 4, 1975, dawned bright and sunny as usual in Arabia. We drove the kids to the International Airport in Dhahran, said our final goodbyes, then put them on the Middle East Airlines plane, which took off at 7:30 a.m. on its way to Rome, Italy, via one stop in Beirut, Lebanon. This had been an unexpected and upsetting aspect of their trip because of the continued fighting there, but as it turned out there were no problems, and they got back to the States just fine, after a delightful visit in Rome.
Dejectedly, Oran and I drove back to Abqaiq, and I cooked breakfast for us before he drove on back to ‘Udhailiyah. So for the first time in a couple of months, I was alone again. I was lonesome and didn't quite know what to do with myself. I started to read a book, then I started a letter, slept awhile, then ate. Mike Smith came by later and visited with me a little while. It was evident he missed the kids, too, especially Vicky, naturally. He didn't know exactly what he was going to do with himself now either.