A trip to Najran, Ali's home town. Day One
Ali is one of the former teachers who has come back to Jeddah Teachers' College for a BA after a career of teaching English in Saudi Arabia. In the early days, future English teachers learned English in England, and lived with a family; so his English is quite good.
Ali helped me find the apartment I am living in now when I first came to Jeddah and one of the English Department members, Dr. Mustafa Jalal, had reserved a room for me in an apartment hotel at about $30 a night. I met Ali at an Egyptian restaurant called Joha's Corner near the hotel and mentioned I was looking for an apartment. We looked at an apartment next to the building he was renting in and he decided he wanted to change apartments; so I was able to take over his lease and move right in because he left the air conditioner and bed and carpeting.
We always tell this story when we meet his relatives. Ali is always inviting me to meet his relatives in Jeddah and they had all been saying, I must come to Najran to see their village.
This summer, at the end of class teaching I was able to come.
Here is a picture of Ali in his appartment with his daughter, Nadine, on the far left, and Abdulla, his youngest son, on the right. The smiling girl in the middle is a cousin of Nadine's living in Jeddah. The children had come up to visit Ali here in Jeddah.
Here is a picture of Ali at the marble place in Jeddah, where we went to look for marble for the house he is building in Najaran.
Ali at the marble factory.
It was Ali who showed me old Jeddah the first night of Ramadan, and we had liver at a cafe on Souk al-Alawi street. I have been going back to visit old Jeddah ever since, but this was my first trip outside of Jeddah to a place in Saudi Arabia. We have so much work at the college preparing lessons that I never had time until after my second year here.
The flight left Jeddah at 7:25 am. I took this picture out the window.
That is the Cornish of Jeddah from the air, with the Red sea in the foreground.
In the foreground, very hazy, you can see part of the canal that goes around old Jeddah. Old Jeddah is called Al-Balad.
When I arrived in Najran, Ali met me at the airport and took me to the Youth Hostel. One of his cousins, Milfy, is the recreation director for the schools in Najran, so he was able to hold a place for me at the youth hostel. Here is a picture of the youth hostel with the helper outside with his bicycle.
In the afternoon, Ali took me to his mother and father's house in the part of Najran called Dahamis. The actual mud brick house that his father and mother used to live in is still standing behind the new house they built in front of it. Ali's father was a farmer in Najran and his mother now runs the farm after his father died in 2004. She hired a man from Bengaledesh to help with feeding the goats and sheep.
Here you can see the old mud brick house and his mother's new house in front on the left.
In the foreground, you can see the Bengaladeshi helper walking with the wheelbarrow. There used to be one house for all the relatives in the central area, which is now for cars. Ali can remember when each family had their own room and kitchen in that big house. It was mud brick, too. Later, his father built the mud brick house in the background. This picture is taken from a point where there is another mud brick house, which is still being inhabited, but now by Yemenis. The original residents of Dahamis, all Ali's relatives have built new houses on the land and have abandoned the mud houses.
Beside Ali's mother's house is a garden where she grows mulukhiyya and other vegetables.
Above, is the garden, with mulukhiyya growing on the left. Some of Ali's younger relatives on bicycles drove by the little path to say hello:
I took this picture of the back of Ali's house. I don't know if this is the famous "hamra" date tree, but Ali's family gives dates from their oldest date tree, called the "hamra," the red, to all his relatives in Dahamis.
Then we visited Ali's house, which he is renovating so that his children can enjoy living in the village even though they have a bigger house now in Mukhayyam, a modern district of Najran.
Sorry for the junk in the foreground. An Indian guy is putting in some carved plaster ceilings. We would often go up to the roof of the house. Here is a picture of the fields and houses, taken from the roof of Ali's house:
You can see the mosque of Dahamis to the left of the modern house.
In the afternoon, Ali drove me to Gaber, another area of Najran, on the other side of the wadi which divides Najran in two.
This is the bridge across the wadi. In the rainy season, when the water comes down from the nountains, there is actually water in this wadi. In the background, you can see how Najran is surrounded by mountains.
Here you can see the "hair houses," --buyuut sha'ir--imitation bedouin tents where people come in the evening to enjoy sitting beneath the palm trees.
Next will be a series of pictures of the old mud houses in Gaber:
Here are some boys in front of what seems to have been a kind of castle to ward off people with guns invading the farms:
Here is another one of these tower for defense, restored next to the new house:
After visiting Gaber, we came back to Ali's mother's house and the Bengaladeshi worker showed us the sheep and goats. The boys on the bicycles came back, too, for a picture.
sheep and goats coming out of their little house.
The Bengaledishi helper on Ali's mother's farm, with sheep in background.
Pigeons on ceiling of the little area for sheep.
After the afternoon and evening prayers, we went to an engagement party for a couple getting engaged. The temperature in Najran is cooler than Jeddah, and less humid, so people can sit outside in the open air. The air is fresh and not polluted.
Then Ali took me back to the Youth Hostel.
Day two will be another link.
This trip took place Wednesday, June 22, 2005.