OFWs in Riyadh chill out in Eastern Province after Ramadan

The Half Moon beach in Dhahran is another favorite among OFW families.

Ramadan is over, with Eid al-Fitr observed with early morning prayers on Friday, Apr. 21, followed by elaborate feasts in Muslim homes.

    At the end of the holy month, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Riyadh leave the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to unwind or shake off the lethargy or feeling of being indisposed after having been inactive as they fasted during Ramadan.

    But a prominent OFW, a Bagong Bayani Awardee, said there was another reason, aside from chilling out, why Filipinos preferred to go to Al Khobar, Dammam, or Dhahran in the Eastern Province.

    “OFWs make preparations like having their cars checked or tuned up for the long travel, “ said Resty S. de Jesus, a Filipino community leader who works at the Saudi International Trading Company (SITCO).

     Having worked in the Saudi capital since the 1990s, he had joined friends in travels outside Riyadh to chill out after Ramadan.

    They went to Jeddah in the west while more OFWs headed towards the Eastern Province.

    “While still in Riyadh, my wife Cora, our son and I used to travel to Al Khobar or cross the King Fahd Causeway to go to Bahrain,“ said Jun L. Nacion, a retired OFW who used to be a community leader in Riyadh.

   They also used to visit Dubai to visit a businessman friend, taking a commercial flight rather than drive 18 hours to get there.

    “Going out of Riyadh after the holy month seems to have become the norm not only among OFWs but also among other expats,“ said Nacion who is from the Bicol region.

    As this is being written, Jun and his wife are preparing to fly to the United Kingdom to visit a daughter who is a nurse there.

    OFWs travel carefully so they do not exceed the driving speed limit on concrete roads whose length and breadth sometimes tempt motorists to drive faster.

    They are aware that violations are recorded by cameras installed along the road between Riyadh and Al Khobar, which is 423.7 kilometers away.

    There are two speed limits observed along the road. From the Saudi capital, motorists are required to observe 120 km.  per hour. Halfway through, they can pick up speed up to 140 km.  per hour. They must slow down to 120 km. per hour as they near their destination.

    They drive non-stop except to gas up, go to the restroom or have a quick meal.

    They find the food on these stops familiar – biryani rice (white or yellow), grilled chicken or roasted mutton (lamb) and mineral water—all available in the city they came from.

    The foods are intended for long-haul truck drivers whose main needs during the trips are food and short naps, if they become sleepy, which they take in parking bays.

      But OFWs do not mind the limited choices, gripped as they are by the excitement of going out of the Saudi capital.

    Florante M. Catanus, Bagong Bayani for Social and Community Service awardee, said, “One reason why compatriots come to Al Khobar during holidays is because of the sea, which they do not have in Riyadh.”

    He said OFWs gravitated towards the sea to go fishing or swim, as they did back home in the Philippines.

    At sea or near the water’s edge they could bond with their children, playfully splashing each other with water.

    One favorite destination in Al Khobar is the Corniche. It is an extension of Half Moon Bay. Green spaces are plentiful along the coast and there are spectacular views.

   A picnic at the Corniche is a great idea. It is perfect for families as there are several playgrounds for children and seating areas for parents.

    Children also have fun riding bicycles or the whole family can go jogging.

     Another favorite is the Half Moon beach in Dhahran, where residents and visitors go swimming. It was called Half Moon by the first expatriate workers in the oil fields in the region.

    The beach is a crescent of soft sand and looks like a semi-lunar arch, hence the name.

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