Our journey begins at the heart of Jeddah, on a fine Thursday morning. Fadi picks me up just after 7.30 and we drive off to our rendezvous point. We arrive there a tad too early and decide to stop for a sandwich while we await the rest of the crew. I seem to have a knack for finding road-side eateries even here, and we settle for a quick breakfast: kidney-sandwich and complimentary cup of tea. The front of the shop reminds me of our hopper-joints. Six or seven extra large copper cauldrons – not the hopper-woks – steaming away on gas burners in a row. The battered kettles are decorated with hand-written Arabic that describes the concoction brewing inside. I settle for a Chaii Adhani (Aden-style tea, from Yemen) which I must say was quite a pleasant discovery for a guy from the island of the finest tea in the world. Chaii Adhani is tea with milk, but generously sprinkled with cinnamon powder. Sipping a lovely cup of tea that should have been one of our inventions, I wondered why we had to learn the art of tea from Yemenis, of all people. We grow tea, and produce the best cinnamon in the world, and yet, we are made to learn how to mix the two from foreigners.
Such is irony of life.
The Arabs are not only imaginative in their brew, they are also clever at other things. One fine example could be found just a few hundred meters away from the sandwich café. This quite unusual construction is possibly a world-first and deserves to be in the Guinness Book of World Records – if it isn’t already there yet. There is a house in Jeddah that’s built under the shade of a gigantic roof that covers entire plot of land from one corner to the other. The mega construction is about seven-stories high at the shorter sides, the middle must be reaching 9-10 stories easily.
What a unique way to protect one’s self from the burning sun that shines upon the Arab world, reaching 50°C and over in summer. And here, there are only two seasons: Summer, and December. The house must be cooler and nice inside – its got a roof under a roof; probably the Arab owner must be growing oranges and strawberries in his back yard in the shade in December.
Things people do when they don’t know what to do with their pocket-money, I thought to myself.