Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
Contrary to my guess, I slept alright the night before leaving home for a month of winter-travel across Europe. The days and nights prior to travel are usually super hectic with things to shop, things to print, things to pack, things to make, things to unpack! The most interesting activity in times of excitement such as a day or night before big travels is bathing – a routine act but one that leaves me alone in thought as the water gently heals the fear and calms the excitement.
Two things remained on the top of my hand luggage – an abaya and a winter jacket. I almost wanted to leave this one silly winter jacket home but not knowing what ‘winter’ in Europe is like, I grew nervous and overpacked, took with me at least three jackets – totally unnecessary.
The abaya is interesting. In my language, it’s a burqa. The abaya is the Islamic cloak-like, overgarment that all travelers to Saudi Arabia must wear. This stunned me initially – ‘but what about women from other faiths?’ It was easy to get an answer to that. All women travelers to Saudi Arabia must wear an abaya, period. Still refusing to believe this, I looked up the Internet and found it to be true. I saw pictures of women from the West in their Abaya. There are only a handful of travel blogs/blogposts by women on Jeddah, this gave me some solace – I am not the only one they are trying to keep away! I looked up airport rules to see if there’s any relaxation for international women travelers in the transit zone to avoid the abaya but the airport rules don’t mention that.
I am born into a Muslim family but have never worn an abaya. It’d be my first time in an abaya and that excited me! Since, it’d be a rare thing, so I wished to wear a beautiful abaya, a little blingy. The only time I could go abaya shopping was after meeting my friend from Oman, Nawaf for the last time before he leaves the country. Nawaf wasn’t sure if he’d come back. That made me very sad.
Nawaf and I cruised across Mallepally, where I spotted an interesting giftf or boys which would later become the most loved gift for the men I met on my travels. Ek Tha Tiger scarves. Thinking about it, I couldn’t have gotten better help than Nawaf who knew what an abaya should look like – I picked the perfect one.
The morning of travel, I had my abaya and winter jacket within easy reach. My parents – mum and dad dropped me at the airport to see me off. Getting my parents support on this epic journey was half the task of making it possible. The mood in the car was sweet – my parents were anxious, perhaps sad but they played cool, I was excited. On the way to the airport, I clicked a picture of the morning sun as I didn’t know if I’d see any sun at all in Europe! (btw, I did)
I booked Saudi Airlines – Saudia from Hyderabad to London – the cheapest tickets.
The route was Hyderabad – Riyadh – Jeddah.
After treating my parents to coffee and muffins at Costa at the airport and saying goodbye – now this is a difficult goodbye, the possibilities of me returning were high but there was also a possibility of not returning, of getting lost of getting myself killed. One really shouldn’t think so much when taking of on an adventure, gladly my parents understand that better than I do!
I filled the immigration forms, stood in the clearance line and still didn’t believe I would make it in. I had this weird feeling just as last time that this might not happen, maybe the airport authorities will send me back, send me home, maybe I will be home this evening. With these thoughts I cleared immigration and check in. From that line forward began my solo travel. I was there again – international lounge at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
Of the handful things I had to shop for the travel but couldn’t, was a laptop convertor. It was easy to find it at the airport lounge. So my first international purchase was this – a 15 USD converter, what just outside would be no more than 200 rupees (a little less than 4 USD).
The holiday just began – of course I must smoke. And wait to be boarded.