Getting Jasmine’s Spanish passport is a bit harder than getting her Taiwanese one. First of all, there is a Spanish consulate in Jeddah but they only do visas and other minor things. We had to fly to Riyadh if we wanted her passport. It’s a major hassle but we had to do it and the baby HAD to be there. My German friend said he didn’t have to bring the baby when he went to Riyadh for his baby’s passport. Unfair!
We decided that we were going to fly in in the morning and come back to Jeddah at night.
Saudi Airlines is the domestic airline of choice but since they didn’t have the time we wanted we flew with Flynas. Saudia is slightly cheaper I think.
We arrived at Riyadh King Khalid International Airport at around 11:00 am and went straight to the taxi area. A Saudi man approached us and said he could take us to our destination (Diplomatic Quarter) for 50 Riyals. He said he was the cheapest. We weren’t sure whether or not to believe him but we agreed to go with him anyway. He led us all the way to the parking lot and when I saw his car I knew why he “was the cheapest”. His car looked about 20 years old, cracked windshield and even an IKEA drinking glass rolling on the floor of his car. There were huge dispenser water bottles taking up most of the space in his trunk. Uh-oh, I thought. Too late now. He was friendly though and claimed that the cracked windshield was caused by sandstorms, not an accident. Whether that’s true or not we will never know. He didn’t know how to get there though so we had to open Google maps to help him out. He was looking at the cellphone while driving (truly an art form the Saudis have mastered) while I gripped my baby tighter and prayed for the best.
The Diplomatic Quarter is a compound where all the embassies are. It’s soo beautiful there. I told Jose that I’d like to live there if we ever moved to Riyadh (just kidding).
Taxis are not allowed to enter the Diplomatic Quarters unless someone has hired them. Makes sense. You need to show your passport to the guards with armalites (?) as you enter. The Spanish Embassy was just as strict. We were made to leave our cell phones and laptops with the guard before we could enter. They said it would take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks for Jasmine to get her passport. We are planning to go to Spain for Christmas so that timing was a little risky since we still needed to get her new iqama and exit reentry visa (yes, we need a visa to exit the country). We had a backup plan though and got a Spanish visa on her Taiwan passport which we got on the spot. Taiwanese passport holders can go to Schengen counties visa-free but since Jasmine doesn’t have a Taiwan National ID yet her case was a little different. After a few hours at the embassy, we decided to go for lunch. The lady at the counter suggested Scalini and recommended the pizzas.
After lunch we walked around a little. We saw a bunch of embassies like the Iranian Embassy (so they have a presence here despite the hostilities) and the Syrian Embassy which was closed and unkempt. I did a little research and read that they’ve been closed since 2012 when the king kicked the ambassador out because they don’t support Assad’s regime.
Finally it was time to head to the airport again. Taxi fare cost around 75 Riyals by the meter (So the 50 Riyal guy was telling the truth about being the cheapest). Jasmine was getting more and more cranky and tired as the day wore on. By the time we got on the plane she was having a full blown meltdown. I felt sorry for her and for the people around us. As soon was we landed and got in the car though, she was fast asleep.
So what did I see in Riyadh? Nothing, really. It would’ve been nice to go there for a proper visit instead of a quick papers run. I heard it was a lot stricter there than in Jeddah and that women had to wear head scarves but I didn’t and everything was fine. I even saw an Indian-looking woman wear a red long-sleeved sari (I think that’s what you call it) at the airport.
So, the Diplomatic Quarter was lovely. We saw some skyscrapers as we drove in the taxi. That’s it. Well, hopefully we have another chance to really see Riyadh!