A few weeks ago we went to Taif for the Rose Festival on a trip organized by KAUST. Taif is about 3 hours away from KAUST and is up in the mountains. I heard that KAUST was originally planned to be built up there but they needed a marine center so they finally decided on Thuwal instead. Well roses grow abundantly in Taif and lots of rose water and rose perfume are made there. The weather is nice and cool. In the winter it even snows sometimes!
This time Jose and Jasmine came along. It was great because the tour operators, Tihama Tours, promised me an extra seat where I could strap Jasmine’s carseat into. It was a very comfortable ride with lots of food and drinks. There were 3 or 4 buses and an ambulance tailing us the whole time in case of medical emergencies. Unfortunately Jasmine kept crying in the beginning of the trip because (what else) she was tired. I saw the people sitting behind us rolling their eyes, whispering about changing seats. Well the flyer said the tour was open to infants. They cry. Deal with it!
Our first stop was a rose farm and factory.
Unfortunately most of the roses were already harvested so we only saw a few of them here and there.
There was a pile of roses we could take photos with. We put Jasmine in the pile and she looked quite panicked!
There were vats of roses ready to be cooked and turned into perfume.
Even their equipment was pink.
There was a gift shop where people could buy rose products like soap, creams, rose water, etc.
After the rose farm we headed to the Le Meridien hotel for our buffet lunch.
After Jasmine ate her baby food she decided to squirm away from us to play with the other kids.
She can’t walk unsupported yet so she crawled to a little boy who was pushing this highchair around to join his little push-the-highchair game. They were laughing a lot. It was really cute! Later on they were joined by another little girl who wanted to give them kisses.
These were the views from the hotel:
After the hotel we went to what the tour guide called a resort although it was more like a cafe with a huge outdoor deck from where you can enjoy the views. Several people spotted wild lavenders and picked them.
Of course I had managed to convince Jose to go over the railings, hike downhill and pick some for us as well.
We walked up the road and found a spot where locals seemed to go. It was a spot full of low trees that created a nice shade to get out of the sun. Some people were cooking and some kids were playing. It was lovely.
Jose and Jasmine’s “top of the world” picture.
We visited a museum after the cafe. Unfortunately my camera batteries died at that point so I had to switch to my cellphone camera. This is a representation of an old store.
I’m not sure what this door was supposed to be but I thought why not keep up with the tradition of photographing Jose and Jasmine in front of doors?
We then went to a souk that was similar to Al Balad. It had abaya stores, food stores, people selling fruit and vegetables on the street. I even bought some local mulberries but left them on the bus when we got back to KAUST
Finally it was time to visit the Rose Festival. We got there at around 8:00 pm. I suppose festivals and events here begin late because the daytime sun and heat can be unbearable.
We saw a car stuffed with real and plastic roses.
Soaps and creams made out of roses.
There was an art exhibit filled with rose paintings. I thought it would look cool to pretend to be holding a stem but due to the shadows and my pose I ended up looking like I should be cackling.
Tulip, orchid and lily exhibit.
A tower of mums (or similar looking flowers) with no roses at all.
After the Rose Festival we ate our Al Baik (the beloved Saudi version of KFC) and pizzas in a park in the middle of town. After that we finally headed back to KAUST. It was 2:00 am by the time we got back and everyone was just EXHAUSTED.
So was the Taif Rose Festival great? Well, it was a bit underwhelming but I had Googled the festival before so I knew not to expect too much. A few days later our friend’s mom, who had joined the trip solo, even said it was too bad we didn’t see the Rose Festival. I said, “We did! That was it!” She didn’t even know we were there because of the lack of roses. I guess people also expected a parade of some sort.
Did we enjoy? Definitely! We almost never get out of KAUST so seeing a different city was good enough for me. Plus Jasmine got to see and experience new things. We also learned how to change diapers very quickly and in unlikely places (that I would rather not talk about).