Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Brief Stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Today’s sunrise comes to you courtesy of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

We weren’t supposed to be stopping in Jeddah, but we had yet another passenger requiring a medical evacuation and Jeddah is where the early morning transfer occurred. We arrived just as the sun was coming up.
Having never been to Saudi Arabia before, and knowing I'd never get to go, I was quite happy to have a little look from onboard the ship. 
The signage at the dock was the first clue we were in a different country. With a different language and different culture.
But the differences didn't stop there. Both the female passenger being wheeled off the ship (thankfully not on a stretcher) and the female medical personnel were wearing head coverings, as would be expected in this conservative country. Men onshore were either military or port personnel in camouflage or dressed in traditional white garments.

The last time we witnessed passengers being taken off a ship because of an emergency we were in Ketchikan. That cruise was the one where we had passengers involved in a float plane accident. Then is when we saw families being taken off and ship officials meeting with hospital officials. All very cordial, friendly, and from afar, respectful.

Not so today.

While the lady was transferred to the ambulance relatively quickly and her husband climbed aboard with her, the ambulance sat on the dock. And sat. And sat. For a full hour the passengers in need never left the dock. From my vantage point it was clear the officials were not happy about the ship being in port. The female medical personnel were sent back to the ship (this is Saudi Arabia and men rule), and the men did try to rule each other. There was plenty of explanations and hand waving and finger pointing and head wringing and shouting and...and...and... 

More and more Saudi Arabian officials showed up. Then some left. Then others showed up. This went on for a couple hours. At one point I counted 22 people on the dock. Two of our ship's officers, two male medical personnel, and 18 Saudi Arabians. The men from our ship deserve an award for their patience and perseverance today. Even after the ambulance left, the brouhaha continued. Finally the Captain announced we were finishing up some bureaucratic paperwork and would be leaving in 20 minutes. 

The 20 minutes came and left with us still sitting at the dock. Another 20 minutes came and left. And another, and another, and another. Four and a half hours later the ship was finally allowed to leave the country.

After witnessing what we saw today, E and I both came away with a bad taste in our mouths. I've never said this about anywhere I've ever traveled before, but I'm glad I don't live here and I don't care to visit here.
The Jeddah lighthouse is the tallest in the world. The only thing of beauty we witnessed today.
Tomorrow we're up for a full sea day, with hopefully all passengers staying healthy.