Bubba Khan

The man standing proudly by his taxi is the sweet caring person I use as driver, Bubba Khan.  He insisted on also taking a picture of me.

Bubba Khan’s name is Mohammed Latif Khan.  He came to Saudi Arabia in 1978 from Pakinstan to work as a labourer.  He then spent 3 years working in the oil fields as a welder followed by 9 years with a different company as a welder and a crane operator.  He has been a taxi driver for the last 22 years.  He has been a driver for many of the girls in the compound over the past few years.  He still keeps in touch with most of them sending Christmas greetings and a quick message to say hello and ask about their families.  He has made our lives much easier.  We can trust him and send him to run errands for us if something can only be done during working hours (and we are at work).  When there were a lot of people who used him still in Saudi, we would try and organize our schedules around each other, sometimes dropping a couple off somewhere while the other goes and runs their errands.

During his time here he has sent enough money home to support his large family with 7 children.  He goes on vacation for 6 months every two – three years.  I will miss Bubba Khan too much when I leave however I can’t help but be happy for him as so many of the regular girls have left he is starting to think, after nearly 35 years in Saudi Arabia, it is time to go home.

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Saudi Arabian Cultural Night

Held at the French consular general residence.  The Saudi cultural night featured traditional music, dance, and information.

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Click the links below to see three videos, two with traditional dance, one with a musical instrument called an oud.



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The Rehabilitation Department


The OT team in April.  We have doubled in size since then.  However, the OT team is also transient, half the people in this picture have left or are leaving.

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Above left: Hard at work in the OT office.  There are 7 computers crammed into a small area.  Above right: One of the 3 physio offices. The OT offices are at the end of the corridor.  When patients come in they are greeted by one of the five receptionists who is not interpreting for us at that time.  Two are male and three female, for the most part our female patients are ok with male interpreters but occasionally they request a female.  It is more comfortable if all the people in the room are female because then the women can take off their niquabs and I can take off my lab coat if the child is freaking out seeing another ‘Dr.’.

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Above: Two of the five OT treatment rooms, the splinting area and team building.


The OT team.  We are full staffed in this picture which was taken two weeks ago.  There are 10 OTs, 1 OTA, and 3 OT interns.  The interns are Saudi nationals who have scholarships from the government to study occupational therapy abroad.  When most of them return, they will work as an OT for a year or two then become teachers in the soon to be developed Occupational Therapy department.  We have since lost 2 OTs, 1 to complete her Masters in Pennsylvania on a scholarship.  The other to either begin studies in the United States or find a job in Canada.  And in 2 weeks time I will also say farewell.

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Farewell gathering for one of our OTs who was with the department for 6 years.

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Rehabilitation Day, December 10, 2012.  The entire department participated.  We had booths set up and were offering pamphlets on many different conditions as well as fun exercises/activities to increase awareness about health and disability.

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Commonly Treated Pediatric Conditions in SA

The following are a list of the common pediatric conditions I see in my clinic:

– Cerebral palsy/post meningitis/hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy/brain atrophy

– Behavioral referrals: I get a lot of these mostly from the physiotherapist.  I find most of the parents respond to recommendations and we see excellent results.  Sometimes the improvement is so drastic that I don’t recognize the child that returns for the follow up appointment.

– Autism spectrum: I have no experience in this area, other than the time a friend took me to an autism center she used to work at in Kamploops, Canada.  Interestingly, I have had zero referral for children with autism.  A co-worker who used to work for the Disabled Children Association (DCA) informed me there is a Jeddah Autism Center which provides specialized services.

– Sensory disorders: I have not taken any courses in this area, however I am fortunate that our OTA (she is the one who used to work for the DCA) has 12 years of experience in this area.  When I suspect a sensory processing issue, I book an appointment with her and myself to complete the assessment then refer to her for treatment.  She is amazing  I am grateful to have had her help in this area because although I understand the principles, I lack the training and experience to effectively help the kids.

– Feeding disorders (usually associated with developmental delay and hypotonia): There is one speech therapist whom works at our hospital and I have never met.   They see children solely for communication.  There is also a swallowing team which consists of doctors and radiologists.  I have also never met them.  Unfortunately interdisciplinary practice, although present among the plastic/ortho surgeons and the OTs, as well as the OTs and PTs, is not widely utilized.  The hospital is also not set up to support these practices with offices being far away from each other and clinics being so busy there is little extra time.  My role with feeding has been for oral motor exercises, positioning when eating, utensil and plate adaptations, and advice on food textures.

– General developmental delay with/without hypotonia

– Spina bifida

– Positional talipes in babies

– Erb’s palsy: One of the PTs who specializes in inpatient neo-natal care has developed a protocol for babies with erb’s palsy.  The protocol starts from the second the baby is born and continues until the condition has resolved.  The protocol is quite effective and we see excellent results.

– Down’s syndrome

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Family Trip to Italy

In October I met my dad, his partner Teri, a friend of hers, her daughter, my brother and sister in-law in Italy.  We had a lovely trip and I think Italy might be my favorite country mostly because of the stunning views, ease of traveling around, art, architecture, food, coffee, and wine!  I am sure I will back soon.

Leaving Jeddah on the airplane

El Domo, the market and Ufitzi Gallery in Florence

Italian cooking class

Our beautiful villa outside Siena and the view from the balcony

First time eating stuffed zucchini flowers.

The most scenic race start ever!

The finish

The race course.  I did the last 18 km of the full marathon course.  It was scenic and challenging.

My Dad and Teri, somehow after running for 5 and 6 hours they are still smiling!

Sometimes famous attractions are not as neat in person as you imagine… the leaning tower of Pisa was even better in real life.

Enjoying a cappuccino at a coffee bar with my dad and brother 🙂

Seafood lunch on the Mediterranean sea


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Inside of a Saudi House and Segregated House Parties




Although relatively bland and generic on the outside, the inside of a Saudi house is stunning.  Often immaculately decorated with no detail left untouched.  Above are pictures from the house of the woman where I took Arabic classes early in the year.  You will rarely see pictures with people because once inside the house, amongst other women, females remove their hijab and abiya.

Each house has multiple seating rooms allowing for male and female visiting rooms.  One of my favorite memories over the past year was going to a farewell party at a co-workers house.   The gathering was only for the women who worked in our department.  The house was a lovely 4 story mansion on the edge of town.  It had 4 floors, with 1 floor made into an apartment for my co-worker.  Her brother and his family live in the rest of the house.

When we arrived at 10:00pm, most of the guests were not there yet but the music was blaring traditional Arabic tunes and the girls were dancing their hearts out.  Arabic coffee, fresh fruit juice and piles of sweets were passed around. We were in a large rectangle room with couches all around the sides and an open carpeted area for dancing in the middle.

As the rest of the women arrived, they joined in the eating and dancing.  Everyone was dressed to the nines.  Hair and make-up perfectly applied, waltzing on tall & extravagant heals, all wearing beautiful dresses.  The reason the party started so late is so everyone had a chance to rest and get ready after work.  At 1:00am we ate a catered meal and the girls I came with went home completely exhausted but filled with excitement from a fun night.  The others stayed until 2:30 or 3:00am.

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Al Balad Tour

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Above left: a shop owner and his shop in one of the many souqs.  Right: a type of sap that is used for chewing gum.  It tastes like wax and lasts for a long time.

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The pictures below are from inside the above house.  It is called Jamjoom house after the prominent Jamjoom family who owns it.  It was a custom in the older days to add new layers and rooms on to the house as the family grew.  Walking through was like a maze as you enter one room it leads you to many more.

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Below: Fried fish.  It is covered in spices, scored then deep fried.  Picked right off the fish and eaten with your hands it was a delicious unique meal.

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In April I went on a walking tour of Balad (the old neighbourhood).  Tourism is not popular in Saudi Arabia mostly because the only visa’s you can obtain are as a religious pilgrim or for a work.  There are few companies offering tours.  Those that do operate are small and despite efforts I am sure, are unorganized with many events or excursions being canceled if there are not the required limited number of participants.

The tour that I went on was relatively well organized, other than the tour operator being almost and hour late!!  I gave him a little slack as he did me a favor holding the tour without the minimum 10 participants.  We spent the late morning and afternoon walking around, visiting souqs and abandoned houses then finished with a traditional fried fish lunch.  Balad means the old town, many of the first inhabitants of Jeddah lived here over a hundred years ago in the same houses we can see today.  The cement was made from coral which can breath allowing it to age well.  The wood on the homes was imported from Indonesia.

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Water works in Saudi Arabia

My bathroom under repair.  It is on the second floor above the dinning room.  Turns out there was a leak in one of the pipes going to the tub.  It took them a few days to figure out where the leak was coming from.  They took apart the entire bathroom (dirt in the floor and all) and drained out the water that had accumulated in the dirt before they located the pipe with the leak.  When it was all patched up, I noticed that concrete was placed around the pipes before the holes were refilled with dirt and re-tiled.  The construction practices remain a mystery to me.

Above: Water truck.  Below: Sewage truck.

When I first arrived to the Kingdom, I heard stories of the floods.  I was told that the infrastructure was not sufficient to support the once or twice yearly heavy rainfall.  I found out a few months later that the reason the infrastructure  is not sufficient is because it is non existent!  Instead, the run-off piles up causing large puddles and occasionally flooding.

Along with no drainage system for the rain, there are also no sewers or water lines.  Each house and compound has it’s own water and septic tank.   When the water runs out at the compound, it has literally run out and takes anywhere from 1-3 hours for the trucks to arrive to refill our supply.   The water we use comes from the red sea after passing through a desalinization plant.   It is drinkable and tends to dry out your hair and skin.

Above you can see the signature blue and white truck that indicates fresh water and the green and yellow truck that is used for raw sewage.  I usually see the trucks blaring by on the road.   I think this man thought I was nuts taking a picture of the truck doing it’s business but I had to!  I was amazed to learn about the water/sewage systems here.  We are so fortunate in Canada to have the infrastructures that we do.

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The Fish Market

In no particular order, below are pictures I took at the fish market in Jeddah.  The fish market is open every Friday morning.  The place is busy, smelly, and wet.  Would you expect anything less from a fresh fish market on the red sea?  People arrive with their empty buckets and leave with bags and buckets full of fresh fish.  There is an area at the end of the market where you can have your fish cleaned.

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Ta’if is a smaller town in the mountains (1,879m altitude) 177km to the east of Jeddah.  Because of the cooler climate, during the hot summer months, many people from all around Saudi Arabia visit Ta’if for a break from the heat.

I had the pleasure of visiting this charming town yesterday.  The hospital will occasionally organize bus trips.  I went with a colleague and good friend, Annie and her friends.  I had a fun and memorable day.   

Watching the sun rise over the desert on the outskirts of Jeddah.

Above right: Stopping for a picture with milking camels.
Below:  The camels and the bowls the milk is milked into. We didn’t drink any.  Camel milk is enjoyed and drunk my many in Saudi and is popular amongst Bedouin people.  It is drunk fresh from the camel and still warm.  I have been told that camel milk has a type of bacteria in it which is healthy for you because it ‘clears out’ your entire system.  We didn’t try any.

Below: The view on the long drive up and monkeys on the side of the road.  There are no monkeys in Jeddah.

Below: Pictures in town.  Ta’if is much greener than Jeddah.  On the way home in the evening, these patches of grass on the side, and in the middle of the road were crowded with families pic-nicking.  I always see people pic-nicking on the sides of the roads (even highways) in Jeddah.  I am told that these pic-nicks are a common practice with roots from Bedouin times when much of Saudi Arabia was still a desert.


Below: Breakfast at the Ta’if zoo.  There were only a few animals.  I was surprised to see dogs, ducks, and turkeys included in the animals on display.


ATVs were for hire for approximately 5$ Canadian for 15 minutes.  Annie told me that Ta’if is more modern now than it had been 2 years ago.  On her last visit, she felt the need to cover her hair and was stared at by the locals.  On this trip, we didn’t sense anyone was staring at us.   Women were allowed on the ATVs and were even told they could remove their abiya while driving.


Above and below: The cable car ride down the mountain to the water park.  We drove up the road you can see on our way into town.



Above left: A ride at the park, once at the top you control the cart as it follows a track down.  The facilities were very modern (in terms of the equipment) and all the rides felt safe and comparable to Canadian standards (unlike the rides at the Eid Fair in Ballad).  The water park was another story.  There were separate areas for men and for women.  The female section was closed.  I am told it is much smaller and not nearly as much fun as the male section.  Young girls could go on the water slides and wave pool and were accompanied by their dad.  I laughed when I saw what is happening in the picture to the bottom right because you would never see this type of unsafe behaviour in Canada.  These boys would likely be kicked out of the park.  Another interesting aspect was the swim trunks.  You’ll notice all the short are below the knees.


Below: There is a fruit market on the way down the mountain.  The prices are cheaper than in Jeddah and the fruit is apparently higher quality.  They also sell corn cooked in charcoal which, with a bit of salt was simple and delicious.


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