Long back, our group of 3 couples and children undertook a long driving trip in peak summer from Riyadh to the Red Sea via other places.
We landed up at the Al Birk beach, a stretch of sand with a few bare tents for rent and nothing and nobody else in sight. An Arab guy collected the rent for two tents (separate for men and women) and vanished. We were the only fools who were on a beach in blazing 45-degree heat!
The kids immediately ditched their clothes and took off like torpedoes into the water. One of the guys had inadvertently come prepared – he was wearing boxers inside. He happily shed his clothes and waded into the sea. The women had to remain abaya-clad so they, along with the other guy, daintily felt the water with their toes and withdrew into their respective tents.
Which left yours truly. I wasn’t ‘prepared’ like the boxer guy! The children were booing and laughing at me. So, this Charlie threw caution and his shirt to the winds, and plunged into the water clad in thick jeans without a care in the world!
The water was too warm and uncomfortable and we had to come out fairly soon. Only then did I realize my predicament.
We had no towel. I wasn’t carrying any change of clothes. The cars were parked far away from the beach. My jeans were wet and sticky. But above all, sand had got into the wrong places and it was itching like hell! The salt content in the Red Sea is highest in the summer months! It was unbearably hot and I was on fire!
The group came to witness my misery. The kids went crazy, giggling and ‘rofl’ing’ while I pranced around like a monkey who had bitten a chilly! The men were desperately trying to keep a straight face and failing. I knew there was a lot of giggling going on in the ladies’ tent too!
As a joke, one of the ladies who had taken off her abaya to wipe off the kids made as if to offer it to me! I grabbed the abaya and changed costumes so fast that she barely made it out of the tent in time! A ramp-walking beauty queen couldn’t have been faster!
The abaya just about covered the essentials and it was damp so it was figure-hugging! If I sat down, well………..it would invite more sand! I drove everybody out and secured the flap of the tent while I stood and waited for my clothes to dry! I know the kids were peeping and making up some imaginative stories! I could hear the laughter and the cat calling! I am sure my plight will be told and retold in countless parties!
We were lucky the Arab rent collector didn’t come back. A tall, fully bearded guy in a mini-abaya would not have gone down well in Saudi Arabia – I may not have been beheaded, but bobbitisation was a distinct possibility! “Achcha, so you want to be a woman? Here you go!”
I rue the absence of a camera (not allowed). These memories are priceless but they are incomplete. But I am also thankful. In today’s world, I would have had to beg and pay my friends endlessly to keep the memes and photos and videos from going viral!