Taif – The Perfect Place to Get Lost in ‘Arabian Paradise’
Taif – The Perfect Place to Get Lost in ‘Arabian Paradise’
By J. Nava Cruz / Middle East
Our voyage to Taif was not planned at all. In reality, it was a side trip — a wonderful, euphoric journey that let me entirely and flawlessly get lost in ‘Arabian Paradise’.Fifth of November 2014, in the crepuscular moods of that sweet-fine Wednesday evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, my friend Rey Villagonza Francas and I got on board the SAPTCO Bus No. L9316 in Azaziah Terminal Station heading to the City of Jeddah, the Bride of the Read Sea. At first, the ultimate purpose is to travel ‘non-stop’ to Jeddah to attend the ‘Mukha ng Pinoy 2015’ (Face of Filipinos 2015) Competition, an original Philippine copyrighted stage production I’ve written in 2009 in a form of a pageantry that salutes the uniqueness of our Philippine National Language, the Filipino while sashaying on stage the grandeur and beauty of our cultural lineage and, never I thought that on our way to the City of Jeddah and by just passing through Taif, I will be enchanted by its inviting charm and magnificent landscape. For this reason, we decided to stop and get off the SAPTCO Bus in Taif instead of our original plan to travel directly to Jeddah. We arrived in Taif City on 6th of November at exactly 4:30 early in the morning. Got into a private van, and after a steady-thrilling almost 30-minute ride, we reached the front door of the Ramada Hotel in Al Hada Place where the cable car system (teleferic) is located and operated. (Yes, I am crazy-bound to take a cable-car-ride!) We waited for sometime at the lobby of the Ramada Hotel for the guest officer to come. And presto, the Saudi hotel receptionist came in, indeed! But to my surprise, he informed us that cable car system will only be opened at 12 noon, or perhaps, a bit more later. Got abreast too that cable car is not a normal mode of transportation in Taif, but rather, built as a ‘tourist attraction’.
With this crux of the matter on hand, and since we know that we still need to trek almost 3-hour journey from Taif City to Al Balad (located at the heart of Jeddah Main City) to catch our scheduled almost one-hour travel to Obhur, Jeddah arranged by Mukha Jeddah organizer and friend Jhun Layos Lalican, where the resort venue is located for ‘Mukha ng Pinoy’, we decided to start walking and roaming around Taif.
In just a fresh look, one can say that the way of life in Taif is beautifully simple and nourishing. Aside from their office-hospital-bank-work, many of ‘Taifians’ including expatriates work daily on their decent chores of driving private taxi cars, selling fruits, taking care of their farms and doing their daily animal husbandry. Based on my short ‘Taif side-trip’, I personally witnessed their special treatment to visitors exploring their town. Most of them are nice and accommodating: Policemen. Saudi taxi drivers. Fruit and vegetable vendors. Waiters. The local ‘Taifians’.Our most spine-tingling moment in Taif came at that time we are bound to enjoy the beauty of Taif sunrise on the side of the street facing Ramada Hotel. And while Rey and I are both thrilled to walk alone in the town’s streets with our travel belongings, and with no specific place to go, we bumped in to our new-found Pakistani friend Abdullah who offered us his assistance to see a number of scenic Taif spots and to drive us afterwards to the City of Jeddah.
Everywhere you go in Taif, the mountains are visible from all directions. Pretty awesome to take hours hike and a steady-car ride on its majestic zigzag road, which I believe, is less explored and discovered. On top of the mountain slopes, visitors will run-out of words to describe its panoramic view: the various cars sashaying the zigzag roads; the magnificent beauty of sunrise, and for sure, sunset; the captivating moves and attitudes of the so many baboons; the feel of enjoying a perfect hide-away to cool down far away from the cacophony of Riyadh Mega City especially during its morning and evening rush hours.For others, Taif may not be a perfect Arabian Paradise. It may look quite simple to world-class travelers who have seen almost every corner of the world. But for me, it offers lot of excitements. For one, and on a lighter side, it’s totally cold in Taif, which made me enjoyed sporting my D&G shawl and jacket. For another, you go on a vigorous street walk, and yet you feel perfectly peaceful. You feel that you are by yourself, yet feel so much contented as Mother Sun scattered its tapestry of colors, rays and lights during the early morning. You are in complete soliloquy, but feel elated and entwined by the warm embraces and kisses of the eternal cold breeze of your newly-found paradise. You look at the baboons and suddenly you will be fully hypnotized by their care and love towards each other, and in seconds, you are thinking about your family, your special someone, your friends and your country, who from time to time, we take for granted, albeit, at the iota of our heart, they are much remembered, cared, much more, loved. In essence, I journeyed to Taif for no special, specific reason! Except just to experience some thrill: New people. New moment. New place. New ambiance. New excitement. But what makes this Taif side trip quite special is because I learned to enjoy the moments with old and new friends like Rey and Abdullah. It’s really so true that ‘finding friends’ and seeing the real ‘meaning of friendship’ is like finding treasure. And what more, if you found them inside an Arabian paradise like Taif?! – [J. Nava Cruz, an OFW, is a freelance writer/documentarist/artists and a published book author in the Philippines, and right now, wrapping-up his first novel: See Me @ :06 a.m. scheduled for publication in August/September of 2015.] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]