Colors of Saudi Arabia

Looking out my back window the predominate color is green. This is surprising, as I live in At Taif, Saudi Arabia, and the country is pure desert. But, my gardener keeps a small plot of grass, a vegetable garden and banana trees, yes, banana trees, growing. And I must say having my own oasis helps me keep my sanity.

The colors of Saudi Arabia are not the first thing to come to mind when you think of coming here. But soon after you arrive you are overwhelmed by them. Women, shrouded in their black abbayas you expect. Or you should if you have done any kind of research before coming. Saudi men in their white thobes are everywhere as well. More colorful are the expatriate workers – Bengalis with their dark skin and brightly colored shirts, Pakistanis in shalwars of light earth tones, and Sudanese with their green head wraps and grey, or green or brown working clothes.

One place you see the same color is Mekkah. The hajji men are in white towels. One around their shoulders, the other wrapped around their waist. Women are still in black abbayas, though some coming from Indonesia wear white hijab, denoting both their pilgrim status and their home country. I remember when I first went to the kaaba, dressed in white myself. Near me were two men in matching shalwar style outfits, with white caps. Their shirts and trousers sprinkled with the words “I (heart) Kenya” in green.

But, the predominate color of Saudi Arabia is golden brown. Driving from Jeddah to Taif, where I live, you go through a progression of colors. Desert colors. Tan sand outside Jeddah developing into a darker brown for the mountains. Rust colored sand dunes denote an area I call “The big empty”, a stretch of valley that is wide and flat and has the most beautiful shades of gold, and rust, and brown if you drive through in the early evening.

At night, the clear desert sky dominates. The world reduced to black and white. Pools of illumination mark the gas stations, white light throwing out into the consuming black of the empty desert. Amongst this the minaret of every mosque throws a comforting green light (the color of the Prophet’s cloak) to light the way to prayer.

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