A 'wet' hands-on experience of the Jeddah Floods 2011
I did not believe that I would ever make a tumblr for such an experience despite having friends almost begging me to just open an account. But here I am, and that was my day.
Just yesterday at dawn, as I was studying for my Final Exam, I kept praying to God to make it rain since jeddah is known to be vacant, somehow, during. Despite the heavy clouds at 9 a.m., I went to the university just like any other day to arrive half an hour early for my final. After revising with girls I walked in the hall where the exam was set and sat in my designated place. During the middle of my final, we started to hear the thunder and a few minutes later it rained. Now being me, I Love rain, and it took me into a relaxing mood as I was writing my exam. However, that stopped as I was startled as the rain got heavier and the hall blacked out. You could hear the rain dropping through the ceiling as everyone was still taking their exams. Some girls moved to a brighter place place to finish but I stayed in my place since I normally study in the dark ( I’m pretty much the night owl metaphorically; not literally). Anyways, when I was done with my final, I walked to the end of the hall to submit my paper when it was clearly visible how heavythe downpour was by the amount of water on the ground. So, I walked out and waited for my friend outside as I enjoyed the wonderful view and reviving weather.
I called my mother telling her to send the driver (still reminding everyone we’re in the KSA) in my brother’s big car incase something happens and so she did. But after hearing from teachers and other students to wait after the rain stops and so on, I got nervous. This was all happening around 12 p.m. The Uni’s situation around then was awful. Around 1 p.m., the drivers came and I was about to leave when friends kept telling me to stay. I refused thinking if the drivers arrived safely, then the road they took was fine. I kept my faith in God and sat in the car. The first few kilometers were fine until for some reason they took a road where prayers and asking for God’s mercy was on the tongues of everyone. The people near the shops where yelling at us not to go there as the area was completely flooded. So damn flooded that some cars were floating. A large metallic trash can was floating as well and was near our car, the people kept yelling some ramblings to be careful and so on. At that time, I kept cursing both drivers under my breath as soon as I felt my shoes get moist, apparently the water was rising Inside the car!! Here, I was almost to tears and raised my feet telling the driver “the water is inside the car”, he was like ‘yeah yeah!’ as though that was mundane. It was the scariest time of my life thinking what if our car gets flooded and we can’t get out? (Note: I’d like to thank every Hollywood movie for enticing my psyche with feaful thoughts and soundtracks) Thankfully, we reached a high leveled road and we opened the car doors to drain the water out of the car.
Now with the traffic and all (especially the area around the Uni.) I thought we’d never get out of it. However, they kept taking unknown streets, even if they were flooded, until we reached the area where we’d cross the bridge to reach the northern side of Jeddah. At that time, our windshield wiper stopped working. So we went in circles with the driver poking his head outside the window to cross that area when another flooded sector with extreme high water level. then I heard the water as it splashed beneath the car, the same sound I heard before, and the water level inside the car starts to rise. This time the water rose quickly and was up to my ankles. I was so nervous and yet emotionless if that makes sense, I kept praying to God to get me back home safely and out of this terrible mess. Thankfully, we reached a high area and we opened the doors to let the water out of the car again.
Eventually, we crossed that bridge and I felt somewhat at ease thinking this is more of a civilized area and we’ll be home in no time. We reached near a well known spot (Teanna and Bubbles) but the cars were jammed and told us the roads were blocked. So we turned around and went to the main road. from there you could see Chili’s (the restaurant) as though it had just opened in Venice, Italy yet with lack of the romantic atmosphere. (note: I posted the pic here so not so much of an imagination to tire the mind)
We took a route up hill but it was jammed as well and you could see the floods going down from that area. As I was waiting in the car, between the American consulate the the mosque at our left hand we saw people lifting the pants, thowbs, and even the abayas (in saudi we call it bishammiro) to cross the water. I saw two ladies go down and go to the mosque near them. they eventually returned as the cars were moving. Then some people came came from front and told us the street was closed as the asphalt, built on fray sand, collapsed making a large hole and the street uncrossable. So, we reversed and took the still road for some reason. I kept asking the drivers if there was another road but both didn’t answer. That’s when I saw families, young adult females walking, grimaced, in the water as the guy told us there is no way out. That’s when I thought to my self if anything happened, I’d either go sit in the mosque or go to Chili’s. But neither of those were options in reality as it was getting darker and the fear of raining again was getting upon every one. I feared being like those people. Was it the fear of humility, shame of such an incident was happening to me, or was it the fear of the unknown? the vagueness and uncertainty of what would happen if I left a familiar place; this vessel; this car.
Here, at Al-Andalus street, jammed still cars were piled at both of the sidewalks, but the drivers insisted to take it thinking it was the only hope since from what we were seeing, it was moving almost one cm. every half an hour.
Here, the water level got higher and you could see at the edges of the car door that the water was coming in slowly. for some reason my awkward sense of humor kept sneaking its way through my traumatized mind and thought of how this scene was somewhat similar to Titanic and if only I had a 'Jack’ with me. I smiled at that thought and kept staring at the people around me. Those cars that have been abandoned by their owners, those random guys siting at the rooftops of their cars enjoying the what seems a wonderful scenery, and the people who stood at a small hill taking pictures of a shocking yet historical incident.
At sunset, we heard the maghreb prayer and we were all quietly sitting in the car. Here, my emotions went dry and couldn’t care less about what happened next. We didn’t move at all when we realized that it was night and we just had to go. After talking to my brother, the driver asked if we could park the car someplace high and just walk home and we would get the car the next day; I agreed. And another pedestrian-ish journey was taken.
I lifted my Abaya and tied it around my waist, put my hair in a high ponytail, wrapped the Tarha around my head tightly, took my bag and opened the car door. I slowly lowered my feet on the edge of the door and submerged my feet in the water trying to find a ground to stand on. When I did, the water level was almost near my knees as walked toward a higher hill around King Faisal’s palace’s garden. Two things my mind was telling me to do: 1) Don’t lower my bag. 2) Try my best not to get injured 'cause the water was clearly filthy. I kept walking trying to glide my feet incase if any pavement or rocks were in front of me. I moved between cars when I didn’t notice that a pavements was ahead of me and my right front leg got scraped. I couldn’t look at it but that stinging pain kept reappearing. I moved to an area where the water was clear and waited for the drivers. Then we kept moving forward immersing our legs whenever a low grounded area appeared. I saw two ladies sitting at the gate of the palace asking me if there was anyone to pick me up here. I was like no, no one can come or go from this street. We moved forward when a couple of guys told us we cant go forward 'cause the water was at its highest there. One guy was describing the water level was reaching to the neck with his hand. The driver told me to keep moving forward to see what happened and for some reason I trusted his sense and we moved.
After almost reaching the end of the palace, we saw a huge problem. Floods were coming down at a fast rate from a higher area. We kept looking around to see what was going on. There, I saw two Lebanese ladies with a man and they were conversing in french. I tried to listen to them to see if I can comprehend what they were saying (since I’m learning french). With hardly understanding a word, I saw them leave as they all went down to cross the area where the flood was coming from. Here, my emotions were returning and felt worried if I couldn’t make it. Anxiety was taking its toll and I just stood there looking at the horrible news-like scene. The driver looked at me like he was ready to go and I was like 'are you sure’. We both stared at the ladies who crossed the the running water and then, after reaching a high ground area, we saw that the water resided to above their knees. There, I felt a bit relieved. One guy near me, as I was getting ready for such an intensive experience, told the driver not to go there 'cause 'I’ wont be able to make make it since I’m a girl and the flood was moving way too fast. I didn’t react physically to him but in my mind I had to defy his irrational belief. I tied my abaya up to the breast area and put the handles of my bag around my neck. I was ready.
As we were getting down to put our feet in the water, I lost my balance and this young lebanese man offered his hand. I was about to take it when rationality hit this guy’s mind and thought this would be an awkward move since we live in such a traditional place and removed his hand. The driver held my hand instead and I told the man it’s fine. I smiled and walked away. There, we stepped up at a high level statue of an opened book and the scenery was just awe-striking. From where I was standing, I saw how people were helping each other as they picked out a water hose and started to wrap it around trees so it would be stable for the crossing people to go through. It’s amazing how strange people seem to be working together for the welfare of others. Altruism was truly there besides whatever theories try to explain it. At that moment, I thought of how this would be an amazing study for anthropologists. (note: Ms. Kim would be proud!). Another encouragement I got was from another french-speaking couple with their young kids (a daughter and a son) crossing that flood stream. I Felt so amazed and proud of them but also wondered about their safety. The last time I saw them was they reached a safe water level and kept going and where soon out of my sight.
Since the other driver was a bit old, we decided to leave him at a safe place and then the other one would take him back. Now, It was time for me to plunge into that muddy water. I slowly went down the steps of the statue and then on the pavement. The driver told be to hold his elbow as we walk and to keep our feet on the ground because at any moment I lift my feet, I could easily lose my stability and get carried away by the current. I could feel the water and dirt crawling up my jeans as the water level was going higher. One hand was holding my bag up high since the water was up to my breasts, by then, and the other was holding both the driver and the hose. We slowly walked as I tried my best to keep my feet gliding on the asphalt beneath us. In the middle of the flood, I lost my grip of the hose but kept gripping on the driver’s arm. Here my heart beat rose and I kept praying to God to get this over with. A couple of minutes later, we were away from that terrible stream and reached a small public playground on a hill were some people were sitting. We were looking around and wondering where to go after passing that awful and laborious stream. Then we hear a man telling us that he already took his wife and kids to their house, which was nearby, and there, the public road was cleared from water as cars would be crossing. For some reason, I got suspicious of him due to stories and anecdotes I heard earlier. And then, we saw a large bus moving and I told the driver if this was his car, we’ll have to go someplace else. Fortunately it wasn’t his bus and the large amount of people following him made me feel somewhat comfortable. And so we did as we went back walking on the pavement where the water was up to my abdomen. We entered a residential area and walked for around five minutes and finally saw the wonderful scene of a clear road. Chivalry was alive! We thanked this man for his kindness and kept walking to a trafficked area near the mosque at Hai'l street. My house was near that area and we could’ve walked there but my brother’s friend was waiting for us near the mosque. We rode with him, despite being wet, and got home where my brother was waiting for me at the gate. I was back home safe.
I still can’t believe such an incident happened. Should I be traumatized by this? Is there a specific normal way to feel? All I know is that it’s over.
And one thing I’m sure of, is that venting and realizing that this specific event did not just happen to me. Therefore, I’m not writing this to make people feel pity nor worried about me. I’m writing this 'cause I’m sure that a lot of other people have gone through a similar experience and for me to know that makes me feel much safer in this world, and I’m sure that they would to.
( in a Jimmy Fallon Thank-You-Note voice) Thank you people responsible for the infrastructure for turning a blessing into a curse.
I just felt sad for my Experimental Psychology book that was a bit destroyed (even though I tried raising my bag as far a I could) that I had to post a pic:
عمل رمزي باسم جدة .. زهرةٌ تغرق تضامنا مع كارثة السيول التي أصابت جدة في يوم الأربعاء ٨ - ١٢ - ١٤٣٠ هـ لكن لو أن التخطيط و الأمانة كان لديهم أمانه لكانت الأضرار أقل و لكن لا نقول الا الحمد لله على قضائة و قدر الله و ماشاء فعل ولا حول ولا قوه الا بالله رحم الله الموتى أجمعين