I only saw this once. Apparently the police are not allowing such a display to occur again. That year there was vandalism to many shops along the avenue. Too bad. There was such enthusiasm and spirit. A woman asked to take a picture! Really! I pointed the camera at her. She put up her hand and rolled her window up. She wanted me to take a picture of her car. Some things remain the same!
Maybe everyone knew to come by social media alerts. But then again, I have never seen a gathering like this. Cars lined the avenue and just sat. No one cared about moving along. They sat – “ Car proud” – banners waving, costumed, enthusiastic.
They waved at me to take pictures as though I were a news journalist. And so I did. I got worried because one guy grabbed the camera from my hand and did a group shot. I’m trusting but wary. You never know about a crowd. But… it was all a happy day.
When I say there were a lot of cars, let’s see… eight lanes, bumper to bumper, at least two miles… that’s a lot of cars and a lot of heat. The police were out with flashing lights, but what could a few cops do? There were roving bands of young teens, who made me a bit nervous. Mostly they were friendly enough. There is a median separating the eight lanes and folks were gathered on it, standing around or walking up and down. For some reason, the police chased everyone away from the median.
And they chased down this group. One was apparently impersonating the king and giving an interview… a spoof. The police made it clear that this was not within the ‘rules.’
There’s one thing in Jeddah that I may note. Everyone drives, no one walks. That’s why the sidewalks are in such poor shape. So on a night of celebration, it’s everyone to their car. They don’t walk, they don’t parade. They drive. So the eight lane boulevard was completely clogged in both directions by cars…just crusin’ …. There were a few people on the street, but not many.
There were many people who appeared to disapprove of me taking their picture. It seems that parents were more sensitive about their kids. So I tried to be discreet. It was my first time in this situation and I was merely playing it safe. If you’ve seen my Halloween shots in NY, anything goes. There, you just stick your camera up into the faces in the crowd and fire away. Even so, there were plenty of people who wanted their picture taken. No one asked that I send them a copy. They just wanted to be digitally recorded. And I couldn’t but help feel the pride and joy.
This group of guys surrounded me and one grabbed my camera. They stood all around me and I was in the group shot. I got a little nervous when the shooter didn’t give me back my camera right away. But, he was just messing.
It was September, 2012, and there haven’t been many previous Saudi National Days celebrated. But, the Saudis have gotten the hang of it rather well. They go all out, stopping traffic, painting their cars, and dressing outrageously. They also are all happy to have their photo taken. Considering how conservative everyone is, I was shy about using my camera… but not on these two nights. Wow! I was constantly asked to photograph people as they passed. I was told that some folks must have thought I was a foreign journalist… hmmm. One woman rolled down the rear smoked glass window of her SUV and asked me to take a picture. As I raised the camera, she quickly rolled up her window and then rolled it down again as I (puzzled) lowered my camera, “I wanted a picture of the car, just the (painted) car.” She smiled… no pic.