Firstly, in Jeddah, there is no such thing as a Street address as such when getting into a taxi, (limousine as the’re called here, also most of them have dents and scratches) they go by districts and landmarks.
Saudi’s have PO Boxes as does our compound. So any mail that we receive has to go to the compound PO Box. It is then hand delivered to us through a slit in the door, like they do in the UK, which is good. Then if we have any letters that we have to send, they can be given to reception who will then take them to the Post Office. So that is all fine, no problems. However if you want to send a parcel that is an entirely different matter.
After trying to locate a post office near us on google maps without any success I asked at reception where I could find a Post Office. They replied ” the post office is at Ballard (which is 1 hr away) you will have to go there.” I thought that is crazy I’m not going all that way, I will call DHL, or Fed-ex which I did. Their prices were way too expensive, so I thought there must be a post office somewhere nearby. I started asking the residents if they knew where the post office was. “No I don’t know” was the standard reply. So then I started to ask the Taxi Drivers. “What is post office” was their reply. Then I asked the cleaner, “Ballard Ma’am you have to go to Ballard”. So finally I asked at the shops, “could you please tell me where the local post office is please.” Unbelievable!!! No one knew. Nobody obviously goes to the post office to send parcels!
Not to be discouraged or to give up, I thought I will try the internet again. After much searching I found a site called wikimapia.org which was fantastic. It showed all the landmarks and POST OFFICES in each district as well as lots of other information about Jeddah. So finally armed with my printed out map of the nearest Post Office, which was approx 37mins walking distance, I proceeded to walk with my goods in a plastic bag.
No sooner had I started walking when I heard the familiar toot of Taxi’s going past slowing down and beeping their horn twice, which means in Saudi “do you want a lift”. (horn blowing is an art form here…that’s another story.) I kept waving them on and then I thought what the hell I may as well catch a taxi. A young Pakistani guy stopped, I leaned in and showed him my map. He hardly looked at the map and said “No Problem Maam”. My gut was telling me he can’t read maps and doesn’t speak much english. I negotiated the price and hesitantly got in, showed him the map again and said I want to get from here to here. (Looks pretty straight forward doesn’t it.!) NOT IN JEDDAH!
He continued on the road driving and looking at the map. He was muttering to himself uhm, ohn, uhm,ou, um and moving his head left and right and his hands in the direction of the map. Turning the map around as he did it. Meanwhile as he was doing this the car started to vere to the left side of the road toward the cars next to us. I shouted “careful watch where you are going!” He said “Is no problem”. ( arabic – Mafi mushkila) He did it again and I shouted “very dangerous you will hit another car, do not read map and drive!” He said “No problem, no problem, is ok.” I said “is mushkila!” (problem) It was then that I took the map off him and did hand signals for right and left. We had got over the main motorway to the other side, when he decided to ignore me and drive where he thought it was. I kept saying “No, NO, turn here.” Again his reply “No problem”. I said “stop I will find, I will walk.” He said “No I will help wait 1 minute.” Then he stopped and asked a worker on the side of the road in Arabic where is the post office. Guess what the reply was? “I don’t know.” He stopped a couple of times more and got the same reaction. He was determined to find it. He rang his mobile while driving and got directions. Finally we were heading the right way. We were near the turn off when I saw a sign “Saudi Post”, thank goodness, so I said “turn here ” while waving my arm to the right. He did. I said “I will find is ok thank you.” “No I will help wait 4 minutes.” At last after getting around road block holes in the ground with workmen all around digging etc… we got there. I thanked him then paid him. He said “No Problem” with a smile on his face.
I went past the workmen saying hello as I past. They were delighted to have a women say hello and answered “Hello” with smiles on their face. Once I was inside the post office, a lovely young Saudi man attended to me, organising a box for my goods then ushered me to a desk and asked me to sit down and wait a moment. A man came out with a very big postal box and proceeded to make it up. He bought it over to me. I thought riiggghttt!!! I said I think it is a little big for what I have. The lovely young man came back and asked him to go and get another box. He went outside and returned with a tatty supermarket box. We went through the same process again. This time he came back with a better more suitable supermarket box. The lovely young man packed it securely into the box. I asked if I could take a photo of him to show my friends and family in Australia for my blog. Here he is.
One of the readers of my blog added a comment below which is very helpful information. Please read.
Hi, If you want to use one of the carrier companies like DHL,UBS, Aramex etc.. then make sure the sender supply the shipment with your mobile number and when your shipment arrives they will contact you for delivery according to the place you want- in this case you can give them the name of your district and street’s name or compound’s name if you live in one etc.., or your company’s name if you want them to deliver it there!- or you can choose to pick it up yourself from the nearest office to you!.
The previous was the faster option and the most expensive, the other option; the sender may send the shipment to your company’s P.O that you will supply, and to write your name on it ofcourse, then your company’s PRO will collect and bring to you, or you can go yourself to one of the Saudi mail post offices around the city and pay the fee -I think 100 SAR annually- to get your own P.O box address and you will get an actual physical post box located inside the post office which you will have its key, which you may use for all your personal corresponding!.
Personally I do have P.O address for all my professional magazines subscriptions and bank corresponding and bills etc… , but also I do use mostly DHL if I am shopping online for example and I want to make sure what I bought will be delivered to me!, because using the regular post is a little bit unreliable sometimes!.
Hope this cleared all the doubts!.