Why Did the Journalist Cross the Road?

By Ann Lopez | May 15, 2012 | Saudi Arabia

I thought I was going to die.

All I wanted to do was see the Red Sea. I’d always heard of the Red Sea in Church and read about it in Catholic school.

Now here I was in Jeddah, a mere 50 feet from its shoreline. It was my last day in the city. It was 6 p.m. and the sun was beginning to set. I wanted to see it setting over the sea.

Closed overpass in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.Photo: Ann Lopez

All I had to do was cross the Al Kumaysh Road.

It’s a broad city street with six lanes of traffic, three going north and three going south.

On the other side awaited the biblical body of water.

Just one street. How hard could it be? Very hard apparently.

There’s an overpass that offers safe passage to the beach area. But for some inexplicable reason it was closed.

And traffic in Jeddah is incessant. Cars swish by without a care in the world.

Street lights are scarce. I hadn’t noticed many stop signs. And crosswalks? What crosswalks?

Construction workers waiting to cross the street in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia.Photo: Ann Lopez

This is the land of big oil and cheap gasoline. The car is king.

Pedestrians beware.

I stood on the side of the road waiting for an opening. I waited and waited, and waited.

Cabs kept honking at me. They thought I wanted a ride. As a woman I wouldn’t be able to drive myself here in Saudi Arabia.

I waved them away.

But the cars kept coming. I was going to miss that sunset.

Finally I noticed some construction workers standing by the side of the road waiting to cross.

I watched very carefully. When they started running, I hiked up my abaya and waited for my opening.

The Red Sea at sunset.Photo: Ann Lopez

Then, I ran.

Running in an abaya sucks. It’s long and gets all tangled up in your legs. I don’t think I’ve seen a woman running in her abaya since I’ve been in Saudi Arabia. They all walk at a leisurely, ladylike pace.

As for me, well, not so ladylike.

But I did make it to the Red Sea before sunset.

Ann Lopez, studio director of Public Radio International’s “The World,” traveled to Saudi Arabia on a Gatekeeper Editors trip with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

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