A Travellerspoint blog

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia

A difficult visit to a difficult place

sunny 80 °F

5d61f9c0-ac3c-11ec-b38e-e3c767a3f832.jpgb1078230-ac3b-11ec-b38e-e3c767a3f832.jpg1.jpg11111.jpg12121.jpg121211.jpgd6bda540-ac40-11ec-b369-e1a7318ca052.jpgSix days ago we left the stunning beaches of the Seychelles to sail through the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea on our way to Saudi Arabia. And then we saw it, saw Jeddah (largest Saudi city after Riyadh) appearing above the most beautiful turquoise water imaginable. Really, the sea around us looks like it has been colored by kindergarteners trying to get the brightest best azure ever – or maybe like God’s exuberance on the first day of creation. But then you look up .... above the twinkling seas, huge container vessels and orange cranes looking like huge giraffes and docks and trucks and swinging arms compete for attention and whistles and sirens and beeps fill the air. Jeddah is one of the least attractive ports we have seen. We would say the same for the city of Jeddah.

The country offered tourist visas beginning in 2019 and then closed for Covid, so visitors (other than diplomats, academics, and foreign workers) have only been allowed for 10 months. The country has spent billions of dollars on tourism – and, to our eye, almost none of it is appealing. New roads, new landscaping, new ministries of culture, new cruise terminals abound, and there is not a scrap of litter on any road. All the new buildings are mammoth, all are shiny; none have charm. The landscape is a giant construction site interspersed with fields of rubble. You can see the photo of the tallest flagpole in the world. The Saudis are very proud of this distinction but don't fly flags on it when it is windy.

We drove up and down the corniche, past an immense (everything here is immense) park with 32 sculptures from 32 nations (or something like that) and winding paths and little kiosks – but no people. Actually in a whole day in this city of 4.5 million folks, we saw maybe 30 local people. An enthusiastic and delightful young guide led us on a walk through the Old City, evacuated three years ago so that its 600 buildings could be refurbished. The remnants of the buildings are amazing coral constructions with wooden Roshan windows arrayed across their facades. They are being rebuilt with new materials and new methods – and the whole thing looks like Disney Land – or maybe more like a movie set. The former residents are not moving back in; the area is to be a giant museum.

Three facts about Saudi Islam we did not know:
1. Atheists and agnostics are officially defined as terrorists.
2. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death.
3. Execution is by beheading for men, stoning for women.

Now about getting in and getting out:
IN: We took a bus from the ship to the cruise terminal (immense spaces here, remember) and then entered an enormous hall with seventy desks arranged in rows. Desk 1 took our passports, but the computer didn’t work. Desk 2- same thing – camera didn’t work. Desk 3. Long wait; official borrowed a pen, took all ten of Bill’s fingerprints (laboriously), took a photo, checked his vaccine and booster certificate and his entry application, stamped his passport and wrote an inscription in it. Hope went to Desk 4. Same process but agent wouldn’t give her back her vaccination certificate. Hope squawked; he scowled but he gave her the certificate saying, “You are very lucky.”

OUT: We presented our papers (twice) at another mammoth entry hall. On the third check, we were each pulled aside and told in sign language that our passports were not acceptable. Then they took the passports. Official 1 called Official 2; both threw up their hands and went about their business. After half an hour we were a bit anxious. For reasons unknown, official 1 checked Bill’s p’port again and let him through. Not so for Hope. Her stamp (identical to Bill’s, we swear) was NOT acceptable. A ship’s lecturer came by and asked to help. His first and excellent bit of assistance was to direct Hope to close her mouth and look down. Then he and Bill and the Officials conferred and somehow magically, we were on a bus that had been waiting 45 minutes to bring us to the ship. I do not think we will be writing plaudits on Saudi Arabian tourist websites.

Posted by HopeEakins 14:36 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (1)

WORSHIP ON The Silver Whisper

March 20, 2022 - The Third Sunday in Lent

sunny 80 °F

HYMN: Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

Let us pray. Give us grace us O Lord to love what you command and desire what you promise, that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our heart may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

A reading from the book of Exodus

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them...
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (20:1-5a, 7-17)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Psalm 119

Oh, how I love your law! all the day long it is in my mind.
Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies,
and it is always with me.

I am wiser than the elders, because I observe your commandments.

I restrain my feet from every evil way, that I may keep your word.

I do not shrink from your judgments, because you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste!
they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Through your commandments I gain understanding;
Therefore I hate every lying way. (97-104)

A reading from the first letter of John

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. (5:2-4)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

A Reflection The Reverend William J. Eakins

The Prayers

Almighty God, you have brought us out of bondage and commanded us to worship you alone. Keep us from false choices, from worshipping wealth and prestige, comfort and ease. Make us faithful to you and you alone.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Deepen our gratitude for times of leisure and reflection and use our worship this day to mold and strengthen us for your service.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us to honor our parents. Lead us to ho or all those who have guided us in your ways. Give courage and integrity to those who hold positions of authority.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to kill. Guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of peace; bless those who would end the violence in Ukraine with skill and command. Keep us from reckless and selfish choices and give us hearts and hands ready to serve those in need.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to steal and not to covet what is not ours. Deliver us from greed and bestow upon us a sure sense that you have given us enough to share.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to bear false witness. Make us honest and trustworthy people with discerning minds and loving hearts.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

Surround those we love with your care; be with John and Joy Griffin as they return home and strengthen John that they may return swiftly.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing
Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: Let all things now living

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Andrea Ryan

Expected time of next service: 9:15 am on Sunday, March 27

Posted by HopeEakins 14:34 Comments (0)


The ultimate beaches

sunny 90 °F


Relaxing, engaging, beautiful, simple and complex, inviting... These islands are full of places and things to discover: attractive kiosks with good jewelry next to attractive kiosks with shells, a miniature Big Ben in the middle of Main Street, a fine market, and always another extraordinary beach. We visited La Digue, Praslin, and Mahe and loved them all; we leave here feeling relaxed and warm-hearted...

... and that is a good thing because we have just entered a High Risk Area threatened by pirates and will be moving through it until March 23. We are accompanied by naval forces and helicopters of various countries and are advised to keep our lights off and curtains closed. Mot of the instructions in the event of hearing an emergency signal are logical - leave the suite and lie down in the corridor so you don't fall if the ship zig-zags - but one sounds challenging: if you are in the swimming pool, get out immediately as the pool will be fast discharged. They have installed sirens and lights on the decks and we feel very safe...

...and we remember basking in the Seychelles' sun.


Posted by HopeEakins 11:03 Archived in Seychelles Comments (2)


Far from the madding crowd

sunny 95 °F


We have had three idyllic days in the Seychelles, the smallest African country: total pop. 95,000 scattered on 115 islands or so in the Indian Ocean. So boats of every sort abound, crisscrossing the turquoise waters, carrying goods and fishermen and tourists from one place to another. One thing doesn’t seem to move very well: the 250,000+ giant tortoises that creep across the landscape. The coco de mer is endemic here also, the world’s largest nut that quite closely resembles female buttocks etc.

The culture is rich and energetic. French and English settlers (18th century) acquired African slaves to work the land (of course!), and then small colonies of Indian and Chinese came --- and then --- they all seemed to slowly merge into a multi-racial, multi-cuisined, multi-linguistic harmonious blend of Creole culture that seems to work. The Seychelles have the highest per capita GDP ($30,000) in Africa; they export fish and spices originally planted by the French horticulturist Pierre Poivre. Their churches - and their Hindu temple - are spiffy; smartly painted picket fences line the roads on which most folks bicycle along.

And then there are the beaches. The sand is REALLY finer than sugar, the water warm and the birds atweet.

Posted by HopeEakins 14:53 Archived in Seychelles Comments (2)


MARCH 13, 2022

sunny 85 °F


OPENING HYMN: The Zulu text is sung by the Silver Whisper Choir:

Siyahamba, ekukanyen’ kwenkos’
Siyahamba, siyahamba, oh
Siyahamba ekukanyen’ kwenkos.

The congregation will be invited to join in singing the same text in English.

We are marching in the light of God. x4
We are marching, we are marching, oh
We are marching in the light of God. x2


The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

You that stand in the house of the Lord:
Praise the name of the Lord.

My brothers and sisters, let us ask God’s help in preparing ourselves for worship.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


All you big things bless the Lord
Mt. Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria
The Rift Valley and the Serengeti Plain
Fat baobabs and shady mangoes
Eucalyptus and tamarinds
Bless the Lord, praise and extol him forever.

All you tiny things bless the Lord.
Black ants and hopping fleas,
wriggling tadpoles and larvae
Flying locusts and water drops
Millet seeds and dried dagaa bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him forever.

Let us pray. O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, is alive and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Listen to the Good News proclaimed in the Gospel of Saint John, chapter 10 verses 11-16

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

This is the Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

HYMN: If You Believe and I believe. The choir will sing this hymn once and then invite the congregation to join in.
Words and Music: Traditional Zimbabwe

A REFLECTION The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

Doesn’t look much like church around here, does it? There are no pews, no chancel, no stained glass windows, no organ. We are in the “Show Lounge," the place where folks gather for magic shows and Silversea Singers productions, for Jon Fleming’s insightful briefings and our Tale Tellers lectures. We come here from different backgrounds, with different customs. And yet, as we sing our hymns of praise, hear the words of Holy Scripture, reflect on their meaning, and offer our prayers, there is something very familiar about what we are doing in this place. Here and everywhere people assemble to worship, we encounter the one God and Father of us all, the God who sent Jesus to be our Good Shepherd. “I lay down my life for the sheep,” Jesus said, “...so there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Now the flock to which Jesus calls us is not an institution with buildings, officials, and rules but a community, and living in community is not always an easy thing to do. We like the idea of a Good Shepherd who will call us each by name, as the attentive Silversea staff does. We like having a shepherd who cares for us and who will lay down his life for us. What we don't like quite as much is being in a flock because then we are just part of a herd, and sometimes other members of the flock get on our nerves. Also some sheep always tend to wander off and then the Good Shepherd has to leave ninety-nine of us behind to go off and rescue the one who has strayed and bring it home because, he says, sheep belong in a flock.

The early Christians took their flock, their community, very seriously. It was where they prayed and where no one was ever in need because they shared what they had. Christian congregations today are still meant to be communities like this, places where people can disagree and can sometimes hurt each other, but stay together because they know they belong to one family and they are bigger and stronger and better together than they are apart from each other.

Our worship together here on this ship has formed us into a little Christian community. We are a flock, not because we have the same heritage and traditions or agree about everything. What makes us a flock is whose sheep we are. Jesus didn’t say that any particular tradition or doctrine or people were the way, the truth, or the life. He said that HE was and that by following him we become his flock.

And so we learn from each other. In a few minutes we will say a Creed, a statement of belief. I have studied this Creed in seminary; almost every Sunday of my life I have said “I believe in Jesus Christ ... who was crucified, died, and was buried... On the third day he rose again and ascended into heaven.” From time to time, I have wondered why church scholars count the time the way they do, why the time from 3 pm on Good Friday until dawn on Easter adds up to three days, but the question never seemed worthwhile pursuing. But then here comes this African creed professing that

Jesus was nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. They didn’t teach me about the hyenas at Yale Divinity School!

So to the Africans I give thanks for infusing me with new understanding, opening up new images and possibilities, teaching me of their wonder and their faith that Jesus is truly human. I give thanks for African prayers that draw us together into one family asking OUR Father and give US our daily bread?

Being a member of Jesus’ flock means that when we see our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, segregated by class or gender of race or economic condition, we start working to break down the walls and open the gates because God’s Kingdom is big enough to hold us all. It means that we start sharing what we have with those in want because we are only as strong as the weakest of us. It means that we care for the earth because it belongs to everyone. Sometimes it means wearing a mask and social distancing because we are in this pandemic together and all lives matter. It means that we are patient and kind with our fellow sheep when they get on our nerves. Belonging to Jesus’ flock means that we love each other with all our hearts because ultimately we are all one flock with one Shepherd.

THE CREED – An African version

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it.
He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world.
God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth.
We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light.
God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good,
curing people by the power of God,
teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love.
He was rejected by his people,
tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died.
He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him,
and on the third day, he rose from the grave.
He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him.
All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins,
be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God,
live the rules of love and share the bread together in love,
to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again.
We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

Merciful Father, we are your children, your Spirit lives in us and speaks through us as we pray, saying after each of our petitions: Lord hear us.

Father, you created the heavens and the earth: bless the produce of our land and the works of our hands. Lord hear us.

Father, you created us in your own image: teach us to honor you in all your children.
Lord hear us.

In your steadfast love you provide for your creation: grant good rains for our crops.
Lord hear us.

Father, you inspired the prophets of old: grant that your faithful people may proclaim your truth to the world. Lord hear us.

Lord Christ, You forgave the thief on the cross: bring us all to penitence and reconciliation. Lord hear us.

You broke down the walls that divide us: bring the people of this world to live in concord and in peace. Lord hear us.

You taught us through your apostle Paul to pray for kings and rulers: bless and guide all who are in authority. Lord hear us.

You were rich yet became poor for our sake: move those who have wealth to share generously with those who have little. Lord hear us.

You sat among the learned, listening and asking them questions: inspire all who teach and all who learn. Lord hear us.

You cured by your healing touch and word: heal the sick and bless those who minister to them. Lord hear us.

You were unjustly condemned: strengthen our brothers and sisters who suffer injustice and persecution. Lord hear us.

You knew the love and care of an earthly home: be with migrant workers and their families. Lord hear us.

You lived as an exile in Egypt: protect and comfort all refugees. Lord hear us.

You are the Lord of the living and the dead: open the gates of your kingdom to those who have died. Lord hear us.

Father, we know that you hear those who call upon you: give to us and to all people what is best for us, and the faith that we are in your hands now and forever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: This Little Light of Mine

The Silver Whisper Choir will sing the closing hymn
and then invite the congregation to join in a reprise of the first verse.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen.

The liturgy is a compilation of various South African and Zulu liturgical prayers, and a prayer of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, slightly modified for this congregation.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins

The Silver Whisper Choir: Colleen Blanchard, Bill Eakins, Fred Fisher, Luisa Georgov, Joy Griffin, Stella Hilton, David Lang, Bill Phillips, Anne Richardson, Darrell Trojan, June Zeiff
Directors: Rhiannon Herridge and Jade Pritchard

Usher: Andrea Ryan

Posted by HopeEakins 05:04 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

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