Summer stretches residents’ finances to the limit
Commercial activity in Madinah is in full gear these days thanks to the summer vacation coinciding with the Umrah pilgrimage season.
The central area around the Prophet’s Mosque is bustling with movement and there is an 85-percent hotel occupancy rate, with rooms being booked by both foreign pilgrims and domestic travelers.
But many Madinah residents are forced to stay put because they simply cannot afford the ever-increasing prices of beach houses and hotels throughout the Kingdom.
In fact, the summer vacation has become a cause for stress for many locals who are on a limited income because the price of all types of accommodation has skyrocketed in recent years, driving many to have to embark on extensive searches to find decent lodging at affordable prices or just stay home or go on day trips.
“The owners of chalets and resorts raise prices during the summer months,” Obaid Al-Mezaini, a citizen, told Arab News. “Families on limited incomes become the first victims of such increases, but their budgets simply cannot afford more financial burden.”
“The majority of people plan their vacations early by saving up every month, while others take out bank loans, which is a huge source of stress in itself and all for a simple vacation,” said Basem Al-Saidi, another citizen.
Another citizen, however, said many families overspend while on vacation.
“I know many people who allocate unimaginable sums of money to go on vacation without taking into account their long-term financial situation,” said Abdullatif Ahmend.
For many other families, nevertheless, spending exorbitant amounts of money on accommodation is not an option, so they resort to visiting public parks or picnicking along the waterfront.
“Most Madinah residents go to nearby Yanbu because it has a sea coast,” said Shehab Muhammad, a local resident.
“The majority of people head to Yanbu early in the morning, spend the day with their families along the waterfront and go back home late at night.”
Another citizen, Naif Al-Hejaili, said that high prices forced him to take the family to the Al-Baydah public park.
“Everyone has to spend according to their budgets and not turn the summer vacation into a source of stress for the rest of the year,” he said.
Aayedh Obaid, also a local resident, agrees.
“I personally take my family to picnic in a nearby village,” he said. “We enjoy the natural scenery and my children get to play out in the wild. Sometimes, we even enjoy bird-hunting and walk among the green fields.”
Shafeek Salah, another citizen, said the summer vacation is the only chance to visit relatives, not to mention the sheer number of weddings that take place.
“Some of us cannot afford to travel abroad, so visiting relatives, attending weddings and picnicking out in public parks are the only alternatives left for us,” he said.
Madinah, meanwhile, is gearing up to host thousands of visitors during the busy season.
Parks have set up entertainment programs for residents and for children in particular.
Parks in Yanbu are also in top shape and ready to cope with an influx of families, who flock to the city’s Red Sea shores every year.