Monday, April 02, 2007

Marhaba!

Marhaba!!

Greetings from the land of the Arabs!

I am writing this post from the immensely sunny Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

What am I doing here? That’s one question I keep asking myself as well. But to cut a long story short, hubby has taken up a position in his company which requires us to settle in Riyadh. Promotion, good job content, better standard of living and most of all proximity to home were the factors we considered before moving here.

Currently we are on a 2-3 week acclimatization visit here – and the way things are moving we don’t expect to fully move anytime before June. So in the meanwhile, sonny and I will shuttle between US, Canada, Mumbai and Riyadh. Some jet-setters we’ve become :)

We’ve read so much about the life here, the cultures and the changes that we will have to make from our current lifestyle. And yet reality is much different than what we’ve heard.

For starters, every second person is from the Indian sub-continent (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri-lankans). We never fail to wish the Bangladeshis good luck for the team’s World Cup endeavors (and how my heart bleeds every time I say it) and how nonchalantly they shrug it off. Are we only crazed cricket fanatics here?

Mostly people are sympathetic to me. Husband job? Yes I mutter. You bored? Pretty much I mumble. Awww… this is life here. From the housekeeper to the waiters – everyone has the same line for me.

And the ubiquitous black and white look. Black abayas for the women and white flowing gown like overalls for the men. Its like living in a black and white movie. Color comes in the form of the western men – who pretty much wear their shirts and trousers (Women of all regions, religions, countries, of course, have to wear the abaya).

While adjusting to any new place takes its time – there are some things I didn’t account for. Like being clumsy – 3 days and I’m still not used to walking, sitting and eating in an abaya. Like not being able to dawdle around while sonny checks out the ants and leaves in the sidewalk. Or that people either look through you or look down. Or that nobody smiles and greets unknown women – unless they already know you. That there are 3 categories of people: Caucasians, Arabs and the rest.

While I haven’t seen much of the city, the color that strikes you right away is sandy brown. Even the pretty white houses with their pretty red tiled roofs seem to be brown. Much later I figured, that the absence of a lawn, flowers, greenery just takes all color out of the landscape. Especially since I know, that its spring in the US and the crocuses and tulips would be blooming and people would be coming out in droves to enjoy the warmth.

Besides summer hasn’t yet begun. And the sandstorms here are legendary. Temperatures are known to touch 50 C.

But there are some things I look forward to. Like being able to employ house-hold help (not possible in the US). Like being driven around all the time (women cant drive here), without hubby muttering about how an MBA hasn’t yet managed to learn driving in the US. Like shopping being the official past-time for all women here (what else can they do –if they aren’t allowed to work?). Like being a SAHM, and nobody questioning my decision. Like having everything (yes everything, including Mc Donalds) home-delivered. Like having a women’s only mall (no hubby means I can try on innumerable clothes, make frequent detours, constantly change my mind about the colors without someone gritting his teeth exasperatedly).

Or am I just deluding myself here. I guess time will tell.

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14 Comments:

At 9:11 AM, Blogger mezba said...

Wow - I look forward to hearing more about your Riyadh experiences. Most blogs I have read before described Saudi life in not so generous terms.

Don't remember how I discovered your blog (must have been the book post you did) but you have some great posts.

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger @ said...

what a surprise! I didn't see that coming at all! is this temporary?
it is always refreshing to start from scratch in a new place - the best kind of spring cleaning there is !
so shop away! :)

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger Big Zed said...

Wow! This is really interesting. I look forward to hearing your experiances in Riyadh.

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger Tharini said...

Wow. TThat felt rather sudden, esp., since we didn't know it was coming.

You know I can sort of visualise it all. Cos I lived in Bahrain for the biggest part of my life so far. Of course Bahrain is more relaxed where restrictions on women are concerned, so it was a very normal time.

One thing I do remember is that we used to loathe the Saudis who used to come there on the weekend, driving thier big cars, creating chaos in the traffic and generally being aggressive.

So when are you heading back this way next?

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I'm also looking forward to your posts from Riyadh. Hopefully you'll be allowed to post freely. I have to agree with Mezba in that I've not read many positive things about Saudi Arabia, especially how women are treated. I know I would never take my wife to such a place. Anyway, I sincerely wish you the best in your new endevour.

 
At 11:32 PM, Blogger Fuzzylogic said...

Wow,that sure was a surprise!you moved to middle east?I have a SIL who lived there for some years and now has moved to Dubai.I do hope you have a great time there. Enjoy the new experience,I always feel each place has so much to offer. I will look forward to hearing more about your life there,always been curious about how it's out there.

 
At 12:07 AM, Blogger That Armchair Philosopher said...

Wow. Riyadh. Hmm, from what I've read about it and heard about it, its limiting. And I guess thats putting it mildly!

Let that not cloud your happy feelings though :) But what I think you'll find interesting, and people who read your blog now, is the first hand knowledge of a country which not too many people know about - its daily life, and the most trivial of events which might be mundane to you, but full of interesting sidelines to us :)

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Something to Say said...

mezba: welcome. and thanks for the encouragement :)
As for the positive spin on the Saudi experience - for now, I'm trying to be positive about it :)

@: Well, it happened too soon too. while we were in India actually. Shop!! yipee - here I come!!

Big Zed: Rest assured, you guys will have to listen to plenty of whines.

Tharini: Well we're hoping, to be in US/Canada sometime towards the end of the month - if all goes well - and we manage to tie a few loose ends here. lets see how that goes :)

alan: thanks for the wishes. I'd really need them. considering that I'm already frothing at the mouth - at what I'm seeing :)

fuzzy: Dubai, I'm told - is a great place - way more liberal than here. I've only seen the Dubai airport tho. You ladies sit back and get some noise cancelling head phones - coz I'm going to whine BIG time.


TAP : I'm just trying to keep a positive outlook - dont know for how long tho...and will keep posting...

 
At 3:46 AM, Blogger karmickids said...

LOL, loved the part about driving...my hubby jokes the only driving I do well is driving him up the wall. Have been to three training institutes. Know the technicalities, but refuse to drive. What to say? Am a coward.....enjoy Saudi...

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Orchid said...

S2S,
I just realised I had missed this post. Vow!! that sounds like a major change...I mean I too have heard about the way of life there and given that you were in the U.S...I am sure it will be even more stark, the comparisons. Hope you enjoy your stay and yes will definitely come back to hear more from you :)

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger The Mad Momma said...

ok now that i know more than one person who doesnt drive.. i can confess that i dont drive either.. lets start a community blog for those who can blog but cant drive :)

enjoy riyadh.. i have not heard much abt it and i know you'll give us a good picture...

 
At 5:58 AM, Blogger Minal said...

all women mall/women not allowed to work/no smiling ...sounds drab. But keep us posted!

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Can't help but wonder; do the Saudis allow women to have internet access?

 
At 3:46 AM, Blogger apple_16ph said...

Hi, My fiance and I was planning to get married early next year so I can come w/ him in Riyahd were he's currently working now. But Im still confuse if Im going to go w/ him or just stay here in the Philippines. I still dont know what would be my life there and if I can find a job there or if I'll be happy if Im going to stay there. Please tell me more about tha place... I love to hear it base on your experience.... Thank you

 

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