Saturday, July 3, 2010

Strange(!!!) but True - Things about Saudi Arabia

  • Possibly the only place where you can find a junk food outlet located within a hospital, case in point Dunkin Donuts @ Olaya Medical Centre
  • In some Western-dominated compounds women are not just expected but infact required to remove their Abayas
  • Women apparently can actually buy cars (yes! register vehicles on their names) BUT just not allowed to drive them (haha!)
Note: This post is most likely going to be another work in progress as I'm confident that I will surely discover more 'strange' and funny things about this place.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

(Blogger) Perspectives from Another Planet

I've lately been a bit under the weather, not to mention busy attending to some private matters, and hence missed commenting on some Saudi newstories that were published recently and not-so-recently.

Regardless, some blogs that I read regularly wrote some interesting posts on the subjects and I felt that they were worth mentioning here: 

Saudi Arabia: Breakthroughs on Marriage Contracts -
>> What's it about - New marriage contracts with bride's age

Saudi Arabia with no Make-up
>> What's it about - MTV's True Life series episode titled Resist the power! Saudi Arabia

What's front page news in Saudi Arabia?
>> What's it about - Gender segregation (Psst. -this one left me speechless to the point of disability...!)

Happy reading (and thinking)!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Saudi Humour at its Best: "...sports are corrupting and satanic for women"

A senior cleric on Sunday urged the Saudi government to uphold a ban on women's sports in the kingdom in the face of increasing demand to ease the restrictions.

Sheik Abdul Karim al-Khudhair, member of the Council of Senior Scholars said in a statement that sports are "corrupting" and "satanic" for women. Instead, he urged women to stay at home.

In its neighbouring country (aka UAE), local women are graduating as cadet pilots, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and embarking on Mount Everest amongst other things, and here in Saudi Arabia women are being discouraged, not to mention being asked to stay at home!!!

And, what a revelation - sports are devilish!!!

Seriously what will become of this nation? 

Facebook’s Ban in Pakistan: Bold and Beautiful

It’s been 4 days since Facebook’s so-called ‘Draw Mohammed Day’ that invited people to create drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on 20th May 2010. As a Muslim (no matter how liberal) I just refuse to not comment on how utterly disrespectful and pathetic this whole exercise was. I openly admit that I was amongst the many people who boycotted Facebook that particular day. Many of my friends and family members (much more religious and brave!) who were frequent users of Facebook have actually gone ahead and even deactivated their accounts.

What came as a pleasant surprise that day was when I learnt that due to this drawing nonsense, Pakistan had actually blocked Facebook altogether (well atleast until the 31st of May 2010), unlike other Muslim countries (including Saudi Arabia) where only the particular Draw Mohammed page is blocked. The most entertaining (and may I add totally preposterous) statement that came from Facebook in the wake of this ban in Pakistan was: "We are very disappointed with the Pakistani courts' decision to block Facebook without warning, and suspect our users there feel the same way," Facebook said in a statement to French news agency. "…we want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.” Take note…respecting the rights and feelings of others…really!!! Certainly promoting such an act is Facebook’s way of showering respect on Islam and the feelings of all its Muslim users around the world. Right?

First these people ridicule and challenge our beliefs, and then they mask their actions with such lines - ‘freedom of speech’, ‘respect for all’ etc etc. What a load of crap!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hai'a staffer beaten by Saudi woman!!!

Fresh from the oven: A Saudi woman actually punched a Hai'a (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) official. Read the full story.

My inital reaction to this was: NO WAY!!!

2nd reaction: You got guts girl (with a wink)!

3rd reaction: Shoot! Whats going to happen to her???

No points for guessing that this wasn't the best news piece I've read this morning. It certainly is petrifying.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Visit to Kingdom Mall (Mamlaka Mall) II - Night time

My 2nd visit to the mall didn’t fail to surprise me (seriously!).

On my 1st trip there were some items that I really liked but I needed a VIP’s input, so on my 2nd trip my husband accompanied me (Wednesday evening). Well to say the least this time the scene in Kingdom Mall was a complete contrast, or may I say a complete black -all I could see were fully veiled women (headscarves, veiled faces, veiled bodies... basically the complete 'black' package) with their families in tow. Not a single woman without a headscarf!!! And, no single men either (not sure if that’s a policy for evening time or only weekends).

Anyways, after sorting and buying what we wanted, me and hubby headed to the food court downstairs for some quick supper. While deciding and queuing at the House of Iranian Cuisine counter (accidentally I was standing with my husband in the men’s section of the counter), we were very kindly interrupted by the-oh!-so-talked-about ‘religious police’ aka Muttawas. They called my husband to a side and after the initial confirmation of whether I’m his wife and that we’re Muslims, the Muttawas told my husband that my abaya was a bit tooooooo fitted!!! And, that as a Muslim husband he should ask me or rather make me cover/veil my face, as if my already covered hair was not enough! Need I say how utterly surprised (and #$ @%#&*) I was after learning what they had said? By the way allow me to clarify, my abaya is NOT at all tightly fitted even my husband vouched for that, though not really to the Muttawas (and no! I don’t blame just never know with these guys).

Well, if you’ve read my Visit to Kingdom Mall (Mamlaka Mall) I - Daytime you must wonder like me: where on earth were these Muttawas on that day?? Coz had they been there, it would’ve been one helluva busy day for them, not to mention for the partially-veiled beauties too ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Visit to Kingdom Mall (Mamlaka Mall) I - Daytime

It’s been 5+ months since moving to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve got to admit that I’ve been waiting for the chance when I’ll get to see what young Saudi Arabian women/girls look like, in fact while lunching or dining out I’ve even tried to catch a glimpse of any Saudi woman eating close by (they sometimes remove the veil from their faces while eating) but rather unfortunately haven’t had much success thanks to the barriers/separators at their tables.

But my very recent visit to Kingdom Mall (aka Mamlaka Mall) during daytime did not disappoint me in fact it became a strange surprise. Me and my (girl) friend decided to go in for some shopping to Kingdom Mall on a weekday (by the way it was my 1st visit to the mall). So we get there and lo behold! what do I see...I see young beautiful Arab women strutting their Gucci, D&G, Cartier accessories (and whichever other highly priced brand you want to add to the list). Now you must think: are these so-called brands my way of judging their beauty? Well, of course NOT. The thing is these young girls or women though were donning their designer black robes aka abayas they had no veils on their faces, not to mention they weren’t wearing any headscarves either. That’s how I could tell their elegantly styled locks and their even attractively painted faces. What I couldn’t decide was if they were expat Arabs or of Saudi origin, though from their Arabic accents they did seem Saudi. Regardless, I was pleased.

I’m sure anyone else who would’ve or could’ve caught a few glimpses during lunch hour would’ve been pleased too (mind you! there are separate sections for single men and families/women).

P.S- my husband is of the view that there is nothing called free speech, and I can't help but agree. That's why I had to edit alot of details of this post despite having seen alot more. Like they say: somethings are better left unsaid...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Review: Buffalo Southwest Cafe, Tahaliya Street Riyadh

The newly opened Buffalo Southwest Cafe on Tahaliya street is a real treat for all those who love spicy buffalo wings. My husband and I have been there twice in 2 weeks – first time to experience the food for ourselves and the 2nd time around we invited friends for a chatty dinner. Thankfully our friends mirrored our sentiments about the food and the all-smiley quick service. In fact let me add that the service was so quick (during both our visits) that before we were even half way with the appetizers, our main orders had been served, within say 10-12 mins. 

Tried and Tested:
World Famous Buffalo Wings – smokin’ hot! For me and hubby trying anything less than the Scorching level would’ve been a shame (P.S - don’t leave without trying them).
Chicken Del Rio – the 2 chicken breast pieces were larger than most I’ve had, and were perfectly juicy and tender. Requested them to replace the yellow Mexican rice with mashed potatoes...ummmm! The queso verde sauce (along with all mentioned earlier) has made this item my personal favourite from their menu.
Blackjack Beef Burger — my husband liked it so much that he ordered it on both visits. Though the beef bacon strips looked a little burnt on both occasions. 
Total Bill – SR 158 including drinks & 15% service charge

3 things to keep in mind (if you’re thinking of dining at Buffalo):
  1. It is jammmmmm-packed - If you’re looking for a quiet peaceful meal, don’t go here.
  2. Get ready to wait (during the after-7:00pm peak time)- Like any other new (and instantly popular) restaurant in Riyadh, this one has queues of people waiting to be seated, especially those with families of more than 4.
  3. No serving food during the prayer break – They’ll take your order but will let you know that they can only serve your drinks and possibly chips with salsa during the half hour prayer break (P.S- order for the chips with salsa ONLY if you are totally famished AND have arrived 5 mins prior to the prayer break)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Atleast we are not Dubai Versus Atleast we are Dubai

Though I realise I'm a bit late in posting this, I cannot stop myself from mentioning a so-called debate about Dubai between 2 writer-cum-journalists, one hails from Pakistan and the other from Dubai. And, both may I add, are expats in the nations they reside in.

...Last month a Pakistan-based British journalist George Fulton (George who became an icon in Pakistan after his 2005 reality TV show "George Ka Pakistan", married a Pakistani and has been living in Karachi ever since) summarised his recent visit of Dubai in a very interesting manner to say the least. Here's the link to his Dubai-bashing article titled Atleast we are not Dubai. More than a week later, a Dubai-based writer Conor Purcell responded with his (opinion-based) pro-Dubai version titled Atleast we are Dubai. Like I said an interesting read, with due credit to the reader comments of both articles.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: Friday Brunch at Marriott Riyadh

I’ve come to realise that a very common occurrence-cum-ritual presumably all across the Middle East - is the Friday Brunch. It was seemingly popular in Dubai and looks like Riyadh is certainly no different. Here I’ve actually seen families even as big as 12+ people at the most popular brunch joints.

(To say the least, I certainly support the late Friday brunches, for the simple reason we women for a change don’t have to ‘plan’ what to cook).

So in keeping up with that ‘noble’ tradition, a couple of weeks back my husband and I were invited by family friends for a Friday Brunch at the Marriott Riyadh. And, oh! what a brunch it turned out to be. Imagine walking in and having yummy delicacies spread all around, and I mean literally. We stepped in around 12:30pm, which need I mention is the best time to get the seat you want by the window overlooking a mini garden. The international buffet was one of the most lavish I’ve seen ¬- 40 to 45 assorted salads, 12 to 15 main course dishes, and close to 40 different kinds of desserts. Not to mention the Live Cooking Stations - Shawarma (Beef, Chicken & Fish), Italian Pasta, and Saj. They also have on a week-by-week basis the Mexican Fajitas and Quesadillas cooking stations too. I can still smell the fajitas!

In short, the food was great and the service was nothing less. A must-visit if you’re into Friday Brunches. This one opens from 12 to 4pm and costs SR 115 per person (including the 15% service charge).

Update: Had completely forgotten (my husband just reminded me) that we saw George Kurdahi, the all-famous host of the Arabic version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Man sa yarbah al malyoon) feasting at the brunch too. Didn't get to see his plate though!

Friday, April 30, 2010

He turns out to be she - Arab News (April 27, 2010)

Have to admit I've been waiting for news of the kind ever since landing in Saudi Arabia. That's why it didn't come as a shock at all when I read the news bit He turns out to be she

Infact I'm confident that very recently just oppposite the Dominos Pizza on Talateen street, outside the GNC store I saw a couple. And, no! not a man-man couple but a man-woman couple where the woman was dressed as a man in the traditional thobe and shumag (her partner was dressed in jeans and a shirt). The reason they caught my attention was because the man-cum-woman had a very girly gait, wore a girl's watch, had the most perfectly shaped eyebrows, and was very conscious about the way the loose ends of the shumag covered her upper bod. Not to mention her french beard seem fake. I couldn't stop staring at her and when she noticed how I acutely I was observing her, she held her shumag even more closer to herself and whispered something to her (genuine) male partner. I simply smiled in her direction but she quickly turned her head away (a young Saudi man would've never done that!) And, that's what confirmed my doubt. Well, I just hope she wasn't and never gets caught.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saudi men told how to stop flirting, harassing women - Newsrelease from March 28, 2010

For the lack of words!!!!! "Saudi men told how to stop flirting, harassing women"...I mean I'd love to know who's line is this (anyway).

I broke out laughing when I read this newsrelease. For me the story isn't as much of a shock as is the ridiculous title!!!

Like seriously...get a life!

FINALLY!!! An airport in/close to Makkah

I can’t seem to hold my excitement no more. Not to mention I couldn’t BELIEVE the news. I mean finally after all this time the Saudi government thought of this! Not that 45 minutes to an hour’s drive time from Jeddah to Makkah is too long, or that any pilgrim would complain about a journey being made for Allah. But still I’m sure it will make a difference, atleast to all the elderly and senior pilgrims.

Then again, it now makes more sense to have an airport in or closer to the city that will house the 2nd tallest building (Mecca Royal Clock Tower) in the world. Correct?

Anyways, though they haven’t yet given a start and end date for the project I’m just content with the thought that it’s happening.

My Love & Hate Relationship...with Riyadh (so far)

Having officially lived in (barely) three seemingly different countries over the entire span of my life, I now feel more adept at making comparisons and deductions.

I’ve been in Riyadh for only 4 months, but it doesn’t seem like I don’t know the place enough (already!). I’m sure people who are new to the Middle East region possibly need more time to ‘get to know’ Riyadh but since I’ve lived in Dubai previously for all my life, living in its look-alike is hardly any variation (though, I’m confident that any Dubai-ites reading this wouldn’t be too happy with me making such a claim, perhaps even the Riyadhis would object). But, in my eyes Riyadh is simply a bigger version of Dubai, minus of course all the entertainment and leisure options (aka cinemas, bars & night clubs, concerts, beaches etc.) that we don’t, can’t and never will have here. In anycase there are several things I’ve come to love about Riyadh, and others I simply don’t. Here are a few:

Love: the spacious apartments and villas here (not to mention the almost-affordable rents)
Hate: the frequent sandstorms. It gets so dusty here, that if you’ve cleaned your house (moreover your maid must’ve) in the morning, by sunset you are bound to see a fine layer of dust on everything

Love: the almost empty streets and pavements of Riyadh
Hate: at the traffic signal, cars have no qualms in stopping NOT behind the pedestrian crossing but in fact over it. (P.S- Even my husband does this. His argument “you will hardly ever see anyone crossing the road using the designated pedestrian”. Argh!)

Love: the petrol/gas. Did I mention how inexpensive, affordable, economical and basically cheap it is? The current rate is only 45-60 halalas (US$ 0.12-0.16) per litre!!!!
Hate: women are not allowed to drive here. Need I REALLY say more?

Love: that one of my favourite chicken sandwiches Pikasso (from a popular Lebanese fast food joint Breakfast to Breakfast) is almost double the size of that given in Dubai for the same rate. Yippie!
Hate: I’d be mad to hate something about this!

Love: the excessive parking space available all over
Hate: the way Saudi drivers park their cars on roads and in parking lots. In fact can’t call it park their cars, instead leave their cars! Believe me the sight resembles horse or camel parking!

Hate: at lingerie shops/sections women shoppers are attended by male attendants!!!!!!
Love: that there is a women’s only section in Kingdom Mall (where I can unabashedly check out or even ask for size L or XL knickers, to say the least)

Hate: that there is no concept of changing/trial rooms at retail outlets here. So much for finding out if you dropped a dress size.
Love: seriously NOT APPLICABLE

Love: the so-called cubicles or separators at the family sections of restaurants/food courts (yes please! bring it on...the stuffed burgers, the fettuccine noodles, the tacos etc.)
Hate: that I can’t seem to like ANY of the Chinese or/& Indian restaurants in Riyadh

Well, so far this is all I can remember of what I love&hate in Riyadh. I’ve got a feeling I will come back to make more additions to this brief list in the future. So I’m declaring this post as work in progress!

(Note: You will have noticed that at certain places I’ve referred to Hate before Love. That is not a mistake, it is by default)

Monday, April 26, 2010

From the Eyes of a Simpleton Ex-Dubaiite

Dubai Oh! Dubai Oh! Dubai...du...du...du. Just before you starting thinking that this is Du Telecom’s new jingle, let me correct you - it is NOT. This is actually the unbelievable cry of my sinking sanity.

You know what they say ‘time heals everything’, well I don’t think so (anymore!). I recently got separated. No! not from my husband!! I got separated...from DUBAI- my birth place, my city of recognition, my real hometown. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic but you can’t blame me especially since I (happily) lived in Dubai for 27 years and 331 days exactly!

...Last August my family moved back to home country, rather unfortunately because of my Dad’s retirement and yes! my impending December nuptials. Now, here I am in a new country/city separated from Dubai (my husband and I are currently based in Riyadh), and there is not a single day that goes by without me reminiscing my ‘Du’ time.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss Dubai for its extravagant ‘high life’. In fact coming to think of it, I was hardly ever a club-goer in fact was more a cinema-goer, was always a fan of mock-tails rather than cocktails, and thoroughly enjoyed open beaches more than shopping malls. Yes! undeniably I also LOVED the monthly visits to Dubai’s breath-taking spas, the weekly pedicures, hanging out with friends, eating out at the finest (and sometimes not-so-fine) eateries, driving around town, etc. etc. Ok! Ok! I admit. I did indulge a bit of the metro life, but then who wouldn’t).

I mean can anyone (really) make me forget – those visits to Jumeirah’s open beach, long walks at Zabeel park and Safa park, waterful fun at Wild Wadi; the scrumptious (and yet unbeatable) nachos of Cinestar, the delectable flavas of Al Hallab, Forn O Saj, Al Nafoorah, Reem Al Bawadi, Gazebo, Coco's, China Times, etc.; the teeth-rattling experience of Chillout Cafe and SkiDubai, the glitz and glamour of Dubai Fashion Week, even the endless gamut of Dubai’s entertainment and lifestyle magazines, and most importantly my old Dubai-based friends – all of whom I’ve had to leave behind.

Coming to think of it even Riyadh has everything. Ahem! minus the beaches, the parks, the cinemas, the night clubs, the concerts, the fashion shows, the ski resort etc.

That said, let me assure you I’m living very comfortably in a beautiful villa here in Riyadh, and practically have everything that a woman could want. But! But! But! No matter what anyone may say, for me no place was, can and ever will be Dubai, except for Dubai itself. I’m sure all Dubai-born expats like myself will second that.

Someone once said to my Dad, “Once you’ve lived in Dubai, you can’t live anywhere else”. Guess he was right. Miss you Dubai!