Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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)


  1. This was the funniest and frankest comparison i've ever read. Jeez, i never knew there were so many restrictions in society, the worst of which are the designated cubicles while dining. That completely takes out the fun of dining..and male attendants at a lingerie shop Urghhhh. Imagine this:
    Attendant: Ma'am what cup size are you?
    Customer: I've lost weight i need a bra fit please.

    ARgghhhhhhhhh save me.

    But, I loved it gurl. keep it coming - my daily does of a slice of life, from the other side. muwah.

  2. totally agree with the parking thing, my husband is always annoyed by it!

  3. Riyadh sucks! I hate the gender segregation policy at restaurants, so stupid.