Bedouin camps, date farms and sand dunes

I traveled out into the desert again this weekend to continue the search for the perfect dune. The sand boarding, despite not having the proper gear, is going pretty well. We are still using the old skateboard and waxing it with candles as we haven’t yet decided what would be the best gear.  It is looking like an old snowboard may be the solution. Our biggest problem currently is too much friction. We make good progress until the wax wears off. No matter what we do, we bog down at almost exactly the same spot every time. The board just stops sliding. So, more surface area, slicker surface and bindings to allow for better control and carving may just do the trick! So you have an idea of what looking for a dune consists of, it is literally a visual recon using google earth to look around the desert for wrinkles. Upon finding one, we program the latitude and longitude into the satellite navigation and drive to the spot.
This is a satellite image of the dune we drove to this weekend. The blue dot is us making progress along the route and the dune is the wrinkle at 12 o’clock in the photo. The ripples around it are all of the smaller dunes surrounding the big one. As you can see, there isn’t much else out there!
This is the turn off into the desert from the main road.
First sighting of the dune
Getting closer
The hike in
The summit from part way up
These are the little dunes that look like ripples on the satellite photos
Living the adventure sport dream out here…sort of…I think the nature of female attire is frustratingly limiting when it comes to sport. I feel empathy towards the women who spend their entire life this way.
So the next set of photos are random shots as we headed out to the outskirts of Riyadh. Every day is an adventure here.  The roads are a zoo and the bedouins set up camp wherever they please along side the roads. Additionally, people pull huge trucks over loaded with goods and sell stuff so this makes everything even more clustered.  It is entertaining just driving around. I see an accident, no kidding, close to once a day.  Some more serious than others but there is usually at least a fender bender. The camps are pretty amazing. They just choose a spot and set up camp. There are huge tents and strings of lights, plus pens for the camels. Apparently the tents have rugs and cushions inside and are quite comfy. My goal is to get inside one at some point. I have been told that they are very friendly people if you happen to bump into them but I can’t see myself walking into one of these camps. Some of the establishments out in the desert are more likely as I can get close. I keep hoping to see someone outside and then I will wander over to take photos and say hi.
This is a soccer stadium that is all tented. It is pretty cool architecture and the games are good…but…I won’t be watching one…the lady factor comes into play again…
This is not uncommon to see on the roads.
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Riyadh trucks make Sanford and Son’s look empty!!!
If it fits, it goes! I am waiting for the opportunity to see how they load these guys. I’ve only ever seen them already in the truck. Not the mechanics behind the operation.
Yup, sheep
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Including people. It was about 111 degrees and these guys are in full suits. No joy for them
The next photos are some of the side of the road sales opportunities.  You will see what a zoo it can be.  Lots of hay and what appear to be building supplies are sold this way. Plus bundled firewood.
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Bundles of firewood
And yet another guy selling wood

The next photos I love. They are of much more established camps out in the desert. They have lovely architecture and also beautiful tents.

This is the gate to one of the camps
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Tent
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Camp from a distance so you can see the size of it
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This is a shot of an entire camp. You can see the tents in the distance, some trucks and the camels laying down in the foreground. They push the sand up around the edges to serve as a flood block when it rains.
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This was where a camp used to be, you can see the pushed up earth
Following are photos of buildings that I liked. I have absolutely no idea why they are out there and don’t look as if anyone has used them in a while but I found them appealing.

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The sand was blowing so this is hard to see but the land changes from red sand to brown, rocky earth at this escarpment. I haven’t often see landscapes have a line of demarcation like this. There is generally a more gradual change. It reminds me of cliffs with water at the bottom. Similar dramatic difference
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Camel and date farm
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Date palms to the right
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From a distance to include the whole farm in the photo. They are pretty big. And I want to know how they water the date palms out there.
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This thing has water pouring out of it, no idea from where it comes. Maybe underground springs?
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This is another one, I didn’t see camels here, only date palms
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I love these tall buildings. They make them square and round. I’m sure they have a purpose…I’m still finding people to ask these questions of
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Another one of the tall ones.  The holes don’t really look like windows. They appear to be relief cuts in the side of the building but not all the way through the thickness.

Embassy Party

Oh, I’m a happy girl! They had a pig roast. The party was a lot of fun! It was outside in a courtyard area and was well decorated. They had tiki torches all around and as table centerpieces. Also, on the tables were sand and shells. It was quite pretty. White table clothes and proper napkins and silverware. 

The spread of food was incredible! They had quite a few carving stations, including the pig roast and then hot stations with fish, pigs in blankets, meatballs and spring rolls to name a few. Additionally there were tons of different salads. Potato salad with BACON bits, a few different pasta salads, ambrosia and lots of veggies. Then you move to dessert, yay! There was probably 20 different options. I had four! Pecan pie, spice cake, coconut mousse and the loveliest profiteroles drizzled with chocolate.
There was a DJ who began the evening playing ukulele music but segued into traditional American dance music as the evening progressed. Typically, after a few beverages, everyone ended up on the dance floor! There were people of all nationalities and everyone was open to meet new people. 

I exchanged contact information with a few people and look forward to some new adventures in the future! I had to shake myself a few times when I remembered that I was having this experience in the middle of Riyadh. It felt like a wedding at home where I didn’t know too many people. 
I’ve been told the French embassy hosts fabulous gatherings, as well and think I have a contact to let me know when they happen. On to the next adventure. Let the dream continue!

Le Chateau

I haven’t posted in a while and have a lot to share.  I think tonight will just be photos of the restaurant that I went.  Firstly, I am terrifically pleased with the people in my compound.  I specifically didn’t want to be placed in an American compound here as it seemed rather boring.  Especially as the majority of my friends in the states aren’t from the states. I figured I didn’t need to travel this far to meet a bunch of Americans.  So, this one leaves something to be desired in terms of size and amenities but it has a nice mix of people. I am really pleased to have fallen in with a fun group!  It consists of folks from the UK, Mexico, India, Venezuela, Canada and South Korea.Tonight we went to dinner at a restaurant named Le Chateau. As I am sure you guessed…it is Chinese and Italian food…haha, this is not surprising in Saudi. Anyway, we ate on the second floor, which is Chinese food but we had a tour afterword to see the entire restaurant as it has many different themed rooms.  We passed through the Italian kitchen and they were making homemade pasta and hanging it to dry. Yum!

The restaurant is one of those incredible experiences that you won’t have in too many places. Maybe Vegas or Dubai. It is over the top in so many ways. It is huge, and every room and hallway is different and more exotic than the last.  I can’t begin to imagine what it cost to build. And tonight is a weekend night here and it was practically empty of customers yet still full of staff. Cheap labor wins the day here!

Tomorrow night is the party at the US Embassy. It is a Hawaiian Luau theme and promises to be a lot of fun but you aren’t allowed cameras or phones in the embassy so I won’t have any photos of that one.  It will be a properly fitted out party, though, which will be a nice treat.

Main dining area, had these huge chess pieces around, no idea why.
This light fixture is incredible, it is probably 10 feet long.
This is the top of it.
This is the bottom. It is hanging glass balls
They bring you a basket so your bag doesn’t sit on the floor
Outside, from the back. I don’t have the front, wish I did as it was reflective glass tiles in green and purple set in a diamond pattern
Entry way is to the side, this is some of us walking in, well adorned in our abayas, of course.
Part of the main dining area. The central section is a sushi bar
The below ground level bar. These are giant drinks containers with spigots on them. You can order them with a multitude of flavors of sparkling fruit punch!
One of the dining rooms. It is hard to see but the seats each have a lambs wool draped over them and the table is marble
You walk through a British red telephone box (complete with phone) to get to one of the rooms
I have been told that each of the WC’s is different. I only felt the need to visit one.
Each dish came out on a warmer which was nice
I love this room.  The table is stunning and the wall had a large map of the world cast in metal. It was quite pretty
Part of the downstairs bar area. The cars are billiard tables and the purple fans are spinning, no idea why, I think just decorative
These are both the escalator in the entry way

Playing video games in the downstairs bar. It was fun, they were all set on free play! 

Yet another dining table
This housed the elevator
More video games!
In addition the chess pieces were these large horse sculptures
Still more video games. The motorcycle one was a bit dizzying
Private dining rooms (Saudi ladies can take the veil off in these) that looked like a train. If you put your hand in the lower lit up circles, the doors slid open

Boneyard

Fair warning, this post has some really interesting photos but they may be a bit disturbing to some people.
To begin, on a recent trip into the desert, we passed through a very industrial area that had oil rigs (are they called rigs on land or only when at sea?) and they were flaring, which was quite interesting to see. We also passed huge amounts of garbage that appear to have been hauled out there and dumped. Similar to our dumps but rather than massive mountains all in one spot, these are many small piles.
But, we missed our turn by a bit and ended up finding an animal boneyard. We aren’t entirely sure what we stumbled upon. There were quite a few carcasses and some of them clearly didn’t arrive there under their own steam. It was comprised of goats and sheep and at least one horse.  What I can’t figure out is why the goats and sheep weren’t eaten. It is clear that they were left there intact. Maybe they were ill? Anyway, it isn’t really as gruesome as it sounds and it made for some pretty interesting photos. I took quite a few and have included many of them here.  Additionally, we brought back a few horns that are beautiful and have become a part of my home decor.
Oil refinery flaring in the distance
Date farm
Junk yard
More junk
Flat screen tvs
Another side of the pile of tvs
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So, he has a rope around his hips. Don’t think he walked here that way…
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You can see that, due to the heat, things mummify more than rot here. It was a little stinky but not too bad.
Goats
A spine
Another goat
These plants have little, round melons growing on them.
The following photos are of sculptures made out of oil barrels
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Al Heet Cave

Wow! I had another amazing experience in the desert this weekend. About 45 minutes outside of Riyadh is a cave at the base of an escarpment. At the bottom of the cave is an aquifer with crystal clear, cool water. It is absolutely gorgeous!The cave looks like a huge hole into the base of the escarpment, it is a bit daunting until you get closer. When you get close you see that it is pretty steep but not really difficult hiking, it is a series of big boulders that you scramble down. You can see the water shortly after entering and you just pick your route down to it. There isn’t really a trail. The temperature drops dramatically as you get lower and the humidity increases from 7% to noticeable. It feels glorious!When we arrived there were 4 guys splashing around and they were quite friendly. They had limited English and we have virtually no Arabic but through speaking with them we found out that there is a second cavern that you have to go under water and under a ledge to get to.  We put our goggles on and had a swim down for a little recon but it was pretty deep and got dark quickly. Want to go back with a rope and a light for further exploration.  Apparently, based on an article we found after our trip, the cave didn’t always have water in the first cavern, and there are a few more caverns, not just the second one the guys told us about. I am attaching a link to the article at the end, it is written by a man who used scuba gear to go into the caverns. It has some great underwater photos.

We brought a go-pro camera and a soccer ball and had some fun. The soccer ball got rave reviews by a group of guys who came down a bit later. They had some skills and one guy would toss it and the others would jump in and head it or bicycle kick it.  They had a lot of fun. Additionally, we got some fun footage and still photos with the go-pro. It was also cool to go under water with the goggles and explore around. One of the kids in there lost his cell phone (samsung galaxy 5, apparently very expensive) we let him borrow the goggles and have some looks around. It almost became an issue when we were ready to leave, they weren’t prepared to give them back and tried to offer money for them. There was a significant language barrier and they were not pleased. We packed up and moved out.

The walls of the cave are really sharp, sticky rock with a series of incredible horizontal seams running through them. Would make an amazing traverse. I did some of it but was tough without shoes on and I didn’t want wet sneaks.  There were good seems running vertically as well and you could definitely get good gear placements to lead it. But, it is all overhanging and I don’t know what the top looks like. The bottom would be a jug haul, similar in degrees past vertical and big holds to High Exposure in the Gunks.  I would love to have my climbing gear here. So many big walls with nice seams for gear…If only I had known…

Funny moment, I mentioned to my buddy that I wondered if there were any critters in there. We laughed a little and decided nothing worth worrying about. Approximately 20 minutes later, something wraps around my ankle. My knickers go twisted and I scream like a little girl as I swim as fast as I can away from it.  My dramatic reaction works everyone else up and so we are all swimming towards the rocks to get out.  At which point, one of the guys who told us about the ledge that you can swim under, pointed out that someone had tied a rope to the bottom to help you get down and under.  That was what “grabbed” my ankle! You could see it clearly through the water from a higher vantage point but my heart was racing.  I felt a little silly but I really thought it was a critter. Yikes!

http://http://www.saudicaves.com/cavedive/index.html

The escarpment
The hole…
On the way down
Getting closer
Stunning!
The water is so clear
Horizontal seams, looks like a traverse to me!
The hole from the bottom
Soccer (football) ball fun
I took this from above the water, if not for the reflection, you may not realize my foot is underwater

 

 

 

I suppose I could have left a few of these out but it is a fun progression. Alex doing a front flip. Love the photo burst setting on the go-pro

Daily life in KSA

I have finally made a few purchases of clothing for work. I needed long pants and short sleeve shirts as that seems to be the coverage necessary to fulfill the modest and conservative guidelines for attire.  I was hesitant to purchase clothing as it is a bit of a hassle. Stores do not have fitting rooms here so one must purchase everything in multiple sizes and then walk to the ladies room to use the fitting room, then return everything that doesn’t fit.  I would hate my life if I was in retail clothing sales here. I told the sales guy not to bother folding it nicely as I was going to go try it on and mess it all up but he folded everything beautifully, anyhow.So, I take my nicely packaged clothing to the ladies, which is tucked away at the end of hallway, close the completely full length door (wouldn’t want any chance of an ankle or shoulder to peek out,) try everything on while sweating to death as there aren’t any AC vents in there, and then just dump all the returns back in the bag so I can get the door open as quickly as possible. I thought clothing shopping was less than lovely in the states…whew, there is no joy here! I got fed up after the pants affair and started pulling shirts on over my abaya in the stores. I got a few odd looks so I put on a headscarf. I still got noticed but at least no one will recognize me!

Literally, full length. No air moving in there at all!

Additionally, I managed to not finish my shopping before prayer time (this one was Maghrib, there are five per day) which means that I had to leave everything in the store, exit the store and hang around in the mall common area until everything re-opened. They actually pull the gates down and lock up for about 20 minutes. People were kneeling and praying in the common areas, I just milled about trying not to be impatient with something that I knew would happen and hadn’t timed correctly.  The most frustrating part is that most of the store employees aren’t Muslims and don’t pray but they like the break time so they often drag it on for longer than necessary. The store I wanted to get back into re-opened a full 12 minutes after all the stores surrounding it.

Prayer time
I have a few random things that I want to share that have been adding up. None of them make a post on their own so I thought I would just put in a few miscellaneous things. Some observations I have made and photos I have taken. 
 
  • Arabic often seems to only be a functional form of communication when implemented at top volume.  It often sounds as if my colleagues or driver are shouting whilst on the phone to each other. In person conversations are better but it still tends to be hectic with people repeating themselves and each other and speaking over each other. 
  • Malls and buildings here are exceptionally clean, but the outdoors is generally filthy.  Garbage is everywhere in the streets and even in the desert.
  • While buildings are often fairly luxurious, many things within them are jury-rigged or not as functional as one would expect from a place that appears to be have all the mod cons.  An example is my kitchen faucet. Firstly, it has two knobs, which is a giant pain in the neck for a kitchen tap. I took for granted having one handle that you just pushed side to side to adjust the temperature until I didn’t have it anymore. It is a giant pain in the behind. Second to this is that the two knobs turn on in opposite directions from each other. Suffice it to say, I often scald my hands!
  • A feature that is aesthetically unattractive but is somewhat handy is the individual hot water heaters in every room that requires hot water. My villa has four of them, one in the kitchen and one in each of three bathrooms.  The one in the kitchen stopped working the other day but I was still able to have a hot shower while I waited for the maintenance crew to replace it.
  • Most air conditioning systems are not central air…I have units hanging up near the ceiling in every room, not window units, I don’t know what they are called. (Ched you may know) Also not aesthetically too pleasing but if your central air went out here and you couldn’t get it repaired immediately, you would have to move out, I think.  So, these are useful.
  • There is some sort of drain in all of the wet room floors (bathrooms, kitchens) that may or may not have a cover over it. Covers are a necessity, fortunately mine all came with them. I have friends who have resorted to putting duct tape over theirs. Anyway, the drains are connected to the plumbing system and don’t have elbows like toilets and sinks so there can be a significant odor problem if your drains aren’t covered. Public restrooms tend to be stinky despite always being very clean and when I asked a friend why, I learned about the drains.
  • Stores don’t always have things that you would expect to be common place and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. For example, I went to a Jarir Bookstore which is like a Staples or Office Depot but with a book section as well. Big store. Anyway, I wanted a pocket calendar for my client. When I asked where they were located, I was told that the 2015 calendars weren’t in yet. I said that is ok, I am looking for a 2014 one. He then told me those are all gone. I asked when they would be getting more. He said in a few months when the 2015 ones arrive. He didn’t seem as if this was strange. Apparently nothing worth noting happens between August and December…
  • The abaya isn’t as restrictive as I expected it to be. As a matter of fact, it can be very freeing in some respects. Other than the fact that it is HOT for the few moments that you are out of doors this time of year, it is almost like wearing a uniform. You don’t have to worry about what you put on to go out in public. Leggings or shorts and a t-shirt, do your hair and make-up, pop the abaya over the whole thing and you are out the door. If you covered your hair and face, it would be even less work. That being said, I lived most of my life with the option of not having to wear this so I imagine it would be very different for the women who have never had the choice.
A shot at the mall. Women look very similar while wearing abayas and niqabs. I am not sure how they recognize each other but have noticed that you can tell when someone is smiling even when only her eyes are showing.
If you can zoom in on this photo, please do. These are real, and huge and stunning!  And things very similar are pretty common in jewelry store displays in the malls here.  I don’t believe I have ever seen jewelry like this outside of the Tower of London. The one on the left is emeralds and diamonds, center is all diamonds and the one on the right is rubies and diamonds.  I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try things on and scout prices yet but it is on the list!
This mural is on our classroom wall. It reminds me of home and pleases me immensely to work in this space.
This is a rambutan, it is similar to a lychee. It is a fruit grown in Southeast Asia and the name is derived from the Malay word for hair. I ate some the other night. You cut open this seed pod part and eat the inside which is a whitish ball that has a pit. They are not going to be my new favorite fruit.  They don’t taste like much but have a really weird texture. It is kind of gummy and slippery.
These funny little plastic key tags are very popular here. This guy is driving an E-Class Mercedes and this is his key chain. Every key at my villa has these attached and the same with my friend’s house keys.
Haven’t tried to determine what these are yet but they are in the garden at my client’s villa and they smell divine! Plus they are so pretty. They are growing on a tree. I tried to get the leaves in the photo for identification purposes. Anyone know what this is?
No words. Sights like this are not uncommon. I think I have mentioned the interesting motoring conditions here in an earlier post.

Camel Trail

I had another incredible hiking trip over the weekend.  We went to an old trail that was used to walk camels down into the valley. It was built many centuries ago and has been well maintained and is an easy hike other than the elevation gain and fairly steep grade. But, it is absolutely gorgeous! It reminds me of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon in scope. Hard to imagine until you have seen it.  Additionally, the scope is hard to represent in photographs without some form of reference so I made sure to get people in as many photos as possible. You will see that I have circled some of  them in red in the photos because they are so small, relative to the scale of the landscape, that you would have difficulty spotting them otherwise.Papa B there are geocaches here! I am so disappointed that I don’t have a good gps. May purchase one while in London so I can hunt when I return. Please make recommendations on one for me, thanks!

It is as steep as it looks
Hard to understand the size of this wall but you will see it in its entirety in  later photo
Can you find waldo at the top middle?
He’s a bit easier to see in this one
And zoomed in a bit more
I am dreaming of climbing in this chimney
Top of the chimney, looking straight up
This was dizzying to look down on
Waldo is circled in red on this one
And again, this provides some idea of perspective

Mariyah Center

I finally scheduled a hair cut and color in Riyadh! I had it done shortly before I left South Florida but was more than overdue. I was hesitating due to nerves about not being able to find someone who knew how to do my very blond hair. I had dreams of ending up with orange hair or, worse, no hair at all! As I leave for London on Sunday, I decided that, worst case scenario, I could rock a head scarf for a few days and get it remedied there!I googled around for recommendations and found two places that sounded promising. I then spoke with a colleague of mine whose wife is from Canada and she frequents one of the places that I was considering. I thought that was a good sign and booked an appointment at the Mariyah Center.

I was pleased but a bit leery when they had openings the day immediately following my phone call. I made an appointment for 11:30 this morning. This was to be courteous to my driver as I am currently sharing him with a male colleague who hasn’t gotten his vehicle situated yet and he had to be somewhere at 11.  We had an appointment at 10 at the bank to open our accounts and would travel on from there.  The driver arrived at five minutes past ten and my colleague wasn’t ready. So we don’t arrive at the bank until half past ten but I get my account situated by 11. My colleague is still screwing around with his at quarter past so I call to push back my hair appointment. I am now more nervous as they have no problem delaying the appointment by a half hour and, actually, tell me to come whenever. Yikes!

Back to the colleague…he has propped his laptop on the bank employee’s desk (I never once needed my computer for this transaction!) and is filling out a second set of paperwork.  I look at my driver who rolls his eyes and says “I don’t know what takes him so long!” For the life of me I can’t figure out why it is such a process for him but he is now 15 minutes late for work with no end in sight. Apparently he decided to open two bank accounts despite being on shared time. I recommended that he call the staff and say that he would be late and I left with my driver in order to make it to my appointment. Apparently he didn’t make it to work until quite late. I find it embarrassing to be associated with that level of unprofessionalism. I feel that he should have done his second account on his own time rather than mine and especially our client’s but there isn’t much I can do about it but hope I am not associated too closely with his choices. I am pleased that I didn’t wait around for that time wasting operation.

Back to the hair appointment.  My driver had never been to this place and Riyadh doesn’t really have street addresses. You just give directions based on landmarks or used lat/long coordinates on a map.  The Mariyah Center provides this map:

which didn’t do a whole lot for my driver who doesn’t speak much English. I called to get directions but no one there spoke Arabic. So, I mapped it using the lat/long coordinates and showed him the map that had the streets labeled in Arabic. He found it without issue.
The front door was quite pretty, as are many doors here (I will probably end up posting a lot of photos of doors) and the sign outside was amusing. So nice to not have children in a salon. Nothing worse than someone who drags along their child to impose on everybody else’s relaxation time.
Cave 2 005 Cave 2 007
I enter to a modern salon with no customers other than myself in sight. The staff was comprised of Filipino women and they were a stylish and attractive group. I felt much better after seeing them! My stylist was named Dina and I was told she is good with blond dye jobs.  I asked her to match my current color and give my hair a solid trim but follow the lines of the cut as I am pleased with it.
I decided to get a paraffin hand treatment while my hair was cooking and it was a fabulous decision. They slather on a coconut oil lotion and then dip your hands in melted paraffin. They then slip them into plastic bags and padded mitts. It was really warm and soothing but the best part was upon removal.  The woman sets a timer and does a five minute massage on each hand. Divine…for 20 riyals…which is just over 5 USD! Only complaint was I didn’t have them do my feet, as well.
After applying my hair color, the stylist asked if I would like coffee or tea and when I said yes to coffee she offered a cappuccino. I said that sounded lovely and it arrived on a tray with a muffin and a funny weeble wobble sugar shaker. The service here is above and beyond, yet again.
My sexy foil covered look in the mirror behind the tray!

I picked up a gossip magazine to read and laughed a bit as it was from the UK and I didn’t recognize even one person on the cover. Despite that, trashy reading is trashy reading and it was equally as entertaining as it would have been had I know any of them.  I think I most enjoyed the writing as British English is quite different from American English in style and word usage.

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Overall, the experience was quite pleasant and the cut and color are as I hoped they would be. I think I have found my salon for the duration of my stay here. To finish an enjoyable morning, the cost of the cut, color, deep conditioning treatment and paraffin for my hands was 475 SR which is the equivalent to $126 USD. Cheaper than home and when I asked about tipping I was told to tip whatever I wanted. I explained that I was new to salon services in Riyadh (new to the country, in fact) and could she recommend an amount or a percentage. She said no, it is whatever I want. I went with 20% and she made big eyes at me so I think I was generous. I tip a lot of people here but am starting to think that it isn’t a “requirement” like it is in the States. It is certainly done but I don’t think so officially.
I am pretty certain that I over tip a lot. People are usually pretty pleased after I tip them. Especially the guys at the grocery markets. But the amount that I give them is not very much and they do a lot of work. I haven’t pushed a grocery wagon more than two or three times since my arrival and I rarely touch the groceries. Guys unload my stuff onto the belt, bag and reload it and then push the wagon to the car and load the bags into the trunk. Sometimes I wave them away as I feel like a chump…but generally I let them do it…it is a nice perk.

 

Senior citizen’s bus trip

My compound provides shopping buses for ladies. Two to three times a day the buses go out to the local malls and every day a different local grocery store sends a bus to our compound. I took one today and felt as if I was riding the estuary council bus! My gram and I had a good laugh about it on the phone this afternoon.
One of our buses.

The mall I went to was the Sahara Mall and it is pretty big. 180 stores and a huge food court.  I only spent about an hour as I had a few things I needed to pick up but didn’t really feel like exploring today. I took a few photos but will get back for more detail at a later date.

Many of the stores were familiar from home and the prices are similar. I passed an Express, Victoria’s Secret, Gap and MAC cosmetics to name a few.  A few funny things, the Victoria’s Secret had all of the makeup and perfumes in the front as opposed to the undies but yet, many stores had very interesting undergarments displayed right up front. (See photo below)

This is a rack of bras…yes, they consist of chain and fake diamonds and not much else…there were knickers to match but I felt kind of odd taking photos so I snapped it and hustled out!
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Then there was the guy walking around peddling helium balloons…of Spongebob, no less.
I went to the mall for a few specific items, a new handbag and a bottle of perfume.  My current perfume is almost gone and I was told that perfume is a big deal here so I thought it would be a fun thing to purchase. It is incredible, there are multiple shops dedicated solely to perfume. So you get a lot of help and the salesmen (almost all guys) are very knowledgeable about the scents that they have. I told him about the two most recent perfumes that I have been wearing and he immediately pulled down eight different ones for me to try. All but one of which I found appealing and I am pretty picky about perfume. I was so conflicted between two of them that I left to go try handbags and came back for another round of sniffing.
Just a shot in the mall

 

My abaya shadow
I didn’t have the chance to stroll through the Jewelry Market section of the mall but it is on the list for next time
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I thought that Women’s Secret with all the head to toe jammies in the window was fairly amusing

The other item on my list, a handbag, was due to the lifestyle requirements here in Riyadh. I have always carried tiny little purses or even just wristlets. If I could fit my phone, keys and a lip gloss in, I was good to go. In college I used to say my bags had to pass the MILK test (money, ID, lipstick and keys.) Mobile phones were still pretty new then so I have added that to my list but not much else.  I wasn’t aware of how handy having a car can be until I had to start schlepping my stuff. My bag now needs to hold (in addition to my money, phone, lip gloss and keys) a headscarf (just in case,) a bottle of water, my camera, sunglasses case and a pocket pack of tissues as not all public restrooms have paper. Some just have the not so handy sprayer. So, I treated myself to a beautiful, giant bag. I think my sister is going to end up with this beauty when I move back to the states as it is much more her size preference than mine.

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My giant, very posh DKNY hand bag