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.

One thought on “Daily life in KSA

  1. Hey Sage,
    Thanks for these interesting updates! Glad you are adjusting to living overseas! Those flowers, are they Stephanotis–Madagascar jasmine? They look beautiful and most types of jasmine are very fragrant. Let us know what you find out!


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