Interesting things episode two

Probably one of my favorite aspects of traveling is seeing the day to day things in a different country. One of the clearest memories from my recent trip to East Africa is of the eggs. They were the brightest yellow yolks I have ever seen and made absolutely gorgeous omelets (prepared to order on a deck with a lovely view!) I am constantly shooting photos of the most mundane things that become interesting due to their lack of similarity to the same thing at home. Riyadh has hundreds of things that are VERY different from home so even grocery store trips are entertaining!

The architecture here is stunning! They have every imaginable style. The outside doors and gates in the walls tend to be quite elaborate.
Some of my colleagues. Love our “uniform!”
These next photos are from the Bath’a Souk. It is huge and has almost everything you could think of, mostly cheap versions of them.  There are sections with electronics, clothes, perfumes, jewelry, bags, rugs, spices, bedding, home goods, tents, scarves, you name it, there is a section for it.  It is easy to get turned around in here. I drop a pin on the sat nav on my phone where the car is parked so I know I can get back!
Men cutting and sewing bags
Closed stalls
A few local sweets. They were not too tasty.
More bag vendors

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The array of spices was amazing. So many colors and scents in this area! And they are so cheap. You buy spices by the scoopful here for pennies on the dollar relative to home.


The guy on the right makes tents (the Bedouin kind you have seen in some of my prior posts.) They are lined inside with the patterned fabric on his walls and often have the fringe like he has around his sewing machine table
These guys custom made a bag for my friend in an hour, for 12 USD!
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Probably not buying any wardrobe staples here!


The scarves are incredible here. There is obviously a large market for them in the Muslim community


A bit difficult to make out but the souk is lining the streets, all of the lower levels of the buildings are shops. It reminds me of Chinatown, with many more cultures involved.


Fabrics to buy or have made into something custom at the souk


My friend Alex buying bags for his girlfriend at home
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One of the shoe cubbies outside the mosque that is within the souk
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Measuring and cutting fabric

The next few photos are just a collection of things I found interesting, different, or funny.

Lamb chops on my barbeque…I looove the price of lamb here!
I get paid my monthly salary in cash…and since Riyals aren’t worth much and the highest note is 500, I get a stack every month!
Dinner at Karam Beirut with colleagues. This restaurant has some of the best (maybe the best) Arabic food in the city.
This is how Arabs typically dine. Tons of food on the table for everyone to share. It is wonderful but I have put on a few pounds already. I am paying closer attention now.
Bowling at the Ritz Carlton. There aren’t really any public bowling alleys here. The city has two, one in the Ritz and one in the men’s mall. I beat all but one of these guys…in an abaya no less!!!
“Modest” swim costume. It comes with long pants, as well. Make sure to notice the headpiece. I will stay on shore before I wear this silliness!
On one of the trips out into the desert we stopped at a store that offers supplies for Bedouin camps. It was fascinating. They had a ton of supplies, most of which I can’t imagine using in a tent. It also had many other supplies handy for camel farming and lord knows what.
Industrial size gas burners
Teapots and carafes. Both coffee and tea are huge here. The Arabic coffee is made from barely roasted (mostly still green) coffee beans. It is a yellowish color and many spices are added. I tasted primarily cardamom. It is taken in espresso size cups and is bitter. One usually eats dates with it for the sweetness of them to offset the coffee.
Barbed wire, for keeping camels in or people out?
Cooking supplies
Various home repair needs…I think
Food warmers
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Tent stakes
More warming tables
I could easily sit in these. They are huge
These folding “stools” look pretty handy!


Rice is a staple here
This was posted in my compound. Do you think it would happen at home?
Following are photos from shopping trips I have taken. Some are in the grocery store, others in malls or small retail stores. Quite entertaining.
I have seen many of these realistic mannequins in men’s stores.
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The swim gear packaging is made “modest” in order to be displayed. Some poor guy has the sharpie job
This sharpie artist got creative. Often they just scribble out the ladies faces. He drew on a niqab.
Baby chair in a restaurant. I’m sure that there must be some safety issues around this one
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Not entirely sure what job this guy has but I know it is bad.  This outfit alone in the 110 f or higher temps is brutal
5 Kg tubs of Nutella, heaven is here
Not the most convenient of packaging but this is how one buys eggs.
I’ve eaten rabbit and been aware that it was rabbit and not had a problem with it. This I have trouble with. Looks like little dead babies in the meat section of my grocery store.
Haven’t seen this at home but it is handy feature. Good place for delicate items…but not the eggs… as here they will tip all out if not kept flat due to the poor packaging model.
So one last story. This is so Saudi. I have had 4G wireless internet using a sim card for the 2 months that I have been here. This is because “the prior tenant of my villa left his account unpaid.” Why this impacts me, I have no idea but the business manager for my employer had to battle to get me fiber optic internet. He finally threatened the villa manager that he would find me new lodgings if I wasn’t able to get landline internet here. Seeing as the rent is about 175,000 SAR a year (that is almost $50,000 USD) they didn’t want to lose me and figured something out.  Anyway, the techs came today to install it and this, yes this, is where they put it. Directly above the breakfront in my dining room. I plan to purchase a tapestry to cover it up. Unreal!
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Diriyah: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Diriyah is a town on the outskirts of Riyadh that was the original home of the Saudi royal family. It happens to be directly behind my compound. I have been meaning to get out there but it has been too, too hot.  I finally took a walk out the other day with friends for about an hour. It was all we could stand with the heat and wearing our non weather appropriate public outfits! There are other areas of Diriyah that we still need to explore so I haven’t checked it off of my list yet but wanted to post a few photos. The architecture is really incredible, especially when you realize that it was built by hand, out of mud!  If you want the background on Diriyah, here is the link.

Rockin my abaya and headscarf in 111 degrees!
Again, my stunner of a summer outfit! I bought one the other day that pulls on over my head, rather than snaps all the way down the front. This way I don’t have to worry so much about indecent exposure when I wear shorts and a tank underneath. I was having some moments when the snaps popped open with legs hanging out!!!
I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the garbage here…
In the background on the left is one of the security gates at the entrance to my compound
The buildings are falling into disrepair. Typically the outer layer of mud would be maintained, you can see the mud bricks underneath
The date farms are incredibly lush, and they appear even more so in contrast to the surroundings
These were defense positions for the old city
Again, disrepair but I like the opportunity to see the construction. The roof is thatched with skinny sticks…from where they came, I have no idea as there doesn’t appear to be anything other than date palms here in the way of trees.
Holes to shoot through in the main wall
The view through one of the holes
Same hole, stepped back
This huge flag is in one of my landmarks in the city. Despite having a driver, I have learned my way around pretty well. Sometimes I hire a driver so my employer doesn’t know everything that I do or I will go out with friends and I have to be able to get myself home. There are a number of very unique architectural features in Riyadh that work well as landmarks. This one is easy to see from the main road and is near my compound.  I know to look for my exit when I see it.
I love this huge wall around the city


Since I have been here, there have been very few clouds.  I am curious to see if we get more as fall settles in or maybe in the winter. Additionally, a little weather information. It is easily over 100 every day, usually about 110 but has gotten up to 115. The humidity is only about 7% so it isn’t as bad as it sounds but it is still really hot.  You don’t drip sweat, as it evaporates so quickly off of your skin. I find this much more comfortable than the feeling of it running down between the shoulder blades that we get in South Florida!I am finding that getting enough water on board is a challenge for me. I have almost doubled my intake from that of home and I still get headaches a few nights a week.  I have redoubled my efforts over the past few weeks and am making progress but I have to really make a conscious effort. Between the dry air and the lousy water quality here, my hair and skin are soaking up conditioner and lotion.

It has rained twice since I have been here. Both times you could feel the humidity in the air, it felt so thick. The funny part is that when I looked it up, it was at about 30%. Compared to the 90% at home, this is nothing but it felt significant in relation to what we are used to. Both times it has not lasted much longer than 5 minutes but it absolutely downpoured the whole time. I was in the car for the first one and my driver had the wipers on full speed and yet we still couldn’t see much of anything out the windshield. The second time I was home and discovered that the skylight over my stairway is made of some type of plastic. Rain hitting it sounds like gunshots. As it would be impossible to sleep through, I feel fortunate that it doesn’t rain here too often!

Anyway, the clouds are significant because the shadows that they cast allow much better photos to be taken of the sand dunes.  You can actually see the depth and beauty that I see captured on camera in a way that doesn’t happen in the direct sunlight.  It is also incredibly beautiful to be out in the desert and watching the cloud shadows come towards and then roll over you.  Similar to watching a band of rain come across the water.

I added a lot of photos to this post. Sorry if there are too many but I had trouble choosing just a few. I think each one is lovelier than the last.

Shadow over the road, moving towards me. It is incredible to drive on these roads that appear to have endless sand on either side of them and as far as the eye can see in the distance.
Endless sand
This helps a bit with perspective. These are massive. We hiked this one once, boarded down it and were too exhausted to attempt another round.
This, or one of the next two, may be my favorite photo to date.
I had a moment where I could imagine that I was back at the beach…waving grasses
Ripples in the sand…it didn’t last!
These are just silly photos. These scarecrows are all over the city, wherever there is construction. They are very realistic looking from a distance. We slow down whenever we see them, then remember that they aren’t people. They amuse me.

Thoughts on a Tuesday

I am soliciting opinions. There are many people who live and work here, and have for years (10-15) but have children at home in their country. So they see them once a year for a month and they are being raised by cousins or grandparents.

I am not speaking about the families where one parent does this. I understand the desire to provide a living for your family and, although it isn’t what I would choose, at least the child(ren) have a parent. I am speaking of the many families where both parents are here. I met a women the other day whose 14 and 4 year old live at home with cousins while she and her husband are here. She has had this job for 15 years, she was pregnant and gave birth here then the children went home to be raised by a cousin. She is now bringing them here as she wants the chance to be with them, which I think is great. And I may have a chance to ask more questions about her thoughts on this as I get to know her more but didn’t want to be too nosy. Yes, I am learning tactfulness (I still consider it beating around the bush!) , although it kills me at times to not simply come to the point.

What is the point? Is the desire to procreate that strong? There doesn’t seem to be any of the “joy” of having children. Am I just being judgmental or does this seem odd to anyone else? My thought would be to not have them if I then had to leave them to provide for them. Functionally, it is like not having them, except for one month per year.

Granted I come from a family where my parents chose to live on one income so mom could stay home with us and I know many (most?) families in the states aren’t willing to make the sacrifices that involves. So, I am biased towards prioritizing parental involvement due to my background. But, speaking as a professional who works with tough children, the best results happen when a parent is involved in the process of raising the child. Even with very low functioning kids, parents hold a strong draw and a lot of power.  With typical children the power is even greater if the parents choose to involve themselves as more than just a dinner partner.

One of my good friends from childhood remembers my mother more fondly than hers as the parent she spent the most time with growing up. We were the family that went to the beach and to the water slides in Misquamicut and a multitude of other fun things. Rather than the family where the parents went to work.

Quite a heavy thought in the morning, golly! Anyway, please chime in. I would love to hear opinions on this. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I know a lot of my high school peers have children and have chosen to work rather than stay home.  And the teacher people in my world, I know you have strong opinions on parenting! And all the “Chester Network” folks (you know who you are) you raised a whole slew of us quite nicely, sometimes I felt like I had a team of parents. Tell me your thoughts, please!