A Western Woman’s View-Living in Riyadh, SA, Post 1
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A Western Woman’s View-Living in Riyadh, SA, Post 1

A Western Woman’s View-Living in Riyadh, SA, Post 1

In 2009 Gary was a consultant for King Saud University in Riyadh, SA for 6 months. His role was to advise them on how to build a research park. Since he served as VP of Research Triangle Foundation for 16 years this was a perfect fit. For me it was a journey. I joined him for 1 month. There were not a lot of opportunities available for women in The Kingdom, so once I arrived & settled in, I started a Blog – my first ever. Depending on your generation we use to “blog” by writing in a diary. Enjoy the read & thanks for taking the time to “travel this journey” with us.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Day one in Riyadh – April 2009

We made it to Riyadh safe and sound on Sunday morning around 9am. We are 7 hours ahead of NC.  They don’t observe daylight savings time here so it gets dark early.  Living in a city surrounded by the desert you can imagine it’s very dusty here, constantly blowing our noses more than normal. I think I’ll take the pollen.  We’re staying in the city in an apartment, about $2,500 a month – 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, small kitchen & den.  Interesting for sure.  Tile floors throughout, 10-12 foot ceilings, very limited closet space, kitchen has a very small gas oven/stove. The propane tank sits next to the stove so we have to turn it on each time and light the burners with a match.  Small windows in each room – 4 total.  Not a lot of light.  You Wolfpack fans will appreciate that the furniture, drapes and rugs are all in the red family. Being a UNC graduate, Gary was excited about that color scheme:-).  AC works very well, thankfully.  The staff is very accommodating, especially to women.  They all were glad to see Gary return.  A few of them speak some English and those that don’t smile a lot – it’s entertaining.

We made a quick trip to the grocery store.  All men working in the grocery store and mostly men shopping – that was a interesting, nice surprise. They basically have everything that we have, except pork, but you have to make sure and check the expiration dates since everything is imported.  I’m waiting to speak with some of the western women here about what meats to purchase.
We purchased a toaster so we could at least have a bagel or waffles in the morning as well as a ceramic coffee cup for my morning tea – more on this story in day 2 in Riyadh.
Thanks for checking in and following this adventure!
  • Pingback:From The Ground Up! Events | Me & My Abaya aka Black Tie Attire:-)
    Posted at 21:32h, 10 January

    […] He called to inform me that I had received an invitation to attend a function/dinner with one of the King’s wives. Not sure which one she was but Mez said she was the favorite – the King only sends his “favorite” out in public. The King has 3 or 4 wives. All Saudi men are “allowed” 4 wives – lucky them – more than one woman telling them what to do:-). The event was held in conjunction with The International Conference For Nanotechnology Industries (more on that in day 3). I thought Mez was joking with me. I told him I didn’t have anything to wear. He said he would take me shopping for my Abaya (the long black “housecoat”) on Monday afternoon. Nothing like waiting till the last minute!! We went to an outdoor market/bazaar. The first one I tried on I liked and ended up purchasing. It’s black with gold lace appliques around the neck and down the front and also on the cuffs. It also has gold type jewels – very blingy. It’s very nice and quite comfortable – like wearing a long housecoat. Or I as I call it my “little black Saudi dress.” This shopping “experience” began at 4pm on Monday – the event began at 8pm. The event was held at the Intercontinental Hotel – very nice hotel-I begged Gary to let me stay there for the next 30 days – didn’t work. OK – now back to my first morning in the apartment. After Gary left for work I looked forward to my first cup of tea and bagel & watch the news. Had the tea steeping and the bagel in the toaster, stepped into the den to check something, came back into the kitchen and it was full of smoke. The toaster burned the bagel to a crisp. No ventilation in the kitchen so I had to pull a chair in and open the window – that really didn’t help all that much. I also learned they don’t have smoke detectors – the whole apartment smelled of smoke all day. Bagel number 2 – burned that one as well – the toaster SUCKS – you have to watch it even on the very lowest setting and pop it up before it’s done. Good ole Black and Decker for you! I decided to scrape off the burn and have it with my cup of tea. Well I sit down with my tea and bagel and notice the outside of my cup is wet – there is a crack in my new cup – the water must have been too hot and cracked the ceramic. I ate the burned bagel, slammed down the tea and then cried a little. Gary had already advised me not to venture out on my own so I felt somewhat “imprisoned” – not a good first morning in our “home”. As far as watching the news -hahahaha – yesterday’s news comes on but only at 6am in the morning. After that there’s basically NOTHING to watch – seriously. So I decided to get over it, finish unpacking, wipe down all the dusty tables and nest a little. Moved furniture around and then took a 3 hour nap – felt like a new person when I got up. Then it was time to get ready for the dinner party. Mez’ wife, Donna and their 2 oldest daughters, and I arrived at the hotel. As soon as we “checked in” the women proceeded to the coat check area and started peeling off their berkas and that’s when you actually saw a Saudi woman in “real” clothes. I had no idea we were allowed to “disrobe” so I didn’t – mainly because I had on a pair of black dress slacks and my bra!! I decided I was going to cool it that night since it is a little warmer here but also didn’t realize you could do that – no one told me. I had asked 2 western women who have lived here for sometime about the dress “code” – guess they assumed I knew this part. At least my bra matched my slack:-). Anyway, no problem. Live and learn. We walked in and proceeded down an aisle “entrance”. Women on both sides welcoming us. At the beginning of the line one woman had incense burning. You were to stop and fan the aroma toward your nose and breath in – felt like I was back in the 70’s again. We were served Cardamon coffee and LOTS of sweet desserts, small sandwich type pieces but mostly sweets. We proceeded to another lobby area and sat down and chatted for over an hour, while they continued to serve the coffee and desserts. We finally were escorted to the ballroom where they had a stage set up with props (they could have used some help in this area). Several rows of Chivari chairs we out. At the front of the room they had 3 rows of white couches with beautiful navy lace throws trimmed in blues tassels with crystal bobbles. There were about 8 couches per row. These were reserved for the VIP guests, which our group happened to be in that category. The “princess” was seated 2 rows in front of me. The program went on FOREVER and was in Arabic except for 2 short speeches in English. One thing I have noticed is how rude people can be during meetings or events. Doesn’t matter what’s going on, if your cell phone rings you answer it and talk as long or as loud as you want. The program FINALLY ended at 10:45-11pm and moved to another ballroom to eat dinner. That’s what these folks do – they eat anywhere from 9:30-midnight. Lots of breads and LOTS of sweets. The food was what we have in NC – beets, corn salad, slaw, taboulli, hummus, chicken, fish, beef (not so good cause they cook it to death). No pork. They had some traditional SA food which I thought was awful. I had no idea what it was and couldn’t tell you if you made me. While I was at this event, Gary was with Mez “dining” in the Pakistani area of Riyadh. He said that was an interesting time – he wasn’t quite sure what he ate except one thing set him on fire – he had to undo his tie and wipe his forehead several times. While he was in that area, Mez told him that the Kingdom still holds public executions of people for breaking the law. Gary asked if it was by firing squad and Mez replied “no – beheading”. Mez said 2 Pakistanis will be executed this Friday. He has witnessed only one and said it brought him to his knees. Guess that’s why there’s no crime rate over here – not tolerated. But why would ANYONE want to witness an execution? When we got home Gary smelled like a mixture of spices. He said Mez made him spray some cologne to hide the odor – the cologne was worse – gagged me! It was 2:30am before we got to bed – all this partying and no alcohol & only on Day 2!!! As far as the “norm” for eating out the earliest time you are invited to a dinner is 8pm – after the last prayer which usually ends around 7:30-7:40 pm each day. Saudi weddings begin at 8pm and go until 5am or 6am in the morning. They have the ceremony then the men and women go into separate rooms. As soon as the men leave the women disrobe and the party begins (of course it does:-). The groom does come in later in the evening to be announced. The women put the Berka’s back on until he leaves – then they disrobe again. (Maybe it’s a good thing they don’t allow alcohol over here – the women might forget what to take off and what to put on by the end of the party). The men are in one room, talking, watching the kids and the women in the other room eating huge buffets and listening to music and socializing – and they say men are in charge over here – huh!! Thanks again for checking in. I’ll try to be more timely in these posts. The internet service has been down until today so it’s been hard to log on in stages. Enjoy your day!! To read original blog post & more https://fromthegroundupadvisors.com […]

  • Pingback:From The Ground Up! Events | The Lamb Pickin
    Posted at 13:58h, 12 January

    […] Gary was invited to a dinner honoring one of the executives that was responsible for the position that Gary now holds.  At the dinner they sit on the floor but didn’t eat off of plastic (that occured at another dinner a few months back).  Each group – about 6 per “table” sat on the floor around a table top (on the floor) about 5′-6′ in length.  A cooked lamb was placed on each table – head to tail, literally. There were probably 8 tables total.  The server came by each table and removed the head and then everyone “dug” in with their hands and began eating.  Gary said he didn’t really eat all that much – I would have passed out & I have a pretty tough stomach.  This is one of the times I’m glad women were not invited.  Don’t know that I could have done that but when you’re in Rome do as the Romans do or so they say. The reception prior to The Lamb Pickin’ was basically the same as what I experienced on Monday evening – sweets, stuffed grape leaves, small sandwiches, Cardamom coffee, hot tea, more sweets and coffee. Wednesday morning I was able to watch the CBS Evening News – you all paying attention?? I said Wednesday MORNING I was watching the EVENING news – (Tuesday night news).  All of the TV programs that we enjoy watching are from last season.  Still haven’t figured this one out – control maybe?? We were invited to dinner at the home of Mez and his wife, Donna and their 5 daughters. Donna is an American so the girls have had a taste of the US when they travel to visit her family.  They live on the University compound.  Mez is a professor at King Saud University.  These young ladies all speak at least 2 languages, some of them 3 – they include Arabic, English and Russian. One of the advantages of growing up in Saudi is that is SO international.  Their 3rd daughter’s best friend is Russian.  Her Russian friend could speak no English when she arrive in SA.  So the girls taught each other the other ones language. However, the things that these girls have either never experienced or very limited access to is a concert, going to the movies, seeing a Broadway show, going to basketball games.  They all love basketball games! The museums they have visited are all in other places – Washington, DC, Paris, Germany, etc.  That’s another upside of living in SA – seeing other fascinating places. With that said if you travel by air – well the airport experience is like a Saturday Night Live skit – I kid you not. Their oldest daughter wants to be a Vet but there are no vet schools here for her to attend.   The school they attend is segregated.  The 3rd daughter, a 7th grader,  has a total of 38 girls in her class – she has no idea how many boys are at the school.  I asked her if they have graduation from high school and if they did would they have a ceremony together.  She said she really didn’t know but more than likely no. You can look at their lives as the glass half full or half empty for these girls – but how many of us can say that we speak 3 languages (not taught in our schools) and have traveled to several parts of the world at such young ages?  This family has been delightful to get to know and now we can say we have friends in Saudi Arabia! Wednesday is our Friday.  Gary goes back to work on Saturday – Wednesday. Tune in for more and… Enjoy your day! To read more posts: https://fromthegroundupadvisors.com […]

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