Me & My Abaya aka Black Tie Attire:-)
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Me & My Abaya aka Black Tie Attire:-)

Me & My Abaya aka Black Tie Attire:-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day Two in Riyadh

I failed to mention in the first post that while we were eating dinner our first night we received a phone call from Mez. He is the gentleman that recruited Gary for this position. He is a very “Americanized” Saudi , married to an American and loves the US.

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/dinner 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 basically 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, chugged down the tea and then cried a little. The $2,500 apartment came with no dishes, etc. 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 burkas. 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 only my bra!! I decided there was no reason to fully dress & since it was very warm in Riyadh I thought all would be fine. I had asked 2 western women who have lived here for sometime about the dress “code” – guess they assumed I knew as long as there were no men at this function it’s “allowed” to disrobe. 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 were 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. High rates of diabetes as well.
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 Burka’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!!
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