30 Aug Day 3 in Riyadh – The Nanotechnology Conference
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Day 3 in Riyadh
Tuesday is day 3 for us. I was able to attend the Nanotechnology Conference with Gary today held at the Intercontinental Hotel. The men were in the main conference room and the women in the back conference room. The women were able to listen to the speakers by video conference. The speaker, at the time we arrived, was a doctor from Rex Hospital in Raleigh – how weird is that?
Two very nice Saudi women approached me during the break having recognized me from the previous evening function. I guess Western women in Abaya’s sort of stand out around here. Both of them work at the College for Women and provided their contact information to me. I have already received an email from Najla – pronounced Na-gee ya, who is arranging a tour of the college for me. I’m working on trying to find a temporary position at the College during my visit.
As I started to leave the conference room I was stopped by a guard motioning me back into the room since I did not have a male escort. I explained that I was meeting my husband in the lobby, who was also in attendance at the conference. He motioned for me to “GO” so I did. You could see all of the Saudi men looking at me wondering why I was allowed to walk through the conference center with no escort. So I hurriedly made my way to the lobby area. I felt special believe it or not.
The exhibition hall was open from 8:30 – 12 noon for the men and 1pm – 3pm for the women. They keep everything here fairly segregated. One of the registration attendants told us that at a conference two days before this one they allowed men and women to attend at the same time but so much objection was raised that the Nano conference had to segregate. They had to quickly reprint all of their programs – I’m talking 4 color program booklets – no cheap print jobs.
After leaving the conference we ate lunch in the hotel restaurant. I was allowed to be seated in the main dining room with other men. This is a big adjustment because in other restaurants I am only allowed in the family section – which is closed off from the public. The windows are usually frosted so no one can see inside. Gary is only allowed in the family section if I am with him – otherwise he is seated on the “single” side.
Once we left the hotel by cab, we were at a traffic intersection beside a 15 passenger van full of young boys. This was actually their school bus. As soon as they saw 2 westerners in the cab they immediately started waving and saying “hello” and smiling. I wish I had thought to take a picture of these boys – they were so cute and excited to see us.
As an FYI – you don’t want to drive in Riyadh – trust me. NY drivers are more than mild compared to these drivers.
Coming up tomorrow – The Lamb Pickin’