Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Raining Men

Obviously Saudi Arabia is radically different from most countries but it's the little things that sort of stick in the back of your mind.  One of the most difficult things to get used to so far is the weekends here.  They are Thursdays and Fridays, the work week starts every Saturday morning for me and it blows my mind every week. In Islam Friday is the holy day when everyone should go to mosque and pray and listen to a short sermon much like Christianity's Sunday, they take it a bit more seriously than most Christians though.
But perhaps a more subtle difference I have noticed is the lack of females working especially in those professions where females generally dominate. Cashiers - men, sanitation workers - men, clothing stores - men, fast food employees - men, lingerie stores all staffed by men.  Women have been removed from the workforce to a large extent.  Women are allowed to work but only in places where they will only be dealing with other women. Banks have a male section and a female and never the twain shall meet.  It is surprisingly odd to watch a woman in her abaya (black robe) shopping and dealing with the male clerk and looking and around and seeing a sea of beards and mustaches manning the cash registers.
Hope is on the way I was told today. Medical studies have been integrated and so far the entire civilization has not collapsed; rumours are swirling that within the next 5-10 years the other disciplines could be integrated as well and then it would be easy to imagine a time when I can go to the grocery store and have my   eggs, milk, and kunafa rung up by a member of the opposite sex.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sometimes I feel like a woman

Riyadh is not known for its social life even within Saudi Arabia it is infamous for its conservatism and lack of extracurricular activities.  The locals say its because the imams (religious leaders) hold sway here and that free time is better spent studying the Koran than out doing something which may lead to something unIslamic.  There are no cinemas here or theaters, music in public is not condoned, of course there are no pubs or bars to be found as alcohol is a no-no.  Shisha, or water-pipe, is not permitted in Riyadh though other cities allow it.  There are coffee shops which serve as something reminiscent of a pub as the locals gather round to watch soccer on big screens while they sip tea and coffee. Apparently there are bowling alleys and pool halls though I have yet to spot either in my time here.  All in all it is pretty slim pickings for evenings and weekends except one activity that all people can partake!
There are more malls here than in any other place I have been there are two very large malls within 100 meters of one another with a third smaller one just across the road.  They are open late and they are generally packed with people of all ages.  So far I have been here 7 weeks and every single weekend I have gone to one shopping center or another.  I have fallen under the advertisers spell as I continue to convince myself that I need new things, must have something new.  Mostly this desire comes out of my sheer boredom; going to the mall is an easy way to kill 2 or 3 hours but going without buying something seems like a waste of time so I continue to get things I don't really need. For the first time in quite awhile I have a bit of disposable income and I can afford to waste a bit of cash on the unnecessary things in life but it does rather defeat the purpose of coming here to save money.
I blame it on the rather shrewd Saudi government they have created the world's first economy centered on boredom.  They attract foreigners with promises of high-paying jobs tax-free and then they remove all the elements of fun thus leading those foreigners to go shopping spending their hard earned money back into the local market it's brilliant.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Only 316 Days Left!

So this is the third attempt I have made at maintaining a blog supposedly it's the charm.  What I really think will help me maintain this blog will be the fact I am in Saudi Arabia and the social life is less than bustling.  It's been 7 weeks and so far I have been out on the weekend the same drink tea.  Not quite the city that never sleeps.
I am an English teacher which generally gives me the opportunity to meet and interact with lots of individuals and hear their stories and Riyadh has been no different. I teach university students and the difference between my expectations, the administration's warnings and the reality of what these kids are thinking and saying has been huge.  Of course we think of the Kingdom as a supremely conservative place and officially it is no alcohol, no women uncovered, everything closed for prayer, and of course the worst part of it all NO BACON! The management at the university warned us not to speak about religion, politics, or the opposite sex with these impressionable youths.  And what do these young want to discuss - religion, politics, women, and of course alcohol. It could be a long year.