Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sorry friend, come back when the lights are on

One of the downsides of living in Riyadh is that things can close unexpectedly, for unexpected periods of time. This is mainly due to the prayers 5 times per day. They usually occur somewhere around sunrise, at noon, at 3pm, 6pm, and 8pm. The times change on a daily basis, so these times are different every single day. 5 to 10 minutes prior to prayer time, supermarkets and shops and restaurants tend to close their doors and dim the lights. And they'll stay closed for anywhere from 20 minutes to half an hour. To be fair, I should mention that one of the perks of living here is that everything is open until late, because the locals like to do everything at night, and that includes shopping. So that extends shopping hours beyond what we are used to at home. Most malls are open till 10pm and some all the way till midnight. In Ramadan the hours change so that people can shop till they drop at 2am. It is a surreal and unique experience to be at a grocery store at 10pm, lost in a sea of black abayas and white thobes, clinging to your cart for safety.

Anyways, back to the closing times...someone asked me before I left whether they have signs on the doors to tell you when they will reopen after prayers. Wouldn't it make sense if they had those signs with the little plastic clocks with the movable hands on them? This is the part where the expats laugh hysterically at your question. What do they need signs for when they have lights they can turn off and blinds they can close? And when that fails, there is always the classic man peeking out from behind the curtains and waving you away like a fly.

Ramadan has also added to the confusion, with most stores completely closed during the morning and opening in the afternoon. The schedules have shifted but it seems we are still in the dark about when exactly things are open for business. It becomes a kind of horribly twisted guessing game for us expats, especially the newly arrived. This means that getting more than one errand done in a day is a sugary fantasy dream that involves the cosmic fortunes smiling down on you that day, such that traffic, queues, and prayer times would all be working in your favour. Ha! Fat chance!

Anyways, the frustration melts away with a night swim in the compound swimming pool. It's not so bad, really ;)

1 comment:

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