Monday, August 31, 2009


Iftar is the meal when the fast is broken during Ramadan. Tonight hubster and I were treated to an awesome traditional Iftar buffet at the Marriott by our friends. Sorry guys, I would have taken pictures, but I'm bad at doing the I-didn't-know-that-was-a-rule face when security starts shouting at me. I could expand on this section but I will not. =)

This was my first time having some of the 'national' food. We've had lebanese food before, and I'm sure a lot of the dishes could be classified generally as 'middle eastern' but hey. To me it was mostly new. Some things I've never had before - date juice - "Jalab". MMMmm that was good. It wasn't too sweet, which was nice, and I had 3 cups of it. Dates are commonly the first food that a muslim will break their fast with, so of course I had a couple of those too. There was a lot of delicious grilled meat - lamb, chicken, beef, though no camel, and of course no bacon. A ton of different types of appetizers and salads, and all kinds of dessert. Many of the traditional desserts seem to be coated with some kind of sugary syrup that makes your teeth hurt. But that's okay, right? 'Cause who needs teeth? My favourite by far was the Um Ali, otherwise known as Ali's mom. Let me tell you - Ali's mom tastes like buttery creamy goodness with almonds on top. I will take Ali's mom home with me any day of the week. Don't ask hubster how he enjoyed dessert because all he got was fruit and a marshmallow. Hubster is on a diet and that's how he likes it, so don't feel sorry for him, because I don't. (I do a little but it's important that I don't show pity or he might cave) (it's okay he never reads this blog)

One kind of weird thing was that a clown showed up to dinner. This clown was all decked out in clown ecoutrements - you know, the wig, the big shoes, the crazy costume, the scary makeup. We were sitting in what seemed like a giant pile of screaming children, and as soon as the clown showed up you know what happened, right? I don't even have to tell you what happened because you already know that all the children started crying. Because let's face it, that's what clowns *really* do to children. We were told that it isn't the most common thing to see clowns around during Iftar(thank god, for the children) but that it does happen occasionally, since this is a festive time for everyone. No Santa, right? You gotta give the kids something I guess...

Speaking of kids - next post will be toys!

Monday, August 17, 2009


It's a beautiful concept - like Christmas dinners for a month, I hear. People put up Christmas lights and last year when I peeked into some homes that were celebrating on my compound, everyone looked like they were having a great time. It was like that scene from Home Alone when Kevin watches the old shovel man reunite with his family through a window.

But for expats a lot of us are here without family and without our friends from home, what we see of Ramadan is that we can't eat in public during daylight for a month, the stores all keep even wonkier hours than they normally do, and there's chaos on the roads and in the malls in the evening. Because of this, many expats leave the country during this holiday, which leaves compounds deserted, and the remaining people sitting around wondering when everyone is coming back. Another trifle of inconvenience is wearing a headscarf. During this month in public, even non-muslim women are expected to cover their hair out of respect. Headscarves were specifically designed to fall off the head while you are holding groceries, so that people around you can give you dirty looks. Ahhh... Ramadan.

On the upside, we'll hopefully be having some people over who celebrate Ramadan during Iftar, the breaking of the fast. Looking forward to that! Hubster also has shortened hours, which is also a very good thing. There's always some kind of silver lining, right?

Monday, August 10, 2009

jet lagging it

I've been bouncing between the world of the unconscious and reality. The last couple of trips I've had here I've been able to adjust pretty quickly, but now, a full one and a half weeks after my arrival, I've only had a couple full nights sleep. Either I sleep only for a few hours at night and then get up and putter around, or else I sleep for 12 hours and I get up and putter around. This means I've also been missing all the morning bus rides to get groceries and to go to souks and the like. Disappointing! Hopefully I'll get into the swing of things in the next week or so. I've been taking the odd antihistamine to help get to sleep, which works, but I don't want to deplete my supply in case something major happens, like if I get bitten by a muttawa and have an allergic reaction. No, I jest. But seriously, I can't get Benadryl here - they don't have even a generic brand of it. They have chlorphenirmine, which could be a good antihistimine....for me to poop on! No, I jest again. I suppose there's nothing wrong with chlorphenirmine and I could try it, I'm just used to Benadryl. So. I've been rationing my supply. Hubster says we should go buy some Ambien, which is a prescription product in the US, but is an ask-and-thou-shalt-receive product here. And I could always try melatonin or valerion here, I suppose... Or I could just do nothing, which I'm pretty good at doing according to my mother.

Friday, August 7, 2009

marhaban back

I love to welcome myself back to the kingdom. It has been a nice week back on the compound and I've met a few new faces and said hello to some old ones. Each trip back gets a bit easier. I did a little bit of practice at the driving range at the Intercontinental this and managed to leave my abaya at home. Which is not the biggest deal, because you are allowed to be unsheathed on the golf course. But obviously I am still getting back into the swing of things here. Some people ask if you can get thrown in jail if you're not wearing an abaya in public spaces and the answer is no, but you *can* get harassed and stared at, which is every foreigner's dream come true. The good news is that they come in a variety of colours, ranging from jet black all the way to blue black, and all the black you can handle in between. You know what they say - "Black: it's the new rainbow."

I went to a maa salama party last night, which is basically a goodbye party. Riyadh is a transient place for many westerners and people come and go, quite often collecting on hardship postings and then returning home or jetting off to some other form of civilization. They are typically all-evening affairs and guests usually bring some kind of maa salama gift, often serving as a reminder of the person's time abroad. Or, if you are a guest like me and are suddenly informed of this custom in the car on the way to a maa salama, you bring a dolphin shaped balloon (that has nothing to do with anything) because that's all you could find at Riyadh Gallery, a mall that seems to sell women's clothing exclusively, and it would be even more (but not much more) ridiculous to bring women's clothing as a gift.

Anyhow, I thought it was interesting to begin my trip here with a goodbye. It was really kind of sad that it had to be that way because they were a very very nice couple, but at the same time everyone was happy for them to be moving on.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A little visitor

Hello All, nice to see you again. I see there are some new comments on my blog, even while I've abandoned it completely to frolic in the non-summer of Toronto. Non-summer because Toronto was frightfully cold and damp while I was back, no doubt the man upstairs had known about my return and decided to vex me personally with all that rain. Anyhow, thanks very much to anyone who's dropped by and left a note.

I usually fly Emirates into the Kingdom and it always involves a lengthy unavoidable layover in Dubai before the 1.5 hr flight into Riyadh. Any Emirates layover that is longer than 8 hours and less than 24 results in a complimentary stay at their hotel in Dubai. It's not a bad hotel, it's really not. It's usually quite clean and good enough for its purposes. But this time in the middle of the night as I was engrossed in a TV movie, I had a little visitor.

The cockroach was about the size of my thumb, crawling across the floor. I don't know where he came from but I was panic stricken as I'm terribly scared of insects. The first thing I did was look through the drawer for a Bible of some sort, and then shook my head at myself for thinking there would be a Bible there. No matter, I found a much better weapon at my disposal: Mr. Phone Book. One swift throw across the room accompanied by a girly squeal from me, and that little sucker was squashed. I couldn't bring myself to clean it up because I'm very squeamish about this sort of thing.

In the daylight the maid came in and removed all traces of the gruesome murder. So that's how I'm starting my trip back to the Kingdom: as a deadly killer.