Saturday, February 20, 2010

(mis)directions in Riyadh

So like many locations all over the world, Riyadh is a city that does not have numbers on all its buildings and doesn't have names for all its streets. Riyadh also boasts multiple names for some of their roads, which in the extreme case can have an English nickname, an Arabic shortname, and a full length Arabic proper name - which usually sounds something like "King Abdulaziz Mohammed Fahd III blah blah blah Road" When you have a population of fifty thousand, I suppose that doesn't matter very much. But when your city has millions of people in it and grows at a substantial rate every year, directions become a kind of complicated thing.

There's no such thing as "237 Bloor St West" here in Riyadh. HA! No, the way it works here is you have to describe the landmarks around the building you want to get to. Say you want to go to Jarir Bookstore. That's fine, there's like five of them, so here's your conversation with the driver: "It's off the highway, North Ring. You know North Ring? No? Okay, It's near Le Mall. You know Le Mall? No? Okay, it's across from Duo, that Italian restaurant. No? Great. What did you say? Exit 5? Hmm...I dunno is it off Exit 5? Where is Exit 5? Carrefour? Hmm... I dunno if there's a Carrefour there...WAIT there's a Carrefour IN Le Mall. Yes, that must be the one, it's where you have to get off the highway and then loop around, right? Yes yes, that's the one."

If you get in a car and don't know your general directions and major streets (hello, me) and are not talented in the way of having the above type conversations, it is very easy for you to say something like "Faisaliah" meaning that you want to go to the mall 5 minutes away, and then have the driver take you to "Faisaliah" the compound half way across the city. And then when you are almost at Faisaliah *compound* you might realize what has happened and unfortunately not have time to make it back to Faisaliah *mall* because prayer will be starting by the time you go all the way back. So instead, you just go home, aggravated, but now educated and enriched by the fact that you now know a compound called "Faisaliah" exists...TRUE STORY.


Stacy said...

There's a Faisaliah compound? Really? Wow. What a stuff up. I would expect the people wanting to go there are getting taken to the tower all the time.

I'm always paranoid that my taxi driver is taking me to the wrong place, especially when I haven't been there very often or they decide to take a short cut.

I like to think of it as an adventure... with a price tag.

Orchidthief said...

Yeah faisaliah compound...who knew, right? I think you nailed the whole sentiment - we women wouldn't mind being taken to the wrong place so much if we a)didn't have to pay for the mistake and b)didn't have to worry about prayers

mashrabiyamyjourney said...

hahhaaha...i was cought off guard as well when i 1st time arrived...hop in the taxi and give the driver my office address with all the postcode and building name..however the driver who claimed to know that place end up leaving me somewhere about 20km away from my supposed destination...the only good thing is that i got discounted of 5riyal from 30riyal i had to really my bad hair day back then..