OK, so I've been living here for what...a year and a half now? And in that span of time, I've managed to lose two cell phones: one the maid threw it out with the trash (not really my fault), and the other abandoned in a taxi in Dubai (completely and utterly my fault). Unfortunately you CANNOT be without a cell phone in Riyadh. There aren't a lot of payphones around, and as a woman, you can't go anywhere if you don't have a phone to call your driver to pick you up afterwards.
I've always been under the impression that cell phones are very expensive in Riyadh, because any time you walk into a cell phone store at mall, the ones on display are all in the range of 1000 Riyals or more. I found out yesterday that I couldn't have been more wrong. For whatever reason, I've never actually spoken to an employee at one of these stores before. When I approached the counter at Axiom and asked for their cheapest cell phone possible, the guy responded with "we have a hundred" and sent a minion to the back to retrieve phones. I asked, "a hundred what? a hundred phones? A hundred dollars?" The manager clarified, "no, a hundred riyals!" The minion came back with four phones in the 100-400 riyal range. I was totally gobsmacked. I figured there must be some major inconvenience in a 100 riyal phone and asked, "oh you must not be able to send text messages with them or something, right?" And he shook his head, saying, "m'am you can send and receive texts with all of them, there's just no camera." ...well that's not really inconvenient is it?!
In Canada, we pay insane monthly rates for our cell phone coverage compared to other countries. And if you want to use Pay-as-you-go, Rogers - the Canadian kingpin of legal extortion - charges $40 for a freaking SIM card! I have to control myself here, because I could go into a lengthy diatribe on the morally reprehensible activites of the evil Rogers Empire, but I'll spare you the details.
When I got back into the car, I was pontificating on my discovery to the driver, who told me his cell phone cost 85 riyals. And that he has to buy cheap ones because his daughter likes to chew on them. I guess the reason I never knew was because all our friends have iPhones or brought their cell phones with them from home!
Well now we ALL know!
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