Thursday, June 17, 2010

Walking in Riyadh *HONK*

For a number of reasons, Saudi is not a pedestrian friendly place. The most popular reason would be the brutal heat, which really does preclude walking anywhere in the daytime for a good five months out of the year. But another reason is simply a matter of urban planning - there is no consistent network of sidewalks in this region, so on any given road, you may be walking on sidewalk for a part of it, then the dirt part of a construction zone, then the road itself while you walk around construction barriers, and then back onto a sidewalk. Many of the smaller streets do not have sidewalks at all. Also with the exception of a few parks, a couple of nice streets, or walking around the souks, the lack of control in organizing the growth of the city has led to a disparate (read in: ugly) looking landscape that is not worth exploring on foot.

OK so for all the above reasons, there are pretty much no pedestrians walking around the city, and especially not the abaya-wearing delicate flowers known as women. But from time to time, you just can't avoid walking. Given all the information above though, any time a taxi driver sees a woman walking, they think "oh! she needs a ride. Why isn't she looking at me? I'm gonna let her know I'm here." *HONK* Then they slow down to see if you are looking, which causes all the cars behind the taxi to honk the taxi. *HONK* *HONK *HONK* You must make eye contact and shake your head or wave them away before they move on. Now this is the important part: repeat this fifty times, because THAT my friends, is what taking a walk in Riyadh is like!


alluringjosh said...

yeah, the superciliously hot weather is my main reason too why even buying at the store seems a very big, hard,-insert other choice of adjective- thing to do. i literally had nosebleed during my first few days here in riyadh!

tip: buy all the things you need at once.

btw, when is the cold season here in riyadh? i heard it's exactly the extreme opposite!

should i be thankful for this weather now? or the cold season is definitely I have to look forward to?

Orchidthief said...

You are just going to LOVE November! Last year things started to cool down near the end of September, and into October. By November, the weather was in the 20's in the daytime and very nice at night.

No one sane is thankful for this kind of heat!

alluringjosh said...

really now? have i known that before coming here, i might have requested the employer to move my employment in November! lol! thanks! i had good read.

Om Lujain© said...

Those Honks annoy me to death.. sometimes as I am walking from the door to my husbands car at the mall or wherever, I get those annoying honks... and the honks aren't always only from taxi drvers, they are also from some desperate fool who thinks his honk will have me jumping into the car with a total stranger!

As for walking, I know the streets here are not at all like they are back home, where you could actually walk through the neighborhood without fearing for your life at every turn! But if you really would like to have a nice walk (You would need to drive there first) there is a walking track set up around Prince Sultan university, they even have those water spray thingy's to keep walkers cool in this scorching heat. :)

Orchidthief said...

Om Lujain, I have never been walking near Prince Sultan but I have one friend who used to do the walk most evenings to get exercise. I will have to make a point of going soon.

And you are absolutely right, I neglected to address the random honks from men that just want you to turn your head so they can see your face, or men who have that creepy look in their eye. I hate waiting for my driver to show up at the grocery store because there's always lurkers honking and staring at you. And of course all the taxi drivers on top!

Not to say you don't get honked by men in Toronto, but it's almost never creepy, and I would go so far as to say that women are secretly a little bit happy when that happens because it means they are looking fiiiiine that day =)

Stacy said...

Hah! Oh so very true.

I remember walking to the supermarket one day in a very light rain shower. The taxi drivers were going insane.. "Good lord woman, what are you doing out there in the pouring rain?!? Are you lost?? Quick, look at me, I'll save you from this terrible situation! *honk honk honk*"

Here I was having a rather enjoyable walk with the cool sprinkle of rain on my face while being incessantly hounded by every taxi driver in a 2 mile radius.

Oh and you forgot to mention the nausea-inducing pockets of stench that seem to appear randomly along the street. Especially noticeable at the moment because of the oppressive heat.

I believe there is also a nice walking area around King Faisal Specialist Hospital. I've seen many people out in the evenings while driving past. One of the rare places where the footpath is wide enough for people to pass each other without stepping onto the road.

Orchidthief said...

ha ha Stacy that's hilarious! I do feel like they are saying "look at me look at me!" each time they honk.

My hubster laughed so hard when you mentioned the stench, because it's so true! You'll be walking along and then all of a sudden your face will turn sour and you'll go, "what *IS* that?!"

There are definitely nice bits in the city, so thanks for the suggestion.

Kaam said...

Well Honk Honk is the way of life on streets. To me the most interesting of the Honks is by some car behind 15 cars stopped at a traffic signal and this Honk comes from that 16th car as soon as the signal turns green!!! Some drivers are so addicted to this type of Honking that even if they are standing alone at a traffic signal they will Honk before moving when the signal turns green!!!

Orchidthief said...

kaam - ha ha it is soooooo TRUE!!! But what is the driver in the 16th car *thinking* when they do that?? I will never understand it...

jack said...

Also they are virtually absent of shade. I mean, you would think that a company manufacturing shade for parking lots and sidewalks would make a killing.

I've lived in the GCC for 6 years and the other countries have shaded parking areas, (especially for any respectable company). Here, not even the freaking hospitals have shade!...strange.

Orchidthief said...

jack I never once thought about lack of shade?! We have them in our compound for the cars, but you're right I don't think there's much out there in the city. Shall we file it under "Unsolved Mysteries" ? =D

Christophe said...

Funny, over the past couple of weeks several people have asked me what it was like walking in Riyadh (or if it was even possible). I'd never even consider the idea. Walking in Riyadh? Ludicrous!

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