I'm talking about this strange phenomenon in Riyadh where we find stores, restaurants, and retailers in general closed for no apparent reason. Y'all know what I'm talking about? With the exception of the 'safety' hours between 10am - 12pm, and 4pm - 6pm, I often feel I am rolling the dice in attempting to visit a retail space. I say this because even when you have the exact prayer times in front of you, sometimes you can arrive at a place to find it closed, and you will not have the luxury of an explanation.
Take for instance last night. Hubster and I came out of an appointment downtown at 7:45pm. We got into our driver's car and decided to head somewhere to eat. In the car we checked the prayer times on the internet, the next one being at 8:17pm. Perfect, we had just enough time to get settled and order somewhere. At a traffic light, we saw Tony Roma's and decided we wanted to eat there. So we jumped out of the car and raced across the street to it only to find that at 8:00pm all the lights were off, the curtains were drawn, the place was closed. We called our driver to make a U-turn and hopped back in the car confused. So we had the wrong prayer time?? Nope. Hubster double checked, it was 8:17pm, Tony Roma's just decided to close for god only knows what reason. At this point our choices were to eat an expensive meal at a hotel where prayer is not observed, eat cheap garbage quickly at a mall food court, or go home. So we went home.
We once visited a mattress store on three separate occasions deliberately trying different days and different hours to see if it would be open, but it never was. The last time we went, there was a single light on, taunting us, as if to say, 'wouldn't you like to know who turned this one light on? well he is in a place called Not Here.'
Well anyways, one reason why some stores are closed in the afternoon is because many retailers choose to have split hours that run from 9am - 12pm and then 4pm till 8pm-ish. The other closures I just chalk up to randomness. Coming from Canada where hours are clearly marked on doors and websites, and employees answer phones when you call them, I just can't describe the level of confusion I felt when I first moved here and began encountering this regularly. On the whole it just means you need to put some planning into eating out or visiting certain stores in the evening, but some days I miss the spontaneity of just being able to wing it and have simple things work out. One respite is that all the major grocery stores appear to be exempt from this random closure thing, so I am at least uber thankful for that.
You would think we should be used to sidestepping prayer by now. True, we've gotten much better, but as you can see, we are not always successful - even after a year and a half!
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