Sunday, September 22, 2013

Notes from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

 (Kingdom Center, Downtown Riyadh)

My Saudi students loved to tell me that this building, the greatest landmark of the Riyadh, was designed after September 11th.  They joked that if America ever wanted to crash an airplane into the center it would pass right through.  They all laughed.  They thought Americans were stymied by this design.
(Muslim family, Air-al Souq) 

At the hotel I stayed at in Riyadh, there was satellite TV playing the American show:  So You Think You Can Dance.  A crowd of about twenty men had gathered around the small screen to watch a white woman from Brooklyn wearing a black jog bra and black bikini bottoms, dance wildly on stage.  Gyrating her hips.  Leaping and twirling in pirouettes.  They were mesmerized.  At the same time, a group of five elderly women in full black abaya gowns and black burkah head scarves were attempting to descend a stair case blind.  They couldn't see a thing.  Hands outstretched.  Fingers searching for anything in front of them.  Completely stumbling in the dark behind their veils.  One woman tripped on the last step and tumbled over.  Not one man even noticed.
 (Along Olaya Street in busy Riyadh.) 

 I stood here for about thirty minutes during evening prayer as nothing was open.  The constant Muslim prayer schedule becomes such a hazard for the traveler to Arabia.  Businesses will simply close indiscriminately without any indication of when they will re-open.  It becomes such a part of the daily routine, travelers download prayer apps to warn when everything in the city will shut down for hours at a time.
(Muslim woman in black abaya talking on cell phone.) 

I was surprised that in Riyadh, as opposed to the southern more traditional areas and in Yemen, that non-Muslim women were allowed to go outside without covering their head.  I saw many foreign women walking about uncovered.  These black abaya robes can be purchased anywhere.
(Ladies Banking)

I really didn't want to bank her anyway.
(Riyadh McDonalds)

Yep, that's a divider so that women can order on one side and men the other.  I think women appreciate it, don't you?  I mean, who really wants to watch a man eat a sloppy Quarter Pounder with Cheese anyway?  

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