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Archive for the ‘Saudi Culture’ Category

Last Wednesday night (March 17th) I had the rare opportunity to be a guest at a Saudi Arabian wedding celebration.

I had been informed that the women like to dress up to the nines for these occasions so a trip was made the week before to downtown Olaya in search of the perfect ball gown. The Saudi women here like bright and flashy gowns with lots of colour and a generous serving of jewels and all things that sparkle, however, I was looking for something a little more subdued but equally as glamorous. I got lucky again and found a beautiful dress in the second store I looked in that couldn’t match up with anything in the other stores I went to. I did see some other lovely dresses though so I know where to go back to in the future. Prayer time rolled around so the time was spent window shopping in Faisaliah Mall, where I stumbled across a pair of shoes and bag that was the exact match for my dress (with a price tag to match). My shopping partner even managed to bargain them down a few hundred Riyals, in a retail store, champion! Back at the dress shop more bargaining was done and I left with the perfect outfit for the wedding.

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On Wednesday I sold my soul… for medical research. Our lab had its Grand Opening Ceremony on Wednesday and the financier of our Research Chair was of course invited to attend. The admin girls had been planning for this event for weeks, however, in true Saudi style there was a mad rush in the last few days to ensure everything was set up in time. On Monday we were informed that there was an article about us in the local Al-Jazirah newspaper. This is the second time we’ve been in the newspaper, the first was the KSU university paper. Unfortunately they have both been in Arabic, but its basically just a fluff piece about our lab opening. What I love is that my name is written in Arabic as ستيسي (read right to left), which when spelled out in English is ‘stiisy’. There’s no ‘c‘ or ‘aye’ sound in the Arabic language. Its no wonder people find it hard to pronounce my name.

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Valentines Day in Riyadh.

Its that day today that we all love to hate, Valentines Day. Of course, unlike the rest of the world where every shop is hocking off its tacky red wares while imploring you to ‘think of your loved one’ the scene in Riyadh is a little bit more hush hush. In fact in today’s edition of Arab News there was an article that explains the situation perfectly. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the PVPV or Muttawa) are confiscating all red items from stores to deter people from participating in this “un-Islamic” holiday (this includes strawberries on cakes, WTF?). However, I can guarantee you that in all the dark corners of this city there are young men and women exchanging gifts and phone numbers today. By banning these things they only make them all that more desirable. In the expat community, the embassies and compounds got in early and hosted a whole lot of parties on the weekend.

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I’ve mentioned previously about the state of the roads here and its an unfortunate reality in Saudi Arabia that as a female I am legally unable to drive. So how do I get around?

At first I was able to get to work using the busses that take the nurses to work and home again. Unfortunately, this became quite inconvenient as the only busses that run to the hospital in the morning are at 6am or 9.30am, meaning I could only get to work really early in the morning or really late. I found that they also had some services on the weekends to various shopping malls but since I’m not a nurse I don’t get informed when or where these are going. So it was definitely necessary for me to find a more reliable form of transportation.

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Driving, Saudi style.

I took the a the other night on my walk back from the supermarket. I didn’t take it because the sight of the cars parked along the road in this manner was a unique occurrence, in fact it was because it was a prime example of how everyone parks in this city. Ask any Saudi what the purpose of the lines on the ground in a car park are for and they probably couldn’t tell you (okay I’m generalising but if they do know, they don’t actually care). If you’re someone who gets angry at people who park over two car spaces, this isn’t the country for you.

The driving here has to be seen to be believed. While I legally can’t drive in this country, to be honest I really don’t think I’d want to. I have been informed that there are road rules here but when a police car speeds past you at 160km/hr on the highway it becomes pretty obvious that nobody really cares.

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This afternoon I wanted to go down to Jarir Bookstore (about a city block and a half away from my house) and since its a nice cool day today I decided to do the trip on foot, through the back streets behind my compound. The area behind my street is a maze of private residential compounds so I was determined to find out how to get through to Al Akaria mall, on the other side of the block.

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If you recall in a previous post of mine I detailed the common stages of culture shock. Namely, the honeymoon, negotiation and adjustment stages.

Well, I’ve been in Saudi Arabia for 2 months now and I’m feeling fairly confident that I’m now experiencing Stage 2. To recap,

2. Negotiation Phase – After some time (usually weeks), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. One may long for food the way it is prepared in one’s native country, may find the pace of life too fast or slow, may find the people’s habits annoying, disgusting, and irritating etc. This phase is often marked by mood swings caused by minor issues or without apparent reason. This is where excitement turns to disappointment and more and more differences start to occur. Depression is not uncommon.

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