25 March 2017

Odds and Ends

It's nearly the end of the cool season here in Riyadh.  It's already too warm in the afternoons, but I cannot complain about highs in the 80s, not when it will soon be much warmer and when the 80s felt so good in November.   April should still be tolerable in the mornings but then we'll get five long, hot months until we start to get tolerable mornings in October.  That's a long time to wait.  But I feel like I've enjoyed the last five months as much as I could.

There was a sandstorm earlier this week.  I did not know it was possible to have a sandstorm combined with rain.  It was quite literally raining dirty water and it made the city even dirtier than a normal dust storm.  It was so bad it was almost impressive.  But it wasn't as bad here as further north or west.  We were lucky.

The rumor mill is strong right now, saying that Saudi will announce on April 3rd that women (well, some women, maybe, with lots of rules) will be allowed to drive.  One rumor is that women 40 and over will be allowed to drive first, or maybe just during certain hours of the day.  I don't really want to drive in Riyadh so I'd mostly just go to the closest grocery store, but I would drive out of the city to explore if that were allowed.  The idea makes me so excited.  Except I'd probably have to wait till November to really enjoy it.  Also, there are rumors about movie theaters happening, although there will still be lots of rules for that too.   It would just be nice to have more options.

The other day we tried to go bowling together, but since my 16-year-old was wearing shorts, we couldn't go in the family section.  So the rest of the family when to the men's section and I waited in the car.  I wait in the car a lot here for one rule or another but I always bring a book and I can't really complain about sitting quietly in the car while the rest of the family does their thing. I didn't want to bowl in an abaya anyway so I was happy to volunteer to sit that one out.

We were in Bahrain a couple of weeks ago, the first time I'd left the country even though most of the rest of the family has been all over the place since last summer (Iraq, UK, Egypt, and Bahrain).  And it was so normal.  You forget sometimes how not normal Saudi Arabia is, because you sort of have to not think about it all the time.  But in Bahrain, people's faces were on the billboards.  You can choose if you wore an abaya or not.  If you're not Muslim, you don't need to keep track of prayer times.  You can go to church.  We were quickly reminded what it's like in Saudi when we stopped for gas after crossing the border and realizing prayers had just started.  But we had enough gas to drive on till prayers ended.

Also, Bahrain has a Lego store, and the food court in that mall has a place with a tandoor oven.  I never would have thought I could get bread cooked in a tandoor in a mall food court.  We were going to watch a movie but it was not a good weekend for it.  Everything we wanted to see wasn't there anymore or not quite released yet.  The tandoor and the Lego store made up for all that.  There was a bowling alley too.

There are lots of things I like about Saudi Arabia though, like watching families stopping to pray along the highway.  And finding more interesting places to eat.  Last week we found a place that takes traditional fatayer toppings and puts them on pizza.  Not exactly giant fatayer, but also not exactly pizza because who puts labnah and honey on pizza?  We do here, with mozzarella too, and it's delicious.  And someone has been doing lots of new geocaches in our neighborhood.

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