I think it's time for a series of posts about why Saudi Arabia is quirky? weird? unique? frustrating? extreme? oppressive? friendly? I'm not sure there is a word in English that captures the feeling that all of words combined express, especially since some of those are stronger some days than other days. Maybe it should just be called Everyday Saudi Arabia.
So here's today's story with some background first. I nearly always cook dinner at home here, unlike in Mexico where you could run down the street and get tamales for everyone for $5 at 6 pm if dinner didn't work out. There are plenty of good places to eat here, but the sunset prayer nearly always conflicts with dinner time. The sun set at 5:38 last night and the latest it ever sets is about 6:45. And as you get into winter, the evening prayer is as early as 6:30 with the sunset prayer at 5:00. Everything closes at prayer time for about 30 minutes so there's not a lot of time to get food in there unless you plan ahead, and the point of buying dinner is that you didn't plan ahead. Also, I go grocery shopping once a week and I don't choose the day I go. I just have to follow the schedule so sometimes there are 5 days between trips and sometimes 9-10 days.
Yesterday I was gone all afternoon and I forgot to start one crucial part of dinner before I left which meant that the meal I'd planned wasn't possible. But since it was the night everyone helps clean the house and we eat something fun for dinner afterward, I didn't have a fun backup plan, especially since I hadn't been to the grocery store in a week because of the van schedule. We knew we'd have a short time between the end of our last appointment and the beginning of sunset prayers to get something to eat. The first place we tried was closed so we had to drive much further away and then we took a wrong turn. By that point, we had to find something to eat immediately or wait another 30 minutes which no one wanted to do. The two choices where we were sitting were Dominoes Pizza and Popeyes. Dominoes was already starting to close so we had to go with Popeyes, a place none of us had eaten or ever really wanted to try, but it was food and they let us in. Actually, they just let my husband in since I had to wait in the car because I didn't have my abaya with me. We've had a couple of other meals from places we wouldn't necessarily have chosen because of the frantic prayer time rush.
And that is why I try really hard to not mess up dinner and to be home in the afternoon. There isn't much you can do about it when you get it wrong.