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Friday, October 07, 2005

Special - my Year in Riyadh

Funky Lobsters in KSA
The posts with the green headlines and italic text are instalments of what happened to me when I lived in Riyadh from May 2003 to May 2004. How it made me a bitter and twisted person. How I completely failed to enjoy myself for an entire year. How I still have serious misgivings about the place.

I'll be publishing a little bit every day for about the next month. This is written almost entirely from memory, although BetterArf has just found a file of letters we wrote each other during that time. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

This is not intended to be an attack on Riyadh per se. It is simply an account of a simple bloke to make sense of a hostile place.

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19 Comments:

Blogger desertblog said...

Can't wait to see what you're going to write, this should be interesting!

5:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Luv... what happened to the plans concerning a new colour?? I'm eagerly awaiting that change.

8:15 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

anon: What you on about? Baffled, I am.

9:52 pm  
Blogger Farooha said...

Can't wait to tsk and pout at what you write.

Not too excited, I am. lol :P

ps: I still blame you for not contacting me. I would have let you in on the REAL Saudi society. Bleh! You know, last Friday I spotted such a cute "bloke" at mamlaka mall, I thought I would approach him (not that I care what he thought of Saudi or anything.. he was just SOOO CUTE!) and when I did, (and trust me, I'm kinda cute too.. I'm not scary, I know that much) you know how he responded? Lemme give you the approximate dialog:

Me: Hey, you seem new to Riyadh, where are you from?
Him:(nervously) England, I'm English.
Me: Awww.. I love the English! I just got back from London a month ago.
Him: uh huh.. are you from here?
Me: Yes :-) (mega watt smile)
Him: I'm finding it hard around here.
Me: Aren't we all? (in understanding tone)
Him: uh huh... (looking totally uninterested) hal anty arabia? (I'm sure you know what that means but I'll translate it for the heck of it: Are you Arab?)
Me: Umm... Na'am. (what the heck? Suddenly decide to go standard Arabic on us, pretty white boy?)
Him: Hal anty Saudia?
Me: (LOL) NA'AM!
Him: ok bye. (runs off)
Me: umm.. ?

UGH.. I've never been this humiliated in my life.. :@
But there..! I, as a Saudi girl, DID my part!

7:24 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

But Farah, you would have been eight years old at the time!

7:36 am  
Blogger Emirati said...

farooha, thank you for that account of throwing yourself at the feet of said englishman.

always meant to ask you keefieboy, did you find any striking similarities between Dubai and Riyadh ? How are the mentalities different ?

10:01 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

emirati: chalk & cheese!

10:17 am  
Blogger Emirati said...

Because of a relative media blackout there exists among westerners who havent been there a kind of curiousity and want of visiting Saudi Arabia. Ive heard "mystifying" been used to describe it.

So much that in 2004, my friends girlfriend (White Christian British Girl) went to go study in Jeddah because she wanted a "New Experience" Only to come running back to England around 72 hours later.

11:10 am  
Blogger kaya said...

Inshallah if all goes well,we will leave thursday afternoon for Saudia.We are driving down to perform UMRAH.
My first time in KSA.
Keefie any messages?Chuck your bottles in the sea. I'll pick them up at low tide off the Corniche.
Farooha: You are offering sightseeing tours?But somehow i dont know if I actually want to go hang out at malls to check out the new (white) kid in town, Johhny come lately.

11:28 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Kaya: driving from AUD to Makkah? Good luck! Taking the bambini? My message to the Saudis - tell 'em I'm sorry I didn't like their country.

2:24 pm  
Blogger Farooha said...

Emirati, you're quite welcome ;-)

Kaya, sweets,I wasn't offering tours..and I don't care how pathetic you found my story to be.
(yes, I can get pathetic at times, blame it on pms, or a lack of something or another)
Anyhow, if you're really interested, though it didn't sound like you were, but I'll ignore that for now; I'll let you in on the real Saudi experience.. take you with me to the weddings, the dinner parties, the eid gatherings, the gergaan fiests, you name it. Trust me, you won't find it so bad. You might actually like it.. I know, I know, this may be very hard to imagine, but you're going to have to work with me here.. I'm gonna need you to clear your memory of whatever baggage you may carry about Saudi Arabia and try to enjoy yourself.

If you're just not so quick to judge, wallahi you'll love it. Send me an email with your number, and you and I shall have a blast. I promise :-) Just get yourself over to Riyadh, hon.
Where are you originally from Kaya?

My Message to the Keefie, the Saudis can't care less.

8:06 pm  
Anonymous Najla said...

salam
ya 7abeeby ya keefie (that rhymes LOL)
i noticed that the engineers, architects, drs.......etc
that r not worth shit in the uk or the states, r considered a godsend here in the gulf (like u for example).
so im glad u didnt like it in ksa. i say good riddance (and btw apology accepted)
thank u :)

12:44 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@Najla...so you've met every single one of these worthless engineers, architects and doctors, have you? Dang, my secret's out!

8:55 am  
Blogger kaya said...

Yup driving down with both the kiddies(9 yrs,3 yrs).I figure by the time I get there my patience will have been tested so much that I can consider that an umrah in itself!
FAROOHA:Habibti shukran so much for the offer.Inshallah next time.
Was only kidding,at your age you are allowed to check out what you want.

10:16 am  
Blogger Ex Pat Ranting said...

Keefieboy, great blog, I'm a regular reader - keep on posting the stories about Riyadh. I had the pleasure of working there last year on and off for about 11 months. I spent most of the time in the Marriott hotel.

Everyone should go to Riyadh once in their life to experience it, my personal opinion is that it is a grade A s**t hole because of the locals. A good friend of mine came up with the expression "a nation of great individuals" to describe Italians, I would also apply this to the Saudis (and other Arab nations). As individuals, charming, delightful, hospitable etc etc, as a collective, terrible.

Enough of my ranting and a pratical construction example of Saudi mentality. We were working on a project for the government which involved some structural steelwork. We submitted the calculations three weeks after contract award. Four months later we installed some rather large I beams with bolted connections. When they were installed and offered for approval, the government structural engineer said that the joints were insuffciently designed and would need fully welding. I was hopping mad and fired some f**ks into our structural engineer who pointed out that they were within the British standard paramters and in fact in certain aspects 2 or 3 times over designed. Taking this back to our client, he insisted that the original calculations were "wrong" even when the calculations were summarised and put in Janet and John language.

Needless to say, the argument wasn't worth having as the clients muppet of an engineer wasn't going to back down. We welded the connections the next day. The main contractors project manager sheepishly said the engineer admitted he was wrong but couldn't admit it to a "paleface".

This is only a sample of the people employed by the government of Saudi Arabia. Bunch of tools....

2:49 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@expat: Nice one! Reminds of our structural boys at Bongo's office. If they'd had their way no RC column would be less than one metre square, and no span would be longer than three metres. That was for a 2-storey villa. Bongo's office never designed anything higher than 5 storeys 'cos there was no space left between the columns! I questioned this one day and they said if a building collapsed the guy who always went to jail first was the structural engineer!

They were very nice guys, of course.

3:13 pm  
Blogger kaya said...

Yeh ok!Keefie and expat are having a bonding moment talking about structural columns and the rest of us laymen(or women or lay people)are like so clued in.

9:04 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@kaya: it's a bloke thing...sorry

9:10 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Oops...political correction: it's an engineer thing, lol.

9:38 pm  

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