Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shopping in Riyadh

          I entered "The Kingdom" in the wee hours of the morning and with only a few hours of sleep, I met with the General's wife to go shopping. There were two other officer's wives who would be accompanying us on this road trip. One of the wives gave me a scarf as a welcome gift! It was absolutely beautiful! This would be my second time wearing the abaya since leaving the airport.

          We all waited in front of the General's quarters until the driver picked us up. There is a two-man rule for all personnel attached to this base. This is the compound where I live amongst other civilians and the military. It is against regulations to leave the compound alone. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi, except for on the compound so a driver must always be summoned to go off the compound.

          Once the driver picked us up and before leaving the compound we notified security that we were leaving and informed them of our call signs so that we can be tracked at all times. At every departure point, we must call in and give our call signs and whereabouts.

          They decided to go to Panorama Mall, which is considered one of the most luxurious areas in Riyadh and the most happening place where everyone tends to hang out.  It is located at the intersection of Takhassusi & Tahliya road. Like every other mall, unaccompanied males are prohibited from entering. Males are allowed to enter only if accompanied with a female.

          We spent the afternoon there exploring several stores, sharing stories and had lunch. Lunch was a chicken dish called shawarma which is a sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture. The meat is placed on a spit (a slender pointed rod for holding meat over a fire) and may be grilled for as long as a day). Shawarma is considered fast-food across the Middle East. It can be eaten with pita bread, tomato and cucumber then topped with hummus or pickled turnips.

          We also visited the local food chain supermarket called Danube Hypermarket. It reminded me of a super Walmart. It offered a wide variety of groceries, clothes, footwear, house wares, cosmetics, electronics and electrical products. The only difference between the Walmart and Danube was the packagings were in Arabic. I couldn't resist the aroma of the fresh bread that was baking in the ovens. I definitely had to take some home with me!

          On our trek back to the compound, I took a cat nap. The jet lag was definitely starting to take it’s affect on me.  The wives said I was a real trouper for staying awake and alert all day. Little did they know, my mind was on being in my bed the whole time while shopping!
All the best,

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