There is something special about the month of November as it happens to win the status of ‘travel month’ of the year. It has happened third time in a row when at this time of the year, I have been lucky. It is the time when I breathe in experiences and gorge on memories. First it was South East in 2011 then Europe in 2012 and now Middle East.
Yes! I am in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. Hubby has a good client here and he keeps coming back to them on and off. I have not been keeping well, have taken break from work and thus have tagged along with him. Needless to say I love traveling and I feel better now… 🙂
I know there isn’t anything terribly or plain exciting about Saudi but there wasn’t anything that made me less excited too. Not even the dress code that needs to be adopted when here. Did I tell you that all women, natives or foreigners are required to wear a burka, abaya or a hijaab in public places? I know its restricting but then its their religion and we must respect it. Foreign travelers are not compulsorily required to take a black scarf and can opt for any color scarf. Many of them avoid to cover head but I have had no inhibitions and I am carrying it all from India. I read blogs forehand and have come prepared.
Traveling is about sampling experiences and letting the fun multiply. Watsay?
Lets begin the observations from the arrival at 3 in the morning….
The King Khalid International Airport is plain and simple. Immigration process was quick but I felt scary in the new atmosphere. There was an air of unfriendliness and since I had heard about a lot of rules, restrictions and the ongoing drive to send the people back from the country, the butterflies came charging in the stomach. And Men don’t look around and beware being caught ogling at a female. (I quite like it…)
On the opposite side of the airport, there is a separate Royal Terminal for the Kingdom guests and the family. Isn’t it cool? The airport has the largest area dedicated to it in the world.
Saudi men wear thobe and ghutrah, thats the religious dress code. Foreigners are not expected to wear them. Men in white and women in black, I quite like the contrast.
We were driven in a Land cruiser, (common car here) to the Hotel Apartment in Olaya, where hubby has been booked a room. And the first glimpse of the city in the early morning was good. Great roads must say. The car went easy at 120 and above. It was a well lit place and the architecture was actually impressive. Sky towering buildings at every nook and corner kept my eyes curious.
Next day, we took a ride to Riyadh Avenue mall where we picked up food items and groceries from Lulu., a hypermarket thats famous all over Middle East and has 106 chains around.
On the first day of the weekend i.e Friday, we visited a Villa where a few acquaintances are putting up. It was a great day out eating and talking fun.
Next day was a new day to explore some more. Hubby took me around to the places nearby. I checked out H&M here, (had done loads of shopping from here when I was in Oslo). We passed on a famous bookstore named Jarir. It was prayer (Salat ) time and thus we thought we would catch up later. Salat times refers to times when Muslims perform prayers (salat)
And then we reached the beautiful Al Faisaliyah Center, baosts of 44 floors and happens to be the third tallest building in Saudi Arabia. The design is based on that of a ballpoint pen. It does make you want to stare at it for sometime and appreciate its designers.
There is a mall next to it by the same name and we explored it till we reached the food court at the top floor that smelled of delicious food. I was glad to see the familiar brands Mcdonalds, Subway, Domino’s, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins etc. On the way I preferred to drop in at KFC. (My poor vegetarian hubby has to bear with me.) On the way, we noticed a lot of International brands on both sides of the busy road and it makes sense also because I am told there is 32 % foreign population here.
Inside the spacious two room hotel apartment…
In the day I do some cooking, a little bit of cleaning and lots of focused writing. There are lot of Saudi brands that I have been consuming, will do a post on it later. I quite like the dairy products here, especially the chocolate milk.
There is a television in the drawing room, with a cable connection where I catch up with two familiar channels ZEE TV and Colors. Yay! I don’t have to miss my Big Boss gossip. Lots of local channels too, but not much of use as Arabic conversation thrives.
In the evening, Hubby and I step out to take a feel of the place. Its me who pesters him everyday. The black cloak, burka is coming easy to me. For the head, I simply take a scarf. It feels all covered and protected. The weather is breezy and its getting slightly cold in the night.
And last but not the least, Ten steps walk from the hotel and I realize we live in the posh area of the city. Yes because on my left is one of the luxurious, magnificent, 300 mtr unique architecture of this place, the KINGDOM TOWER. It is the most attractive, tallest tower here that proudly eyes over the city of Riyadh and its people. It shines in alternating seven colors and the view is absolutely stunning. The ride to the top is pending…
More…. (to be continued)
Pictures Courtesy : Google Images