A couple of months ago solicited input on topics would like me to cover. One request was for me to discuss things I missed the most over here – other than people. That was an important caveat, too, because people are the #1 thing I do miss…particularly my family…especially my wife.
Honestly, though, Riyadh is a modern city, with most of things a modern city has. Five million people live here – people from countries too numerous to count, backgrounds too diverse to note, and economic levels too stratified to really appreciate. But, there is someone who caters to the needs and wants of all these folks when it comes to the basic needs, particularly eating. There are some things, however, which are much more difficult to find.
Chief on that list are movies. We can find movies – don’t get me wrong. DVDs, both legal and illegal, are available for a nominal fee. So, finding a film to watch, or TV show, is not all that difficult to do; although, it may be a circuitous route on which one must trod to acquire such. No, I am talking about going to a theater and seeing a moving on a large screen with good (hopefully) sound and a group of other movie fans. Illegal. Even if it wasn’t, the movies here would almost certainly be in Arabic, which I don’t yet understand enough of to be able to sit through a film without subtitles. I can go to one of the surrounding countries and see a film; but, if you think concessions have gotten expensive at theaters, try buying an airplane ticket to go see one.
Another item overlooked and taken for granted by so many people is casual fun. This is a common complaint, not only among the expatriates (of all backgrounds), but also by many of the Saudis themselves. Go to mall. If you have kids, go to an amusement park (but, not as a family, some guy might see another guy’s wife or daughter). Go out to eat. If you’re Arab…sandsit (where you stake out a spot in the sand, drink coffee, maybe picnic, and talk with friends and loved ones during the much cooler evening). Yep…that’s about it. Compounds and embassies host events, but they’re not things you can just decide to do on a whim.
The last one I’ll highlight today is convenience. I had a head start on this one, though. There is nothing convenient about living in a small town. There’s even less that is convenience when you live on a farm 4 1/2 miles from town. We were spoiled living in San Diego. If we wanted something, or wanted to do something, it was a matter of mere minutes (in most cases) to acquire it or do it. At our place in Oregon, often, it is much simpler and more efficient to order stuff by mail. The local stores may or may not have what we want; and, if we special order it, it takes as long as what it takes for us to simply order it from home. Now, take that and multiply the wait time by weeks. How many weeks? Who knows. And, some companies will not deliver to Saudi Arabia – and you can guarantee that the postage and handling will be nearly as expensive as what you bought…sometimes more. You can buy all the basics here. But, if you’re looking for something in particular, something special, it’s going to be pretty hard to acquire.
So, those are probably the big ones; although, I am sure I’ll think of something else later.