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The Abaya October 30, 2006

Posted by Aella in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

After 18 days here I have discovered some of the pros and cons of the sometimes praised and also cursed abaya.  An abaya is for the reader that do not know a long black cloak the all women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are obliged to wear. It comes with different details but the overall look is black. In my post about my first day here in Khobar I wrote about when I first started wearing it and now I have worn it for some time.

First I must say that it is actually not a bad idea. If you are going shopping then you can wear what you want underneath. Small skirt, vest, nighty (hehe) or whatever you want. You just don’t have to fuss so much about clothes cus no one will see em anyway. You don’t have to match your make up to your clothes in any way cus all you need to match it with is your abaya. Yup. Different story of course if you are going to someones home and will take it off. But that’s obvious so I won’t even mention it. We went to the Kudu Japanese restaurant the other day and I had forgotten it was located in the infamous Oasis compound which means I could take my abaya off. Only what I was wearing underneath wasn’t suitable for the place. So I kept it on. Which no other Westerner did of course but who cares.

So yeah I kinda dig it in the way that you are kinda free to wear what you want in a way. What I don’t like about it is the fact that the buttons sometimes opens up, I forget to close it and step out of the car with it wide open and above all….the length! Ok you can make it shorter and I have done that. I still get freaking mad if it gets dirty at the bottom. Women here doesn’t seem to mind cus they drag them everywhere and as my husband pointed out….the floors of the malls are indeed very clean from this habit of theirs. Surely they must pick up some serious dirt on their abayas. Uuuh! I don’t like that but fine if that’s ok with them.

Yesterday as we went to the cashier at Geant in the Dhahran Mall I started packing the shopping bags (where were you little packing guy!!!) and realised that some fuckhead had spilled strawberry icecream on the floor where I was standing! Duh, did I get pissed of or what? The rim of my Abaya had ice cream on it and I was fuming. But all the cashier guy could talk about was if Nancy Ajram is a muslim or not and whether Star Academy is morally corrupt! Of course it is you joker! Now get someone to clean the flooor!!!

So yeah I hate the dirt part. And the tripping over part. Yesterday it felt like I had shrank and I kept tripping over it like some slap stick comedian in a not so mute film (&*^%%$$%%^&#%$%Y^grrrrrrr).

As for the mens white thob, well I still think it’s nice and I still dig the head gear they wear. It looks neat and tidy and kinda kinky.


Lil things about life here October 25, 2006

Posted by Aella in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

About women and driving here. The other day we went to a mall in Dammam. After about 45 min of women walking criss, cross in front of us my husband said – Man if you think they can’t walk properly cus they cover their faces can you imagine what it would be like if they drove with this on!For some reason it made sense to me. Later someone told me that women in Dubai drive just fine with niqab….but hmm I still wonder if it would work.

Went to Starbucks the other night only to find myself sipping hot chocolate sitting outside in 32 degrees watching children play at the playground at 1.30 at night. How weird can things get?

Many families here go to the lovely Khobar corniche during Eid to spend time with their kids. There are lots of playgrounds, lawns and places to eat and drink. Apparantly young men in groups aren’t welcome so the police are  lined up all along the entrances to the carparks of the corniche to stop them from entering. Good perhaps but strange in some ways how a big group of people are allowed to be discriminated. I have been told that young men often are seen as a nuisance to families as they often bother the young women. Don’t know if this is the only reason for stopping them from going there.

Yesterday we went to check out the new supermarket Carrefour and man….did it suck or what? The layout is pretty much like Geant but you just don’t feel like buying anything there. The meat section is poorly run with uncovered chickens laying around, the staff sleepy and you feel like what is presented to you as products to buy are the leftovers on the world market. Won’t go back there again..

One place that I found to be a lifesaver is the Jarir Bookstore.  I was kinda surprised at how many books they have and what kind of books. Really great place that has to be checked out. 

Shopping in Saudi October 20, 2006

Posted by Aella in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
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Every night during Ramadan the malls of Khobar are filled with black hoardes of women in search for the latest in fashion. The opening hours are due to Ramadan a little different than normally. Many shops are open between 1pm til 4pm and then open again around 8-8.30 pm and stays open until 2am.  This basically beacuse people just don’t go shopping during the day when fasting. Seems many people are up most of the night and sleep many hours during the day. In any case, the malls are packed with families, women in black, men in white thobs and a myriad of jumping and screaming kids going completly shopping mad. Well  mainly the women that is. The men are sitting and standing around in the malls loaded with bags and looking after the children…while the women are blocking every aisle possible in the shops. I went kinda mad yesterday cus some of them doesn’t seem to see where they are going due to niqabs (the face cover) and bump into you again and again and walk in irrational ways (or is it just how we women are?).  

I must give some serious credit to the Saudi men though. I can’t see thousands of Swedish men put up with these kind of shopping trips mainly aimed for the pleasure of the females. They don’t have to endure this once or twice a year but it seems several times a week (during Ramadan at least).

When we hear about the fact that woman aren’t allowed to drive here we naturally feel it is something negative for the women living here but I find it is just as negative for a lot of the men. They have to drive everywhere all the time if they don’t have a driver or if the wife doesn’t want to take a taxi. A stressful task if the back is full of screaming kids and you just came home from work (I would assume). The ban on women driving gives the men a lot of extra stress and work that could have been avoided if their wives drove.

Our first day in Khobar, Saudi Arabia October 13, 2006

Posted by Aella in Al Khobar, Culture, Saudi Arabia.

So yesterday was our first day here. I must admitt that eventhough I knew that women wear black abayas and men white thobs here it was strange to see it. I mean, it’s like a uniform and most Saudis seems to wear it here. Ok, women have to wear the abaya but the men doesn’t have to wear the thobs (which are quite nice if I may say so myself, kinky grrrr). I didn’t know that so many women here have chosen to cover their faces though. Kinda looks weird if you ask me. No offence to anyone, just feels strange but I guess I get used to it. all you can see is eyes, eyes and eyes of women here. You just would not be able to describe what the women of Khobar look like. One thing that I feel is kinda scary are the women that have black cloth in front of the whole face. I don’t know what to think of that… I feel it’s wrong somehow.

We had a late start yesterday and went out for a shopping drive about 1.30 pm. In Khobar malls and shops are scattered between the compound outside the city of Khobar. Felt like we are going around in circles all the time. Noticed that most compounds have really high security with barbwire, high walls, surveillance cameras, guards, gates, check points and concrete blocks. Makes you think the world outside if one scary and dangerous place. But it didn’t feel like it was as we were driving around….til we got to the Rashid Mall where we went to make my abaya shorter.

As I sat in the car in the parking lot watching all the Saudi couples and families passing by in their uniforms I felt freaked. I didn’t want to go into the mall without my abaya. Felt so out of place (and I was of course). I had thrown my last lenses the day before and was wearing my glasses (which really needs to be updated cus I cant see too good with them). In my green pregnancy shirt (long sleeved of course) and jeans I entered the mall with my family and my blurry vision. And yes I really stood out. And felt odd. I want you to note that being different is no problem for me but here I felt I was crossing a line that I didn’t want to. Soo, anyway before they shop had shortened my abaya and I had put it on I had a few odd and amused looks from people. Bought some all-day lenses and put them on and voila now I could see all the glory that before passed me by. Felt like a black whale in my abaya being pregnant and all. Felt better later during the day when I had changed to a thin dress.

After that we went to Toys R Us but no they were closed due to prayers…..or so it said on the door. But they had closed until later (7.30pm) cus it is Ramadan and no one really goes shopping after a certain time. So we went back home, slept, showered, changed clothes and went to iftar at a compound called Nesma Village. Had a buffet with a lot of Lebanese foods like tabbouleh, fattoush, the cheesy rolls, hommous and muttabal. Really good food and aaaah I missed all that whilst in Sweden.

After our meal we went on a shopping spree and bought a bunch of things for our home. We ended it by doing food shopping in a place called Panda. We chose this place cus we assumed it wouldn’t be as packed as the other places. And we were right. It was all cool until we went to the till to pay. For some reason all the stores we had visited had “a problem” with credit cards so everyone had to pay with cash. I was told by my husband that he had heard there were some kind of boycott towards the banks going on. So he had to go to ATM and get cash a few times.

As we entered Panda my husband checked with an employee of the place to make sure we could use the card and yes fine no probs. Once all the items were scanned and put into bags the cashier guy goes Ohh no we only take cash. Hm great. So my husband once again went to get some cash.

As he left a manager takes over the till and takes the nest customes and starts scanning their things. He picks up his mobil and blabbers on for a few minutes. When my husband comes back and wants to pay, the manager goes, Oh uh how much was it and where is the receipt? No ooh he left with the receipt (refering to the first guy). Turns out the manger had started to scan the next customers items and added that to our bill and now wanted us to unpack all our bags to make a new scan. The other customer was a little freaked cus he had only bought a few items and sure as hell didn’t wanna pay for all our stuff.  The manager goes Oh Mr please let’s scan all your things again. My husband goes, How about this? How about you take all your food and we leave? No but..! Oh yes. So we left. And now we have to re-do all the shopping aaallll over again today somewhere else (probably at Geant Stores). 

We ended our day by ordering some pizza and watching tv. After we ate I said to my son, Now you will have to eat pizza for suhur cus we didn’t do the shopping. My husband goes, Oh and what do you call this? Huh? Yes, is this not suhur and when were you looking to eat that? Well about 4 (am of course). Eh you’re not waking me up then. Why not? Helloooo, cus it’s 3 am now!

God, I thought it was about 12. I still can’t believe I was sitting watching tv and eating pizza at 3 am without being tired and without realising it was that late (or early).

Anyway, long post this I know. Just a lil more..

Our house is great. Much larger than I thought it would be and I love all the space. It has 3 large bedrooms, 2 livingrooms, dining room, kitchen, large hall, maids room, 4 bathrooms and a small storage room. Doesn’t feel too cramped. The kitchen where I will spend a lot of time as the cooking freak I am has all you need. Really love this kitchen. I am trying to organise cupboards and drawers right now cus things are kinda spread out everywhere. I’m a lil lost til things are in place. The house is furnished and allthough some of the items aren’t really to our taste it is still nice things. Working on giving the place our personal touch and turning it into a home. It takes time but it’s fun.

The compound is not so big compared to other compounds. It’s all brand new and people are slowly adding their little touches to their houses to make this place more alive. We have a small space in the back of the house with some grass and I guess I could try (note the word, try ok, I am known to kill plants, not grow them) to grow some flowers or something else. Wonder what would grow nice and easy in this climate. Any suggestions?

On the way? October 10, 2006

Posted by Aella in Saudi Arabia, Sweden.

It’s 9pm Tuesday evening and we are all packed. Have checked with KLM if the bookings are ok and mmyes they are. We will leave Karlskrona 4am tomorrow so I will head for bed early. Walked under a ladder today. Am I pushing it?

Feeling a little bit nervous since we are going straight to Saudi Arabia and not to Bahrain. Worried I will get hazzle ´with the customs with God knows what, luggage or papers or I don’t know. Hmm inshalla it will be fine.

Could we really be on our way?

Gotogate.se October 10, 2006

Posted by Aella in Saudi Arabia, Sweden.
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Gotogate.se sucks! That’s all that needs to be said about those irresponsible lying fuck ups.

Was supposed to be on my way to Bahrain right now but thanks to these sweethearts I am not. We will inshalla leave on Wednesday morning. Inshallah.

Not feeling cheery cus I feel that everytime I go heey we are off, then we get slapped in the face by a setback. Highly unusal in my life I must say. Life must be trying to teach me a lesson it seems. Things surely have been pretty fucked up ever since the war started..

Cows, monkeys and donkeys October 5, 2006

Posted by Aella in Saudi Arabia, Sweden.

So there I was. All happy yesterday after speaking to Connie at the Saudi embassy yesterday. She said in a sweet voice (probably didn’t remember who I was) that mmyes I gave the envelope with your visas to the driver yesterday (Tuesday) but he didn’t have time to post it so he will for sure post it today. Great, I replied. Put the phone down and wanted to weep a little from relief and joy.

Well fuck that was yesterday. Today, no paperslip showed up in the post saying I could get my passports today. Called Connie who gave me a number so I could track the envelope online. Did it work? Of fucking course not! Called again to check the number with her. Naa it was the right number. Uuuh, she goes, let me check with the guard. Guard I’m thinking, what guard? She comes back and goes, Naaa he hasn’t sent it yet. Sorry.

WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What do u mean he hasn’t sent it? Let me talk to him! But uhh naa he has nothing to do with this he is just a guard. What? How hard is it to post a envelope that is already stamped and addressed to a person?? Well he didn’t have time probably. Uhh what the hell do you mean?? You have already let us wait for this and that long blabnlablalbal shout shout shout Ramadan is now, Eid is soon, my husband is waiting for us BLABLABLABLABLA!!! Well uuh he is just a guard!! OOOH WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??? IS HE DUMB?

And there she puts the phone down. Chicken bitch!

Turns out the she gave it to the driver who of course being from the Middle East knows that there is someone lower than him which is the guard and gives him the envelope. I mean, it would belittle both Connie and the driver if THEY HAD TO POST THE FUCKING ENVELOPE right? They are worth soo much more than that right? So the guard gets the envelope. And where is he from? Syria of course! So in a line with a cow and a monkey, we end up with a uuh uuh….donkey. Anyone wants tickets for the Saudi Zoo in Stockholm (not that anyone of these cretins seem to be Saudis though)?

So now I can’t book the tickets I wanted for Saturday since I simply cannot find them which probably means they are gone. And if we have to go on Monday or Tuesday there is a risk that SAS that we were supposed to fly with are on strike in Denmark. Fuck yes!

Am I being punked?