Riyadh, the city that never sleeps.
Somehow I feel like this statement would suit the capital pretty well. There is not much going on here during the day, but once the sun sets, everyone gets out of their fancy or not fancy houses, gets into their fancy or not so fancy cars and turns the streets of Riyadh into a real challenge and hell for most European drivers.
But once the highway of hell, which is how I call the streets of Riyadh when there’s a lot of traffic, has been mastered, you can go to some quite interesting places. Who said that there is nothing to do in Riyadh?
Yesterday I paid a visit to the Souq al-Thumairi or Clock Tower Souq, as some people call it. It is the souq that is very close to the Chop-Chop Square, where the public executions take place. Yes, you read it right. Public executions.
As I mentioned in a previous post, souqs or Arabic bazaars are pretty awesome places to visit. Especially if you are looking for what I call national experience or just want to get rid of your money someplace else than the shopping mall.
As I walked through the streets and the narrow alleys, I felt reminded of the movie The Kiterunner. Probably because of the way the houses looked.
Salesmen were trying to get the attention of the pedestrians, thobes (clothing for Saudi men) in white and black were swinging in the wind and little kids kept running up and down the street. I actually passed by a Saudi man with his two little kids, probably nine or ten years old. A boy with dark hair, a brown thobe and sandals and the girl in a black abaya with red flowers, her hair under a black scarf. Where else would I witness such a scene if not in Saudi Arabia?
I went into the first store that caught my attention with all its bling, bling inside. I must say that I sort of felt like in a normal part of town for tourists. A lot of the things looked very much like souvenirs. Mass produced for the average expat, which is not necessarily what I was hoping to come across but there were some very interesting things to look at anyway. I guess that I just missed the part with the actual antique things. This is also known as the antique souq after all. Hopefully I will be luckier the next time.
The most hilarious thing I saw yesterday, and here is where we get to the title of today’s post, is the Saudi matryoshka. Most of you probably know this under the name Russian doll. That wooden doll that you can open up and that has smaller dolls in it. Well, believe it or not but Saudis have such a doll, too. Absolutely the same concept, except for the fact that the doll looks like either a Saudi man in a thobe or a Saudi woman in a burqa.
I definitely have to put this on my list of things to purchase before I leave this place sometime in May next year. I also put an eye on a Saudi coffee service. An Arabic looking coffee pot on a tray with several small glasses. Looks like it is made of silver (which it probably isn’t) and is nicely decorated in blue colors. Just my absolute dream object to put into a display case at home but too heavy for my suitcase. Maybe there is something I can do. We shall see.
Another amazing thing that I saw was a gramophone. I didn’t even know these are still around. I used to have a simple thing on which I would play my Russian fairy tales by Pushkin on vinyl discs and it wasn’t even really a gramophone.
So that was pretty much my night out for yesterday. After walking from one store to the next and enduring several minutes in a store that sold incense, perfumes and perfumed oils, I returned home happy but almost broke with some purchases of my own and gifts from some of the salesmen.