One morning in Saudi Arabia, I woke up and decided that it is time for a new watch. To be more specific that was today.
So, I got on the compound bus with several other ladies that have nothing to do all day, except for household stuff and for whom the highlight of the day, as far as for activities, is a trip to one of Riyadh’s shopping malls that make German malls look like a McDonald’s in Macedonia.
I am not trying to say that the people who live here are so limited themselves, it is just that in Saudi Arabia this is what many people do all day to distract themselves, Shopping and going out to eat if they are not at the gym.
Even though I am someone who enjoys the traditional bazaars more than the malls, I must say that sometimes there are interesting things about these places, too or at least when you are new here.
You will for example find that even in malls and serious shops, you can still bargain over the price of an object you may also notice that sometimes, customers get very special treatments while trying on a watch.
So I spotted this nice and expensive looking shop that sells watches. Assuming that the things that are sold there are actually real Swiss or Askania watches or whatever, I started to have a close look at the display cases.
Immediately there was a Saudi shop assistant at the counter, showing me all the newest arrivals, trying to direct my attention to the diamond watches, just as the guy in the previous shop did.
There seems to be something about Saudis and diamonds. Maybe some women are really foolish enough to believe that diamonds are a girl’s best friend?
I eventually found some exemplars that appealed nice to me. And here is where I learned that female customer’s are the most favorite customers and that some people really suffer under all the social interaction rules in this country.
The shop assistant was all into helping me chosing the right watch. I have never seen anyone being so enthusiastic about selling something to a woman. Especially in this society. At least I made a very nice purchase and managed to get the price from SR 1100 down to SR 600 (from 220 euros to 120 euros). My bargaining skills are improving! 🙂
After I FINALLY got out of the shop, I again made the experience that not everything in this place is as bad as people think it is.
When you come to Saudi Arabia and decide to leave the house, you may eventually run into people called mutawa. Sometimes they are also refered to as the religious police. So basically what they do is walk up and down streets or shopping malls, making sure that everyone behaves the way he or she is supposed to do in this society.
If you are an expat woman, you will most likely be asked to cover your hair. When that happens, DON’T argue, DON’T protest or show discontent. Just cover your hair and keep walking.
And this is what happened to me today, as I was just walking around the place. After the mutawa addressed me, I went in front of the window of a shop, put on my hijab as well as I could without the pins and believe it or not, but the guy actually said: “Thank you.”, when I was done and ready to keep walking.
That’s some nice improvement to see! The last thing that I expected when moving here, was for the religious police to be grateful for me following their orders. I guess such a polite response from these men does not happen often but apparently I was lucky this morning.
So what do you do when you had a successful day out? In my case, you treat yourself to something sweet! As I was in a hurry to get back to my bus, I didn’t find the Arabic sweets that I love so much. Instead I tried something called cinnamon rolls, which my American readers are probably familiar with.
That thing is so sweet, my blood sugar started to rise from just looking at it. I mean the chocolate literally runs down the whole thing when you try to eat it. Well, but trying once is okay, right? 😉