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Coffee Mornings, Stroller Tanks and Other Stories

What would your first thought be if you got out of the house, walked up to the street of your compound and saw dozens and I mean dozens of buses standing there neatly along the sidewalk? Mass evacuation? That’s probably what you think but no, that just means that a bunch of women from all over the city have assembled on your compound today because it’s coffee morning time.

A coffee morning is pretty much something like a bazaar that takes place on a compound and is mostly for all the expats. Sellers bring all of their stuff and people come in to buy it. You can get pretty much everything from abayas to traditional souvenirs to shawarma.

These coffee morning events can become very full. This is because coffee mornings are a woman’s pretty much only opportunity to leave her compound once a month  and interact with other women from other compounds.

The worst crowds form at the abaya stands. Since the whole thing took place where I live, I got up a little earlier and used the few minutes I had to look for a new abaya without being surrounded by several other women, who were indirectly trying to crush me between them.

I have made the discovery that there also are abayas that don’t button up in front but that you put on over your head. Dear women, if you get your hands on such one, I’d recommend to buy it. With that one you won’t have to bother about the buttons opening when you are outside. You just put it on and basta. No messing around with buttons.  In the end it looks more or less like an oversize dress even and it can also have decorations in other colors than black.  On such gatherings you can also get designer abayas, which look pretty unique and abayas made of more natural material so you don’t boil as much during the summer months.

There are also some remarkable pieces of jewelery and art you can get. The great thing about buying things in this country is that prices are always negotiable. All ou have to do is, once you show interest in an item, put on a sorry face, like you really regret that you don’t have enough money to buy it. That usually works the best and can bring you a nice discount.

As I already mentioned, you can also meet new people or realize that nationalities you were not aware of live in Riyadh as well. I heard people speak Russian several times today. I assume they are either Russian or Uzbek. In fact, the whole event today made me think of that one exhibition building in Minsk where all the bazaars take place. Something like the Middle East bazaar or honey bazaar. It was just like home, except it was not as hot as it was during my last visit in Belarus.

Let me tell you however, that such coffee mornings are not necessarily for everyone. The amount of people there is huge. If you are claustrophobic, you better stay home.

Apparently strollers are multifunctional now. If you show up there with your child, you can use your stroller as a sort of mini tank that will help you to get your way mercilessly  through the crowd. What women do here, is they just push the thing in front of them like it’s a tank going through a forest and the other people around are the trees that have to be gotten out of the way.

It’s funny to see what ” survival of the fittest” has turned out to be about in modern-day consumer society.



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  • Reply
    February 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Hey there,
    I’ve just finished reading your blog from the first to the last post, and I really enjoyed it!!0.
    I’m a Saudi guy who is currently a college student in the US, and guess what do I do in my free time? I read expat blogs who live in the KSA. it is so much fun to read about the experience of westerners in saudi arabia, and how they explore this new weird culture to them! In fact, it makes me notice and realize new things about my own culture and country that I have not notice before; especially about the places you visited; I have never been to one of them even though I’ve lived in saudi for 18 years!! , so thank you for this nice blog.

    The one thing that I have not figured it out yet is that are you a high student or a high school teacher?!! because the more and more I read I just wonder if there is a high school student who could write these posts!

    Regarding saudi, If you want to really experience the saudi life you should at least visit a saudi house and spend the weekend with them if that’s possible! to understand the saudis and the culture you have to talk and live with them. Also, you should visit Khobar and Jeddah. Khobar is in the east coast, where jeddah is in the west coast, These two cities are the most nice and diverse cities in KSA. I lived around Khobar, so I know that you will find a lot of westerns there.

    Finally, I just want to mention that what you see in saudi is not all islamic. I mean islam does not say women cannot drive, or women has to dress in black. Indeed, islam does not approve of the Monarchy!!,(there is a lot of thing!!) but to be fair, there is some islamic laws that people follow. For example, in islam you cannot be alone with non relative women or man in closed room or place. Anyway, I think the best way to understand islam and the some of the culture is to read the qura’an!!and I think it will be an eye-opening.

    I really hope that you will enjoy your stay in saudi arabia, and Sorry for the long replay!!

    • Reply
      February 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Marhaban and don’t worry about the long comment. I am always very happy to receive feedback, especially from locals! I am more than pleased that you like my blog and my writing skills.
      To answer your question, I am a high school student and not a teacher. I have been enjoying Saudi Arabia quite a bit since my arrival and Jeddah is definitely on my list of places to visit here. Hope to keep you as a reader for my future posts and shukran gazilan for the advice. 🙂

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