LIFE IN RIYADH… GOOD OR BAD?
I have decided to write this Blog 2 years ago, It was October 10, 2006 then in an internet cafe full of Saudi Smokers (I never liked going in to that place, coz i don’t smoke, but i had no choice that’s the nearest and only internet cafe in my place), but I never had he oppurtunity to finish this blog, maybe I did not have enough inspiration and experiences to share back then. But now after 2 years of my stay and finally deciding to leave riyadh I’d like to finish what Ive started.
“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go,” a line fron the Song Leaving on a Jet plane. That’s the last song I would have like to hear 2 years ago, the date was Sept. 17, 2006. I had been very happy with my career in BMS Philippines but as the bread winner of the family I had to take home a bigger earning than what I am getting. My brother and sister would be going to college and my salary would not be enough to suffice our needs. Going back to my story, September 17, 2008 would perhaps be the most dreadful day of my life. I have never considered working in Saudi Arabia but it was the first oppurtunity to work abroad that I’ve got I might as well grab it.
At NAIA I had mixed emotions, but it was more of excitement that I felt than sadness, It was actually the first time that I was goin to ride a plane. So with my batchmates I finally boarded the plane. In a matter of a few hours the plane finally departed. I knew then there was no turning back.
After 10 hours of our flight (plus 5 hours stop over in Hong Kong and 1 hour in Bahrain) I finally arrived in Riyadh at 10:30pm, September 17,2006. My excitement vanished when i reached the Immigration Section of King Khalid Int’l airport, Saudi army men are the ones stationed in the immigration booth most do not know how to speak english and me Arabic. I got even more nervous when I was held in the Customs department, I forgot I brought a Berlitz CD wth me, they are very strict in Saudi, CD’s cannot get pass that easily they must first be inspected before they are allowed to get pass. I was so scared I left my passport in the customs section and I had to go back to the airport the first thing in the morning to get my passport, that was a really unforgettable experience for me. And this is where my life in riyadh started.
WHERE ARE THE DESERTS?
It was actually surprising that Riyadh to see was a fully developed city. Most people who haven’t been in Riyadh has a general perception that it is just plane desert and a really dull place to live in. But I was amazed when I saw the city’s architecture especially when I saw Faisaliah and Mamlakah! Their beauty really captured by eyes!
Most Filipinos do not want to come to Saudi Arabia because of the scorching temperature. The temperature in Saudi Arabia during summer could reach as high as 60 °C. My Saudi colleagues often told me that if u drop an egg in the streets you could leave it to cook there… I don’t know if they were exaggerating (a little help from my bio chem teacher pls… does protein denature at this temp? lolz). But what really surprised me was when i found out that there was winter in Saudi, turns out that Saudi too has 2 seasons, (like the Philippines where the two seasons are HOT and HOTTER), I was surprised when my cousin told me to bring winter clothes with me because winter will be approaching. During my first year in Saudi winter was longer, it started from October and ended in May. But what i hated the most was the transition between these climate changes for it is usually mark by a heavy sandstorm (accompanied by light rain showers on winter) where one is automatically converted into a booger machine (eeww!).
Another wrong belief that we filipinos have is that Arabs smell bad. That’s exactly the opposite, they may not love taking shower frequently (I think they only take a bath at night time before going to sleep correct me if i am wrong please) but there strong perfume called oud is smells very nice (in my oppinion) but some scents could be very overpowering.
I had a very funny experience during the first time I ate arabic food. They had this meal called “kabsa” which is actually fried rice with turmeric, cardamon, sometimes with raisins and nuts, and served with 1/4 or 1/2 roasted chicken. So I was with my batchmates when I have ordered “kabsa”, the waiter served us with a plate of overflowing kabsa (the plate was around 1 foot in diameter), I thought it was for the whole group of 4 people, but when i saw 3 more plates being served I broke in a big laugh. I did not finish the whole plate I just finished about 1/4 of it and asked the waiter to wrap the rest for me.
Food in Riyadh is really good, most dishes are chicken or beef, I think arabs are not fond of eating seafood. They put a lot of herbs & spices in their food, and its a totally different experience for the filipino pallete. There staple food would include rice and kubz (arabic or bread). I suggest you try eating shawarma, moshakel, and sekshuka, and hummus they’re really great!
Most Arabs have sweet tooth so you’ll be overwhelmed by the dezerts that they have in Riyadh.
One thing I have admired about arab’s is there love for their parents. I am really touched when I see young Saudi children feeding their grandfather while they were having lunch in a restaurant. I also see them kissing their folks everytime the see them, a practice very close to ours.
Getting close to women has been very difficult thing to get along with in Saudi. Women wear black dresses and cover their head with black linen too. I had to hide everytime I talk with my cousin when we see each other in groceries coz if a mutawa sees us then were headed for big trouble for sure!
Arabic is a very beautiful language. So if you have time try to learn in I’m sure you’ll enjoy it (I enjoyed it so much i tried to learn arabic caligraphy too! now I can write and read arabic, well only a little coz it’s very hard).
But it’s not a bed of roses in Saudi, most of what we hear about Saudi is true. And it is very scary, especially for filipina women who works in Saudi Homes. We hear a lot of accounts about Domestic helpers and even men who gets mugged and raped in Saudi. I would say that it is not the best place for us filipinos to settle in, and I would discourage filipino men to bring your family in riyadh unless you want to deprive your wife and children of their freedom.
WRAPPING IT UP
Life has it Pro’s and Con’s and I have to admit that I got really used to the life that I’ve had in Riyadh. Vices like drinking and smoking will be minimized if not eliminated in this country. You will surely get to save money here, because there’s no tax, housing and transpo is provided by the comapany and there’s a relatively lower cost of living here. I will surely miss Riyadh, but I would not want to go there again. LOLZ!
-Initially Published in http://www.friendster.com 10/10/06