“A gold studded city!”. This was my initial thought as my plane was landing at the King Khaled Airport in Riyadh. The yellow lights from the buildings seemed like sparkling gold arranged in squares from where I was seated. Impressive. I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but it was really beautiful.
My husband was working as an engineer in Riyadh during our courtship. After we got married, I had the opportunity to visit him and stay there for 9 days.
Roaming around the airport was not bad.Everything was organized and friendly enough for a clueless ( direction -idiot ) visitor like me. Although I was a little uncomfortable because I was the only woman in jeans and tops and all the rest were either covered up in black dress or had a long dress- like coat over them.
“Is someone going to get you on your way out? ”
I was asked by a lady who obviously was not a national but seemed very much familiar with the place. I had the feeling that she actually wanted to ask ” Are you going out of the airport dressed like that? If so, you’ll be in trouble.”
Her asking made me even more uncomfortable so I hurried as soon as I got my baggage to meet my husband outside so I can have my black dress, which I later learned , is called abaya. The women in Riyadh must wear it. No walking around the city in jeans. So for the whole 9 days I was there, This is how I looked like when we were out and about :
The first ever dinner I had there was a sumptous shawarma. It was nothing like the ones I ever tasted before. I loved shawarma when I was still in the Philippines but that one I had in Riyadh was by far the best I ever had.
To further prove the point that Saudi Arabia has distinct and unique policies, You will see that restaurants and fast food chains are divided in sections for Men, Women and Family separately. So unless you are within a family, men and women cannot be sitting together in an area. Now,I have not been there long enough to see if all people actually abide by this, but it seems really like a strict policy. We always bring our marriage certificate translated in Arabic with us wherever we go, you know, just in case. But Im glad we were never asked for it.
During the day when my husband had to go to work, ( and because my body clock was not used to the new time zone) I spend the morning dozing in here:
and in the afternoon, when I was done cooking ( if I ever had to cook at all for the day) I would stand by the door to his terrace looking at these:
We made one long trip to Al khobar during my stay. During the long drive, I was able to see , almost in close distance what the desert sand looks like.
I will always love Riyadh. Its the country which sheltered my husband when we first learned of each other’s existence. I will always miss his cozy little room which was a little palace for the queen that was me. winks* ( a self assuming queen, maybe? ) I always tell my husband that I loved cooking in that common kitchen shared by all the tenants in the 3rd floor of the building. ( As if I cook that often! I remember once or twice when he was already home from work and I still haven’t cooked rice, what a lousy queen right? excuse: jet lag )It reminds me of our old place in the Philippines- creaky floor,messy sink and gas stoves. I felt like I was back home again.
Its been a year since I went there. My husband is here with me now. And my short stay in Saudi is like a distant memory. As you know, I have not travelled much yet, but, Riyadh will always be a beautiful place I will remember fondly.