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Surviving Riyadh

Restrictions Imposed Upon Saudi Women

Restrictions Imposed Upon Saudi Women

 

We had the orientation on our first morning in Riyadh. I called Tracy and we decided to meet at the lobby at 7:00 a.m. I was waiting at the lobby when she and two ladies got off the elevator.

Tracy suggested we would find a place to have coffee. We went out of the building and followed a walkway. We asked direction to the coffee house. On our way, everybody asked about their roommates.

I was puzzled but didn’t say anything. Tracy had a nurse roommate and said that she was still asleep, worked night shift. The roommate of the others were at work. They looked at me and asked how was my roommate. I didn’t have one. They were curious. One stated I must have a high grade. I didn’t volunteer any information. In this batch of recruits, I was the only one with an Asian origin and the only female hired to work at the Research Center.

Inside the coffee house, others from our group were already having their breakfast. We joined them and ordered coffee. Everybody was excited and talked about their roommates. On our way to the conference room, everybody welcomed us. On top of a table by the door to the conference room were coffee pots. Juices (mango, apple, orange), pastries, plates and cups. Then followed the first day of a three-days orientation.

The first speaker, an American, introduced herself and welcomed us. Then she introduced the other speakers, Americans and Saudis. Saudi Arabia’s history, culture, rules and regulations were discussed. I listened intently as the first speaker talked about women’s restrictions. She told the women to wear their scarves and abayas in public places, not to travel alone and drove a car, not to entertain male in their apartments. Some ladies laughed. She reiterated not to break these restrictions because we were in a foreign country.

We had a chance to talk to the speakers during break times. Lunch was served in another room. The chefs served us beef, chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes. There were varieties of fruits and desserts to choose from.

After lunch the orientation continued. Questions were raised and answered. The speakers emphasized the importance of adhering to the restrictions, mostly addressed to women. Finally, the orientation was over.

Keywords: restrictions, Saudi women, orientation, Riyadh, American speaker, Saudi Arabia

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