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Surviving Riyadh

Surviving Riyadh

Surviving Riyadh


Surviving Riyadh was a big challenge to me. I had to get use to men holding hands or kissing each other’s cheeks when they met. Wearing my scarf and abaya became automatic whenever I ventured with friends outside the compound. Once in a while, the Mutaween, the police who enforced the dress codes would shout to cover our hair and harassed those women who didn’t comply.

I learned to schedule my shopping and other activities such that it would not coincide with the prayers. My friends and I avoided places where women were not allowed.

As though coping with our new environment was not enough, the American Embassy in Riyadh kept warning us to be alert and watch out for terrorist attacks. Fortunately, because of my Asian features I was not a target.

These features, however, were also a disadvantage. One day I wanted to buy a wall rug and I asked an American friend to accompany me to the store. As soon as we entered the store, the owner greeted my friend and asked her what kind of rug was she looking for. He went on to show her the displayed rugs. I made more money than my friend. I then asked the owner to show me the best Persian wall rug. He just smiled at me and kept on talking to my friend.

After asking him the third time, I told him that I could afford the rug. I am an American citizen and I have a passport to prove it. He hesitated but finally complied. I was attracted by a 4 ft x 2 ft exquisite rug. Displayed on the wall, it looked as though it changed colors and designs. It was also reversible and could be hung vertically and horizontally. It was very expensive but affordable at that time.

I was also discriminated by some American expatriates. One day I went to a coffee shop. I decided to joined an American lady who was by herself. I started to talk to her. She didn’t bother to respond and moved to another table. Talking to some of my friends, I found out that she was a secretary at the hospital. A few months later, she joined me at the cafeteria and apologized for her behavior.

Keywords: Surviving Riyadh, abaya, Mutaween, shopping, Asian, American Embassy

To Your Success,

Alma
http://www.almaapostol.com

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