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Surviving Riyadh

Vegetable Picking In The Desert

Vegetable Picking In The Desert

While residing in Riyadh, my farm picnic and vegetable picking in the desert took place when a Filipino friend invited me to join her friends and their families. It would be my chance to meet the Filipinos living in Riyadh. They resided outside the hospital compound. It was an hour drive from the hospital. We were picked up by a couple and driven to the house where everybody would assemble.

When we got there, I was shocked to see their living quarters. The buildings were dilapidated. A husband and wife had one room which served as the living room, bedroom and the kitchen. Those with children lived in buildings with worn out walls and carpet. What a contrast to our housing accommodation at the hospital compound. Some of them worked at the Philippine Consulate. It was 10:00 A.M. when we finally left for the farm. There were seven cars.

On our way to the farm, we watched for Mutaween (the Saudi police who enforced the dress code) cars. All of us women wore our abaya and had our hair covered with black scarves.

Oftentimes, the Filipino men and women were harassed by the Saudi police, stopping them for no apparent reasons. The Mutaween normally singled out Asian women in enforcing the dress code. We were afraid of being stopped. We felt safer by driving in groups.

The open hall reserved for this occasion had long tables and lots of chairs. We carried the food and drinks inside. There was a house near the hall where men who took care of the farm resided. One family carried lived crabs. One of the ladies, was very fluent in Arabic asked the men if we could use their stove to warm up the food and cooked the crabs. They told her to go ahead. After cooking and warming the food, we left some for the men and carried the rest to the hall. Laid on top of the table were varieties of Filipino dishes. Everyone took their places and started eating. I concentrated on the food that I had not eaten for a long time.

Keywords:vegetable picking, desert, Filipinos, Riyadh, farm, Mutaween, dress code
To Your Success,


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