Hello there!! I’m back in Riyadh after spending 10 lovely days outside of the “sandpit” in Cyprus (more to come on this later!) . It was a much needed vacation, and it was difficult to want to come back. One of the things that made it a tad bit easier to return was that my Kiwi travel mate and I had agreed to dog-sit for some friends of ours who live in an undisclosed location in the Diplomatic Quarter, and we would have free run of their place in exchange for watching their 2 precious terriers.
The Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) is a secured area in Riyadh housing over 100 foreign embassies and consulates, as well as schools, stores and housing. There are secured gates to get in and out of the DQ with armed Saudi military patrolling the entrances and within the DQ itself. It’s like a different world in that women don’t have to wear an Abaya when out in public here and it has more of a western feel. Not western enough mind you that women are allowed to drive, but it does provided a taste of western freedom that many expats are accustomed to.
The place we are staying is palatial compared to our 1980’s shared accommodation provided by our hospital. It’s a 3 bedroom, 3 storied villa, with a lovely outdoor area and a BBQ that I’m pretty jazzed to grill a New Zealand steak on later tonight. We have an amazing security system with street view cameras and a “safe haven” in the event of intruders. One of the great things about the DQ is the abundance of park areas. They are everywhere, and often very beautiful with water fountains and play areas for the kids. It’s been really lovely walking the dogs around the neighbourhood. They are a big hit. Even at the guard stations.
The only down side of our dog sitting adventure is that we now have to commute to work instead of being able to walk to the hospital. This entails having a driver take us to and from our shifts at the hospital. Not being able to drive is often one of the most difficult things to living in Saudi Arabia. As a woman I am completely dependent on someone else to take me places. That means if they are late, you are late. If they don’t show up, you are stranded. It can be very, very frustrating. Let me describe yesterdays journey to you a bit. I start work at 7am, so normally leaving the DQ at 6:30 leaves plenty of time. My usual driver is home for the month in Pakistan so I’ve been using an Indian fellow. He was a little late. And then he said there was a lot of traffic on the side streets so the freeway would be quicker. As it turned out a camel would’ve been quicker. The freeway was basically a parking lot. The 4 lane freeway was packed at least 8 cars across everyone inching forward bumper to bumper. Some of the vehicles decided to pull the genius move of going the wrong way down the entrance ramp to take side streets. Others preferred to take the 4×4 option of jumping the curb and driving on the garden shoulder and bypassing the whole cluster!! Sadly, my driver was not up for an early morning adventure. So we sat. And inched forward. And sat some more. After 45 minutes I eventually made it to work. Oh wells……..
So that’s been my week. More on Cyprus very, very soon…..