This song by Shakira inspired a friend of mine to do something really wild. Thursday night after a social obligation, she tucked her kids into bed and waited until they fell asleep. At about 1:30 am she put on one of her husband’s shmaghs (Saudi head-dresses), opened the garage door and drove out! And this is not some reckless teenager; she’s a working mother in her thirties. She told me that it was the most liberating feeling she had ever experienced. She has a valid driving license and has driven a lot abroad but somehow she says this was different.
As she was heading home at about 4 am, she made a right turn on a major street in Riyadh just as a BMW filled with young Saudi men was making a U-turn on the street she was turning into. She accidentally made eye-contact with a guy sitting in the back. Although she had most of her face masked in the shmagh, just from that one look he somehow knew she was a woman and the chase was on!
Suddenly a few motorcycles joined in and she found herself being pushed to the curb with the BMW in front and the motorcycles to her left. The guys in the BMW opened their doors and started to get out, apparently to walk towards her. She says at that moment she suddenly felt possessed. She put her car into park, pushed on the gas pedal a couple of times for effect and then turned the car onto the motorcycles. They cleared out and she sped away. She called her husband and told him the situation. He hurriedly got dressed and waited outside. He saw her coming with her trail of pursuers and she drove right through the garage door as he closed it after her. The BMW stopped at the house and her husband stood his ground and looked at them questioningly. The driver opened his window and said we were just surprised to see a Saudi woman driving. He told them to mind their own business and they drove off. The whole thing was literally like a scene out of a movie!
The adrenaline rush got her through her husband’s lecture and later he couldn’t help express admiration for the driving maneuvers he witnessed. He went as far as to tell her that if they were not Saudis, she should have been a racecar driver.
This post was written with my friend’s permission on the condition that she remains anonymous.
We took the kids and went driving around Riyadh on National Day to see the celebrations. Unfortunately I forgot my camera at home and had to use my cell phone to catch these images. The streets were full of guys hanging out of their car windows with flags wrapped around their heads or waving them. Below are photos and a video of the celebrations:
Some even stopped their cars at the side of the road, got out and danced! There’s a video of this too in which a bunch of young guys parked their truck on the curb and got out and danced with the stereo blasting a national song:
And when we went to Sahara Mall, the muttawa were all out to squelch celebrations. They caught a bunch of teenage girls and took the flags that the girls had thrown over their abayas. And as we were leaving, two mall security officers were holding this guy for the muttawa SUV. As I passed by I raised my camera to take a photo and the poor guy called out to me to go right ahead and take his photo. Hubby lectured the security officers, he told them there’s nothing wrong with letting him express himself as long as he’s not hurting anyone. And the officers said that they are holding him because he offends public decency!
Ramadan in the Middle East is something that I will always be thankful for; a whole month when everyone everywhere slows down and reflects. All healthy adults fast from food, drink, sex and actively strive to be kinder, more generous and calmer from sunrise to sunset. For financially able adults who cannot physically fast due to health related reasons, they have to feed one poor person each day of the month.
In Saudi Arabia, it’s all about giving. Tents are pitched every few blocks and anyone can come in for a meal at sunset. Charities give out enormous amounts of food and clothing supplies. And on the last day of Ramadan, literally tons of bags of uncooked rice are handed out to the poor.
Within households, Ramadan has its own unique atmosphere. Special Ramadan recipes are prepared. Neighbors exchange dishes just before sunset. And people throw Ramadan themed parties where all the kids get to dress in Saudi traditional clothes and collect little bags of toys and candy.
The whole daily schedule is turned upside down. Work hours are changed with the majority of employers only requiring a maximum of six hour workdays. And then there’s the shopping and build up towards Eid. If you want to avoid the crowds, do not go shopping from 9 pm to 2 am. But if you really want to see the natives in action, that’s the time to hit the malls.
The Saudi woman cartoon: Please insert one riyal + a letter of permission from your male guardian authenticated by a stamp from his office of employment + 2 photocopies of the family registration card + a certificate of commendable conduct authenticated by the protection of fungal life association + an aerial photo of your house that proves that there is a male guardian living with you + an x-ray of your primary teeth + your Jinn qareen’s birth certificate + the original copy of the bible + 3 feathers from the wings of a gray rooster on the condition that it’s the youngest of it’s siblings + 2 ground cloves (be careful that it’s only 2 … Once you insert the above requirements please be aware that for your OWN BENEFIT a drink will be randomly chosen for your because you could be OVERLY EMOTIONAL in your selection.
The Saudi man cartoon: please insert your riyal and select your drink.
This cartoon has been making the rounds on Email. I have recieved it twice from two different people. I don’t know where it was originally published.