WALKING THE STREETS OF RIYADH
I attended a Maasallamah (farewell) dinner of a relative who will be going home (for good) next week- a nephew that is older than me. Haha! The Maasallamah was held at Villa Restaurant, a resto serving Thai, Filipino cuisines located at Al Aruba road---must have: tom yang, hor mok and buttered fish . It was just a small gathering. The group is comprised of the host of the dinner and his wife, me and my mom and a couple with their son as attendees. Everybody was chatting in between the meal and got so engrossed that we were able to finish our dinner at a quarter before 10 in the evening. The TOPIC: Oldies relieving their childhood experiences and everyone was talking animatedly (you know how much they got excited when sharing their childhood experiences) =)
Anyway, I had my moment of “FIRST” when we were going home---home, meaning the flat of my Mom where I am staying for the weekend. We were all waiting to hail for a taxi outside the restaurant and had difficulty in getting one. Obviously due to our number, we need two taxis to take us home. The restaurant actually is just near the Hospital and the housing compound my mom and the rest of the group is working and staying but the problem is we have to cross the street. And if there is anything that you should know about drivers here in the kingdom is their love for speed and their recklessness. So there we were waiting to flag down a cab when a car slowed down and someone peeked at the passenger side (a muttawa I think) and was instructing us to cover our heads (or to that effect) in Arabic so we hastily put on our Tarha (veil). Still, no cab… One from the group was calling the Hala limousine---the official cab transport of most of the hospital here and the most trusted, but no one was picking up our call.
We had no choice but to walk home. The idea excites me. A lot. Haha!
It would be my first time to cross a highway in the middle of the night and to walk the streets of Riyadh--- a thing that you won’t dare do here if you are alone and you are a woman. But because I am accompanied by several RESPONSIBLE adults (me not included. haha!), it would be fun and a good way to burn some of the calories we indulgently ingested from the dinner we had earlier.
So there we were at the sidewalk, getting ready for our battle with the fast cars, standing side by side, and fingers interlaced as we wait for our cue to cross the 6 or 8 (?) lane street. When the stoplight from the distance turned red, we started running as we cross the street as if we were running for our lives! Drivers here are not good on following traffic rules; there would always be one car that would think the red light means “GO”. =) We were all laughing and giggling when we successfully crossed the street unscathed and with some shout of encouragement from some locals who clapped their hands when we were able to reach the other side of the road.
Then we started walking our way back home. We passed by some establishments: food chains, grocery, laundry shop, barber shops... And there is one thing you'll find in common: Not one local woman was on sight---only Saudi men who stared at us as we walk. But I am completely feeling at ease knowing I am walking with a group and we were behaving ourselves well completely.
It was another adventure in the kingdom. If it were in the Philippines, it would be just another ordinary night (Oh, how I miss the busy streets of Manila!).
Sometimes, I would just pretend I am a student from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (no disrespect intended) when I am wearing my Abaya on and try to remember the spells cast by Harry, Hermione, Ron and the rest to keep me entertained. =)