Musings in the Dark: The Expat Diaries, Volume II: Riyadh


The Expat Diaries, Volume II: Riyadh

Well, as mentioned in the last update, I arrived in Riyadh a month ago to start the next phase in my expat adventures.  Of course a lot has happened, but let me see if I can summarize it in a series of points.

1.  A large percentage of Saudi men are fucking fine as hell.  I mean, gyatdamb!!!  Hotties to the left, hotties to the right, hotties up above and hotties down below.  The hotness quotient is as high as the temperature, praise da lort!  We’re not supposed to stare, but I wear my sunglasses all the time so I can eye-fuck at will.  I can’t help it.  I’m a healthy hetero woman and the eye-candy is real in these dry, dusty-ass streets. 

These men have million-dollar smiles (even the non-millionaires), smooth caramel skin, full lips and facial hair snatched within an inch of its life.  When I came through Customs, there were a bunch of smiling, happy clerks greeting me with a hearty “Welcome to Saudi” and laying those spectacular grins on poor little old exhausted me.  Four of them surrounded me while I was assisted by one of the grinning clerks and asked me a bunch of questions, which I could barely answer because I’d been traveling for 18+ hours.  It was all I could do to return the smiles, but that trip through Customs was the easiest ever.  If that’s how they’re greeting women when they come into the country, then LAWD!  Other countries should take note.

2.  I’m in the desert, so naturally we’re busting the hell out of 110+ degree heat every day.  The first two weeks, I was certain I had Satan as a roommate.  You need humidifiers in every room, period.  I have one, but two more arriving in my shipment.  Even that may not be enough.  Dust (or in this case, very fine sand) is everywhere and gets into your home in spite of your best efforts.

3.  The place where I’m living…well, let’s just say it wasn’t what I was promised and nowhere near what I’ve heard from people who’ve lived here.  The furniture is dated—and I mean 1980s dated.  This is what happens when you put unskilled men in charge of compound decor, cause a woman would never trick out an apartment like this.  I got a fuckin’ red & green rattan Freddy Krueger striped sofa and loveseat, and one of those big-ass old wood cabinets like my mother used to have that held the TV, the stereo (with the record player), a few fake flowers, and some other bullshit.  My TV is a Samsung straight out of 1990 and the remote doesn’t work.  If my fridge isn’t from 1981, then I’ll eat a bowl of dust.  Simply put, I’ll be glad when my shipment arrives and I can upgrade all this old shit.

4.  Muslims pray five times a day (Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha'a), and each prayer is a half-hour.  The call to prayer starts five minutes before the actual prayer and someone actually gets on the mic and calls followers to pray.  There's a mosque on every corner.  Whatever's going on stops.  If you're in certain stores, they will smooth kick your ass out until prayer is over.  Doors close and lock and woe unto you if you've had to secure a driver to take you somewhere and you caught a prayer time.  You have to wait and it can get expensive.  I downloaded an app so I could schedule around the prayer times.  For the most part, I don't do shit until after Isha'a, when all the day's prayers are complete.

5.  What is there to do over here? Nothing except eat and go to the mall.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Nothing else.  There are no movie theaters, bars, clubs, skating rinks, etc.  Women aren't allowed to ride bicycles (not that I would).  The good thing is that there is a metric ton of various restaurants on every major strip and a mall at every exit.  Most restaurants have two entrances: “Singles” and “Families.”  “Singles” means single men.  “Families” mean single women and actual families.

Yeah, learned that the hard way.   I’m single, so naturally I went to the Singles door and there was a hottie on deck who looked at me and said “No!”  He caught the below expression, complete with a Michael Myers head tilt.  A young man who was going in with his family explained that “families” included single women.  My eyes were rolling so hard I thought they were going to fly out of my skull, but I managed to thank the young man as I entered the restaurant.  Couldn’t stop sucking my teeth or side-eyeing, though.

A colleague told me that apparently, the Hyper Panda (a huge grocery store) is the place to be at 10 p.m.  He said it was poppin' like the club...except folks bring their children.

6.  Wearing the abaya?  That’s no big for me, as I only need to wear it when I leave the compound.  You have to make sure you’re covered when you go into public places, and I wear a scarf around my neck just in case I need to cover my hair.  But the Saudi women walk around like the KKK Black Variations; some even wear knit gloves.  I don’t know how they do it in this hellacious heat, but it’s their norm, not mine.  I don’t plan on being here long enough for it to become my norm.  Damn that.

7.  Dating?  You don’t.  Flirting?  You bet not (get caught, at least). And it’s not even like that’s something I considered or would consider.  But this place is bringing out all my latent tendencies to misbehave.  You can’t dance in public (and that includes bobbing your head and tapping your feet, which is damn near instinctive when you catch that beat).  Coming from someone who used to break it down regularly in the grocery store…this is almost like a death sentence.

Even in spite of the above, I’m doing all right.  I’ll be even better when my shipment arrives.  When I can make this villa my home, I’ll be good.  I’m a homebody anyway, so this is really important to me.  I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how single women have managed to stay here for more than two years.  I look at them like they’re out of their minds, but they’ve found a way to make it work.  Attending embassy parties and events, and knowing the right people make a difference, but I’m not even in that loop yet.

There’s more to come, but this is all I have for right now.  Send love my way, cause I’m going to need it.  This place ain't Shanghai, but I'm here for reasons bigger than me, so I'll deal.


  1. Hang in there. Is it to early to say culture shock? LOL. Hotties on every corner but u can't touch. Booooo. Hopefully u can make a post about the Hyper Panda if u visit. Good to read you are doing well.

  2. You have me dying with laughter over here. Just take it one day at a time and keep your focus on the bigger picture.


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