Thursday, 12 January 2017

Please, Signpost The Toilets.

This post is a plea.
Someone, please, erect signage that indicates the existence and location of back street parks with  toilets in Riyadh.  Such signposts to be clearly visible, preferably, from the main roads.

I know there are a number of parks with toilets dotted about this city because I've cycled by, and utilised, a few of them on my morning bike rides.   Most are in OK condition for park toilets - as in, there is no toilet paper but the hoses work, the smell isn't too ripe, and they flush on completion of squat job.  Oh yes, they are all squat toilets, which doesn't bother me at all because when the urge strikes in the middle of the city I don't care what kind of toilet I'm in, just so long as I'm in one!

Lovely park.  Toilet in the back right corner.
Most toilets I've come across in the city center are open for use in the morning, however, let me just clarify that statement a little - the toilet marked "Mens" is usually open, the one marked "Womens" can sometimes be locked which is exasperating to say the least.  In such instances a few seconds can be wasted shaking, and, I admit, on bad days, kicking, at the door (with a curse word possibly hurled that way too) before I dash into the mens side where I release my issues to the drain.  Finding a toilet available is, as you can imagine, a great relief .   It has also proven a bit of a surprse to those wonderful men whose job it is to clean up Riyadh while the residents sleep -  women schreeching their bicycles to a halt outside park toilets is not a typical feature of the city's early morning landscape.

Mr Noor used to clue himself up on parks with toilets because he gets uncomfortable at the discomfort of we women who can often be caught desperately short of bathroom avaialability due to prayer time closing restaurants (the usual place to visit the loo) five times a day and Malls being just a tad too far away.

Mall toilets are the other favoured location for Dunny On The Run occasions in Riyadh but with the traffic often snarled and congested due to the Metro work going on these days, there is always a danger that the taxi will not reach a mall quickly enough - and trust me, that thought is absolutely horrifying .  And even when the taxi does get to a Mall, finding the toilet is another panicky dash through shiny hallways trying to find the convenience, which you can gaurantee is upstairs somewhere and nowhere near the Mall entrance.

Hotels in Riyadh have also proven helpful in providing easy access to a bathroom.  In fact, I have to say, that people in Riyadh seem to be generally more understanding of the human need to pee and go number twos than many places in the Western world.  I have run through a closed and darkened Mall on Riyadhs outskirts thanks to security understanding a convenience was required quick smart.  And I do appreciate that in Saudi Arabia you can rock up to a dining establishment just to use the loo, no questions asked.  Such is not the case in other parts of the world where lots of effort is made to not let people near the toilet.  There are the diners and gas stations where you need to get the guy behind the counter to give you a key ( and he almost always lookes harrassed and tosses the key in the general direction of outstretched hand), hotels where you need a swipe card to access toilets in the public areas or cafes, and diners where you are are simply told No, if you don't eat, sleep or otherwise contribute here, you don't toilet here - obviously all the above are rules made up by people who've never suffered the indignity of being caught short.  So big ups to you for being a lot more understanding Saudi Arabia.

There is always room for improvement though, case in point being that occasionally, when I can get the husband up early enough to join me because he's got to drive me there, I cycle along Wadi Hanifah.  So that said husband doesn't feel completely unhappy about his weekened sleep-in being cut short, we also take along coffee and a snack for a post ride picnic.  Our route generally ends at one of the park areas set up specifically for locals to enjoy their evening picnics.  And there-in lies the problem.  The toilets at these picnic sites don't usually open until 4pm, or so we have been told by the blokes cleaning up the rubbish strewn about the place by the previous nights desert revelers.  These same men also do not have a key to the toilets, so can't open them for morning cyclists on a toilet break.  So we early risers have to wander about till we can find suitable cover for toileting issues before 4pm which is not ideal because, on the weekends especially, other people start turning up to these sites just after midday prayer.  Empty space for defecation purposes gets hard to find once the masses begin to arrive, and you can gaurantee it's a good plan to watch where you're going, because someone else has already been.  If the hierarchy could give the cleaning crew a key or unlock these particlular toilets early, that would be much appreciated.

When I first started my early morning cycles around the city a few years back I relied on Google Maps to highlight the nearest green patch that may, or may not, indicate a park.  Not a highly reliable source I have to say, as Saudi seemed to have this aversion to being geo-located back then, so not all indicators were parks, not all such parks had toilets, and not all toilets were open.

Riyadh is much more on the map these days (thank goodness) but back then lack of a facility resulted in two things - firstly a furiously epic cycle to the next green patch indicated on Google Maps in the hope of better luck.  And two, I started plotting back street toilets on a Riyadh Toilets map on my phone.  My map has proven exremely useful over the years and as I continue to traipse the city it is always being added to.  Oft is the time I've considered turning it into an app.  I'd call it Oh Poop!

Toilet locating apps are not a new idea.  Browse through Google Play and you'll find plenty of dunny locating apps.  I've even downloaded a couple - and deleted them soon after.  They have, sadly, fallen short of useful information about the presence of toilets in Riyadh.  There is not much point telling me there are toilets at the gas station down the road when it is only for men, or of highlighting all the restauants in the vicinity, because at Salat they are closed.  Seriously.  Riyadh needs its own toilet app, specifically for Riyadhians.    I think other peeps whose muscular control of their nether regions for whatever reason, would love it.

Or, alternatively, please, whoever is in charge of signposting Riyadh, sign post the existence of parks with toilets.

Thank you.

Ka Kite,

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