Thursday, 17 June 2010

Riyadh Bathroom Post


This is a Riyadh bathroom post.
Let's jump right in.

Toilets.

Quite necessary.  Sometimes necessary in a hurry. 

Why write a blog about them? 
Because today, yet again, in a very modern mall in Riyadh, the only available option for relief for this expat woman was the hole in the floor squat model (the others were occupied) toilet.  And yet again getting to it was a tip toe through a wet puddle.

EEwwww I hear you say.  Ewwwww is what I'm thinkin at the time (or more precisely 'I hope this is just water'), but I tread carefully on because I gotta go.  Yes I have shoes on, but the thought of it not only being water is still unpleasant.

Anyway, after reflecting on my day, I decided to write a bog blog.
What does that say about my day?
Everything!  But that's another story.

If there is one thing I have learnt about being an expat living in Saudi Arabia it's don't leave home without the toilet paper - or a good substitute.  In my hand bag are stacks of tissues.  Leaving home without them is asking for bathroom break trouble.  You'd think this would only apply to extended trips to the Saudi desert or desert islands.  Think again.

SAUDI ARABIA DESERT ISLAND DUNNY EXPERIENCE
When out in wide open spaces we were taught by our loving parents, who liked to take us on long road trips where the side of the road was often closer than a gas station loo for a child in a desparate situation and leg crossing just wasn't gonna be helpful anymore, that squatting is a method adopted to get the job done, preferably behind a sufficiently thick bush (or an angled car door) for privacy.  If you're lucky a soft, wide leafed plant is nearby for followup requirements (or mum bought toilet paper).  That's fine if you live in the wonderful thick greenery of New Zealand.

On a desert island on the Saudi Arabian Red Sea try finding a thick green shrub. 
Bush, where's a  bush.  I don't see a bush.  Oh yes I do.  Crap, I can see right through that piece of thorny scrub.  And even if I squat it's shorter than me......I gotta go, Man I seriously gotta go.....I think I'll just walk a long way away from my company and hope they're decent enough not to look. 

(Of course, I never counted on having a husband with a camera - what he intends to do with that photo I don't know).

THE CITY DUNNY EXPERIENCE
Toilets in Riyadh aren't only the squat over a hole variety (which I don't have a problem with, really).  There's also the sit and.....well, you know, type as well.   

The quality of the toilet, as in all countries, is dependent on the quality of the establishment housing said facility and some said facilities are sorely lacking in quality.  But there are two things that can be found (or not found) in numerous toilets in Riyadh city regardless of the style of commode offered or the quality of the establishment.

First, the floor is often wet.  Just to get to the loo I've got to hold my darned abaya off the ground so I don't come out damp.  Fortunately most toilets have hooks on the back of the door so I can, if I want, hang the abaya up prior to getting down to business.  But try robing and disrobing in a pool of water and not have some part of the blessed garment fall in the drink!  If in a bit of a rush then the abaya gets scrunched into my hands.  They're so long it is possible to misjudge hoisting the whole thing up out of the way.  All the while going through my mind  is 'I hope this is just water.'

And second, in many toilets the loo paper is totally missing. 
Where's the toilet paper?  Where the hell is the toilet paper?  There must be a roll somewhere - god dammit - nothing!  

OK, so what to do.   A quick shake will do for number 1.  But what about number 2's. 
OK, where's my bag, I'm sure there's a tissue in it somewhere - please universe, please.

I realised, eventually, cos I'm a bit of a slow learner, that the lack of loo paper in Riyadh toilets is not just because they ran out.  Oh no, they never intended to have paper at all because there isn't even a toilet roll holder hanging off the wall.  Enter  - The Wash Hose.

THE APARTMENT DUNNY EXPERIENCE
Our toilet (in our apartment) has a wash hose beside it (See picture).  Coming from NZ we never grew up with wash hoses and bidets.  The only time I used  a bidet was in the delivery unit, right after having each one of my beautiful children.  Once home, it was back to the toilet paper.

Anyway, I figured, seeing as the hose is here, I'll try it.  I knew two things about this hose.  It had a bit of pressure behind it  (when I first arrived I asked Glenn whats this for - squeezed the nozzle and water shot out and practically hit the roof) and the water was cold. But, I wasn't deterred....

'Right, which way does this go? This isn't as easy as I thought. Why do they have these instead of bidets anyway? Hell, am I supposed to stand up!  No that can't be right. 

OK. Think I've got it. Hold my breathe. Squeeze the trigger.....

Bloody cold water everywhere. And I've got a wet arse.  Now I need a towel to dry myself.

Every bathroom facility in Riyadh, that I have had the necessity to use, has a wash hose.  Apparently washing oneself after excreting bodily waste is the done thing here.  Glenn told me this is why they say only give, eat and accept food with the right hand.  The left has probably been washing ...uummm.....bits.  This practice is also why the toilet floors in public conveniences are often wet and why there is no need for toilet paper - something I disagree with because what do you dry yourself with when you're done washing?  Another quick shake??

Suffice to say, since moving to Saudi Arabia I have learnt a few things about using conveniences while out.  Always check for loo paper before entering toilet cubicle.  If none, test the wash hose into the toilet before it's required to ascertain correct pressure control - it is possible to control the water burst and therefore prevent excess bathroom flooding and, more importantly, very wet butt  which is very hard to dry without material for that purpose.  Of course an all covering abaya can come in handy for such occurrences (Has that happened to me? Nooooo!) - and warmth (if it's cold well, at least I'm mentally prepared). 

But most of all, before leaving home make sure there are tissues in my bag to prevent possible unthinkable disaster in a Riyadh bathroom.

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