Monday, 19 July 2010

Cosmic Calm At Coffee Islands.

As it was our daughter's last night visiting us here in Riyadh, we went shopping at two of the larger malls in town.  She had some last minute presents that she wanted to get.  While we were out prayer time came along, twice. The first time we were prepared and sat in the food hall and ate. The second time we weren’t prepared.  Hence we were left milling in one of the mall courts wondering whether or not to go find the food hall so we could sit out prayer time with a coffee.

The Husband expected I knew where the food hall was.  Obviously Hubby thinks my time is spent frequenting shopping malls a lot.  He's mistaken.  I must be the only woman in Saudi unenthusiastic about shopping so this was only my second visit to Sahara and Hyatt Malls in 6 months.  It saves Hubby a bundle of money, this shopping aversion.

Anyway, unlike the malls at home, Gloria Jeans, Muffin Break and company do not have coffee islands in easy to find locations throughout Saudi malls.  The only coffee island I’ve come across is Costa Coffee, but it is little. Let me clarify this point.  The Costa Coffee ‘family section’ is little because, being Saudi, although the men can occupy the numerous comfy chairs out front of the island, we women enjoy our beverage in a tiny sectioned off area away from public view.  At prayer time this small space is choc full of ladies, their children and their husbands, who were more prepared than us and have settle into their seats early.

During prayer time, all seats in the malls are at a premium. In one other mall on another shopping day, we, Kiri and I, claimed a couple of seats and Kiri learned how close women get in Saudi while waitng out prayer time. Close. Squizz over as close as you can, whether you know the abaya covered butt trying to squizz in next to you or not.  Kiri looked at me with a ‘What the?’ look because along with the black shape came a shopping trolley and a few kids, and when a large pubescent child practically sat on her lap, she decided enough was enough so vacated her seat.  Was this possibly the ploy all along????   I don’t blame her.  Coming from a country that likes our personal space, this closeness can be a bit much.

Anyway, back to the Hyatt. What to do? Roaming a mall aimlessly with the shops open is bad enough, in my opinion, but roaming them aimlessly for half an hour with the shops shut is decidedly pointless. We would sit on the floor, but The Husband is with us and he doesn’t do floors – something to do with his flexibility or lack thereof.

Prayer time had started and, looking around, niqab clad females of all ages occupied all available seats. So Hubby sat himself down in one of the comfy chairs out front of Costa Coffee reserved for the men.

There was only one other man occupying one other chair on that island. Ridiculous! But hardly surprising.

Shopping is the major recreational activity for women in Saudi, apart from visiting family.  It is actually, I believe, a bit of a mission for single men, especially Saudi single men, to gain entry to malls.  Guards (males) are at all entry points to make sure women enjoy hassle (man) free recreation although, believe it or not, only men work in the stores which is a whole other blog.  Women most definitely outnumber men in the malls.  If you’re a man shopping in a mall in Saudi, bets are on you’re with a wife or your mother.  The upshot of this is that Costa Coffee seats reserved for men, at this particular prayer time, were empty.

No way was I standing up with all these free, comfy, seats. I sat down with Hubby, Kiri joined us. Shortly thereafter, all remaining seats reserved for men were full of women.

We sat there and chatted. They sat there and chatted.  Lone other Saudi man drank his coffee and all was well.  The world did not end.  The cosmos did not open up and wreck mayhem down upon us. Fraternizing between lone man and abundant women did not occur.  In fact, lone man was, to my knowledge, completely ignored while women took this enforced time out to show each other what they had bought.  It all felt very normal.

The minute prayer time ended, one of the staff came over and told us we had to leave – only men could sit here.  Ridiculous!  Totally disturbed the calm he did with that statement.   I mean, was the cosmos gonna work itself up into a lightening bolt just because women, the majority population in malls, are sitting out front of the coffee island.  Honestly, sometimes I just don’t get it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a few thoughts on this post. I would love to hear them.

If You Liked This Post Share It With Friends

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...