Monday, 2 May 2011

The Ball Season And Saudi Shopping

It's the ball season and we have a ball coming up.

The tickets were a bit on the ekky side, so I hope the food and music is worth it.  Not that I'm going just for the food and music.  Of course not!  How shallow would that be?  Glenn and I are going because of the awesome charities the ball organisers support.  

Even so, the success of the ball from our point of view will hinge on the quality and quanitity of food, the music and, last but not least, the number of nice people we meet.

Preparing for the ball has been under discussion recently.
The dress code is 'Formal'.
This means, we were told when my friend and I picked up the tickets, tux for men, evening gown for ladies.

Glenn gave me strict instructions that if a Tux was involved we should back out of this ball. 
After explaining his dress code aversion to the Ticket Seller, I was assured that a nice suit would be fine.
Glenn is unhappy I didn't back out!

My friend and I did a mental walk through our wardrobes to identify what we owned that would suit the occasion.  We have one or two outfits that might do.  Our dilemma is whether or not the crowd going to this ball is the same crowd that attended the ball we went to last year - they may recognise our gear.

It's not that we can't buy new outfits if we wanted to.
It's that we don't really want to.

Shopping in this country is a pain in the butt.  For women anyway.  There are no changing rooms in the shops.  You can't try anything on.  What a pain in the arse that is!

Why are there no fitting rooms?
According to the religious knowledgable, good Muslim women do not disrobe outside of the home which is of no help at all to us otherwise blatantly immoral types, called Western Women.

The fact that all the shop assistants in the all the shops in Riyadh are men, except those in the very expensive ladies floor on Kingdom Mall (where I don't shop because of the words 'very expensive'), makes the idea of undressing in a shop even less palatable for a lot of the ladies here.  They've seen lots of movies with hidden cameras and peep holes and such like.  And quite frankly none of that would surprise me in this country.  (Though it also doesn't actually put me off much either as I doubt anyone will be sexually relieved once they get a gander at the rolls hiding beneath my abaya - they're more likely to be mentally scarred for life and in that sense I believe I'd be doing the world a favour with Desperate Jerk Offs).

So, how does one go about buying an evening gown off the rack in Riyadh.  There are a few options, most require taking lots of money.  You have to buy what you want to try. 

The Take Home Method.
  • Trawl a few shops, if you see something nice that might fit and might look good, buy it.
  • Ask the shop assistant how long you have to return or exchange any purchased, but as yet untried, garment.  Some shops say three days, some go as long as seven.  Any shop that says one day - argue or leave.
  • Once you have purchased your selections from numerous shops in a couple of sizes and colors take them home and try them on.  
  • Return within the stated timeframe, with your docket and what you don't want to keep. 
  • Trawl a few more shops for a few more clothes knowing you have to repeat the 'take it home and bring it back if it ain't right' shinanigans.  
  • Then go have coffee. 
The Take It To The Toilet Method :
  • Go shopping around four p.m. when all the shops open. 
  • Make your selections as above. 
  • During early evening salat (around 6p.m.) take your clothes to the ladies toilets and try them on.  Many of the larger malls have fitting rooms in the ladies toilets (which completely negates the previous disroboing arguement, but hei aha!).  Get there early though, every other women and female teen will be there for the same purpose.

    For the smaller malls, with no fitting rooms, be careful not to drop your selections in the dunny or on a wet toilet floor.
  • After salat, return what you don't want to keep. 
  • Then trawl a few more shops for a few more clothes and at the late evening salat (around 8pm) repeat the try on process. 
  • Return what you don't want to keep. 
  • Then go have coffee.  You deserve it.
Option three is similar to option two except you don't wait for Salat, you head to the ladies bathroom as soon as you've purchased your clothes from a shop, and bring em straight back if they don't fit. 

This sounds easy but factor in walking time to bathroom which, for some strange reason is as far from the shops as possible and waiting time as the salesman deals with other customers while you wait to return what you just bought 10 mintues ago because it was yuk. 

I find the entire shopping process, regardless of the option utilised, extremely expensive, time consuming and a right pain.  I might look more fondly on the whole process if I enjoyed shopping. I don't.

The only good thing about the whole shopping expedition is that returning clothes is not a problem.
And the coffee afterwards.

Option four should only be utilised if you're buying cheap clothes for running around the house.  Basically you try them on over the top of your abaya, or find a corner of the shop as far from prying eyes as possible and do a quick change, trying clothes on top of your existing garments. 

I have done this, usually with Glenn as lookout. 

I'm not actually worried about shop assistants having a perve - as previously mentioned the body is going to hell in a handbasket and the shock value might stop them from attempting to sneak a peak ever again.  My main concern is for those Saudi women who can get quite upset at the antics of uncouth westerners. That thing they do with their eyes boring a hole in you is quite disconcerting,

I admit to having a couple of garments in my drawers that don't get worn and because they look horrible but have kept because the idea of heading back out to the mall again in less than a week to return them was not making me excited.  As I've mentioned previously - shopping and I don't mix.  One day, when I get around to a clothing spring clean, I'll likely take them to the nearest mosque clothing bin.

There is one other option for us buying an evening gown for the ball - fly to Paris for the weekend.
Can you see that happening?

Nope, this years ball season will see me once again in last years ball gown though I may splash out on a couple of new accessories just to bling it up a bit.

Ka Kite,

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