Friday, 23 December 2011

Riyadh No Longer a Mystery

Riyadh is no longer a mystery.
A few weeks ago, while using Google Maps to send a fellow kiwi new to KSA directions to our compound, I discovered that the Google Mapping Bunnies have been busy.  There are new satellite pictures of Riyadh,  street names have been updated and, best of all, it is possible to get Google Map directions from one part of the city to another that even include use of service roads and u-turns.

This is BIG news.

Many is the time my friends and I have headed off to coffee mornings with a sense of adventure, grasping written instructions with hand drawn maps.  Some hand sketches have sufficient detail to get us where we need to go, others are a test of intelligence.  Fortunately we have a lot of brain matter to go around. 

In a normal country it is always good manners to show the driver a map of the intended destination, particularly if it is obvious he isn't familiar with where we want to go.  In Saudi such a move can often be a mistake.  Drivers tend to assume we mere females have no idea what the map says - why else would we be showing it to them?  They take the offered piece of paper (that we have learnt not to hand over as it sometimes takes threats to get it back) study it, nod, say something incomprehensible and set off - in the other direction.

Many drivers can't read and only pretend to know what the map is showing.  If we don't keep on eye on things, they will go round in a very large circles racking up $$$ on the meter.

It has always been helpful when hand written instructions include the name of a popular landmark that drivers will recognise when we mention it.  At least then we have a greater chance of going in the right direction, though we are wary of drivers who've learnt the English word 'short cut' and have no idea what that actually means.

Now that Google has uncovered Riyadh, we can get into the vehicle with a Google generated map and the intended course highlighted.  Though, to be honest, I'm guessing it doesn't matter how lovely the map looks, the reaction will be the same - take the offered piece of paper, study it, nod, say something incomprehensible and set off none the wiser.

Mr Noor, of course, never has such issues.  He knows Riyadh very well.  And the short cuts he takes really are short cuts.  He can also read should I hand him a Google Map.
Initial excitement at Googling headway gave way to a feeling of....well, sadness.  Riyadh is no longer a mystery, well, not to anyone who can read maps anyway :).

Ka Kite,

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