Thursday, 27 October 2011

Emptying Dining Spots


The Bearded Ones have been emptying dining spots throughout Riyadh recently.  I'm not exactly sure what their goal is with this strategy.

Since the King graciously gifted them their huge, ummm, payout they've kept busy driving around in their flash new wheels ....


 ....ensuring eateries in Riyadh are empty for daytime salah's.  Previously it was possible to stay in a nice dining spot to wait out prayer time.  In fact, such places of refuge were sought by women specifically for that purpose. 

Now it seems it's not OK.

The staff say that the Spiritual Guiders turn up to the premises frequently around prayer time to check that no-one is there. 

One wonders if those who lead the Bearded Ones (BO's) have given this latest move a lot of thought.  Not that I'm an expert in the area but the ladies I have been with both times we were asked to leave our coffees, are. 

They believe in this religion. 


It annoys them that extremism means they aren't allowed to live it.

You see, the majority of patrons in cafe's during the day are women.  Shafting women from the safe comfort of a cafe during prayer time is doing a number of things.

Firstly, it's keeping women out of eateries until after the last salah, which during the summer months is 9.30pm.  The afternoon we went for coffee at a popular spot the place was empty. I did wonder why, till we were asked to leave.  The drop in customers must be affecting the bottom line of businesses.

The BO's might think they're doing a great job keeping women at home during the day. 

image - bnet.com
Ummmm.  Not really.  I gather all they do is trawl malls more often, visit each other at homes more often or go to hotels to have coffee because, presently, you can't get turfed from a hotel lobby coffee lounge during salah.

Just today we went to a hotel for coffee.  The place was chokka with women....and men.  Let us not forget the male of the species like to meet over green tea and cake as well.

Those women who don't know about this latest tactic of the BO's are actually forced into dangerous situations (from a Saudi-Muslim point of view anyway).  If their chosen diner is not located at a Mall, (most of my favourite coffee spots are not at Malls.  Mall Food Halls tend to serve junk food and crap coffee neither of which I'm partial too for health and palatability reasons) and they don't have a driver waiting outside (which we didn't once) they are left to wander the streets making frantic calls to their significant male to come get them now or they must search out taxi's (driven by unrelated men) to drive them to the relative safety of....well any place they can get into, which is usually a mall.

The other day when my friend and I (a different local lady this time) were requested by staff to vacate our comfy dining seats we headed out to her waiting car and drove to my place because, one, it was closest and, two, I could guarantee that our coffee and important discussion on educational planning would not be interrupted.

It is not uncommon for women to have business meetings and due diligence discussions about potential mates for their close male relatives over coffee and a spot of lunch.   The BO's latest endeavor has thrown a spanner in that little practice.  (My friends say potential mothers or sisters in-law like to suss each other out at coffee shops.  Undercover reconnaissance is easy in this country when you're constantly wearing your black disguise).


You may ask why the women aren't going to pray at prayer times? 
Well, many do.  At home.  Whenever I'm visiting the ladies at their homes they have excused themselves to go pray.

As for those not at home, my friends have told me it is not a requirement for women to go to mosques to pray, so why The Fervent insist on shooing women out to a mosque is contrary to common accepted practice.

Also, although there a specified prayer times,  it is not absolutely necessary to pray at those designated times.  In fact, my friends said when they choose to pray is between themselves and God.

Apparently, if a Muslim is indisposed at a prayer time (as in, at a meeting in a nice place that serves lunch) they can make up that prayer at another time that day.   The men do this all the time when they are working or at conferences.  The Religious Vice Seekers are actually, say my friends, interfering in women's right to practice their conversations with Allah as they choose.  They should, in short, be keeping their sticky beaks out of other peoples' God relationship. 

I also think the Religious Leaders need to learn to trust their fellow Muslims.  The majority love their religion and know how to do the right thing.  Those that don't....well Allah has warned them.


The other reason women are not praying during Salah is that menstruating women are unclean and are not allowed to pray.

Given there's a population of about 4 million Saudi women of marriageable age running around Saudi Arabia, with the majority of those apparently residing in Riyadh, that's a lot of Aunty Flo's not allowed near a prayer mat.

As an aside, If you're an expat woman coming to Saudi and want tampons, bring your own, about a years supply.  They're extremely hard to find here due to the risks, I've been told, of hymen damage and, more importantly, women getting pleasure from their insertion and removal.......Yep, I "ooo baby" over my used tampax all the time!  (Sorry about that visual guys, but the Bearded rational really is sick, don't you think?  It's like saying men get pleasure every time they grasp their Tallywhacker to bleed the lizard.  Who know's, maybe you men do and just haven't told us that yet!)


Does a woman have to explain her menstrual condition to an unrelated man, even if he's part of the Bearded New SUV Club?  Does she need BO's permission to miss prayer because she's bleeding.  Absolutely bloody not!  What is going on with her body is between herself and her creator...and possibly her female relatives and her husband.

I get the feeling not being able to sit in a coffee shop when it is their right to do so, is starting to annoy many women, but what can they do?

Yet again, the reputation of this country being totally patriarchal and extreme is highlighted with the Bearded Ones latest crusade to interfere in women's business and empty dining spots throughout Riyadh at prayer times.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi
 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Rugby World Cup Final in Riyadh


We've just got home from watching the Rugby World Cup Final at the New Zealand Embassy here in Riyadh.  It was a great night.

Congrats to the Boys in Black, their coaching team and everyone invovled in getting them that 1 point win.  Talk about make us sweat!!

Hats off to the French who gave everything in this game.  They were worthy RWC finalists, contrary to what news reports wanted you to believe in days prior.  (We have spent a fair bit of time from our Saudi located couch slagging the media for their rather negative reporting about many things to do with the RWC).  

Many thanks to the folks at the NZ Embassy for allowing Kiwi expats, French expats and rugby mad expats from other nations, who are currently based in Riyadh, the opportunity to come and watch some of the AB games on the big screen.


Putting these events on for we expats is, I've been told, not actually part of the embassy job description - they do it out of the goodness of their hearts and the knowledge that life here, away from friends, family and normalcy, isn't always rosy.

Our Ambassador and his staff give a great deal of thought to how best to assist Kiwi's who live in this region and promote New Zealand to other nations.  Our country's reputation is at stake should their decision not be carefully considered.  In this case they concluded that, regardless of whether or not the AB's  made the finals, as NZ is the host country of the RWC, our little embassy should extend Kiwi hospitality to rugby fans, and interested Saudi's, here in the desert.

They have done a great job. 
As one of those without access to Orbit, Hubby and I are extremely grateful.

There were a lot of expats at the embassy tonight.  Many had deliberately stayed away from any news of the game which was played in NZ earlier in the day.  Saturday in Saudi is a work day....access to Orbit to watch the rugby live while at work is not possible for many expats here.  Those who could watch the game live, kept mum about the result.

I would have pictures of the New Zealand Embassy occassion but mobile phones and cameras are not allowed on the embassy grounds.  The RWC ice sculpture of a Silver Fern, a Kiwi and the Web Ellis Trophy was beautiful and kindly provided by Al Khozarma Hotel, as was the celebratory cake for dessert.  Eric, the GM of the hotel, is an absolute gem and a great supporter of the NZ Embassy.  He's also an excellent chef so it goes without saying the food at the Al Khozarma restaurants is outstanding.



Reports from whanau back home say that NZ put on a wonderful rugby tournament, with folks getting behind all the teams who came to town, while national fervour and excitement of the AB's in the final built to fever pitch with All Black flags waving from homes, cars and babes in pushchairs.  (A few All Black flags even made it the embassy tonight).

The whanau back home planned all things around this final.  The Piri Mokena Tournament (otherwise known as Marae Wars) held every Labour Weekend in Kaeo finished in time for folks to settle in front of their tellies to watch how the big boys play.  Mum gave me updates on Facebook.  Patunga didn't make the final this year :(

It would have been nice to be at home enjoying the celebrations of the All Black win, but life has brought us to the other side of the globe, so it's comforting that we have a place where we can join fellow countrymen and women to support and enjoy events like the Rugby World Cup final, here in Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Working in Saudi Arabia Is Different



Working in Saudi Arabia is different.

Hubby often has 'discussions' with head office in Dubai about how they need to manage their expectations when it comes to getting things done in Saudi.  They're catch cry "What's so different about Saudi Arabia," really shows their ignorance.
 
Head Honchos pop over for visits now and then  and expect to be treated like royalty - driven around and entertained for the half day they may be here.   Fairly obviously they don't pay attention to what's going on around them because after these visits they continue to spout that Saudi is no different to any other place.

Riiight.
Perhaps they see Saudi as a modern country, and I must admit at night the place goes through a metamophosis and looks beautiful and sparkly.   Such transformation must be supported by, and encourage, up-to-date processes, systems and forward thinking. 



Well, maybe some of the locals are that way inclined, but if the Head Honchos lived here they'd soon learn, generally speaking, what a mushkilla that idea is!  If they lived and worked here they'd go through the KSA Expat Transformation.

It's interesting to watch western expat newbies (those in Riyadh anyway) a few weeks after arriving all bushy tailed and rosy cheeked in anticipation of great things, stumbling around in disbelief at how inefficient, slow and somewhat backward many of the processes are here.  And how totally averse to change many company's (or at least the staff within them) seem.

Of course, no matter how many times you tell a non-resident what to expect in most of the work environments in this country, they don't believe you.

The well qualified Newby, because the majority of westerners who come here are professionals in their fields, must learn how to massage Saudi ego's (ok, I admit ego tripping isn't unique to Saudi workplaces - Head Honcho's everywhere have huge as egos), step aside for saudi wasta a.k.a favouritism but more likely nepotism.  (Hmmm...I have to admit we Maori's are a bit that way inclined too) and ignore Saudi clock in and clock out times a.k.a shortened work days or long lunches...every day. (We have MDO's (Maori Days Off) - but not every day.)

Dubai Head Honcho's (actually, any HH's) need to experience for themselves the prevalent Saudi attitude to work (Huh!) the Saudi attitude to change for improvement (Yes, of course....but you'll turn blue holding your breath), the Saudi way of getting things done (Pass it to me so I can pass it to him and he can pass it on....and the next guy is not responsible and has no idea who is), Saudi attitude to punctuality (insha'allah a.k.a maybe), and the Saudi attitude to most non-Saudi (pffff!). 

Eventually, just like most expats who currently work here,  Dubai Head Honcho survival in KSA will be dependant on them acknowledging, and being happy, that their own highly developed work ethic and concept of quality contribution (I'm not dreaming.  Such Head Honcho's actually exist!  Why else do they think they deserve to be pampered when they turn up?)  will most likely result in them doing most of the work themselves, probably for less pay than the Saudi guy in the office next door who must have got his qualifications out of a WeetBix box cos he knows squat diddly and whose role is....undefined.

image:iappfind.com
Yes, it would be interesting watching the high expectations and 'Come on, get to work people' whip cracking demands of Dubai Head Honcho being replaced with disbelief at how things function around here. Disbelief followed by frustration...in fact those two emotions are quite closely intertwined for the working newby expat in Saudi Arabia. 

Old hand advice for newbies goes something like this:  Just chill.  Slow down.  Get used to the rythm of the place.  And learn the word insha'alla (God willing) so well it rolls off your tongue at any given moment.

We know a few newby's who arrived here from NZ a few short weeks back.  Their orientation exercise back in the home country lacked a few Saudi truths.  They are learning them very quickly.  (Hang in their ladies, it'll come right).

They are trying to explain to the bosses back home just what working here is like.  I get the feeling their bosses think they're exaggerating.  Most bosses with no real experience of Saudi think that.  (Fly in and Fly out days do not constitute real experience).

Hubby's Head Honchos in Dubai think that explanations of Saudi systems are excuses for dragging heels and they like to tell him so.  He likes to call them names, usually starting with F  - at least that's what he calls them when he's talking to me.

Of course none of the Dubai heads want to actually move here.  No way!  Life in Saudi Arabia is far too different.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Doctor in Riyadh


I visited a Doctor in Riyadh a few months back, for an earache.  I may never go again!

"Ooooouuuucccchhhh, that hurts" normally does not result in a Doctor saying in a surpised and somewhat agitated fashion "Do you feel pain?"

This was my first visit to a hospital in Riyadh to see a doctor for an ailment.  Normally Doctor visits are reserved for really serious things, like "I think I'm dying".  For some reason I just don't like doctors.

But this was the third earache I've had since being in Riyadh.  It was also the third earache I've ever had in my life, though my mother may argue the point, but seriously - I don't get earache!

My first experience of this phenomenon was in Salala - got earache there, treated it with garlic till I figured out, due to a raging temp and general overall unwellness, that this little earache was becoming a problem.

So up to the local pharmacy I went, because Doctor aversion was in full swing, and Mr Pharmacy Man handed over antibiotics.  Earache sorted.

Second earache went away with garlic and vitamin C.



Third earache arrived as a faint twinge, hung around in the background as if making up it's mind what to do (so I did very little), then day three I woke up throbbing - as in THROB-BING. 

Hubby, who loves Doctors and is not happy any time he has to sleep next to garlic, had me in the taxi and on the way to hospital.  Why hospital?  Because being expats who normally have excellent health we have not bothered to find a GP service here in Riyadh (if one exists), and every one knows Doctors work in hospitals.  Right?

W also figured this was an excellent opportunity to actually register at a hospital - something expats are encouraged to do before falling unwell and something we have, thus far, failed to get done.

Hubby came with me for two reasons - knowing how 'I Love Doctors' he wanted to make sure I actually saw one and we'd heard things tend to happen a lot faster in hospitals if women are accompanied by a male husband type.



Not that Hubby did anything - he made me do all the talking.  This is how my visit panned out.

At the appointment desk in the foyer I asked to see a doctor for an ear problem, they direct me to Ear, Nose and Throat.  So far so good.  The English spoken is excellent.  I'm led by husband to the elevator - he still didn't trust me to follow through.  Hmmph!

Approached young Saudi man at ENT reception desk. 

'I'd like an appointment to see a Doctor'
'You don't have an appointment?'
'No'
'I also need to register because I'm not registered here'
'You are not registered?'
'No'
'This is your first time?'
'I did my Iqama medical here'
'Oh' - is that a good Oh or a bad Oh.  Not sure.

Asks my name and a couple of other questions which are entered into the computer.
'You can pay for the appointment?'
'I have medical insurance' - Hand over BUPA card
'You have insurance.  Good'

Enters lots of data in the computer.  Turns out my BUPA card has expired.  Hubster, who till this point must have been guarding the exit, steps forward with his current BUPA card.  Apparently as My Man he can vouch for me with his card.  Where is my current BUPA card?  He's sure he gave it to me.  Uh-huh.


I'm handed a form to sign.  I sign it.  Hubby asks questions about it - lawyers do that.  Nice Saudi man asks for money.  We pay.  Apparently I am now registered.

Well, that was a lot easier than anticipated given circulating expat horror stories of slow processes.
The nice Saudi man tells me the Doctor will fit me in between appointments, please take a seat.

There are Men and Women Only waiting areas.  We go in search of seating suitable for couples.

Two minutes later I'm taken away by Filipino nurses for pulse, temp and BP.
Return to my seat expecting a long wait.

Three minutes later I hear my name being called.  I nearly miss it cos it's pronounced with a Filipino accent...  (I'd write Mrs L with a Filipino accent but you get the picture).

The doctor is female.  Oh good.  I'm fairly certain this means she will actually look in my ear.
She sits behind her desk and begins firing questions (there is no hello), her accent indicates Eastern European -
'What is the complaint?'
'Is it just the right ear?'
'Is there pain?'
'Does it itch?'
'How long have you had the complaint?'

Replies are given nicely to try and change the interrogative nature of this exchange to something resembling Doctor/Patient interactions I'm used to.

'Hop in the chair'

'The Chair' is where she looks first down my throat, then up my nose, then in my good ear, and finally, with the same care and attention she has shown through out the consult, in my bad ear.

Her decision - my ear needs cleaning.
How do I know? 
She says, 'Bend your head that way' - which I do - and then she sticks a vaccuum in it.
Whhiissssh,  Sccrrreeeee, ssssssssSSSS



The shock factor numbed the first few seconds of vacuuming.  Then it started to hurt.
"Oouuuucccchhhhh! Ouuchh, Aaahhhhhhh!  Yeeoooowwwww!" 
I pull away holding my ear.

She says, Sit still, you must be still. You must not move, you will hurt your ear!

My ear already hurts. Is it blocked? Is anything coming out?  Is this necessary?
No information is forthcoming.

Slightly exasperated she says, You must be still. This is a soft vaccuum, you see (and she holds it against my arm.  Yep feels soft enough)

OK, I'll try again.
Why? Buggered if I know. Deep breath. Implement all relaxation type techniques.
Here we go - Whoosh, Hissssss Screee...ch.

Ouch, ouch yeeeooowww. Je-sus Christ! Arrrrrrrccccchhhh!  Shii..iiit!
One should probably not yell Jesus Christ in this Muslim country in case such vocalisation is taken for passionate preaching.   One should probably not swear loudly either.   Of course, it helps if one is not at the mercy of Dr What The Feijoas.

I pull away while a nurse, who has been present throughout, tries to hold me steady.

Tsk. Do you feel pain?  says vacuum welding Dr and not in a nice, caring  'awwww you poor thing' fashion either.  Holy guacamole!  How many hints does she need?

'Yes I feel pain', Duh!
Who says Ouch with a vaccuum stuffed in their sore, inflamed ear if they don't feel pain!  She stops in disgust at my obvious inability to handle the pain she's inflicting. 

Crikey dicks....who is this woman?

She decides to put a wick in my ear.  After assessing the size of wick in her hand, she opts for, or rather demands, that the nurse gets the smaller size.  Thank goodness for that.  Though any relief is short lived as she proceeds to put the damned thing in my ear.

More ouching, ow-ing and shii-itting ensues. 

Eventually, she stops - (hallelujah), and puts drops in my ear.
Then returns to her desk and types on her computer.
I'm left in The Chair with an ear that hurts and muffled hearing, cos it's currently stuffed with a wick, and wondering what the hell?  What kind of treatment is this?  Why the hell did I agree to be party to it?

Since my arrival I have been curious to see what kind of health service people got here.  Quite obviously it's worse than I thought!

I realise Dr Feel No Pain is not coming back to The Chair.
Phew!  Glad that's over.  Flamin heck.
I return to the seat by Hubby who is looking a little distressed.  Apparently he was ready to intervene if my agonised cries were to go on much longer.

She asks me a question.
I lean toward her with my good ear, my hand cupped behind it to catch any sound waves, ' Huuuuh!'
At last she cracks a smile.

Still requiring answers I ask, while pointing to a model depicting the workings of the ear, 'So what is wrong with my ear?'  After this treatment I'm expecting something major must be going on.  But no, my ear canal has an infection.

Like....I already knew that.



She tells me if the drops and drugs do not improve things in two days I must come back.  And I can also come back to have the wick removed or do it at home.

On the way out the door Hubby assures me he will take the wick out at home and I will not go ouch. I will feel no pain.



*NOTE: I have since had another ear issue resulting in vertigo.   Fortunately I was in Australia at the time where medical care is, well, more caring.   I'm absolutely certain my Riyadh visit buggered up my ear. I'm currently looking for another Dr in Riyadh should I require one.   Any suggestions welcomed :)



 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Farasan Island in The News


Farasan Island was in the news.  Saudi's first ever Solar Power Plant was opened there earlier this month.

By ARAB NEWS

Published: Oct 2, 2011 00:25 Updated: Oct 2, 2011 00:31

JEDDAH: Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Suwayed, undersecretary of Jazan governorate, on Saturday inaugurated the first solar energy plant in the Kingdom to generate electricity with a capacity of 500 kilowatts.

Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) established the plant in collaboration with Japanese Showa Shell. SEC's Chief Executive Officer Ali Saleh Al-Barrak, Saudi Aramco President Khalid Al-Falih and the Japanese Ambassador to the Kingdom Shigeru Endo attended the inauguration.

The establishment of the solar power plant comes in line with SEC's efforts to introduce clean energy and save the transfer of equivalent of 28,000 barrels of diesel to the Farasan Island, southwest Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia hopes to reduce its use of fossil fuels that it would rather export by building nuclear and renewable power plants. The Farasan project should reduce diesel burning for power generation on the island.

Under the agreement, Showa Shell will own the project for up to 15 years, after which the assets will be transferred to SEC. Royal Dutch Shell owns one-third of Showa Shell, while Saudi Aramco holds about 15 percent.


I did wonder when Saudi was going to go Solar given that almost every morning when I look out my window the sky is a clear and brilliant blue.  The heat attached goes without saying.

This latest news sent me on a search of Saudi's other solar projects - there are a few being investigated by KAUST (King Abdullah Universtiy of Science and Technology), one includes using the sun for Saudi's water supply as explained in this article from KAUST's media room.

Saudi needs to find alternative ways of powering the country.  The Powers That Be are well aware that, one day, the oil will run out and that the current use is non-sustainable.  Internet sources (that most reliable fact generating machine) gives Saudi's current rate of oil production at around 8million barrels a day, most of that sent out to all points of the globe.

According to Hubby, who had to do research on the subject for a client, of it's total oil production Saudi Arabia uses 1.5million barrels a day to run the country's electricity and for fuel (though other estimates say it's closer to 3million barrels).

The Powers That Be have kept electricity and water at very low rates for the population.  So low that the cost of producing both are far in excess of what the people pay.  For example, it costs 10SAR to produce one bottle of water sold for 1 SAR.  I failed maths horribly, but even I can tell that kind of commerce isn't going to keep you on the plus side when the natural resource runs out.  Increasing prices is definitely on the cards...though it must be done slowly or the people may revolt.

Of course, should the rest of the world reduce dependence on oil based products then Saudi will have a lot more to go around.

But even so, the oil is going to run out one day - estimates vary but around 90 years is the figure according to local gossip. 

Saudi should be applauded for facing this fact and actively researching other energy sources.  Using what shines from the sky every day was a no-brainer.  It's just a shame there's so much dust blowing around - it tends to mess solar power up, just a little.

Farasan Island was chosen because it has the highest sunshine hours in the country.  One hopes that the plant is not an eye sore on Farasan and one presumes that solar energy production does not produce pollution that will spoil the crystal clear waters surrounding the islands.  Aramco, being a very reputable organisation, will have kept these factors in mind I'm sure.

I had to chuckle when I heard that Farasan Islands was in the news for having the first Solar Power Plant in Saudi Arabia given that, on our trip to Farasan one year ago, there were parts of the islands that had only received electricity a year prior, now here they are producing megawattage.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Abaya Fashion Parade


I went to an abaya fashion parade.

If I'd known there was going to be an abaya fashion parade I would have sneaked in a camera to the embassy.  Other more switched on (or is that more sneaky) women snuck in with theirs.

The guest was a local abaya designer Eman al Mandeel whose business is named Desert Scorpion and can be found along King Abdullah Road.

She gave a brief history of the abaya which goes something like this - the form of dress suited to shifting sands and heat is a long cloak for the body (allows air circulation) and a cloth that wraps around the head and eyes as protection from the suns rays  and sand blowing in the wind.  This clothing was worn long before Islam came along.

Religion took the local form and made a few minor changes to the design (black) and to the rational of wearing the garment - more specifically for modesty and as a man-hunk repellant, not sun protection.

When asked why the current colour in Saudi is black Eman gave a cheeky smile and said, 'Because it's the most unattractive colour of course'.  Added to that, black hides details - but we women with little black numbers sitting prettily atop body slimming lingerie know that already, don't we?

Why are body slimming models always skinny?

The fashion parade treated us to an array of abaya's, all variations of, or partnered with, the color black, in styles for the tall, short and pregnant and enhanced with different lacey or sequined trimmings and flowing materials.  For abaya's they were quite lovely and one couldn't help but notice they provided a much nicer fit than the standard variety in shops.

Eman believes that every woman's abaya should be a reflection of herself.  She inspired me to go out and purchase some material to have such an abaya made.  I quickly learnt that if the material you decide on isn't black but a bright pink, mahogany or rich green, don't tell the guy behind the counter it's for an abaya - not unless you want to see him go into spasm. 

no, NO, not for abaya, NO!

The material is currently sitting on my dresser waiting till I find someone to make my personal abaya.    My abaya spending limit is usually under 200 SAR.  An abaya designed specifically for moi is going to cost a little more than that.  I have someone in mind who can do the job for an extremely discounted (probably free) price, but Mum lives in New Zealand.

I'm glad I witnessed the abaya fashion parade, but paying designer prices for an abaya...hmmm...not there yet.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Attempting to Make Saudi Coffee


I've been attempting to make qahwa, a.k.a Saudi coffee.  The resultant beverage isn't very tasty.  Not because qahwa isn't a nice brew.  I've become accustomed to it and when it's made right it's delish.   My efforts are not delish.  Obviously mastering the art of making Saudi coffee is going to take some work.

Inconsistent effort isn't helping develpment at this stage.  Every now and then I leap up with enthusiam and determination that this time Hubby is going to say, 'Yumbo'.

But all I get is a thip thip sound that escapes his lips before he inhales the aroma from the coffee cup in his hand, with eyebrow raised .  Then he sips.  Makes more clicky, thippy, tsky noises, nods his head and says,  'It's OK' ....which is not what I want to hear.

I've gone back to my Saudi friends to ask what I'm doing wrong.  One even had the pot out so I could make qahwa from start to finish at her place.  It worked there.

According to my friends, different people have different strokes when it comes to making Arabic coffee. 

You can add the hale (cardamom) to the stove pot for the last few mintues of boiling or you can add the hale to the coffee pot instead and let the flavour infuse as the beverage sits for a while before pouring.  You can add a drop of milk just before the end of boiling if you want or you can add yellow saffron to give it a richer colour.

It doesn't matter what I do, all I get is thip, thip.

I thought perhaps I was using the wrong coffee beans.  Or maybe Hubby doesn't actually like qahwa and pleasing him is nigh impossible.  Though, to date, I've had to agree with his feedback....my qahwa is just OK.

The language barrier did upset my very first attempts at making qahwa.  I went to the local market, asked for qahwa, couldn't understand the pigeon English and ended up with a bag of beans that are used to make Turkish coffee, though I didn't realise that till I'd tried to drink some brew a couple of times.  Totally yek. Gave the beans away to the guys at Hubby's work who like Turkish coffee. Returned to the market, different man, same language issue, wound up with a pre-mixed bag of qahwa and hale.

Admittedly my qahwa tastes better with pre-mix.  But my friends don't use pre-mix and being, on occasion, an irrational stubborn nut, I'm not using pre-mix either.  Premix is gone.

What are the essentials of Saudi coffee?

Coffee beans (lightly roasted or green so you can roast your own) and hale.  Grind both before use.

Coffee beans, hale.
Two pots - one to boil the coffee in...


 ...and one to serve the coffee from.  A traditional pot is the one with the curved spout.  The day to day variety is a thermos.  And of course cups to drink from.  I was advised to have equipment specifically for qawah because the rather strong flavour taints your pots.  


A sieve is also an essential for straining the brew else it can be a bit woody.  The day I forgot that part of the qahwa making process thip thip was accompanied by spit spit.

Here's a couple of pictures of a traditional set up for qahwa making.  This was in a hotel.  I'm hopeful that one day my photographs will be the real thing out desert camping.





As long as Hubby is happy to be guinea pig with this endeavor, as he has for the past 30 years with all my other 'I think I'll try this' efforts,  I'll keep attempting to make qawah, saudi coffee.





Ka Kite,
Kiwi






Thursday, 6 October 2011

Breakfast in Riyadh


Breakfast in Riyadh, is apparently "the place to be".  Admittedly, it is a nice place.  We've been for breakfast, brunch and late lunch.

Breakfast is a small place, simply decorated with the customary booths but they are large, roomy and light offering capacious blue, bench style seating or cosy cafe tables behind minimal, yet tasteful, shrubbery walls.

The menu is quite extensive, though I never get past the traditional breakfast with cheeses, breads and foul or ful...full name foul mesdames - boiled fava beans with spices.

Mum had wraps - they were tasty and filling.



Breakfast is along Tahalia Street, closer to Olaya end than the other.  I like it.  It's not over the top in any way and the service has always been good.  The food is homely and of sufficient quantity.  The entrance to the family section is just off to the side of the main entry...if you go too far down the footpath you'll end up out the back.

Try Breakfast for breakfast in Riyadh one day.  Let me know what you think.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi





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