Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hit on in Riyadh

According to my sources (other ladies), being hit on in Riyadh is not an uncommon thing.  
I've been hit on in Riyadh.  
Hubster isn't very happy when I report such instances. 

It's hardly surprising western women get approached in Saudi considering the local belief perpetuated regularly, I"ve been told, over loud speaker on weekends and in school classrooms, that all non-muslim foreign women are very approachable (from an immoral perspective not because we are comfortable exchanging normal conversation with the male of the species) plus, we have.....how can I put this....margarine legs. (Spreads easy!)  

Me thinks Saudi's need to get out more, but not to Bahrain!  
Bahrain, I've decided, may have been a nice place once.  Now it's little more than weekend jolly for 'pleasure seekers' escaping Saudi and lots of margarine, much of it from surrounding Arab countries not necessarily 'the west', ends up sliding along the streets at night.  I'd warn anyone going across the border to be careful what you get buttered up with in Bahrain!

But back to being hit on in Riyadh....
On a return flight to Riyadh one day, I sat next to a young Saudi gentleman on his way home for a break after studying abroad, in the States.  Our conversation, which was extensive and very interesting,  turned to the lovely weather in Saudi over winter and how it was perfect for walking the block for exercise and how I often did so.

He stated the obvious...Saudi women don't walk, which isn't entirely true because I have seen more than a few out and about over recent times, though his point is largely valid.

Then he said Saudi's (though I think Arab men in general from my experiences) believe a woman alone on a street, regardless of her being covered or obviously on a mission walking from point A to point B, is little more than a prostitute.  A woman alone is in need of a man.  

Uh huh?

Apparently a large part of a Saudi man's role is to ensure that no woman in his care (mother, daughter, sister etc) is ever left in a position where she may be labeled 'A Loose Woman'.  

What sort of situations may garner such labelling?  
Basically being anywhere where interaction with 'Unrelated Males' may (not will, not did, but MAY) take place. 

So, don't catch an elevator on your own with men, don't walk alone anywhere, don't sit next to unrelated men on a flight or park bench, do not be left alone in a room with any brother-in-law (he's not a direct blood relative), do not hang around down the back of a shop with the salesman, do not let a male tailor take your measurements - give him one of your dresses so he can take your measurements from that, be careful not to walk supermarket aisles next to unrelated maleness, definitely do not sit alone in a car with an unrelated male.

Given that women can't drive, how can a lady get around this last criteria with taxi's and drivers?  Her options - catch said taxi or chaffeuar driven car with a friend or relative, do not talk to the driver more than is necessary, definitely do not sit in the front seat with said driver.

Obviously I'm an extremely Loose Woman cos I have trouble following through with two out of three of the above.  I often travel alone and can't shut up to save myself.  In fact, while I'm being driven like Miss Daisy, Mr Noor and I are often chatting and laughing as we regale each other with tales of our prospective homelands

The list of Loose Woman Situations created from being alone with The Unrelated can happen more often than you know.  We westerners don't notice it because...well, we're immoral..

A Saudi man must be able to protect his woman (or women) from such danger.  For many that means he must drive her (or them) to where she (or they) may need to go, when she/they need to go there.  Saudi men can, at times, feel like little more than a taxi and errand service.   'Take me here', 'Go get this', 'Pick up that'.  Not that I feel sorry for them.  No way.  Nonsense sowed will be reaped. 

Any Saudi man who cannot care for his woman in the aforementioned way, and many other ways we from the Wicked West think kind of strange, would be considered a bit hopeless really.

Any woman who argues this....what's the word.....under the thumb control freak mollycoddling, is not independent...she's Trouble.

After some discussion, my fellow passenger did acknowledge his understanding that a female walking alone in Riyadh just might be a married Kiwi woman who is comfortable in the great outdoors, loves to exercise and is used to men minding their own darned business unless she's obviously in strife cos her car got a flat and Some Buggar hasn't got round to replacing the spare from the last puncture and, to top off a great day, she discovers that same bugger, in an unexplained fit of 'Insurance is Pointless' also didn't renew us for roadside rescue. Duh!.  

Yep that is one of the few occasions when an on call male may come in useful.  A Real Male that is, not that Some Buggar bloke.  And not a Saudi male either.  Everyone in KSA knows a Saudi man has no idea how to deal with vehicular breakdown.

Local thinking may explain why, the other night, while waiting outside an eatery on a main thoroughfare in Riyadh for Hubby to arrive, I got hit on. Twice

Obviously these were two extremely desparate men. I mean....look at me!   Aging and, well,  somewhat over-indulged.  I am on yet another 'healthy eating' effort which hasn't really fully kicked in and the reason for which an all covering abaya doesn't really all cover. (You can read all about it at my newest blog Hefty Confessions)

The first guy (Saudi, late 20'ish) walked past first. He said 'Hello, how are you?' while giving me the look over.  Me thinks he needs his eyes tested cos a few minutes later he walked back and offered to drive me where ever I may need to go.  I said, 'I'm waiting for my husband'.  He looked terribly ashamed, blushed, said, 'I'm sorry, I'm very sorry' and scurried off.

The next guy arrived not five minutes later. 40'ish and also rather over-indulged.  A non-Saudi Arab.

He says, 'Hello'. I respond because where I'm from that's what you do.
He says, 'Where are you from?' I tell him.
He says, 'My name is (something I didn't quite catch cos, to be honest, I'm not really listening). I'm from Ser.....a'.
I said, 'Where?' cos I didn't catch that either and my response was just a reflex.  He repeats.

I have my phone in my hand.

He says,' Would you like my number in your phone'.
I say, 'No'
He says, 'Why not?'
I say, because I'm not really focussing enough to say something witty like.....well, something witty, 'Because I'm waiting here for my husband'.
He says. 'Oh....Do you want my number anyway?' 

My eyes did that thing, you know the thing where your vision has to refocus on something it was perfectly happy not looking at (apparently I do it a lot to Hubby).  Anyway,  I now concentrate full force on this bloke who, up till this point, really was just a large talking blurry blob, and give him my 'Say what?' look. (You know the kind of look I'm talking about).

The tone of my reply indicates without doubt my desire for him to bugger off.
He says OK and leaves

I rang the now late Husband, "How far away are you, I'm getting hit on' which in any other country may have pumped my ego. In this one it's slightly uncomfortable.

Saudi's extreme segregation has extreme effects.

Stories of sexually frustrated men, whose appendages are screaming to be relieved, taking advantage of women, particularly women who can't fight back like maids, really does make one hesitant to engage with male types who approach at random.  Though I'm determned not to lose my Kiwi-sparkle and do poo-poo some of the cultural mores (like not smiling and laughing in public) it pays for women, at all times, to be on guard here.

On guard!

The other extreme effect is one the locals keep very hush hush (and from here on in I will have to talk in code).

The practice of same gender interactions that would curl the toes of the religiously zealous with powers to apprehend are, apparently, very common in KSA.

Does that mean Saudi Arabia is full of people with a g-ay or les-bian bent? No. Though they do exist. Of course such a choice is kept very secret.  Hardly surprising - the penalty if discovered, I understand, is death.

Carnally speaking, living here is akin to residing in a prison and people get to a point where urges need to be dealt with and, though close at hand, Mrs Palmer and her five daughters just lose their appeal.

So it is rather common for those who are not 'that way inclined' to be involved in 'relations' with persons of a similar gender.  I gather such situations relate more to men than women. This stands to reason.  Men tend to have more problems managing their manly urges (this from a purely female point of view of course). Women, according to one report I read, are looking for closeness, emotional intimacy.  Men want to get their rocks off!

How is it possible for a straight guy in Saudi to 'engage' with another male and not find himself in deep kaka (a kiwi word for SH -u no the rest - T).

Apparently there's an unwritten rule that says if you're the bloke on top, as in delivering the serve, you are not a bad boy in the eyes of those who care.  The other bloke, on the other hand, is a sinner of major proportions.

The rumour mill also says that a certain percentage of chaps from certain nationalities are sponsored into the country because of their 'willingness' to provide such service for the Saudi male populace desperately affected by the segregation rule.  Last year The Powers That Be decided they would crack down on agents who didn't screen properly for ‘the third s$x’ though I don’t know how successful they've been.

I believe forced interactions between males, particularly when the victims are from countries considered beneath anyone in Saudi's Powers That Be circle giving a shit, is extremely under reported here. Rape of boys gets perpetrators heads chopped off which, as far as I'm concerned, is how it should be.  Sexual assault of girls should get the same treatment but we'll talk about that another day.

And just because I’m on a rumor treadmill today, here's another one.

Apparently at the fertility clinics in Saudi one of the questions asked of husbands when a couple has no reason to be infertile is, "Which hole are you putting it in?" Believe it or not, numerous local blokes here are so used to performing anal penetration that once married they are a bit confused on where their appendage is actually meant to go in their wife for best effect.

Before presuming entrance through the backdoor is only between men, think again.  I have heard that unmarried Saudi women, who desperately want a bit of male lovin but can't afford to loose their vir-White as Snow-ginity, opt for non-traditional positions in undercover desert trysts.  

Though clandesdine hetero-get-togethers do happen, I gather they are less common than the same gender luv-shackin that goes on, purely because, in this country, being alone with your own kind is expected and raises less questions.  
There has been a suggestion that the government should implement marriage courses for Saudi's.  If they go ahead with this plan hopefully se-x education will be part of the curriculum for newly betrothed.

It may not stop women from being hit on in Riyadh but it will appropriately educate those Saudi males who require it and contribute to the health and safety of numerous newly married Saudi women.

Ka Kite,

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Eid Break to Turkey

We've just come back from Turkey.

It was brilliant.

We had a little hotel in the Sultanamet area, Adora Hotel, which was perfect for our needs.  A small breakfast provided each morning, a room with a firm bed, a bathroom, a WiFi, and extremely friendly and helpful staff.

Adora Hotel, Istanbul


Fortunately we were informed before departure that it would be cold in Turkey, so I had packed a couple of pairs of pants and my favourite possum and wool mix jersey.  Living in Saudi such items are not generally required, so they were retrieved from the storage bag shoved up the back of the top cupboard.

Swanning in the Saudi Sunshine can make one forget how cold the cold can be, so I still had to buy a scarf,  another pair of pants because I decided 8 days in my 2 pairs of adidas trackies could become an issue, and a jacket - a lovely Turkish leather one - because it really was cold in Turkey.

It was raining on arrival in Istanbul and continued to drizzle on our first couple of days - not heavy rain, but enough to get you wet if you stood outside for long.  We didn't mind.  It was nice to see rain for a change.  Though for the rest of our trip the sun came out and, so long as we stayed out of the shade, it was possible to get warm enough to remove the possum jumper from beneath the jacket.

Arrangements for this trip were left up to me because Glenn had his hands full with that thing called 'work'.  I did run a couple of ideas and prices past him, but honestly, all I could count on was him being too busy to actually give a toss about anything I showed him, so really, this was my holiday :)

So here is how our Turkey trip panned out.

Scanning Trip Advisor I found a couple of highly recommended Tour Guide operations.  Having used a tour guide at the Vatican, I decided a similar service would be required for all the sights in Istanbul, and though it is possible to find guides on arrival, Glenn had assured me he wanted to relax not be farting around organising stuff, so pre-booking was, I decided, in his best interests. 

Timely replies to e-mails, especially personally written replies not the 'thanks for your enquiry' computer generated speel, always creates a good impression.   So, we booked Turkey Tours by Local Guides for two days and were not disappointed.

Our first tour was of Istanbuls historic sights - a full day but everything listed as 'something to see' was seen and fully explained.  I also have a new appreciation for Turkish tiles and marble.

Tiled tap

Room for lounging

Marble Jar, Hagia Sophia
The next day Abdil, our guide, drove us to Gallipoli and spent time explaining the war effort there.  We knew there had been an enormous loss of life at Gallipoli.  This visit opened up our eyes to the losses on both sides, Allied and Turkish, and to the living conditions and battling that both sides had to endure for eight months.

 Kabatebe Museum

Anzac Cove memorial

The Sphinx...Sari Bair

We did wonder why there now existed such a strong relationship between Turkey and the Anzacs given we were trying to invade their country.  The response, 'it was an honorable fight'. 

It was another full day, and we're glad we went.

On the way back we picked up two young hitch hikers, a young woman from Lithuania and young man from Sweden who asked numerous questions in between regaling us with stories of his travels.  Oh to be young and carefree again - though sleeping in a tent in the cold....hmmmmm....I'm over that thanks.

Happy travels.

I had intended to hire a car and spend a couple of days driving to Selcuk to check out Ephesus and a few coastal places but Glenn was not keen on a drive - he just wanted to relax.  My pleas to please let me get behind the wheel of a car so I could drive (life in Saudi is sending me in to vehicular withdrawal) and he could just chill in the passenger seat were met with a determined steely gaze and set bulldog face - that's his "NO" look.
So into a travel agent I popped one evening to enquire on the price of bus tickets.  Out I came with flight tickets to Izmir and a two day tour of Ephesus and Pamukkale with the promise of door-to-door delivery from our Istanbul hotel and back again.  The only thing we would have to think about is dinner.  Glenn could relax once more, and the hit on his wallet wasn't too bad either.

That tour was seamless. 
Everything happened as stated.
It is astounding how much history is buried beneath Turkish soil. They will be uncovering it for a while yet, me-thinks.
Ephesus Ruins
And there is so much marble. Cunning plans for walking off with some constantly crossing my mind.

Now, this should be in marble :)

Whose that getting in my shot???
Our guide, Mahmet, told us their is a bit of raruraru (angst) between the Tourism Head Honchos and the Archeology Fraternity.  One wants the other to hurry up and get things uncovered and restored for tourism purposes.  The other side wants to do the job slowly and properly.  As a tourist, I'm on the slowly and properly team.  It would be great to be part of an excavation, to actually go through that slow painstaking soil dusting discovery of history.  I'd pay tourist dollars for that!  Maybe that could be a Turkish Tours idea.

Of course no tour of Turkey is complete without a stop off to look at Turkish rugs, a little of video of which I will put on my next blog entry, cos this one is getting a little long.

We were also privvy to a leather jacket fashion show. 


Lovely jackets.  And yes, I bought one.

Glenn kinda wishes we had spent another day around Selcuk and Pamukkale.  Seeing the Turkish countyside and smaller villages gave him a hankering to get out of the city and get to know to people. 

We contemplated our plans for a return visit while bathing in the hot pools at the Hierapolis-Pamukkale Heritage site in our underwear, having left our bathing gear on the bus.  The water at Pamukkale is so clear it is obvious you are in your underwear.  I'm thankful I had thrown a long singlet into my luggage in response to the cold weather warning and was wearing it, as this day I hadn't worn my best knickers!  I didn't care, the water was beautiful.

Swimming over ancient ruins.

On our return to Istanbul we went back to Mesut of U-Can Travel and let him know how happy we were.  I have to say, I am truly impressed with the reliability of Turkish Tourism.

It is easy to forget that Turkey is a Muslim country.  Salah does ring out through the day and tourists are requested to vacate mosques so the locals can pray but, unlike Saudi, Islam is not forced. 

There is also a buzz, a beat, an energy about Turkey, a sense that the people have worked hard, are still working hard, and waited years for results and now they are on the verge of reaping rewards.  Such a feeling of heart and promise is missing in Saudi.  Saudi heart is only allowed to be seen in private and expressed cautiously. 

We had a few free days in Istanbul to womble around on our own, so we caught the ferry to the Asian side one day, which has a slower pace than Istanbul...

Lunch on the Asian side
..and the next day ambled our way back from Taksim Square down lively Istaklal Street with is trams, shoppers and lone pan piper, stopping for lunch under Galata Tower at Kiva with its Mysterious Tastes of Anatolia, which included Lamb Shanks - that was me, I was in.


Lamb Shanks at Kiva

We visited Suleymaniye Hamam twice.  It's a mixed Hamam and the first time I've ever had a Turkish Bath experience.  Loved it.  Lying around on fire heated marble, throwing water over yourself and then getting a massage and scrub - heavenly.  I would have photos, but the steam would've buggered my camera so here's the only shots I have.

Changing rooms

After the event, wrapped in my towels.
Glenn spotted a gift shop on one of our trips to the Hamam so we spent half a day wandering around the back streets of Istanbul looking for it and discovered a street full of craftsmen handmaking their wares.


And every day was a new place to eat.
Oh, the food.

We learnt, very quickly, that back street diners are much cheaper and the food quality is still fantastic.  Sure, the major hotels provide meals with finesse that western palates feel more comfortable consuming, but for local tastes and dishes you can't beat a side street.

Here's a little slide show with photo's from our trip to Turkey for the Eid Break

Turkey, November, 2011 Slideshow: Gaelene’s trip from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Turkey was created by TripAdvisor. See another Turkey slideshow. Take your travel photos and make a slideshow for free.

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