Sunday, 16 December 2012

Circular Drive to Malaz Show Jumping

Watching horses and their riders at the Show Jumping in Malaz is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon and marvel at the animals and the horsemanship.  Being able to visit the stables is definitely a highlight, too.  This was only our second trip to the Show Jumping ground and, as with most of our adventures, getting there was a bit of a circus.

Last time we were invited to watch Show Jumping in Riyadh we were transported to the show grounds at Malaz in a chauffeur driven Lincoln.  This time we thought we'd get ourselves to the equestrian grounds.  I mean, how hard can it be.  We'd invited along another NZ couple and they offered to take us in their vehicle which is probably just as well because Hubster would not have been as patient as G driving round in circles - literally.

Directions to the center were emailed to me, unfortunately they were handwritten in Arabic.  Not being proficient at handwritten script, a quick search on Google was performed.  With Google map in hand we confidently set off with plenty of time to spare in case things went wrong.  And wrong they went.

The Google Map delivered us to what may have been a show jumping ground once, but was no more.  We drove around this walled destination twice just to be sure it wasn't what we were looking for.

Mr Noor, who I normally ring when we're lost in Riyadh, is in Pakistan visiting the wife so I rang taxi driver number two who, I thought, knew Riyadh as well as Mr Noor.  His directions sent us back the way we had come to the Al Jamiah St intersection.  We turned left at The Intersection as instructed and found....a highway.

I rang Taxi Number 2 again.
He said, sorry Ma'am you should have turned right at The Intersection.
So we drove off to find a U-Turn that delivered us back to the traffic lights in question and we turned right.
We kept our eyes peeled for Riyadh's International Equestrian School in Malaz.
What did we find?
A T-intersection and a park.
Why had he sent us here?
We rang him back.
"Doesn't the park have a merry-go-round, ma'am?"
Wrong horse show!

The T-intersection put us onto the round-about circling King Abdullah Park and Prince Faisal football stadium, so around G drove as I rang R, the lovely lady who had invited us to share the afternoon of show jumping with her.  Hubster, being a rather unhelpful front seat passenger, started making less than complementary comments about driving in circles in Riyadh.  I swear the guy is getting more negative the longer he stays here.

R, who suffers from the 'Driven Like Miss Daisy' syndrome of many local women because they aren't permitted to drive themselves, didn't actually know how to get to the show grounds so she handed the phone to her driver. He didn't speak English.

Once R was put back on the phone and understood G was in charge of our vehicle and we didn't have an Arabic speaking driver, which she was somewhat shocked about, she went in search of her cousin for assistance.  We kept driving round the round-a-bout.

The round about.
The Cousin spoke very rapid English with a very heavy Arabic accent. Asking him to slow down and say that again was required, often. Once my ear was tuned to his accent these are the basic instructions I wrote down.
Go back to The Intersection and head in the direction we had gone originally.
Count 4 traffic lights then turn right.
Count 3 streets then turn right again.  You will find the show grounds.
We duly followed the instructions back down the road and all was going well till, at the crucial moment when we should have turned right at street number three, the Hubsters in the front seats who, in this vehicle on this day were the only people allowed to drive, decided to be gas bagging about something else and kept going straight.

Hubster Heads at Show Jumping
We U-turned.  (Driving in Saudi does make you masters of U-turns)
Back down the road we went as I rang R back.
Where are you? she said.
Passing by a hill, I said.
Yes there is a hill.  The show ground is very near the hill.
OK.  We'll have to U-turn and count 3 streets again.
Wait she said. I'll send my cousin to come and get you.

This message was duly passed to the Hubsters in the front seat who then began an inane discussion on how The Cousin was going to identify us parked on the roadside.  We pulled over and turned on the hazard lights to await The Cousin to arrival.  Eventually, after much discussion about how this Knight of Malaz Show Jumping was going to recognize us, a phone call was received.
'Where is your car?'
'What kind of car are you driving?'
'What colour?'

It's the only grey car on the roadside with the hazard lights flashing, I said.
We see you, the voice on the phone said.
We were found.

And so it was that an hour and a half after leaving home we finally arrived at the International Equestrian Center in Malaz to watch Show Jumping that hadn't started yet, presumably due to the rain that had been falling on and off for most of the morning.  It also turns out that our first stop, as per Google Maps, was a stones throw from our final destination but, fairly recently, someone had decided to build a main thoroughfare splitting the two points.  Not very helpful for people driving in circles in Malaz.

Directions to the International Equestrian Center in Malaz:

View Kiwi In Saudi: Tiki Tour in a larger map
Google Maps co-ordinates to Show Jumping in Malaz: +24° 39' 44.94", +46° 45' 24.61"

Ka Kite,

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