Thursday, 28 February 2013

Salah Still Catches Me

You would think after three years I could organize my day around Salah times, but no.

Message to self - do not rely on other people to look up Salah times to see if they conflict with 'lets go do something' arrangements.

Hence I am sitting on Tahalia St spinning my wheels (not literally, unfortunately) because the call to prayer started up as I was heading out.

Only if you've lived here can you fully comprehend the huge deflating sigh that escapes your lips, the heavy slump that drags down your shoulders and the slow, 'oh no'  drop of your head that always accompanies that moment when you realise you buggered up your timing.  Salah has caught you out - again.

Sent from my iPhone wishing you a fabulous day :)

Ka Kite,

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Villa Restaurant - Thai, Pinoy, Asian.

Mr Finland loves The Villa Restaurant in Aruba St.  He is of the opinion that The Villa Restaurant serves the best Thai food in Riyadh.

Not being a Thai food connoisseur I couldn't tell you if he's right about that, but the meal we had, which was considerable, was certainly consumed rapidly enough, always a good indication of whether or not the food is up to par.

My favourite because I love prawns

Hubster is a rice kind of guy.

Mr Finland had the rest.  Seriously!
The Villa Restaurant resides in a rather unassuming building located a long way from the main restaurant and shopping strip of Riyadh.  It reminds me of the busy Vietnamese restaurants you can find down Victoria St in Melbourne - a small place with hardly enough room to swing a cat,  very little attention to decor  (it's certainly not fancy), busy, quick turn over of customers and great tasting food.

Our meal all on a small table squished on a corner of the family section.
I'm guessing The Villa Restaurant  used to be a workers local and has undergone a huge surge in popularity over recent times  Their increased fame, however, has not gone to their heads - the place still looks like a local and, though the food is presented simply, its flavours continue to please the patrons, as do the prices.  In fact, knowing Mr Finland as I do, if this place didn't provide value for money, he wouldn't have a bar of it.

Mr Finland is actually a bit of star at The Villa Restaurant.  We discovered that he usually rocks up on his loudly revving Harley, gunning the engine, just a little, as he parks outside the singles section.  The night we tagged along with him the waiters were calling him Mr Broom Vroom and were rather surprised to see him in the Family Section with guests, as opposed to taking up space in the Singles Section.   As I mentioned earlier, he loves this place and is a frequent visitor.

The Villa Restaurant has the typical separation of the sexes to be expected of a dining establishment in Riyadh.  The Family Section spans through two rooms with the tables being set so close together you have to wind you way through the narrow passage, and you get the impression that increased volume of patrons required knocking down a wall into the neighbours place.  If the Family Section is a little crowded, the Singles, according to the boys, is more so.  Both can get very busy, especially on weekends.  But don't let visual impressions of the place put you off your goal.  Dinner.

The staff are kept on their toes filling orders, carting meals and piling the dish trolley to the rafters as they scurry about clearing away tables.  Even being so busy, they still manage to crack a joke, smile and wave as they realise they're in the line of fire of my point and shoot camera as I'm taking pictures of the opening hours sign.

Yes, if you are looking for a change from the glitter and cost of Tahalia St dining but don't want to miss out on tasty food, then The Villa Restaurant is definitely worth a visit.

Directions To The Villa Restaurant.

View Dining Out In Riyadh in a larger map

Ka Kite,

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Pear 'n Date Temptation at Bateel

Last night I enjoyed a delicious main meal of lamb loin on fava beans and artichoke in jus followed by a sweet pear 'n date temptation dessert.  The lamb was so tender and cooked to perfect medium rare - exactly as I'd asked.

Hubster ordered a seafood risotto he described as lovely, and the small sampling I snuck from his plate did make me go mmmmmm (yes I'm one of those terrible people who likes to try what everyone else has ordered) and then he devoured his dessert without having a clue what it was called, but it looked big and creamy which explains why it was the dessert that caught his eye from all those in the sweets cabinet.  He has a weakness for creamy things.  And big things.

With meals like these, and scrumptious desserts to follow, Bateel continues to be our dining experience of choice in Riyadh.

Ka Kite,

Winter Trip To RawDhat Khuraim

We made a return trip to RawDhat Khuraim recently, looking for bursting blooms and new green grass. This time around we went in December which is right smack dab in the middle of a Saudi winter, a totally different season from our initial trip undertaken in a roasting Saudi summer when the land was somewhat dry, as you can imagine a desert landscape would be (and you can read about that in my post RawDhat Khuraim The Kings Forest.

This trip there were a lot more people at RawDhat Khuraim.
This time, being winter, it had rained.
Rain in Saudi creates lakes and streams where none were before.
There was water in abundance.
The appearance of lakes and streams also brings out the locals.

The trusty camera was taken along and this is what we discovered in RawDhat Khuraim, December 2012 as we drove further around the Kings Forest than we did before.

Coming to RawDhat Khuraim after a bit of rain definitely requires a Four Wheel Drive.  Beside the deep channels holding a large proportion of the winter water at RawDhat Khuraim, was wet, sinking desert sand supporting the growth of numerous desert plants, many more than were around last summer, and through which we guided our 4WD in search of the perfect picnic spot.

There were numerous ribbons of tire tracks cutting their way through the foliage, the only issue was choosing one that would lead us to solid ground.  A couple of times we got it wrong and had to undertake reverse manoeuvres!  If we did get stuck we were fairly certain there would be plenty of volunteers with vehicles able to pull us out as picnickers galore were out enjoying the wonderful weather and water features nature provided.

And young men were wanting their photos taken.
Saudi blokes, we've learnt, are absolute show off's who enjoy a good time. This is not a bad thing. It's quite refreshing to meet young people who enjoy fun for fun's sake.
First there was this lot driving by on the other side of the river....

...They were so funny.  It was three o'clock in the afternoon and they were waving and calling out "Good morning!" as they drove by before stopping and calling out 'Sura, Sura', which I eventually figured out was something akin to, 'Take our picture'.

Then, as I was taking the shot above a ute came to a laughing stop right next to me and this young man jumped out and wanted his photo I obliged.

His name is Zaidan and he lives in Rumah, the nearby town.  His friend thought he was crazy asking for a photo and didn't get out of the ute even though I invited him to take part. After all, if I'm gonna take pictures of one, I might as well take pictures of all. The whole time Hubster and Zaidan were posing all we could hear emanating from the ute were hoots of laughter.

Hubster has no idea what this hand sign means but, as he got the shamagh treatment, he decided to go with the flow. We were invited to join these young men for qahwah after the photo shoot and thought, 'Why not?'

Of course, many an expat since has been of the opinion that there were loads of reasons why we should have declined the invitation, mostly related to the theme of, 'Stranger Danger in Saudi', but it was a beautiful day, they seemed nice, so we said Yes.

We learned a lot about what any decent young Saudi bloke would throw in the back of his ute when coming out for a picnic.  The little camping safe was especially nifty and we are contemplating getting one.  And, of course, everything required to cook up qahwah on the spot.  Our picnic basket was brought from the back of the Yukon and together we shared qahwah, lunch and chit-chat.  Well, as much chatter as one can with language limitations. Our knowledge of each other's language was tested.  Together we all knew enough to get by.

Our picnic spot, pictured above, was right next the a decent strip of water and gave us a great view across to a damp stretch of sand that was being used for the second most popular Saudi pass time after picnics. Hooning.

The vehicles were certainly getting a thrashing.  Even the youngsters were getting in the act as this vehicle drove past with what looked to be a twelve year old at the wheel.

The responsible adult in me, you know the one that is supposed to be all grown up and should know better, could say that young boys driving around in Jeeps in the desert is not a good idea.  However, there's another part of me, the part that loves the rawness of Saudi and how it reminds me of NZ in the good old days before we went PC overboard, that doesn't mind allowing parents to decide what is good for their kids.  And if they think they can handle a ute in the desert, then let them. (I remember making a similar decision with my just-teens girls years ago, but the vehicle was a Nissan car and we were in outback Australia).

Zaidan called his wife while we were enjoying his company, and that of his ever smiling friend, so I got to chat with her over the phone. She is from Riyadh and is learning English and this, he decided, was a perfect opportunity for some practice.

We didn't quite get around to wandering through the Kings Forest discovering blooming blossoms, but we did enjoy four wheel driving our way through damp desert sand, amongst desert plants and meeting very friendly desert dwellers of the human kind on our return trip to Rawdhat Khuraim.

Location of RawDhat Khuraim.

View Kiwi In Saudi: Tiki Tour in a larger map

Ka Kite,

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Cooking Show Censorship In Saudi

Censorship always takes a bit of getting used to in Saudi.
So much that seems 'normal' to the wicked west comes under the scrutiny of the Censorship Committee.

We get used to faces fuzzed off advertising, blacked out with pen or stamped over with price tags.  Why?  I believe recreating human images is not permitted and women's faces aren't to be seen in public at all.

Bare arms and legs in magazines and packaging are colored in black because the amount of skin shown in public must be within the bounds of modesty.  Musical instruments used to be unnamed in text books although, given the number of shops in Riyadh that are selling the unmentionable piano's, guitars, saxophones and drum sets, I'm presuming this censorship has been lifted.  (You can read more about that in my post 'Is Music Allowed In Islam?'  And, of course, words are bleeped out of movies and TV shows.

I can understand bleeping some oft used derogatory swear words out of TV shows.  Really, I can.
But censoring cooking shows?  What objectionable words could possibly be in a cooking show?

One afternoon while a friend and her Hubby were watching the cooking show "Who's Coming to Dinner" they kept hearing a bleep.  It was rather annoying.  It took a while to figure out what was going on.  The meal being whipped up by one of the contestants was 'Pork Belly', sorry, make that "Bleep Belly".

Every time there was any mention of the 'animal in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates' (thanks for that definition Wikipedia even though I can't actually pronounce some of it) there was a Bleep.

Bleep chops
Bleep belly
Bleep roast
Bleep kebabs
Ham Bleep

Seems a bit weird when you can buy bacon over here.
Everyone knows bacon comes from swine Bleeps.
(I wonder what they called Swine Flu in KSA?)

If The Powers That Be are going to pretend Bleeps don't exist to the extent that they censor a cooking show for any word related to the deplorable P-Beast, they really ought to find another word for bacon.  Perhaps Turkey Bacon manufacturers could run a Middle East wide competition for a substitute name!

Anyway, this story got me pondering, as most stories in Saudi do.  Are Muslims not allowed to say or hear the word pig or any relative of?   Is it considered it a swear word?  Is Piglet to be deleted from Winnie the Pooh books?

My encyclopaedia of information - Google - was searched.  As per usual there was a lot of cross religion hatred that had to be sifted through to find reasonable discussion.  (If any censorship needs to happen it should be for comments on forums - some of them are absolutely obscene).

The result of my search?  Apart from being disgusted by the number of people in this world who are seriously demented, hateful and have limited vocabulary based around the 'F' word, I discovered this.
The majority of Muslims are well balanced folk who, unlike the Censorship Committee in Saudi, are well aware that the animal called 'pig' does exist because it is a creation of God. 
The word 'pig', and any derivative of, can be said in full - you do not have to spell the words when speaking (or whisper them) for fear of eternal damnation because they are words related to an animal that does, in fact, exist as per above paragraph.   It is also possible to read stories about, and look at pictures of, pigs for the same reason.  Just don't eat pork.  
'Pork' is a word that exists to identify the name of the meat from the animal, pig.  Its use assists Muslims to stay on the correct path and utilise good grammar and questioning technique.  When at a Bar-B-Q in the west 'Is this a pork sausage?' is a much better question than, 'Is this sausage from a pig?'
Quite simple really.
(And I'm so glad for Piglet.  He is the cutest Pooh character!)

Discussions regarding why pork is off the menu for Muslims were also in abundance on my Google search and were also the target of obscenities, swearing, name calling and general bad feeling being thrown about from both sides of the issue.

If people don't eat a certain food because of their convictions, that's fine with me.  Given that saying or hearing swine related words doesn't appear to be a problem for most Muslims around the globe (well, the ones who accessed the same internet sites I did), I'm uncertain why the Powers That Be in Saudi find it necessary to censor them off a cooking show.

Ka Kite,

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Vapiano on Tahalia

Vapiano on Tahalia Street, right next to Localiser Mall, is an Italian diner.  The wooden staircase curving its way to the Vapiano dining area is an indication of the setting you'll meet once at the top - casual, relaxed, open, stylish

The blackboard above the kitchen with its chalkboard art and food related sayings and proverbs provides a bit of a talking point.  "Never eat more than you can lift" or 'The belly rules the mind".  I especially liked 'Don't let love interfere with your appetite".  All very relevant to how we approach food and this night, with Mr Finland paying, we were hungry.

Being a person who loves wood, I quite liked the whole set up with the wooden floor and, around the corner from the open eating area, little wooden dining corners with various plant settings - from fresh flowers to young saplings - adorning the centre of the tables.  The Italian marble included in the decor wasn't overstated and added a touch of class.  I do love Italian marble.

Hubster and Mr Finland were not the least bit interested in sitting under an indoor tree.  It didn't help that the plant looked like it could do with a bit of water and the coloured lights, though providing pretty highlights, were likely helping to dry the poor thing out.

Being Italian, Vapiano serves up, among other things, pizza and pasta.  On a shelf in the kitchen are a selection of pasta's available.  Apparently the pasta is made fresh, however, we decided to try a pizza and a few other delectable nibbles on bread.

It was all quite scrumptious and fresh and tasty and, as I said to Hubster, 'Why do we not come in here more often?  It's just down the road!"

Mr Finland, after eating his fill, lay back on the roomy bench style seats and contemplated the bill.  He needn't have worried.  At Vapiano, along with the quick,  friendly service and fabulous food, came reasonable prices.

Localizer Mall
Tahalia St
Phone: 00966 121903

View Larger Map

Ka Kite,

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Inside the Saudi Kingdom Documetary

Inside the Saudi Kingdom is a BBC documentary that Hubster was watching on YouTube the other day.  He  suggested I take a look at it.

Initially I wasn't that keen.  I figured a doco on Saudi would be full of the usual stuff - westerners who don't actually live here complaining about everything to do with Saudi Arabia.  (Although I do, occasionally, gripe about certain aspects of life in KSA I figure any woman who lives here has certain stuff to complain about).

Instead we had a Saudi, and a prince at that, Prince Saud bin Adbul Mohsen, talking more frankly than I've heard a Saudi speak in public before about some of the issues facing Saudi Arabia, particularly regarding the difficulty of balancing tradition, religion and the rapid pace of change.

There was some feedback that said, in short, the prince was putting on an act for the camera's.
Maybe he was.  However, knowing what I do of the country and the efforts being made to transition from conservative cultural thinking to a more modern system that works for Saudi Arabia, many of the comments the prince made about issues facing the country were fairly accurate.

It's an hour long documentary but, for those of you who have no idea about Saudi and want a glimpse into what the place is like, Inside the Kingdom is worth watching.

Ka Kite, 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Al Elb Dam

Photo Credit:
Back in February 2012 there was an  article published on Saudi Aramco World about Wadi Hanifa's restoration and within the text was mention of Al Elb dam.  I have no idea why, out of the entire article, Al Elb got me all excited, but I decided that going to find Al Elb dam had to be on our list of 'Things to do in Riyadh'.

It wasn't until late on a Friday afternoon in June that we called Mr Noor and asked him if he knew the dams whereabouts as the only directions we had were "Al Elb dam in Wadi Hanifah 35 kilometers north of downtown Riyadh".   Noor began driving North and then, as we explained the article to him, he had an aha! moment.  He turned off the main highway, drove through an older part of town, wound through a few side streets and, soon, we were heading down into the wadi.  Rounding a corner the roadside landscape changed to wide, tree lined, stoned hedged footpaths, and there, spanning the wadi was Al Elb dam.

When Kiwi folk think of dams this is the sort of picture that usually springs to mind...
Waipouri River Dam.  Photo credit:
That's not quite what we found.
Often times I have to do an 'Oh, that's right, I live in Saudi' re-think about the things I come across here.  Why I expected to find a giant lake held back by the large concrete structure was, possibly, wishful thinking.

What we found was this...

It's more of a puddle really.  Not that we were disappointed.  Oh no.  It is obvious that a lot of work has been done here and, quite frankly, getting out of the closed confines of a Riyadh living space is always a pleasant experience.

It was about four in the afternoon but, being June, it was still warm so there weren't a lot of people around.   A few kids were riding bikes along the footpath, a number of people were strolling down to the waters edge or standing on the causeway taking in the view.  On the other side of the wadi are steps leading up to a ridge and, from there, you can sit and contemplate life in Saudi - or whatever it is you like to contemplate.

We decided to go for a stroll.  As water is always an attraction in Riyadh we also ended up down by the little pond that had formed behind the dam surprising a duck that went quacking and flapping further into its center.  It had been so long since we'd seen or heard a duck we had to laugh at how strange, yet bizarrely comforting it was to be in a desert dam, with a duck.

The wide path across the causeway provides ample room, and height, for looking back up the wadi.  Sunset was drawing more families out to the numerous picnic spots offered by the tree growth and boys were kicking footballs about.  Looking over the edge there appeared to be a watermark slightly higher up the structure so, at some point, there must be a bit of water held in here.  Just not this day.

Hubster carried our small chilly bin up to the ridge and, as the sun set, we sat overlooking Al Elb dam with Mr Noor, drinking green tea with mint and nibbling on Mahmoul and thinking how lovely the dusk was and whether this large dam will ever be full of water.

That was in June last year.
In January this year, to celebrate the New Year, we went back to El Alb.  Again it was late afternoon but this time, being winter, the temperature was much cooler and El Alb's reputation as a great family picnic spot had spread.  The place was jumping.

Loads of families filled the picnic bays and bar-b-q smoke filled the air.  Finding a spare car park close by wasn't easy.  In fact, we were about to give up and drive someplace else before Hubster spied a spot we could just squeeze into.

The little pond had disappeared which was surprising as there had recently been a bit of rain.  Not only had the number of people increased who were taking advantage of the facilities at Al Elb dam, but even the tress and shrubbery seemed to have grown.  Here's a few pics.

The pond has gone.

The steps were leading up to a beautiful blue sky.

Picnickers downstream
As the picnic bays were all full we decided to drive to a less populated spot just down the road from Al Elb to have our news years picnic.  It was nice to see that the Wadi Hanifah restoration project, started all those years ago, is providing places like Al Elb Dam and that they are being well utilized.

Here's my Kiwi In Saudi Map with Al Elb Dam marked.
Google co-ordinates are 24.774968,46.53019
Happy trails.

View Kiwi In Saudi: Tiki Tour in a larger map

Ka Kite,

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Too Much Taxi Tension

Our current taxi driver (not Mr Noor who is still enjoying a break back in Pakistan) was telling us a few stories about customers and situations that cause taxi drivers in Riyadh a lot of tension.  Initially I thought he was going to tell us some entertaining tales, but he was quite serious about how much trouble his passengers, and KSA official types, are prepared to drop him into.

The Drug Carrying Passengers.
Apparently, taxis are sometimes used for deliveries by Saudi drug dealers (and yes, drugs is a problem in the land of Islam).  Our driver said these passengers are quite open about the product they are carrying because they know who is more likely to take the fall should trouble in the form of a drug bust or random car search take place.  Mr Drug Dealer will dump the drugs in the taxi and plead ignorance of any wrong-doing.  (Not sure whether the drug dealing passenger actually does get off scot-free given he is also in the taxi, but like drug dealers everywhere I guess they try).   Our driver said, 'These people cause him a lot of tension'.

I can see how that would be the case.

The Black Market Booze Guy.
Our driver told us about a bloke from Kenya, or thereabouts, who used to call him every three or four weeks.  When picked up he always had a bag that he would put in the boot of the taxi.  Taxi drivers tend to be wary of bags put in the boot by people who are not going to, or from, the airport because at checkpoints taxi boots are always checked.  And guess who gets the blame for any shady contents in the bags?

One night our driver asked the passenger, What's in the bag?
The passenger said, That's none of your business.
The taxi driver took it upon himself to look in the bag when the chance to do so presented itself.  (I'm in two minds if this was ballsy or really dumb!)
What did he find?
A whole stack of cash.
He asked the passenger, Why do you have all this cash?
The passenger told him (in a nutshell), I sell black market booze.
The driver dropped the passenger at his destination and told him, Don't ring me again.  I don't want your bag of money in my taxi!
As our driver said, 'This problem would cause me too much tension.  If the police found the money they would say I knew what it was.  And they would check my phone and see that this man has rung me too many times, so I must be helping him.  I would be in too much trouble'.

Yep, I could see how that could happen.

'Check the Iqama'
One night our driver had a passenger in the car when he was stopped at a checkpoint.  The officer on duty asked for Iqama's.  The driver handed over his.  The passenger did not.  Guess who got into trouble for the passenger not having their Iqama?
Why am I to blame for him not having an Iqama? he said.
You should check that your passengers have their Iqama!
But that is not my job.  I am just a taxi driver.
You shouldn't drive people who don't have an Iqama!
For two hours our driver, and the passenger, were held before being released with a repeated caution - Only take passengers who have Iqama's. (I didn't ask if the un-iqama'd passenger was put back in his car taxi, too).
'This night caused me too much tension', says our driver.

I can imagine it did.

The Royal License Plate.
Certain number combinations are considered 'special' in KSA.  It's Saudi's own version of numerology.  Our driver told us about a friend who, on a return from holiday, was given a new vehicle by the taxi company.  He went forth to find passengers and make a living.

A few weeks later his friend was pleading with the taxi company to please change his license plate.  The police kept pulling him over and holding him, sometimes for hours, because his licence plate number was 'special'.  He shouldn't have that kind of number.  A number with all those zero's should only be for royalty (his number had 000 in it).  His argument that he had no control over the number plate that came with his taxi fell on deaf ears - ears that were certain he was lying.

'Sometimes our license plates or phone numbers cause so much tension', our taxi driver said.
Ridiculous as that sounds, I believe it.

These were just a few of the things our driver was regaling to Hubster in the front seat while I, initially enthralled by the prospect of Taxi Tales, decided the negativity of these stories was upsetting my mojo, so shrank into the back seat and plugged in my iPod in an effort to block out his words.

Before being picked up by the taxi my day had been relatively happy.  By the time we reached our destination my mood had subdued somewhat.  As I told Hubster, the taxi driver managed to hand over too much of his tension!

Ka Kite,

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Lack of Hair Stylists in Riyadh

Finding a hair stylist in Riyadh hasn't been an easy task. In fact it's safe to say that, after three years, finding a hair professional in this desert city capable of producing a hair style I'm happy with is, currently, still ongoing.  Riyadh just seems to lack experienced hair stylists.

Asking around for a good hairdresser doesn't usually meet with an excited, enthusiastic, positive response from fellow expat women.  Most recommendations for someone who can cut hair in Riyadh are accompanied with the phrase 'She's OK'.  Not words that make me confident to have a pair of scissors near my head!

Neither are all the recommendations directed at salons (if you would like the very short list of locations that other expats have recommended see Salons in Riyadh).  Many phone numbers passed on are for women (and the occasional bloke) who work from home or who do the rounds on compounds.

I admit I haven't dialed any of the hair cutting contacts sent my way.
Truth is, far too many expat tales of hair style woe have turned me off getting my hair cut in Riyadh.
The problem with a bad hair cut is that it is obvious.
For ages.

Getting a bad haircut in Riyadh sux because there is an obvious gap in the market for professional qualified, well-trained, experienced, competent - and all the other adjectives for "good" that you can think of - stylists who can repair the damage of a hair cut gone wrong.

The day one of my friends cancelled an engagement (and subsequently refused to be seen in public till her hair grew out) because of the mess made to her hair only served to confirm my fear - Hair styling for women in Riyadh is risky business and styling one's hair should be left till a return trip home or, at least, till you visit a country with real hair care professionals.  So, for three years that's exactly what I've done, - left the country to visit a hair salon whenever I want my hair cut.

That is until last week.

Last week I decided to take up an invitation to visit a hair studio at a popular Ladies Spa.  I went for two reasons.  Firstly, two friends have been going there regularly and say the hair care they receive is 'pretty good' which isn't an ecstatic recommendation but it is a step up the ladder from 'Okay'.  Second, my travel calendar has taken a serious dive into 'Not been anywhere for a long time' and my hair was in need of attention.

The lady who did my hair hails from Lebanon.
She has had training and some work experience.
The verdict?
My search continues.

There is something about the way an experienced hair stylist practices her (or his) craft.  From assessing your hair to holding their scissors and fluffing your hair about there is just something special about how they operate that I haven't yet found in Riyadh.

The price for my morning at the salon was a lot more than expected, too.   The cut (which really was little more than a trim) and color (full head with a bleach to remove the old color) cost 850 SARS.  And that was supposedly with a discount!

My lack of experience with other hair salons in the city, given my preference to go overseas for trendy hair styles, means I can't personally compare this price to other salons in Riyadh.  However, a very good friend and fellow female expat who spends a bit of time trialing Riyadh salons in her search for a great hair stylist assures me I was ripped off.  Mostly, she says, I was paying for the ambiance of the environment.  Fabulous though the salon and spa surroundings were, it would be nice if a quality cut came with it.

So, I'm hanging out for another six weeks until I head out of the country so I can make an appointment with a hair stylist who can wield a pair of scissors to my satisfaction.  And I have to get a creative style - I'm going home for my son's wedding!

Ka Kite,

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