Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Frolicking at RawDhat Khuraim

'Lush' is not a term one tends to use when living in a desert country.  Neither is 'frolicking'.  Yet the other week Hubster, I and a couple of friends went frolicking in the lush growth out at RawDhat Khuraim.  Well, they would have frolicked if they weren't acting so boringly mature.

The weather has been fabulous in and around Riyadh these last few months.  The winter and coolish spring lingered on much longer than usual and, as the temps were so favorable, we decided a drive to the Kings Forest for a weekend break out of town was in order.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Camping Ground in Riyadh

 Winter is a great time to go camping in the desert in Saudi Arabia.  The nights are chilly and the days are cool and provided you get far enough away, the desert is just so quiet.  One of our more recent camping excursions was out Janadriyah way, over beyond the airport in a paid camping ground.

We were fortunate enough to go there at the invitation of a Saudi family.  The wife informed us that the journey to the camping ground would take about an hour.  Her husband said it takes that long whenever she is in the car, though when he goes there with mates, the drive time is a lot quicker.

Early one weekend morning we met outside their home before driving convoy style to Thumaama National Park where, after checking in at the gate, we received mapped directions to our campsite.  Thumaama Park, we discovered, houses the King Khalid Wildlife Research Center and the Land and Space Aviation School where you can learn to fly or hire a Paramotor.  As Hubster has always dreamed of getting his pilots licence so he can fly his spitfire (also on the dream list), I suggested he make a few inquiries  at the school - to date naught action has been taken, but it cannot be said wifey isn't supportive of the idea!

Driving toward the camping area we passed a bloke out on a paramotor and it wasn't till I wound down the window to snap a quick photo that we realized how darned chilly it was this crisp, clear morning.  Foreigners can often forget that the desert can get extremely cold during the winter.  We also decided you have to be keen or a fruit loop to be flying around in the chill air.

We were stopped at another gate and our details were checked before entering the camping area itself.  The surrounding landscape till this point had been as barren and flat as ever, except for the hills over in the distance.  Eventually we turned off the tarseal and headed toward the base of said hills down a graded road that wound its way through undulating terrain.  Each campsite is numbered and ours revealed itself as we followed arrows directing us over the brow of a hill.

One can't help but compare this landscape with the campgrounds we're more familiar with back home, and the initial reaction is 'errrr, it's brown'.  Nothing like the seaside or forest camps of home.  However, by the end of the day, we had come to love our little patch of desert camp.

The camp site was divided into two areas, both a reasonable distance apart presumably to cater for the country's segregation rules, each with two tents.  Between the tents, landscaped into the rocky ground, was a small kitchen and a couple of toilets.  As these camps are often used by large extended family groups out for a day of feasting there was also a place to hang and quarter a sheep.  We'd bought steak and kebabs from the supermarket - slaughtering was not required. 

Visiting a new place always requires exploration and so it was that, after deciding we would have a non-segregated day, we set up in the tent with the best outlook, disgorging the vehicles of kids, chilly bins, camp seats, a bicycle, the Braai and various other food and camp related items, then we went for a walk to explore the area.  The kids got to run around in the great outdoors and loved it.

To keep things entertaining, later that day our Saudi wahine (Maori word for 'Woman') asked if we'd give her driving lessons.  So, with her husbands blessing, we did.   I'd forgotten how stressful giving driving lessons can be, but those memories came flooding back as the car was thrown into reverse and the accelerator depressed with more gusto than was required and the car came to a skidding halt to yells of Brake! Brake!   A huge collective sigh went up from all of us in the car - because driving lessons that day were a family affair and a bit of entertainment for the kids - that's when I remembered how stressful driving lessons can be. 

Later in day, the driving made for a lot of story telling while the qahwah and dates were being passed around.  Even the kids got involved with stories of how good, or otherwise, Mama and we western ladies were at driving.   (Yes we got behind the wheel as well and went for a bit of a drive along the deserted track to see the other campsites).  The men shook their heads at the embellished tales and, now that we were safely outside the moving vehicle, we females chalked the whole episode up to 'a bit of an experience'.  Then someone decided it was time for lunch.

And so it was the boys set up the Braai and we girls did girly food prepping things while the kids ran around.  When everything was ready we sat down to eat an enormous spread.  A lot of it was covered and left for the next meal.

After lunch we had a game of footy with the kids, then some of us took turns riding the bicycle to explore a little further along the firm desert flat lands and tracks.  I have to say, there wasn't much to see, but the exercise was appreciated.  Later in the day, Arabian carpets were dragged out of the tent into the glorious winter afternoon sunshine and the kids settled down for a bit of a rest while we adults enjoyed cups of mint tea and chatted about, well, everything.  As the sun started to go down we polished off the lunch left overs, then lit a fire (a ute had turned up with a delivery of logs) and we sat talking while warming our toes amid the hills, outside our tent.

Though we have slept out under the stars a couple of times since moving here (and love it), camping in Saudi doesn't have to mean staying out all night.  Simply spending a pleasant day off the main highway with friends provides ample opportunity to experience camping in the desert.  We had asked our Saudi hosts if the intent was to stay the night and were informed by the wahine that she never spends the night out at a camp.  So, later on that evening when the kids had settled, the fire was burning low, and the Braai had cooled enough to be put into the Yukon, we packed up and headed for home.

We intend to go back to this camping ground in Riyadh one day because this day had been one of those you remember a long time for it's simplicity - good food, good company, good times.

Happy Camping in Riyadh :)

Ka Kite,

Monday, 7 April 2014

Furniture Shopping in Riyadh with Mrs B

My friend, Mrs B, and her husband recently moved to a new, unfurnished, residence.  As such it was necessary for her to do a spot of furniture shopping and, to keep her company and offer the occasional opinion on pieces, she invited me along. She assured me that, at some point in proceedings, we'd stop for coffee - that was a carrot I couldn't turn down.  Hence, with her budget in mind, we began our forays into Saudi's furniture-land.

Mrs B had contemplated purchasing household furniture secondhand via, the most popular expat website for buying and selling used furniture in Riyadh.  I've used the site myself a couple of times to sell household goods.  You can get a few bargains from the site if you're prepared to search through the listings and then traipse around the city finding everything.  You can also get some very used crap.  After perusing what was on offer on the site, Mrs B decided that buying new would be preferable and much less hassle.

Mrs B has been ably assisted in her furniture shopping expeditions by her driver, Sajid. (Like us, Mrs B has found a reliable taxi driver to cart her around the city).  Having lived here for a number of years he is quite au fait with where women like to shop for all the things women like to shop for because, though we aren't supposed to mix with men, we often end up telling our drivers everything!  So when Mrs B said she needed furniture and stated an estimated price range, (not too expensive), Sajid made a couple of suggestions.

Hence, our first stop was at Al Owayis Souq.  Sajid directed us to a shop tucked into a corner of the souq, with three levels crammed full of furniture.  It was reasonably good quality - I admit I was surprised.  My presumption was that souq furniture would be, well, junk.  A lesson was learned that day and I no longer dis souq furniture shops.

Mrs B, I discovered, is a no fuss shopper.  It's similar to my own method of shopping.  Trawling shops for hours, nay days, comparing prices and fiddly bits is not part of my shopping psyche.  It's obviously not part of Mrs B's either.  She quickly found a bedroom suite she liked, with a reasonable price to match, asked if the shop could provide two sets and said, 'I'll take it!'  Just like that.  No running off to another store to compare, no trudging through miles of malls to find something with a different colored handles.  Nope.  She's a Nike Girl.  Just do it!

Mattresses were chosen in a similar fashion.  We bounced around on a couple in store, testing them like Goldilocks when she visited the Three Bears then, because the mattresses indoors didn't feel comfortable to our mature'ish butts, bounced around on a couple out doors.  It's just as well we were at the souq early.  There weren't many folks around to get offended at ladies testing mattresses out in the walkway of a Riyadh souq. Once again, no fuss purchasing meant we were out of there and on to the next place in no time.

Roomz, just off the Northern Ring Road was our next stop for a lounge suite.  This was the first time I'd ever set foot in Roomz and I have to say, I quite like it.  Lots of floor space, a huge variety of furniture and accessories from the typically Saudi style (OTT) through to more contemporary styles, all pleasantly and spaciously displayed.  It's not overly pricey either.  (I discovered since that Roomz have a psychedelic website too.

We had a bit of fun lounging around on couches, chatting with our feet up because what better way is there to test for comfort than to really snuggle into the couch, just like you would at home, till we found the one perfect for Mr and Mrs B and their dispositions.  They even had it in a color Mrs B liked.  (If they had served hot beverages while we were comfy in the couch it would have made our day).

Our next day's shopping expedition was at the most popular store in Riyadh for furniture and household goods, excluding white ware, - IKEA. (Our apartment is full of IKEA furniture - Hubster bought it all when he first arrived.  It's not the cheapest shop around, nor the highest quality, but what it has is functional and when you're decking out a temporary home in a hurry, functional will do).  Mrs B and I spent over 3 hours in IKEA.  That's a record amount of shopping time for me.  Granted one hour was spent having lunch!

We loaded our IKEA trolley with Mrs B's bits and pieces, confident that the packaged dining chairs, lamps, dish racks and other sundry items would easily fit into the taxi - even if we had to sit on it!

All of these shops gave Mrs B a day to expect delivery of her larger purchases.  Riyadh residents tend to be quite skeptical when it comes to delivery dates because they can be a bit hit and miss in this country.  Many a friend has complained of waiting all day and getting zilch.   It doesn't help that most delivery drivers do not speak a great deal of English, or read a great deal of any other language.  (I realized this fact when Mr Hall, our returned Aussie neighbour, was expecting delivery of some furniture and handed his phone over to me so I could attempt to make sense of the garbled foreign words eminating from his Delivery Driver.  Mr Hall presumed that, as I took Arabic lessons, I would understand Delivery Driver Arabic.  He was very lucky I had actually been studying that day and did manage to ascertain that Delivery Driver was on Khurais Road and was looking for directions to our compound.  Whatever I said must have made sense, because Mr Hall's furniture did in fact arrive that night!)  Mrs B had Sajid to oversee Delivery Driver conversations and the only thing that didn't arrive as she expected, and had to be retrieved, was a bedside cabinet.

Mr and Mrs B are now quite comfy in their newly decked out accommodation and I have learnt quite a bit about furniture shopping in Riyadh.

Ka Kite,

Friday, 4 April 2014

Trending Destinations in Saudi

I went looking on Google Trends to see what folks in Saudi Arabia are currently searching.  Here's the top 10 destinations most peeps are thinking of travelling:

1. Jeddah (that was a surprise)
2. Dubai (that is no surprise at all)
3. Madrid
4. Barcelona
5. Thailand
6. London
7. Milan
8. Paris
9. Istanbul
10. Singapore 

Yes, this how I am spending my Friday morning - surfing the net looking up random stuff.  
I should call today Random Day.

Ka Kite,

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Lunch Menu At Ketchup

Have you been to Ketchup lately? I know it may have received less than rave reviews from me in the past, but they have done a bit if work on their menu, food quality and even their decor so the saucy red interior isn't quite so saucy. And they have a new set lunch menu that I've been back for more than once.

For a set menu there are three price levels,  from 39 - 59sar, and each level has three meal choices.  The lunch consists of a drink, (choosing from a number of fruit juices or sodas), breads, soup (with two types on offer), a small salad and the mains. 

The more you decide to pay, the more substantial the meal. Today I had the 39SAR with club sandwich and it was more than enough to satisfy my hunger. 

If you are looking for lunch in pleasant enough, often quiet surrounds (as not many people rock up here for lunch) give Ketchup a go.  Let me know what you think. 

Your's in Moblogging Joy


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