Saturday, 7 June 2014

Emotional Return to Riyadh's Computer Souq

What do you do whenever your computer decides NOT to do what it is supposed to do to?  I know what I do.  I close my eyes, droop my shoulders and heave a huge Oh No sigh usually followed by a mumbled 'Crap!' (or something similar).   A couple of weeks back I was 'Crapping' all over the place, again.  Repeated efforts to get the blank, black screen of my laptop to show any sign of life were useless and I resigned myself to admitting a return trip to one of Riyadh's computer souqs was required.  (You can read about my first trip to Riyadh's computer souq on that link, there).

This time I decided to venture to the souq on my own without Hubster in tow because he's been going through a bit of a negative phase and such states are best left at home!  Mr Noor dropped me at the souq and I wandered along the path looking for the first shop front that not only said 'Hewlett Packard' but also had Hewlett Packard computers in stock.  (I have come to learn that signs on shops do not always match content in said shop!)

Yes, says a bloke wearing faded black jeans and a once smart checkered shirt milling about by the doorway.
My HP computer is broken, I say.
Broken. Your computer broken. (I am still getting used to the repetitive nature of sales folk in this country).
Yes, I say.  My computer is broken.

Then the bloke gives that sign for 'Just wait'.  You know the one where, with palm facing upwards, you bring your thumb and fingers together like you're trying to imitate a a rose bud before it opens and ever so minutely waft it up and down.  That sign.

He then disappears out of the shop door.  I stand for a moment thinking something along the lines of 'What The?'  Then, because following instructions isn't my strongest suit and because I'm standing in the middle of a computer shop on my own with a bunch of staring eyed workers staring in my direction, I head towards the door Mr Milling Salesman just ran out of.  He's outside shouting and beckoning to some other bloke who is also wearing a checkered shirt and appears to be milling beside another doorway.  He only looks interested in Mr Salesman's gesticulations once I step out onto the path.  A few words are exchanged in a language I don't understand, then Mr Salesman waves me over to the other bloke who indicates I should follow him.  So, I do.

These are not the narrow, grubby stairs of the computer souq,
but they are the only stairs I have a picture of, so they will do.
He turns into a rather grubby looking, narrow staircase.  Grubby narrow staircases tend to make me nervous, possibly because I've watched too many mystery, fantasy and horror movies where those who walk into grotty corners either never walk out again or turn up changed somehow.   So I stalled at the bottom of said staircase and peered up into the dimly lit murk.  There wasn't much to see.  The bloke I was following turned and saw me stopped at the bottom of the stairs.  He beckoned me forward with an 'it's OK look'.   I lifted my abaya (tripping over it numerous times has taught me this) and started up the stairs thinking, 'I hope I'm not gonna regret this.'

The top of the stairs was a humming, happening place.  There were numerous little cubicle offices, some chock full of computers in various states of repair others with shelves presumably full of computer related parts.  Each office had a couple of blokes either working on computers, talking to customers about computers or gas bagging to each other.  There were even a couple of Saudi women up there with laptops in hand obviously negotiating repair prices.  Seeing ladies did help me relax a bit more.

Mr Staircase didn't speak much English, but his side kick did.   Discussions commenced in his office on the state of my laptop and it was determined that I needed a new battery.
'Would you like an original or a copy?'  he says.
'A copy?' I queried.  What is the difference?'  I ask cautiously.
'Copies are cheaper but no warranty',  he says, as if I should know that already.
'I'll take an original thanks.', I say and hand over the cash amount we finally settle on after ascertaining I can bring it back if it doesn't work properly.  He even gave a receipt...this may actually be a legit business!

On leaving his cubicle I stop for a moment to watch the activity in this hidden away level of the computer souq that I had no idea existed.  Here were people simply going about their computer repairing business and here was I realizing how tense the morning had made me with its low expectations, milling salesmen, language barriers and forbidding grubby stairs.  I contemplated for a moment all the thoughts that ran through my head that morning and the effect this city can have on people and concluded living here is almost akin to riding an emotional roller coaster.  I wonder what does it say about me or this place.

Ka Kite,


  1. Nice to read your article! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences. click here


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