Thursday, 19 June 2014

Welcome to Saudi

A long while back (April 2012, to be precise), I posted a blog called 'Welcome to Riyadh Airport'.  One thing I mentioned was the lack of welcoming signs at Riyadh airport.

Well, things have changed, just a little.  There are now big screens above the baggage scanners in arrivals, declaring in a number of languages, a welcome to Riyadh.  And this morning on my way out I saw this...

Saudi is changing.  Who knows, maybe next month women will be driving!

Yours in moblogging joy


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Donating Blood in Riyadh

June 14th World Blood Donor Day

A newly arrived expat asked me one day where and how does one donate blood  or plasma in Riyadh.   I had to admit, I didn't have much of a clue.  Hospitals I expect, was all I could think.  In fact, after she raised the questions I wasn't even certain that blood donation was an acceptable Muslim activity.    And can Muslims accept blood from non-Muslims?  In life saving situations is it best to put religious differences aside and just accept we are all human?  With all these questions running around my head, I went in search of answers and here they are, fresh off a Google Search.

In brief, yes, blood donation is acceptable activity in this country for anyone who chooses to do so though, as my friend discovered, you may find blood bank staff are surprised you are doing it! (You are giving blood away...for just anybody!)

Generally the local population only gives blood for other family members in need of it.  In fact, if you turn up to hospital after some form of incident without a donor in tow, the staff will ask where your donor is!

For voluntary donations in Saudi, generally it is mainly the men who donate blood (according to a research article I found). To keep up local blood stocks the King decreed, at some point not so long ago, that all citizens being issued with driver licenses were to donate blood.  Apparently not many women in Saudi are blood donors - probably because we can't, as yet, get drivers licenses, but also because most blood banks, according to said research article, have unsuitable facilities for women (we can't be suitably separated from the men) and something about feminine constitutions affected by other forms of blood loss.

Blood donation is a highly recommended activity from a Qu'ranic point of view according to a  'How To Be A Good Muslim' sites that I surfed.  Contrary to the image created by the shocking road stats in Saudi Arabia and young men's attempts to wind up as one of those statistics, Islam places great importance on the value of life.  All life.  Anyone's life.  Even the lives of we unbelieving infidels.  And, added to that, the Qu'ran makes no differentiation between creed, gender or color when it comes to saving lives.  All lives.  Any lives.

(Now I can hear some of you laughing out there.  Yes, I can!  And I can guess why, but we aren't here to talk about those issues, are we?)

'Saving Lives' sounds all well and good, but the dictate comes with caveats.
(''s the part where they back track', I hear you say.  
Well, yes).
You should only save a life if yours or other peoples lives are not in danger.  And you are not obligated to save a life, nor should you feel bad about yourself for not saving a life, if you aren't convinced that the situation warrants you saving said life.

Which brings me to an interesting titbit about life in Saudi Arabia.  Apparently there is an unwritten law here in Saudi, (at least I think it's unwritten), that you should do as little as possible to help someone who looks like they are about to carp it for whatever reason (especially suspect or violent reasons), because if you were the last person to touch or assist the afflicted before he popped off to Heavenly Land, you're to blame for his death.  Not a very helpful unwritten law, and it seems totally contradictory to the Qu'ranic recommendation, but ask anyone who's been here a while and 'Do Not Touch The Nearly Departed' is the law they know and act on...which means incidents get a lot of spectators in Saudi, all no doubt considering their 'Save a Life' options.

Well Done :)

In terms of blood donation, which is what this post is about, donating blood is one way of fulfilling your duty under the Qu'ran to save a life (or lives).  If you donate regularly you can consider your generosity ongoing charity and if you are a super-mega voluntary donor (ie, you do it a lot), you'll get a medal.

Which brings me to the next question about blood donation.  Who gets the blood?  Do only Muslims get 'Muslim blood' and do only Christians get 'Christian' blood?  No!  Don't be silly!  In life threatening situations blood is blood.  Anyone can get it.  And besides, it would be far too difficult for blood banks to run blood donations along such a line.  That's what the 'Be A Good Muslim' site said in response to a similar question.  Unfortunately, when one of my friends asked a local blood bank rep the same question, he was adamant that only Saudi's got Saudi blood.  Perhaps he actually meant that there are so many local donors in Saudi Arabia now that the country no longer has to rely on imported blood.  If he didn't actually mean that, then perhaps someone ought to retrain the blood bank peeps on the logistics of storing blood.

So, where can one go to donate blood?  Most larger hospitals have blood banks.  A couple of those hospitals also have apheresis machines so they can produce separated products. ( I believe the Military Hospital is one of those).  Saudi also has a Mobile Blood Donation service that runs regular blood donor campaigns and is available for corporate, or other, blood donor promotions.

To that end, June 14th is World Blood Donor Day.  If you feel the urge to donate some blood, then by all means do so. Perhaps you could organize a work Donor Day with the mobile blood bank.  Given that this years focus is "Safe Blood For Saving Mothers" preventing maternal death in childbirth related complications, perhaps a few more women could get involved.  Maybe organize a Ladies Donor Day at a local hospital.  I'm sure with sufficient notice the hospital blood banks can get themselves prepped for a bunch of women coming in to donate blood.  Naturally the event would include recovery tea and cake.

If you decide to donate blood below is a list of do's, don'ts and exclusions as per the ThinkUp website.

Those who can donate blood should:
  • Be between the ages of 17 and 60
  • Have a minimum weight of 45kg
  • Not have donated blood in the last 90 days
  • Not be suffering from any infectious diseases, influenza or taking antibiotics
Those who can never donate their blood are:
  • Hepatitis B and C patients
  • HIV positive patients
  • Diabetics who are insulin or pill dependent. However, those who can control sugar levels through diet and exercise can donate
  • Alcoholics and drug addicts
Temporary deferrals on people who:
  • Have had dental work done in the last five weeks
  • Are taking antibiotics
  • Have smoked or consumed alcohol in the last 72 hours
  • Have had tattoos or ear piercing done in the present year
  • Pregnant women
  • Anaemic patients who can replenish their haemoglobin can come back for donation later.
When you visit a center for donation, you should have:
  • Had plenty of fluids
  • Eaten nutritious food
  • Had a good night’s sleep
  • Refrained from smoking or drinking
After donation
  • You must continue to lie on the bed with your feet raised above the level of your body for ten minutes
  • Leave the bandage on for four hours
  • Drink extra fluids for the next three days, especially the first four hours after donation
  • Have a protein-rich diet and rest, which means not taking extra stress of work or driving
(And to think I just used to rock up, eat bikkies, drink tea and carry on again!)

Here, in case you aren't aware, is a list of hospitals with blood banks who will happily take your donations.


King Fahad Medical City:
01-288-9999__ext 1546

King Saud Medical City
01-435-5555__ext 1474

King Abdul Aziz Medical City, National Guard:
01-801-1111__ext 11272/11263

King Abdulaziz Hospital

Blood Bank of King Fahd University Hospital

National guard hospital
03-591-0000__ext 34089

Dammam Medical complex
03-815-5777__ext 276

Happy blood donating on June 14th :)

Ka Kite,

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,

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