Living the Vida Riyadh


What a week I’ve had!

Seems like someone pinched my mojo last week  and it’s been an effort to write anything.

It all started when I ventured out of the hotel, picking up a taxi for the 10 minute ride to a local mall.

I had a one hour window before the next prayer call and figured I could carry out my business there within that time frame. Of course, the mojo slayer had other plans for me. Wallace and I had visited this mall only days ago so I knew it was ‘just up the road’ and ASSUMED the taxi driver knew that as well. Afterall, he had nodded positively when I asked for Azizzia Mall and began texting a message while he drove. By the time I looked up again I saw we were at an underpass and clearly heading in the wrong direction but he assured me all was well and I TRUSTED him to deliver me to Azizzia. Twenty five minutes later I demanded that he stop and let me out of the car which he initially refused. I screamed at him, ‘Stop this bl**dy taxi NOW!’ which caught his attention and he stopped in the middle of a turning lane while I threw some money at him.

I sat on a rock beside the road in this strange suburb crying  while men tooted at me and others slowed down to get a better look. A kind looking taxi driver pulled up and having no alternative way of getting home I jumped in.

‘Where you go?’

‘Azizzia Mall, minfudluk’

‘OK’,  he reassures me.

Within minutes we were on a highway lacking exits and heading the wrong way-again.

‘Ureed* Azizzia!   Ah-zi-zzzzi-a!!’  I cried out

‘Ayna*??’  This guy either didn’t know/didn’t understand or was taking me for the ‘proverbial’ ride. I felt like a ‘trophy’ passenger put on display for all the other male drivers who crane their necks to catch a glimpse of a woman.

After a random tear or two, I composed myself and directed him  to take me  to the city centre.  Back at the hotel, I got out of the cab to the sounds of the prayer call.  It was a  one hour, 100 riyal tour of Riyadh and that’s how it goes some days.

Hotel life is limiting especially when you live out of a suitcase and without the comforts of home. We moved to the other side of the hotel here because of a chattering jack hammer outside our window only to find the jack hammering has not only followed us but has continued throughout the area for the past three weeks.

My oven from hell continues to convert my roasts into charcoal so I took evasive action.  I ordered room service and tracked down a real estate agent. Within 24 hours Wallace and I were standing in a beautiful garden shaking hands with our new land lady. The villa we chose is a woman’s delight with a large garden ensconced with mature palm trees and reticulation sprinklers, a  garden hose and NO water restrictions. The  land lady also contracted with us to put in a swimming pool for our hedonistic pleasure and I can finally thumb my nose to every hotel that has denied me access to a pool here, just because I’m a woman.

My next challenge was to find the whereabouts of  the Express Courier documents my son had posted to me on the 2nd  of July.  Tracking the documents online I discovered that ‘failure to deliver’ was their status and checking my mobile, I knew that no one had rung me to confirm delivery. Trouble was, there was no indication of  where they were now located and no contact number to call and find out. The hunt began with my first question: what’s the name of the postal service here, what are they called?  I tried to Google and simultaneously the internet chose to die. Ah, yes, when you’re on a roll the cyberspace minions come out to thwart just like the taxi driver minions and the oven minions (told you it was from hell!).  Wallace uses the analogy of the Truman Show to reflect our life sometimes: In the movie Truman decides he wants to break out of his routine life and see the world but  is thwarted by Christof, the TV producer of the show Truman unknowingly stars in. Christof cues actors and even elements of the weather to keep Truman from escaping. It works like this:

‘Cue the oven from hell, Jeannie’s planning a succulent roast.’

‘Cue the clueless taxi drivers, Jeannie’s going shopping.’

‘Cue the Asian financial crisis, Wallace and Jeannie are in Indonesia’

‘Cue the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Wallace and Jeannie are in Goa’

‘Cue the internet, the prayer call, the jack hammer………’

It makes me laugh the way Wallace says it and it also reminds me that this is life, our life and the life of an expat is not for the faint hearted.



ureed=I want


10 days after being lodged, Saudi Post delivered our ‘Express Courier’ mail.


2 responses »

  1. I know the feeling very well of getting into a taxi (or “white cab” as the expat women call them) and being driven hither and yon by a driver who claimed he knew exactly where, say, Granada compound is.

    The first red flag is when they immediately get out their mobile phone to call their buddy and have a 5 minute convo, followed by assurances to the passenger that they now know exacty where to go.

    Next, they pull up next to another cab or simply another driver at a stoplight and ask for directions. OK…now we know how to get there!

    Next they start pulling up to hapless pedestrians, exchange a’salam alaikums and get further directions.

    On a couple occasions I simply departed the vehicle unceremoniously.

    All this is why we always negotiate a rate beforehand. If you accept the driver’s offer of “Meter?” you’re just asking for a tour of the city at your expense.

    The second thing is to ask for various confirmations that the driver actually knows the district…like he should know which exit or another local landmark.

    I never accept the casual hand gesture that they give that looks a little like the guy is beckoning a fly to land.

    And if you do happen to have explicit directions, don’t let the driver use his own shortcuts.


    • Jim, thanks for the great advice…especially negotiating the fare before I get in.
      Last night was another nightmare ride from the airport…this driver didn’t know how to get to Kingdom Tower!! For goodness sake, that’s like a New York City driver not knowing where Times Square is! He barely spoke English and didn’t speak Arabic! ‘Acha, acha’ is what he said the most which roughly translates as OK, in Hindi! My husband directed him all the way..the driver should have paid us instead! What is most annoying is that I can’t drive myself!
      Thanks for stopping by Jim.


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