Tag Archives: call to prayer

Free To Be Me

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Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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Saudi Arabia is not for the faint hearted or the faithful..

..those faithful to Jesus Christ.

As an expat there, the hardest part was hiding my faith.

Sure, I had my Bible (which I had no trouble bringing into the country), my worship songs and some Christian books but what I missed most was going to church.

Jesus and churches are not welcome in Saudi but there were rumours that some faithful gathered behind compound walls. Most compounds there are guarded like Fort Knox and you can’t just rock up  to the gatekeeper and ask whether there’s a bunch of Christians inside. In the five months I was there, if I came across another Christian I never knew it: unless you’re a Muslim you don’t openly talk about your faith.

It was hard listening to the muezzin’s ‘call to prayer’ knowing I didn’t have the same right to corporate worship.

Back home now,  I am loving the freedom of going to church.

Some Sunday mornings, I walk through a glade to get there and its beauty intensifies my desire to worship God.

I am free to walk, I am free to worship, I am free to be me.

 

 

 

 

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Tour de Riyadh Part 1

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Wallace hired a smart-looking Chrysler sedan and we spent the weekend exploring Riyadh.

Every few kilometres we ooh-ahhed at yet another shopping mall and stopped by to explore a couple.

What’s good about us as a couple is that I like to window shop and Wallace likes to inspect the fit outs.

We both enjoy good coffee and exploring new cafes which every mall has.

The Marina Mall was our first stop, strangely named as Riyadh is land locked and the mall doesn’t even have a water feature. Ultimately it’s just another mall filled with dress shops and the proverbial high-tech amusement park for kids.

Kids have all the fun in Riyadh: fairy floss, popcorn, dodgem cars, whirly rides and rollercoasters, all under the roof of practically every mall. Mind you, once they reach double figures many are left to themselves without much to titillate them. 

Our intention was to do a big shop for groceries and as we pulled into our favourite supermarket, the shutters went down signalling prayer time.  It was 6.45pm so we decided to check out a boutique hotel on the corner for a bite to eat.

Wallace and I agreed the fit out was 5 star as we relaxed in leather lounge chairs in the lobby.

We discovered they only served breakfast and lunch but offered us their café menu.

‘Do you have apple pie?’,  I asked the waiter

‘No Madam, but we have pineapple pie, it’s delicious’

‘Sounds lovely! I will have a piece of pineapple pie and American coffee with milk on the side, please’.

Wallace ordered a tuna sandwich and coffee and we sat back well pleased with our new-found sanctuary.

Fifteen minutes later the food arrived and I jumped into my pie while Wallace unwrapped the first of two large pita rolls stuffed with tuna. (Pita is Arabic for sandwich, no doubt)

The pie was truly delicious but with each bite I knew it was apple.

The waiter returned to ask if all was in order and I said,

‘This is apple pie’.

‘Yes, madam it is apple pie.’

I felt a Greenpeace moment coming on. (see my blog entry: With Apologies to Greenpeace)

Well satiated, we returned to the supermarket to see the shutters coming down once again-another prayer call!

It was  8.15 pm. 

Wallace  quickly sped off  saying, ‘ Let’s go for a nice drive, shall we?’,  before giving me any time to react.

True, as a guest in this country I need to know the prayer times before I step out but I haven’t reached the point of keeping a time-table in my bag yet. It’s another loss of freedom for me, being able to just get up and go out to shop, eat, walk, drive a car, wear what I like ….

Riyadh is a sprawling city of about 1600 square kilometres and we drove around observing how three lanes are turned into five,  and how to make a left hand turn from the extreme right lane. We also saw a couple of teens holding on to the sides of a mini bus while rollerblading-nothing unusual in that-here.

At 10pm we came across Granada Mall  all lit up in neon  and decided to shop there. Half of Riyadh had the same idea as we struggled to find a parking spot. Inside there were children squealing with joy at a performance on a stage hosted by someone with no idea about decibel protocol.  Why aren’t these kids in bed, I thought  to myself. Then again, Saudi families love  promenading around malls and they do it so well after their obligatory afternoon nap.

I hadn’t taken a nap and though tired, I was just glad to find a place to buy my groceries.  Carrefour  supermarket has 30 check-outs  yet at midnight we still had to queue. Venturing to the food court, we couldn’t find an empty seat so we ate our ice cream while  pushing the  trolley past families eating American  fast  food, shwarmas and hommus.  

Wallace and I  got back to the hotel at 1am and hauled our shopping through the lobby and into the elevator.

As I got into bed I realised it would take a while to acclimatise to the ways of Riyadh. It is different but it is doable.

I’m getting there..

Eating Out Riyadh Style

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Are you constantly hungry?

Think you might like to step out for a quick bite?

Dreaming of a hot choc sundae from Baskin Robbins?

Hold that hunger pang…..

it’s praytime in Riyadh

Five times a day there is the call to prayer for every faithful muslim and up till now the only inconvenience this has caused me is interrupted sleep or being told to turn my music off while driving my convertible. (The driving took place in a neighbouring country and I now know to place some  distance between my bedroom and the neighbourhood mosque). 

Here in Riyadh they have taken the further step of shutting down all the shops and all the restaurants once the prayer call is sounded. If you are waiting in a cue in a  department store you have to leave your purchases aside, step out and wait for the store to reopen. This can take anything from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the  store.

I haven’t figured out how this works if you are mindlessly filling your  shopping trolley in a supermarket and have no way of clearing the checkout before the store’s grilles come shutting down. What happens to your frozen chook or tub of  ice cream?

Wallace says that the Maghrib call (evening prayers around 6.30pm) are timed to keep office workers like him famished until after 7pm. Before I arrived, it seems that every time he stepped out for a meal he would find  restaurants closed and  would have to pound the pavement till they reopened.  With current evening temperatures in Riyadh staying in the high 30’s this is not recommended.

Last night I discovered what happens when the call comes in the middle of your dining experience.

The restaurant staff all walk out and lock you in to finish your meal.

Honest.

Our waiter came to us and said, ‘I have to go outside now, enjoy your meal.’

My first thought was what happens if there’s a fire and my second thought was of raiding the kitchen for  cheesecake.

In Riyadh you don’t eat out, you eat in – locked in.