Tag Archives: Mumlika

Exiled Expat


Bottle Opener vs Veiled Woman

Bottle Opener or Veiled Woman

This week I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an expatriate or expat for short.

The first answer that comes to my mind is,  an expat is someone who works in a foreign country.

Deciding to Google the term I found the following definition in an online dictionary:

‘In a sociological context, an expatriate is one who is a resident in a foreign country and it can also be defined as  someone who is exiled or banished from their native country.’

OK, so the first part is obvious: I am a resident in a foreign country.

The second definition though got me thinking.

When I lived in other Arabian countries I felt like a resident there but somehow I feel like I am an exile in Riyadh.

It isn’t my first city of choice but it’s where the shrinking job market brought  Wallace and I  to. 

We’ve been banished until we can pay off our mortgage back home.

Of course all the perks help and there are plenty of those to keep us happy but they come with a price.

For Wallace, it’s all about finding the right people to build the team  to bring about the change management the client requires.  The client in turn has negotiated the contract fee to such a paltry sum that the packages on offer aren’t  that exciting for high calibre people. Throw in all the cultural restrictions that make up Riyadh and you’re faced with an uphill battle. 

The hotel where I am staying has seen better days, there are some great facilities-spa, sauna, gym and pool but as a woman I am not permitted  access to them (they are also under renovation so Wallace can’t use them either).

This is the second hotel we have lived in and there are plenty more (in our price range) out there with hit and miss functionality.

I’m sick of moving   and loathe packing and unpacking  but what choice do I have?

All the compounds in town ( think gardens, villas,  freedom to swim)  are full and there are waiting lists of 50-200 people on each  and as each day passes by I feel the walls of hotel life closing in on me.

Come rain or shine my passion is to drink that first cup of coffee out in the garden  surrounded by sweet morning smells; it’s my way of connecting with the Creator.

 Here , there is one window to view the outside world and it is chin high so I stand on tippy toes to look out.

Directly in front of me and only 800 metres away is Riyadh’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower, also refered to as Mumlika by the locals.  To some men it looks like a bottle opener but to me, it  appears as a veiled woman standing sentry in my path for freedom,  much like my own Mum did when I was a  teenager. Each morning I drawback the bedroom curtains and see her there reminding me to wear my abaya before I stepping out in public, sending subliminal messages to all women in Riyadh that the boys who built her are in charge of us.  Between her legs is a shopping mall  and there ain’t much else a woman can do but shop around here. Shop for what? All the pretty clothes that  will remain  hidden under an abaya? All those  stunning  evening gowns that will only be seen by other women or a husband at best?

 Wallace has just rung to invite me out for dinner, his radar obviously telling him that his Missus is having a bad day.