What an odd feeling it is to be driven around the streets and highways of Riyadh after years from when I last lived there, and after a life spent mostly in those streets.
~ One ~
… from a route taken twice a day for most of my life
I wish I can stop by Starbucks Tahlia, only a few meters away from home, so that I can get a cold glass of icy Frappacino to wake me up before I get to school. It’s only 6:15. Why the hell do they start school so early? Why can’t it start at 8:00 like half the earth? Losers.
The road to Manarat is really long and quite arid. I always loved the part where we go over the bridge that overlooks the Village Planning Ministry thing- it looks like a palm tree forest from above. Most of the rest of the road is really boring. There’s that white building with a huge black sign that reminds me of the Kabaa, and there’s Al-Juraisi Group(?) that always makes me wonder if the Apple box I remember from when I was a kid was just real or just a made up memory.
I’m still sleepy. I hate the fact that they always make the math classes really early in the morning, I can’t get math for the life of me when with my full mental abilities let alone a half-asleep brain.
Hello street. You look so familiar, but do I really know you? You’re so perfectly formed, so beautifully done. The cars driving over you are so big and pretty, and the system is intricate. I think I would like to drive my baby blue 1300 CC Mitsubishi Lancer over your asphalt, but that’s not possible eh? I know these buildings so well, I used to count them, but I never noticed the signs, I never noticed the colors, I never noticed the plethora of classical revival and art noveu architecture. Not that I knew what those were then… How amazing it is how a building you’ve driven past almost every single day for 15 years looks so different when the knowledge is different.
~ Two ~
… from a favorite pastime
I know I look nervous and edgy, and I keep pulling up the scarf over my head and looking out for bearded men with their short white tobes. Mama keeps telling me to not worry, there are no Matwaa’, and if there are, all I need to do is start blabbering in English and they’ll go away. I’m still quite nervous. I think I have a fullfledged Mutawaa‘-phobia, but seriously, how the hell can anyone not when they love going into the whole “3areyaton-fasedaton-faseqaton” tirade. No matter… I love how shiny and bright everything is in the malls! I love the colors and the branding and the creativity. It’s so pretty all of it..
I check for Mutawaa’s again. My mother tells me to stop being panicky and to not put the scarf up. I don’t know how to deal with the scarf. I put it around my neck like I wear wool scarves in Amman’s cold winter; it’s not wool though, it’s soft, and it keeps slipping and falling off and I keep wrapping it around my neck again and again. Stay put. How do people deal with these things?
The mall is much smaller than I remember, although very, very shiny and beautifully designed. It’s all in the details…
~ Three ~
… yummy, yummy, in my tummy
I love this place cause it feels more “natural” than all the other places in town. The families are, as my mother would say, “min jama3etna”, which pretty much means that they’re Levantines- the women with their hair and faces uncovered, the men in their pants and tshirts, and the too-maye3-sounding accents flying around (comes when Levantine accents are a minority of “Eish” and “Shu” among a much coarser one). We have made it a habit to come to Fuddruckers every Friday for so many years now.
Fuddruckers is fantastic. I just came from Amman last night but I already feel like I need to be around people whose accents I understand. We sit at a table behind the stairs, and it’s ok, I don’t need to see people today, I’m going back home in a few days and all I need to do is go to Mecca Mall to see all the people I want to see. Interestingly this year, and this is something that was never around before, Saudi teenage females are not covering their faces like they used to, although the older women still do. I even saw a Saudi woman of around 17 whose hair isn’t even covered! I’ve never seen that before. Ever.
My trip to Riyadh was relaxing. I shopped so much and I even got to tan. I had Baskin Robbins and went to the 99th floor of Riyadh’s highest building to stare at Riyadh laid out flat beneath me under the glass.
The best part about the trip though was the quality time I got to spend with my mother and father, who spoiled me to death :)
My earliest memories in Riyadh start in a little apartment in Sleimaneyeh in the late 80’s and as far as today stands, end in the living room of a little studio apartment in a compound by the airport, discussing Pope Benedict with my amazingly wonderful parents (whose political opinions are quite different from my own). Love you two :)