Friday, February 12, 2010

Seeing Red in Riyadh

The people here are polite and friendly; the food is amazing.  I'm told that the finest dates in the world come from Saudi Arabia.  My own small sample would seem to confirm that.  But for a country that celebrates friendship and good food to such a degree, I don't at all get this paranoia about relations between men and women--part and parcel and a natural extension of the experience and celebration of our life on this earth.  Family, friendships and food...there is nothing more to this existence IMHO.

Apparently red objects associated with Valentines Day are banned here, leading up to a black market for these same objects because men will be men, and women will be women, and no amount of religious piety can overcome basic human needs and desires.  I guess it's easy to make light of the situation, but in Saudi it's real, and it sucks for lots of unmarried young men who think of women 95% of the time and for women who want to be treated like equals 100% of the time.

I don't believe that this is a Muslim thing, because there are plenty of Christians who believe that a womans place is in the home.  All religions are distorted by extremists.  I guess Saudi is what happens when the disagreeable guys are ahead.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shisha, or Hubbly-Bubbly

There are no bars in Saudi; there's no (legal) consumption of alcohol.  But there is shisha, AKA "hubbly-bubbly" which is what men do instead of going to the bar.  Women not allowed, but they certainly are on the minds and a part of the discussion over an evening of smoking, eating dates, drinking coffee and tea, and then having a grand meal.  It's like having beers with the guys, with all the laughs, bad jokes and silliness that we boys enjoy but without the alcohol sloppiness.

Evidence here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"In case of any 'Danger Alarm' (God forbidden)..."

Is there a more elegant way to discourage smoking?  "It is prohibited in the Holy Book, do not hesitate to stop this bad habit."

Matrimonial Classifieds from the "Arab News"

"...parents invite suitable alliance for their son, 27 years, 5'8", B.Tech (IT), wheatish and good-looking, ..."

"Wheatish".  A new word for me, and another way to say, "I'm not dark skinned!"  Hey, black is beautiful!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mama Noura

Mama Noura has ruined it for me.  Well, not completely.  I haven't tried their falafel yet but when I do then the destruction of any desire I might have for Arabic food in the US will be gone, gone, gone.  Why?  Because once one has had the best, nothing else will do.  The fresh squeezed pomegranate juice alone made it into my top five list of drinks for 2010, pretty impressive for a drink sans alcohol!  (But it is early in the year, and once I depart from this place I do have the intention of taking a large sample to sort out which really are my top five.  I'm guessing that it'll be three sublime beers, maybe a nice red wine and this amazing pom- juice from Mama Noura!)

Here are some pics from Mama Noura.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Omm Ali أم علي

Day one, Riyadh.  Omm Ali for dinner after an amazing lunch of some familiar Arabic foods.  I've eaten these foods before, but (like Thai, or Japanese, Chinese, et cetera) they taste somehow different (better) when eaten in their country of origin than they do in the good ol' USA.  Maybe there is something to this idea of terroir.