Travel

Saudi arabia: from an irish perspective

Do you know when your friend asks you to describe a particular person to them and you have to pause and think for a moment. You don't want to say anything nasty because you're mad sound. So, you say "well she's…" – cue questionably long pause while searching for the right words – and you end up with "..eh…nice?". Or maybe they ask "Is she/he good looking?" and you think "Well… s/he's got a great personality". Well folks, Saudi, she's got a… great personality. Just great. Well, you wouldn't kick her out of bed but you certainly wouldn't invite her in… That’s how I feel about Saudi Arabia anyway. That being said, it definitely has its good points…

1. Food. There is a large number of Muslims in Ireland. Let's take a moment to think about those people; my people. We follow a completely halal diet and this often means we can only order vegetarian food when eating outside of our homes. This is all well and good for all the vegetarians and vegans (respect) out there but not so appealing to a bunch of people who can easily have three types of meat in one meat. I mean meal… Three types of meat in one meal. Meat. 

Saudi Arabia is a completely halal country so you can imagine that all the restaurants and fast food places (not to mention the Haribo Pick ‘N’ Mix stands) have been a highlight to my stay here. I had my first Big Mac in Abu Dhabi airport earlier this year. (It was February 14th and it was the best Valentine I've ever had). Granted, I recently had a McDonalds burger that was buttered. THE BURGER BUN WAS BUTTERED. However it is obviously great to have the luxury of eating what I want, a luxury that many people take for granted. I've got my eye on a delicious looking steakhouse but I'll dedicate a post to Food in Saudi at a later date, y’know… 

Also, Cinnabon.

2. Minding your business. The Abayah is a great thing. It really cuts down the amount of judgemental stares you get the head to toe stares and the shameless glares. I really appreciate that people in the street don't get to judge each other by what they're wearing. However that means the "make up stories for people you see in the street" game becomes a little bit harder, everyone's going to ninja school…

3. Driving. You can finally drive on the right side of the road. And I don't just mean right the direction, I mean right as in correct because all y'all driving on the left back in Ireland are doing it wrong. You just are. No explanation needed. I often wonder that if they decided to change to the right in Ireland would it get really confusing with people forgetting? Would loads of crashes happen in the first month or so and maybe even l years later because someone forgot along the way? But sure isn't that irrelevant! So yeah, driving on the right side… if you are a man, because women can not drive here.

4. Mystery and allure. I can be mysterious and alluring all the time. Is she smiling? Is she not smiling? Damn she's so mysterious.

5. Socialising. Socialising means socialising here. There's a huge drink culture in Ireland (don't deny it) and alcohol often accompanies every event. It was during Ramadan at 3am when my parents allowed my youngest sister to accompany me to the shop. I realised my parents would never give me their smallest child at 3am in Ireland as it is a really drunken hour. The most important thing in a social gathering is not alcohol but people and food. As is always the Arab/Muslim way but it's nice to have it all around. Especially, if you actually have friends.

6. Arab money. Many people come here for the money. Well if it's not for the religion, it's definitely for the money. For one, it's completely tax-free (this doesnt explain why my MAC Foundation was more expensive here but I'll look into that). Cost of living is pretty cheap. Fuel prices are crazy cheap and you can easily save a big chunk of your salary if you try. Y'know… If you had a job…

7. Travel. Bahrain is just a big boat away. I haven't escaped to any of the nearby countries but I definitely intend to. Maybe escaped is the wrong word to use? 

8. It prepares you for anything. Like I mentioned before you have to be very thick skinned to enjoy it here. But if you come out OK then you can probably survive anything. You always have to be ready to defend yourself, speak out to the little lemon-faced lady who skipped you in the queue or irritate the guys in the ministry of labour until you get the documents you need. Working on getting what you want. It's a great skill to learn.