Saudi Arabia first ImpressionsFebruary 18 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C
First impressions of Saudi Arabia
During my first 2 days travelling through the desert and desert towns from the UAE border to Riyadh I did not see a single woman. Not on the roads, not in shops or restaurants. The ones I visited did not have any family rooms, which are reserved for families or women only, and still no women.
Once in Riyadh I was right away welcomed by 3 working women, recognisable on their safety vests in full hijab. One preconception I had to unlearn already in Iran was that full Hijab does not equal shy. Very forthcoming women, very happy to hear where I am from and that I as a woman I came from so far all by myself. They mentioned with great joy, that now they are permitted to drive: “Now we can do it!!!”
Later on I met two highschool girls, one in full hijab, the other wearing an abaya, the black overcoat, only but no head covering. When asked I was told that since a few months ago not only tourist but as well Arabian women are allowed to wear western clothing and move in public without head covering. She would only wear the Abaya as she is used to it and she feels more comfortable wearing it.
Today I saw two SA women in western clothing and open hair.
Saudi Arabia appears to be moving forward with big steps towards a more liberal society.
I always pictured SA to be a very rich country. My first impressions contradict this assumption. On the road to Riyadh a lot of petrol stations and the shops around them were deserted and partially overblown by sand, the shops at the outskirts of the townships either deserted or fallen to neglect. Rubbish is collecting everywhere, very visibly stuck at the camel fencing that has been erected all along the highway, all in all giving a very neglected impression. I guess this is particularly noticeable after having been in UAE and Oman, where everything is well maintained, clean and extremely prosperous.
Is this just avery poor region?
I had to visit the dentist today. Chipped tooth.
At the practice all the assistants were male: at the reception as well as in the treating rooms. My dentist was a woman, I saw several other female dentists all assisted by males. I would have loved to be treated by one of the male doctors dressed in the sheik garb. Very exotic. But no such luck! I forgot to ask if females can be treated by men?
Walking my cat hating dog in this city is near impossible. This is a cat empire! Cats everywhere: sleeping curled up on lawns, park benches, behind walls, in bushes, on trees, under cars, in gutters, alley ways! Everywhere!!! My dog is totally frantic, pulling on the leash like a maniac! Get me out of here!
When standing on the edge of the street waiting to cross the cars stop! Just so! No pedestrian crossing, no traffic light, they just stop! No idea why! I am baffled! This is amazing!
21.2.20 I have to make am amendment to that last observation: that must have been a coincidental that the cars stopped just so. This wasn't repeated.Read more