Monday, December 8, 2008

Up on the roof

It's easy for a Western woman to feel quite trapped in this city. So the rooftop of our building is the one place out of doors where a girl can go without having to cover up and become invisible.

It was just a hard bare space when we came, but nowadays it's much friendlier.

We have a gas barbecue. (That's Paul - he's a bit too tall to get the whole of him in one photo.)
And other furniture ...

and we can sit around and have get-togethers in the coolth of the evenings.

Playing the Game

And then Stanley (our Indian driver) saw a little badminton kit in the shops and persuaded Peter ...

Stanley loooves playing badminton. But the little kit came with only two shuttlecocks.

And soon they had both gone over the side!

But he got them back, and lived to play another game or three

Young "Tiger" wanted to play too ...

... but then ... ! Oh! there goes another shuttlecock!

Where did it go, and what's down there? (I hear you ask).

It's one of the many "light wells" in this place. Some windows are on the inside of the building and therefore open into a light well. But on the top floor all of the windows open into a light well or the roof-top "garden" area - can't risk having people looking into other people's houses or gardens.

Even higher up

I climbed to the top section of the roof (again)

because it's such a good view. Oh, and that's K.

Over the front side of the building I noticed something going on.

All those people down there - pretty unusual. Are they ... ?

Yep, they are! A bunch of Indian chappies playing cricket, in their robes 'n' all. (Of course, this is the "bachelor quarter" of the city.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh I've been to the desert in a bus with no windows ...

Know the song? (about 'the horse with no name')

Are you familiar with the (quite old-fashioned) saying:

"Children should be seen and not heard" ... Well, in this country women should never be seen.

The rain has gone away again, and it was finally the girls' turn to go to the desert. The female faculty members (us) and staff (office and administrators) were all invited.

I sat on a bus crowded with women in full cover-up mode (except for us foreign women who were wearing our black abayas but not head coverings). Women are not permitted to drive, and so in the presence of a male driver the women were all required to be covered. I found myself staring at the eyes peering through the slits in the headgear and listening to the excited voices chattering in Arabic, trying to recognise by their voices the women I work with day by day at the college. Of course, traveling by bus is in itself an unusual experience for the ladies. There are no public buses in this city.

And the windows of our bus (the 25-seater bus we travel to work in every day) are totally covered over. I glimpsed some spectacular scenery through the little square of windscreen that was visible from my seat, but couldn't take any photos.

The farm belongs to a relative of the (female) Deputy Rector of the University. In order for us to visit, all of the men associated with the farm had to leave.

Of course when we got there, and the bus and driver had left, all the women uncovered and relaxed, and it was well worth the trip.

The word "oasis" takes on new meaning when you see the stark reality here.

The ubiquitous palm trees are growing on the very edge of the desert,

bearing luscious dates.

And then, of course, there are the very valuable camels.
For what? Well they are not used for transport any more ... I think they race them. And I have seen camel milk, and camel meat products in the supermarkets.
(We keep telling them that we have a million and more wild camels in Oz that we'd all like to get rid of ...)

The farm house is a lovely relaxing place to be.

This outside room (patio?) was where we spent most of the day. More carpets were brought, and cushions and chairs and there was room for the whole group.

Inside - this would be such a nice,cool place to live!

This is one of several large sitting rooms.

Those cushion-sofas were easily moved into our outside area, along with the elbow-rest cushions - very comfy!

Flat roof - another place to relax, and with a view of the desert.

The buildings in the distance are where the camels are housed and fed ... and if this blog had smell-a-vision, you would know why they are so far from the homestead!

Despite the desert being so close, the garden is fresh and green and pleasant. (I don't know what it's like here in the summer with the 60 degree heat and dust storms!)

Another barbecue area with a rolled up carpet all ready to roll ...

Because, of course, early evening (and morning I would guess) is when the desert is at its best.

Absolutely the best time to walk in the desert.

And then back to the farm house.

Then it was time to abaya-up ... a quick smoke on the roof for Sally ...

And back in the bus to the big noisy city.

Now why didn't they build the college out there in the desert?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Men and Boys

From Howdi Saudi
In case you can't see the writing on the paper, it says "I love Dr Peter".

So what are Saudi students like to teach? As you can see, they are very special.

I would love to show you some pictures of my girls, but they are shyer than shy - they cover themselves completely outside of home and school. But under their abayas they are normal girls.

From Howdi Saudi
So how's that for a class of boys? It was a cold-ish day, hence the jackets and jumpers.
And here are some of them in the classroom.

From Howdi Saudi
Yep. Normal young men.

And what's it like teaching in a college that is all shiny and new? Just to give you a hint of how sumptuous and spacious it all is ...

From Howdi Saudi
here is teacher Paul meeting with the Rector (principal) of the college, Dr Obaid, in his office.

Um, yes, his office is a little larger than mine! But I don't begrudge him that. He is a wise and gracious man and we all appreciate him greatly.

Monday, November 10, 2008


We really don't get out much.!

When I go out through the front door I must be covered with my black abaya. Then I go with the others on our work bus to work, or to a shopping mall ... that's it, that's all really.

But last week us girls were all invited on a desert trip on the weekend, to a farm in the desert somewhere north of Riyadh. Despite being thoroughly weary at the end of the week we were excited and looking forward to seeing something, anything, outside of the city.

Then it rained a couple of days before the weekend, and so it was cancelled.

The Boys Desert Trip

The male teachers were also invited into the desert by some of the male students, and a little rain (which stopped before the weekend anyway) didn't bother them one bit.

The first stop along the way was a restaurant for Second Breakfast. Here is teacher Paul getting stuck into the green drink they serve here - lime juice and finely chopped fresh mint, quite a wake-up sort of a drink.

And then they hit the road. These chaps generally like to drive fast, and the highways are built for speed.

This is some sort of a check-point, built in the local style. The police commonly stop cars and check up on single guys, because we all know what they must be up to.

So what would you expect to find on a farm in the desert?

Well, it is a desert. Those would have to be date palms.

The tent. Here the boys could eat and relax - it's quite luxurious inside.

Boys Just Wanna Have Fun

So what is there for boys to do in the desert??

Here they are heading off to have some fun.

So ... are those sprinklers in the desert??

Now these sprinklers have clearly been working, growing fodder for a herd of very valuable camels.

And here's a place where the boys can have some fun.

First you have to let the tyres down a little bit.

Now that's how the boys like to play.

Look at what they did! That was so worth a trip to the desert for, now wasn't it?!

Back to the farm for a meal. The teachers gather around the campfire outside.

It's getting cold and Paul didn't bring a jacket, so the young chaps give him some local gear to wear.

Now that they are all getting traditional, it's time to pass the pipe. Peter has a puff at the apple-flavoured smoke.

I heard that they were also all challenged to eat something from the (cooked) sheep's head. Peter pleased his hosts greatly by consuming one of the eyeballs, and then the other one too. He said it wasn't too bad - except that he was already so full from everything else he had eaten so that he almost gagged on it.

It was a bit of a long day, and Paul and Phillip are exhausted so they are relaxing inside the tent until it's time to go home.

It was around 2.30 am when they finally returned to the city.