My second full day in Riyahd was mostly about things to do for Christmas so Brian, Bronwyn and I jumped in the car and went out shopping. Due to Riyadh being such a huge, spread out city and its incredibly busy roads (read crazy drivers here), it can take while to get things done. We headed out early enough to get to the shops we needed to prior to prayers. With 5 prayers per day, and everything ceasing to function for the duration, shopping trips need to be well timed so that you are done and on the way home when the midday-ish prayer begins. (The times change daily according to the moon phases, and are based on your longitude and latitude as far as I can work out.) Most shops will stay closed after that prayer and reopen around 4pm, following the next prayer. I watched workers in market stalls and malls packing everything up, putting it all away and making everything secure after being open around 2 hours, only to have to open up and set things up again a few hours later. The shops then stay open til 10pm and the evening is when the shops are at their busiest, with all the locals out and about.
|Being driven from shop to shop|
The first port of call was the Port Store for inserts for the bain marie set up for our Christmas Feast. The store was huge and there was plenty to look at so we had a good wander around and Brian caught up with an exuberant acquaintance, Mohammed, from the Egyptian embassy who was also shopping. The boat shaped bain maries and cold service counters had us all a little amused to say the least.
From there we headed out to the flower market but the variety was poor and Bronwyn had little to choose from. She settled for chrysanthemums and the few lilies that looked like they would be open for Christmas day.
That evening we went to a friend's apartment to enjoy a rooftop bbq in her Saudi tent. Well, the bbq was outside but we lounged in the comfort of the tent. What a fantastic set up. Because my camera is new and I haven't had a lot of time to check it out properly yet, there are not many photos of that evening but this one gives a good idea of the tent.
|Riyadh from the rooftop|
The food was fantastic. I got my first taste of fresh dates stuffed with cheddar cheese and loved them! (I did the same, as well as some stuffed with Swiss chocolate, for dessert/cheeseboard on New Year's eve.) We finished the meal with pavlova, a yule log and mint tea which I have fallen in love with. No commercial mint teabags in site. Just a lightly dunked black teabag and a sprig of mint. Very refreshing. I must also admit to investing in a set of the tiny crystal cups and saucers that Louise serves her mint tea in, as well as beautiful crystal detailed teaspoons. Many a cup of mint tea will be enjoyed in them here in Australia too.
|Snaking camel trail|
A large part of Christmas Eve day was spent in the car, heading out to the desert to check out an ancient camel trail and also driving around Wadi Hanifah, a beautiful new park/scenic development on the outskirts of Riyadh which hundreds of locals were making the most of with their picnics and portable barbecues. It is interesting to note that the colour of the photo (right) of the camel trail is pretty much the colour of all the buildings in Riyahd. As new developments are going ahead there is a little more sheen and metallic emerging but the houses and apartment buildings..... sand coloured.
We rounded off the afternoon with a very hospitable and social afternoon at Vernice and Graeme's, on the compound. Perfect... not far to walk home.