No Woman No Drive

Bad luck for three women who have won the weekly raffle draw of two luxury cars, the prime attraction at the popular “Hayya Jeddah Shopping Festival.”

They may have won the cars, but being women they are not allowed to drive them!

There are six more cars to be won, now if they would only include a foreign driver with those cars won by women…

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Maktoob News

No Snow in Saudi Arabia? There is Now, and Skiing Too

American Bedu Guest Post by Lily Lowton:

Middle Eastern nations are not renowned for their love of snow sports, given that there is very little snow fall in these hot, dusty countries. Saying that, sometimes things the unexpected does happen, and only a couple of months ago the mountain regions of northwest Saudi Arabia was treated to some very rare snowfall to the delight of locals living there. The usual lack of snow here does not mean the people have no desire to try exhilarating activities like skiing, snowboarding, or tobogganing. For the people of Saudi Arabia, hitting the slopes means heading off to colder climates on ski holidays, but this is all set to change. Inspired by the success of Ski Dubai’s’ 22,500 square meter indoor ski resort, complete with real snow, ski-lifts, and even jumps, Saudi Arabia are now ready to bring snow sports home. Skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing will be found all under one roof at a new indoor snow village that could trump all the other indoor ski slopes out there in the desert.

Al Qasr

A Snow Village in a Super Mall

The brand new Al Qasr Mall opened little more than 6 months ago, located within one of Saudi Arabia’s international hubs, the city of Riyadh. It is here that the new snow village will be built, thanks to a deal between the huge construction firm Dar Al Arkan and the Al Othaim Investment and Teal Estate Development Company. Now this isn’t the first attempt at bringing snow to Riyadh, as there is already a ‘Snow World’ in the city, on King Abdulla Street opposite the Al Ameer Salman Center. It is possible to ski here, but there is no ski-lift on the slope and it is depressingly short. The new snow village planned will be “the first indoor snow village of its type,” according to a statement issued by its developers. It has also been revealed that a 10,693 square meter area of the Al Qasr mall has been set aside for the new snow village, but little else is known about the development.

Real Saudi Ski Resorts

While an indoor ski resort in Saudi Arabia is a realistic idea, a more unbelievable and exciting suggestion would be actual outdoor ski resorts, but believe it or not it could happen. Saudi entrepreneurs have seen the demand for snow sports facilities in the country, and have actually attempted to build ski resorts in mountainous areas of southwest Saudi Arabia, next to the border with Yemen. The plan is to use snow making machines to provide the snow, but as it stands there are still no ski resorts in Saudi Arabia… yet.

The Next Best Thing?

While you may be forgiven in thinking that there simply cannot be that much demand for skiing and snowboarding in Saudi Arabia, think again. Sure, the lack of consistent snow stops most people in their tracks, but some innovative, and perhaps crazy, people have thought outside the box when it comes to getting the thrills enjoyed while skiing. One Austrian ski instructor missed the snow so much while in Saudi Arabia he decided to have a go at what he must have thought to be the next best thing… heading into the desert and see if he could find a slope of sand to slide down. The video below captures his commendable attempt.

As you can see, this does not quite cut it, and something a little more extreme was thought up by some daredevil locals. A car and some sandal with wheels attached were all these guys needed to replicate skiing Saudi style.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mp8lblWBIU

An Expats Delight

With plenty of expats living and working in Saudi Arabia, missing the snow could become a thing of the past once the new indoor slope is finished. Being able to slip into those ski boots after work and spend an hour improving your carving skills a few weeks before heading off to the Alps will surely be welcomed. You never know, it is always possible that Saudi Arabia will begin to breed its own snow sports superstars of the future, but perhaps that is going a little too far. One thing that does seem sure though, is that skiing in the desert is now here to stay.

Saudi Arabia: Value of Outpost Services in Saudi Arabia

It can be both frustrating and challenging to acquire items from the United States or other parts of the world in Saudi Arabia.  Shipping options are few and most often, very expensive.  Some places will not even ship unless it is to a USA address.  Therefore, American Bedu is pleased to introduce residents in Saudi Arabia to Outpost Services.  The following post typifies how a service such as Outpost makes a difference and can easily bring a ‘taste of home’ to the Kingdom….

 

outpost

My family and I are currently living in Riyadh due to my husband’s career, and are renting an apartment in the city. As with most households, our morning coffee is essential to us for us to get moving in the morning. I know that Dr. Café is really popular with my husband’s colleagues, but we both are ardent Starbucks fans. Often with the commute, stopping in at one of the local Starbucks is not always feasible. My husband had heard some great reviews from close friends back home about the new coffee maker that Starbucks has come out with which is a sleek machine similar to the Keurig. We had a generous gift card from Bon Ton, and so decided to splurge and purchase our dream coffee maker, Starbucks Verismo 585 Brewing System with us paying the difference on our visa card.  Starbucks Verismo (1)

Unfortunately, Bon Ton doesn’t offer international shipping! Set on getting the most bang for our buck, we looked for a company that would forward our coffee maker to us. A friend of ours recommended using Outpost SVC, a parcel-forwarding company that offers to ship customer purchases internationally using their local address from stores that while living in Saudi we normally wouldn’t be able to shop from.

Their rates are competitive compared to many other parcel forwarders, so we signed up right away.  We used the Houston, TX address they provided to us as the delivery address of our coffee maker.  Any anxiousness we may have had was quickly absolved, when Outpost automatically updated our member profile with the fact that they receive the coffee maker at their location.  Not only that, but they also provided a picture of the goods, so that we weren’t worried that the order was inaccurate – which is great, since we’ve had to return in the past which could be a hassle!

Being the coffee connoisseur that he is, my husband also wanted to get some of his local coffee brand that he hadn’t had since we’ve moved to Riyadh two years ago. They do not have a website to purchase from – so using Outpost SVC’s personal shopping service, all my husband had to do was send in a personal shopping request with the details of the store and the name and details of the coffee blend that he wanted.  A personal shopper went to pick up the coffee at a location right in Houston within 24 hours of his submission.

The best part was that they offered to put our two purchases in the same box using their consolidation service, so that we could receive the coffee maker and our coffee blend in one box. We didn’t have to track more than one package, and more importantly, we saved on the international shipping costs. We chose DHL as the carrier, but Outpost offers other couriers if you are interested. Everything arrived in perfect condition in only a couple days, so overall, we were very satisfied as first-time users, and would definitely use Outpost SVC again and want to recommend their services for anyone who is doing online shopping, as in addition to shopping from the US, you can also shop in China, Russia, Europe and the UK and they will forward your purchases to you.

As readers of this blog, Outpost has graciously offered that any readers of [blog name] who register, by using the reference code: OUTPOSTSAUDI, you will receive $5 off you first shipment. You can visit their site here: www.outpostsvc.com

Happy shopping! Thanks to Outpost, I’m off to enjoy a Starbucks Espresso made in my kitchen J

Saudi Arabia: Online Shopping is Starting to Catch On

namshi

Many expats and Saudis alike in the Kingdom miss the ease and availability of using amazon.com for their online shopping.  Amazon and other popular online shopping sites make it difficult to order online and have items shipped to the Kingdom without an Aramex account.

Finally there is a new online shopping site available for Saudis that is rapidly gaining in both growth and recognition.  This site is Namshi.com and is on its way to becoming the Amazon of the GCC, or at least for now, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

To begin with, Namshi offers an Arabic language option for its customs.  While its product base is smaller at the moment than Amazon it is increasing steadily.  Additionally, customers from Saudi Arabia can order online and have their purchases shipped to their Saudi address within seven to ten days.

Admittedly there are some challenges which still need to be worked out with the Namshi interface and Saudi living.  Many Saudis do not have a clear and recognizable address.  Even when having a package couriered to a residence it is necessary to provide directions, landmarks and a phone number.

Additionally many Saudis are still reticent to use a credit card online.  As a result, online shopping and subscriptions are coming slower to the Kingdom than other places.  But the tech savvy Saudi who also realizes he or she does not have to worry about the hassle of driving or finding a driver and fighting the traffic and crowds in the Kingdom is taking full advantage of Namshi’s offerings.  In fact, Saudi Arabia is Namshi’s largest market in the Arab world.

I did little online purchasing when I was in Saudi due to the lack of infrastructure and logistical challenges associated with receiving purchases.  As I left the Kingdom in 2009, I’d welcome hearing from American Bedu readers who are utilizing online shopping from within the Kingdom and what has been their experience.

Saudi Arabia: Are the Saudi Men Really Discriminated Against?

trust

recoveringyou.com

 

A recent article in the Saudi Gazette discusses the challenges and dismay felt by single Saudi men in the Kingdom.  According to the article, single men encounter difficulty in finding a suitable apartment to rent.  If an apartment building hosts families, realtors and landlords are reluctant to rent to a single Saudi male fearing there can be negative repercussions.  The single Saudi men also speak out on the discrimination against them in that they are prohibited from entering the large and luxurious shopping malls which about in the Kingdom as these malls are for women and/or families.

So are the Saudi single men discriminated against in their own country?  In my personal view they are in some ways.  It is true that many apartment buildings will not rent to a single Saudi male yet will rent to a single expatriate male.  Single Saudi men are prohibited from entering most shopping malls but many malls will make an exception and allow entry to single Western men.

Why are there these distinctions?  Those from Saudi’s conservative and traditional families believe that single men can pose a threat to families and especially to the young women in a family.

The fears of the family remind me of a conversation I had several years ago with a single American male who was living in a residential apartment building in Riyadh.  Like most apartments, the building was equipped with elevators.  Few residents used the stairs.  He told me how scared he was one day when he was in the elevator by himself going down to the lobby of the building when it stopped at another floor.  A single Saudi woman got on the elevator with him.  Without conscious thought, he pressed the open door button as the doors were starting to close and exited from the elevator.  He had fears of being observed in the lobby coming out of the elevator with only himself and a single Saudi woman.  He did not want anyone to have a wrong and very incorrect impression.  In respect to the conservative nature and culture of Saudi Arabia, I think he made the right move.  Would a single Saudi man have done the same thing in this particular situation?  It’s good food for thought but certainly illustrates how an innocent encounter can have underlying ramifications for both the man and the women.

Interesting the article also sites that there are limited entertainment venues for single Saudi men.  I beg to differ and think that this applies across the board to both men and women.  I feel that there are more men-only restaurants and eateries than those which accommodate women and/or families.  Men’s fitness centers and sports clubs also far outnumber those which cater to women.  Men can also rent or own estrahas in the desert or city suburbs which allow them a place to gather where they can play cards, watch tv, listen to music, chat and be socially active.  Women, on the other hand, tend to gather at one another’s homes or perhaps meet up at a mall or a family restaurant.

Personally I think that more entertainment venues would be a good investment in the Kingdom.  There should be mini-golf courses, batting cages, go-karts, Saudi’s own version of NASCAR. I am optimistic that more activity options will open up in the Kingdom; it’s simply a matter of timing.

But coming back to the point of the article, what is your view?  Are Saudi single men not trustworthy enough to have more privileges?  If this is the case, how does this impression get changed?  American Bedu would like to hear the views of Saudi men and expat men in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia: Beware of the Escalator and the Trailing Abaya

abaya

theline-mev.blogspot.com

 

The malls in Saudi Arabia will have a number of escalators throughout for shoppers to easily reach all the enticing stores.  However, women, whether a Saudi woman or an expat woman, should approach the escalators with caution.

Several of my Saudi sister-in-laws prefer to wear a long trailing abaya which conceals their feet.  However, these kind of abayas can come with unforeseen hazards.  For example, one time my sister was going up an escalator and as she reached the top she did not realize that the back end of her abaya had gotten caught in the escalator.  Instead of sliding out onto the next level, she became caught as the fabric of the abaya became entwined with the moving escalator.  Thankfully a quick-thinking and strong husband ripped the caught material so she was freed from what could have been a tragic accident.  Yes; she could have also stepped out of the abaya to be freed but that would have gone against the Saudi tradition of women being covered while in public places.

Therefore, it’s not a bad idea for a woman to think carefully before purchasing and wearing certain styles of abayas.  Some abayas are designed to look like they have a “formal train” in the back.  While the design is unique, the style can actually be hazardous to your well-being.  In addition, the trailing abayas will easily pick up the dirt and grime from the floors and sidewalks necessitating frequent washing.

I may not have worn the most traditional of abayas when I was in Saudi Arabia but I can say it was very practical.  Mine bedu abayawas custom made by our own Aafke.  It came with pockets, a hood for when it was prudent to cover the head, attractive snap buttons and it was the perfect length to walk unhindered.

Can any American Bedu readers also share their abaya experiences?

Saudi Arabia: More on Jizan

 

It seems that more expats are receiving job opportunities in Jizan.  It gives American Bedu great pleasure to provide readers with updated information about the city from a recent arrival there.  There’s nothing better than hearing (or reading in this case) current information, thoughts and impressions.

 

The following data is from an email I received and have permission to share from a recent expat arrival to Jizan:

Jizan is a good place in the sense the weather at this time of the year is getting cooler. It’s really pleasant during the mornings and even late afternoons. There are times when we have to switch off our AC’s for a while ,but the old timers say that from March onwards it will get mercilessly hot. As Jizan is a pretty-small and up-coming place, there are not many malls except two which are most popular with expats.

 

By now we have visited most of the shopping areas. If you ask me as to which is the best place to shop in Jizan for groceries I would recommend the Farms superstores at the Kaadi Mall. Incidently Kaadi mall has other retail chains too for finding good furnishings for homes  etc.

 

The Raashid mall is good but it’s bit costlier than at other places like Abha.. Of course the cheaper options are Dubai Center where one can get stuff for five riyals and Yaa Baalash with Al Raya adjacent to it for groceries.

 

We have started going to these few malls only as when I had taken my wife to souk Dakhali (she was wearing a aabaya and had covered her hair  with a black duppatta ) she felt as if being stared at.  As a result we went and purchased a niqab. She really felt suffocated in the hot weather. She doesn’t need to cover her face with a niqab in the malls ,so the malls suit us well.

 

Jizan has a great tourism potential if the Government wants to promote it. The hill station of Abha is just two hours away and I have heard that it’s large and quite nice. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit it yet. There are souks and small parks scattered all over this small city. One thing an expat must come to terms with, however, is the absence of greenery though Jizan does have few trees and maintained lawns.

 

Additionally, it is worth noting that we have seen very few Muttawa (religious police) in Jizan.

 

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