Over a week in Saud Arabia…Marina Mall, Shoes, Pizza Hut.

Visiting Saudi Arabia always makes me want to look for trouble because of the pure controversial nature of the country, and the contradiction that I have to face everyday. But every time I come here I realize how much it has changed, aka became liberalized. Going through immigration for me in KSA is much easier than other places, because they have everything in record and they see that I have been here seven times in three years and my dad works here. The guy at the boot just looked at me, my passport, made a comment about the amount of pages I have to make me laugh (I just got bunch of pages added to my passport because I ran out of visa pages due primarily to KSA’s entry and exit visas) and let me go without ever looking at my immigration card I had to fill out, and gave me a nice smile. Yes, you can get a smile from the opposite gender a single woman in this country.

Jubail looks as beautiful as I left it in June. Average temperature of 75 degrees, beautiful beaches, summer shwarma stands still open, and soccer games being played late at night, still. It is nice to watch international cabel, like BBC World, Al Jazeera, cricket channels, MTV Arabia, and all the Lebanese music channels and Italian fashion shows. Clearly I do not get out much.

Yesterday me and my family went to Dammam, first to Marina Mall, and then to the city to look at some gold stores. The mall like other Saudi Malls had an indoor amusement park, restaurants, prayer rooms, and lots of couples pretending to be siblings so as not to get caught. At Marina Mall, I found nothing interesting except avoiding men who freely smoked inside, trying not to get mad at rude salesclerks after refusing to buy their knock off Gucci heels, and avoiding religious police. The shoes are quite amazing, I will say, and there were so many that Lady Gaga would have much appreciated (five inch wedges made out of white lace all over, and a hot pink four incher with rhinestones on the heels and gold spikes). And Saudi women DO actually buy them. I almost bought suede grey booties covered in metal belts and random zippers but then walked in them and realized they would only enjoy the interior of my closet if purchased.

At the gold stores, I had to step out of the store with my sister because the smell of incense was a bit much. Outside, people do look since there we are, two girls, by ourselves, without headscarves, minding out own business. These two boys, probably 13 years old walked by and I guess I was not in the mood and yelled at them to stop staring. Response: “You shut up”. My sister: “Asshole”. Them: “Arabic gibberish”. I don’t think they knew any other English. They may have attempted to use the F word. I am not sure. But we sure did stop getting snickers after that. Seriously, if more women just simply yelled at these men in the middle of the street there would not be such a problem with street harassment. I learned this in Morocco where I was taught that all you need is to embarrass these men in front of people, because that is exactly what they do not expect.

We also went to eat dinner at Pizza Hut last night, which in Saudi Arabia is a big deal. Like most American chain fast food places outside of America, they are fancy, huge, usually two stories high, and have real menus and cleanly dressed waiters. This one had glass doors separating the “single section” and “family section”, and had a play station room for kids. We had a booth with our own divisions so it was like our own little room. And the food included these amazing pasta and halal pepperoni and yellow cheese because they have not caught up to the U.S. in using artificial flavor and products. Needless to say it was delicious. Reminded me to when I was in Delhi two summers ago and me and another intern went to Pizza Hut because we were tired of vegetarian food and ordered the meat lovers pizza that had every kind of spiced chicken and mutton possible. Ah, love.