This is a playful post for all the ladies currently living in Riyadh. It might be a harsh environment and many things irritate us from time to time..Nothing is like back home. But what can we do? Other than getting frustrated and anxious, try to look at it in a positive way and make your life a bit easier. I say, make the best of it! Don’t spend your time complaining and moaning. It will only make you feel worse. Here’s a couple of suggestions how to make the most out of your time here.
Wearing abaya: Ok this is probably one of the most annoying things for most western women, you gotta wear it, so I say…make the best of it!
-get an abaya made of good quality material, not polyester which will make you a cooked vegetable in no time in the +50c heat. Best quality abayas you will find upstairs in Kingdom Mall, Royal Mall and Hayat mall. They can also make abayas to order.
-abayas come in so many different styles, show your personality with a pretty or individual abaya. Go to Dirah or Tayba souq and find tons of different abaya designs and colors. Design and personalize it! It’s what you wear out all the time anyways.
-go shopping in your pyjamas, under the abaya :D
-get an abaya made of cotton or linen you will have to pay a bit more but it’s worth it for comfort in the heat.
Not being able to drive: Very frustrating sometimes especially for women who enjoy driving and are used to doing it a lot.
– while you’re being driven around by your driver, make the most of your time! Read a good book, a newspaper, call a friend, or your mother! Do your makeup on the way (ok depends on your driver’s skills and how stable your hand is).
– if you have an suv or a husband /male friend that can rent one go out to the desert to drive! It’s fun but be careful don’t venture too far. Bedouin women drive around all the time, once you’ve passed the checkpoints you will be fine. Check out the book “Desert treks from Riyadh” available in Jarir book stores.
– go to the Reem race track!they have carting and women can drive too! Exit 11.
– rent quadbikes or beach buggies to get rid of the extra “driving withdrawal symptoms”. Available at red Sands area Mecca highway and the Thumamah area.
Extreme heat: When temperatures start topping 45c everyday, it’s not very pleasant to be outside anymore.
-make sure your abaya is made from natural materials. Some abayas are so thin you won’t even feel like you’re wearing one.
-make the best out of the dry heat and dry your laundry outside! In minutes you will have wrinkle free dry laundry.
-take all your bedding and mattresses out, cook well on both sides..and you have gotten rid of all possible living things such as bedbugs or dust mites which the sunlight will have killed!
– to create curls in no time, after showering apply some moisturizing leave-in conditioner and/or heat activated styler. Apply hair rolls or tie your hair in couple small braids. Optionally cover your hair with a scarf to protect from sun. Go out for about 15 min to half an hour depending on your hair length and desired result (preferably in yard or pool area, can’t recommend venturing out in public). While waiting for hair to dry apply nail polish if you like, it will dry quickly in the dry heat by the time your hair is done. Now just remove the rolls and you will have curls that stay put for long!
Hard water: Many women have noticed that after a while their hair seems to fall out more and it becomes thinner. This is due to the hard water that is mostly desalinized and therefore lacks some essential minerals.
– buy some zinc and selenium supplements from any pharmacy.
– after rinsing your hair with tap water, follow by bottled water to make hair softer.
-get Sodium Laurel Sulfate free shampoo available at GNC!
Boredom: Very common symptom of living in Riyadh. However treatment options are numerous to begin therapy start here with Riyadh to do guide.
– start a new hobby, keep yourself active. Try golf, salsa dancing, horse polo, or scuba-diving!
– since you have the rare opportunity to live in the Saudi-Arabia and are surrounded by Islam, why not find out a little more about the religion? I guarantee you won’t be bored anymore! The WAMY centre opposite Owais souq is a great place to visit to learn more.
-Check out Dar Adh-Dhikr, an Islamic center for women and children (boys up to the age of 6) to learn Arabic and Qur’an in the Ma’athar area
Surrounded by desert: For some its a blessing, others..not. But why not take advantage of the lack of tourism in Saudi-Arabia, you will have most places to yourself and the nature is mostly untouched.
-explore historical sites just outside Riyadh,such as Diriyah UNESCO heritage site.
-visit Madain Saleh the other capital city of the ancient Nabatean people. You will most likely be the only people there. Although smaller in size than Petra, I enjoyed the atmosphere more here. It seems like stepping into the past. Discover more amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia here
-Take weekend trips to the seaside, don’t miss Jeddah which is a city with quite a different vibe and atmosphere than Riyadh and a beautiful historic district al Balad (also UNESCO world Heritage site)
-explore the mostly untouched Saudi side of the Red sea coast. Want to start start scuba-diving? Blue Reef divers 014644134 (in my opinion the best operator in KSA) has courses running all year round. The lectures and pool training are in Riyadh, and open water training will take a weekend in Jeddah. The Red Sea is full of amazing underwater life! Top diving spots in KSA: Yanbu, Al Lith, Farasan Islands, Farasan Banks, Haql Shipwreck.
If you have a chance, go to the Farasan Islands, one of Jacque Cousteau’s favorite places! A wonderland for divers, there is virtually no other humans (except for the odd fisherman). Currently only two hotels on the main island (reachable by ferry from Jizan) The Farasan Hotel: +96673161166
Gender segregation: Most public places will be separate for men and women, it might get frustrating to always find the right place but there can be some advantages to this too!
– you won’t have to queue in banks when you go to the ladies section it’s hardly ever crowded
– shopping at Kingdom center ladies only floor with own entrance.
-Panorama mall ladies only section
– as a woman you should be served first if there’s no clear mens/ladies queue, but of course this is not always the case. A polite smile might get you in front of the line.
-always take advantage of the ladies sections of Saudi airlines offices and get things done in 5 min compared to 5hours on the men’s side.
– on Saudi airlines (and most other national airlines) flights you can always change seats if you happen to be sitting next to a man,(if it bothers you) just request for another seat. They will give you a window seat if available, and if you’re lucky an upgrade to business class.
– at the airport pass the men in the baggage security check line, they don’t usually mind if you put your bag first, then pass through the ladies security check and you will be done in no time.
It all comes down to attitudes. We can’t change these things but we can change our outlook on them. It’s mostly up to ourselves how we handle it and a positive open mind will never do you harm!
POST UPDATED 8/2016
Disclaimer: this guide is aimed at ALL women, not just westerners, currently living in or planning to move to KSA. Written from pov of western woman in Riyadh for 8 years now :)
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 70 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia!