Last week I skipped posting because I was on a week long road trip around Saudi-Arabia. Our journey was awesome, surprising and eventful. Promise to post about it very soon with pictures from the most amazing places I never thought existed in the Magic Kingdom. For the Saudi Road Trip Part One from Riyadh to Abha post click here!

So here are the Top Ten things from life on the road in Saudi Arabia.

En route on our road trip my daughter met her great-great grandmother in this small village south of Riyadh.It was an amazing experience to get in touch with relatives from many generations away. I could never imagine anyone in Finland having this chance but in Saudi people married early (she was married at 14) and had lots of children so that is how it’s even possible.

It was Eid Al Adha time in Saudi and we saw LOTS of sheep on their way to Saudi families dinner tables. This also meant more traffic on the roads.

We bought five jars of delicious honey in the Abha mountains from this friendly  Saudi man who told us the honey had been harvested in the Yemeni mountains. It was so delicious!
Pink houses are very popular in Abha and Gizan, I really don’t understand why this particular color is so common. I’ve never seen so many pink houses and villas and all sorts of buildings anywhere around the world before. I think it’s funny so many Saudi men actually live in “princess pink” houses! Read my post about the popularity on pink color (especially among men) in Saudi-Arabia here:

I LOVE seashells! Another thing I collect from around the world. My house has LOTS of seashells as decorations all over, and also sand from around the world.

Most of the beaches on main Island of Farasan are ruined with trash! I was so saddened and disappointed to see even the one of the islands upscale hotel, the Farasan Coral resort was ridden with litter! Huge change from last visit in 2008 and big disappointment. To read more about trash and littering problem in Saudi-Arabia read this post:
These women were giggling and pointing at me following me around and acting really immature and rude. They started taking my picture with cameras and cellphones, which I don’t have a problem with per se, but I do when people are openly making fun of me. So I whopped out my BIG camera and started taking their picture, they turned around and got upset. Sheesh.

Back in Riyadh this week at Dirah souq they were selling these huge rings with a container on them.  What are they used for we asked the salesman? He said drugs like hashis!  I think the salesman might have made that up to make them seem more exotic or something.

This is the first all blue abaya I have found on sale in Riyadh at this very same souk. I didn’t like the design of the abaya that much so I didn’t buy it.

My baby has been under the weather this week and that’s another reason I haven’t had time to post. She felt a little better and we took a walk around the Diplomatic Quarter parks. She loves to look at the fountains there and it seemed to cheer her up. The weather was perfect for a picnic this time of the year in the Kingdom the weather is so lovely and pleasant not too hot or cold yet. We are expecting the winter rains to start soon though and that should make everything look more green and more flowers will start blooming soon.


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  • AnonymousNovember 15, 2011 - 11:46 am

    A good post and lovely pictures as always. Update on your road trip please :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 15, 2011 - 3:59 pm

    Thanks! I will try to do that very soon but first I need to go through some 3000+ pics :/ReplyCancel

  • DentographerNovember 15, 2011 - 8:14 pm

    i just admire how you see the beautiful side in everything in this country,godbless,and kudos for making those women taste thier own medicine!ReplyCancel

  • IldiNovember 15, 2011 - 8:34 pm

    Dear Laylah, regret for your daughter’s illness. I hope she got better. Finally at home probably she would heal soon.

    I love new pictures. I was amazed how nice that sheep pick-up truck was. It reminds me to kindergarten’s fences.hehe Saudis have t be colourful nation inside maybe they like to hid whatever they have… nice job! I missed you :)
    Have a lovely evening/night.ReplyCancel

  • KhadijahNovember 15, 2011 - 6:56 pm

    i am married to a Saudi and inshaa’Allah would love to move with him to his hometown….
    Can you please email me so I can ask you more about the life in Saudi personally?

    I also have a blog please visit
    reverted in March of this year and I’m from Canada :) !!
    I hope we talk soon Jazakilah KheyrReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 15, 2011 - 10:16 pm

    Thank you Khadija for your comment!Nice to meet you :) You can find my email address in the contact section I would love to hear more from you. I visited your blog I liked how you designed it, have not seen that before!

    Dentographer-thanks :)I hope they learned a lesson. But I highly doubt it.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 15, 2011 - 10:23 pm

    Hi dear Ildi so nice to hear from you always!
    My daughter is much better now and was all smiles as her usual self tonight, so I am relieved!
    Those trucks are quite common here, they transport all sorts off stuff in them, this time it was livestock, but could be hay or barrels too.

    Sandy-Last time we went was xmas/new years time, so not that big in Saudi terms I guess. But back then there was NOBODY there, I mean on the whole island we were the only tourists. Even the the marina had only one small boat for chartering, now it was devolped and full of boats to take tourists out, whic they did to the same few islands. They tried to take us there too, we told them its disgusting and we will not set foot on such a dump. Also my husband lectured the fisherman saying its their responsibility to make sure the ppl they take out leave with their refuse to take anyone back without them cleaning up!!

    Anyways, like you I just don’t get it. They honestly dont seem to mind the crap whatsoever!!ReplyCancel

  • NoorNovember 15, 2011 - 11:01 pm

    I hope you daughter feels better soon inshAllah I know its going around. My dh and I were already sick alhumdullah Talal did not catch that. The pictures are pretty mashAllah TONS of my dh’s family are in ahba I would love to go inshAllah one day I know them all and we get along so well. His great grandmother is there too. I also collect seashells :)ReplyCancel

  • SandyNovember 15, 2011 - 8:35 pm

    The last time, when the beach was clean did you go at a holiday time? More than 20 years ago we went to a beach in the middle of nowhere north of Jizan right after Hajj and it was like paradise as we drove up- and then along the shoreline trashed. People camped and just dumped everything right there. Even pampers. It is unbelievable to me- though maybe a remnant of true bedo living when everything was burned or eaten or biodegradable. But they camped with their kids in that mess! I don’t get it.

    Good for you for taken pictures of those women,

    and Khadija if you live in Canada be glad and stay there if you can.ReplyCancel

  • KhadijahNovember 15, 2011 - 10:23 pm

    Assalamualykum sister !!!
    I sent you an email hehee :) I hope you will be able to respond soon inshaa’Allah!!!! thank you!!! I hope you find my blog as interesting as I do yours !! (I mean the content hehehe)

  • Lady StaplerNovember 16, 2011 - 8:41 am

    Get well soon little one!

    Serves them right to have a taste of their own medicine. (the rude women)

    Great pictures, I love the seashells.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 16, 2011 - 10:07 pm

    Thanks Noor! She is much better, already herself today.You should def. visit Abha but I would not recommend going now, everything is closed its off season + its freezing :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 16, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    Lady Stapler-thank you!Yup, what goes around comes around as they say..ReplyCancel

  • DeemaNovember 17, 2011 - 7:35 am

    lol i found it funny of what u did to the ladies in the abayat.. how dare they point at u and laugh at u? rude rude ppl
    i love collecting seashells, im glad u had fun …
    p.s. happy belated EidReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 17, 2011 - 8:49 am

    Salam..inshallah a quick recovery for ure cute little one mashallah.
    The photos were so cool thanks for always giving an interesting look into saudi. Btw just curious as to why the saudi women were laughing and making fun..don’t u look the same as them (i remember ure wedding photo in overhead abaya and u would never tell u were not saudi)? or can saudis spot a foreigner a mile away? lol

  • AnonymousNovember 18, 2011 - 10:06 am

    My thought exactly. Why where they laughing and pointing and taking pictures of you, that’s quite odd!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 18, 2011 - 8:44 pm

    Hi Deema! That happens occasionally, I dont know why they do it, never seen a western woman before? It happened on Farasan island so it might be.
    Happy belated Eid to you too!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 19, 2011 - 5:09 am

    GawjusGurl-I don’t look the same as then might be the most simple answer to your question why they laughed at me..I only wore that overhead abaya once to cover my pregnancy belly. BUT even on the occasions I wore a niqab, Saudis will spot a foreigner from miles away, and stare.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 19, 2011 - 9:51 am

    @laylah..thanks for replying.i noticed they do it quite a lot too and laughed so much when u told us how u got out ure camera and pointed it in their direction..loool u go girl!
    _Gawjus GurlReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 20, 2011 - 12:22 pm

    Ms Rosenstare-I don’t cover my face but as I said on the occasions that I did do it the reaction was the same!ReplyCancel

  • Ms RosenstareNovember 20, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Now I’m curious, how could the women see that you are a western woman? I thought you also use abaya and cover your face? The orange ring was marvellously modest!ReplyCancel

  • drtaherJune 17, 2013 - 2:52 pm

    Dear Layla,

    I enjoyed these “snapshots” from your experience. My favourite were those rings, and the picture of the sheep making their way to the Saudi dinner table. LOL, you have a great sense of humor! So, are the sheep going to the abattoir first or will they go straight to the table, ha ha.

    Dr. TaherReplyCancel

  • Mom’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom » Blue AbayaAugust 13, 2014 - 5:27 am

    […] souvenir shop we found on our roadtrip. Mom bought replicas of houses of the Najran region. She was delighted to find the exact same ones […]ReplyCancel

  • 185 Things to Do in Saudi ArabiaDecember 5, 2014 - 4:08 am

    […]  11. SAUDI-ROAD TRIP TOP TEN […]ReplyCancel

  • […] My mother recently visited us in Saudi and we wanted to show her as much as we could of the country so we decided to go on a road trip around Southern Saudi-Arabia. What an awesome way to explore the Kingdom! I love the fact that you can stop wherever and whenever you like to check out the surroundings. It was Eid Al-Adha time and my husband got almost two whole weeks off work. We planned to have the following itinerary: Riyadh-Kharj-Layla-Wadi Al Dawasir-Khamis Mushayt-Abha-Jizan-Farasan…and back. But we ended up improvising and changed plans on the way, which makes road trips all the more fun! In this post you’ll read about the journey from Riyadh through cities of al Kharj, Wadi Al Dawsir, Khamis Mushayt all the way to Abha which is about 900km. Check out all the amazing things which you can do in and around Abha in this post: Top 10 Things to do in Abha. More about the rest of our road trip in this post: “Saudi Road Trip” […]ReplyCancel

Dear parents in Saudi-Arabia,

I’ve noticed that many of you don’t care too much about the safety of your children in the cars.

I have always wondered how you can have this nonchalant attitude whilst driving among the most insane, irresponsible, reckless maniacs drivers in the world?

You love and cherish your children so dearly, yet you place them under such danger by not securing them in seat belts and car seats!
Don’t you wish to keep them safe in the crazy traffic of Saudi-Arabia? Did you know that Saudi Arabia’s roads are the world’s most dangerous ones? A person is killed on them every 90 minutes. A fifth of them are children under 12 years old.
The next one could be your child. Think about it.

Would you let your child run around on a highway, or play in a busy parking lot? I didn’t think so.
So why do you let your child jump around in your speeding car? Don’t you think its dangerous to let him hang out of the windows? How about having him sit between yourself and the steering wheel? Some people make fun of your careless attitude and say you are using your baby as an Airbag.

Fathers, do you think because you are such great drivers nothing will ever happen to you? Think again.
Do you realize how many children are out there actually driving the cars?

Saudi baby airbag

Have you thought about how many road hooligans there are in the streets chasing women and causing accidents?
There is nothing your excellent driving skills can do to prevent accidents caused by other peoples reckless driving habits.

You might think you don’t need a car seat or seat belts because Allah will protect your family. It’s time to re-think this.
Children are treasures given to you by the grace of God. He has put them under your care. It is your responsibility to protect your child from any harm that you possibly can. God trusts you, are you worth His trust? Parents will be held accountable for this trust on the Day of Judgement.

You wouldn’t let your child go in a lions cage at the zoo and just think Allah will protect your child. That would be careless and irresponsible. Just like having your child in your lap while driving. Or allowing her to stand out of the sunroof while speeding on the highway. Equally irresponsible and dumb as placing your child in that cage. Think about it.

In case of an accident, your precious infant will fly out of your lap like a football, no matter how hard you hold on to him. It’s proven to be impossible to hold on to a child in case of collision.

Did you know that car seats and seat belts save lives? According to various studies they can cut the risk of infant fatalities by up to 80%.  The tools to help parents protect their child the best way possible are out there. Fulfill your parental responsibility and secure your child into them!

You probably heard the Hadith about the Bedouin that left his camel untied. The Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) said to him: “Be wise [first] and tie your camel, then trust in Allah.

Wouldn’t this same golden advice also apply to the most valuable of possessions, your child?
Be wise and tie up your baby in a car seat!
The rest is up to Allah.

Tips on what kind of car seat to get, instructions how to use them and statistics on child car safety:



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  • Om Lujain©November 3, 2011 - 5:19 am

    Love this! YES for Road Safety Awareness!! I think every blogger should write a piece on it.. maye just maybe we can raise awareness ourselves!!!!ReplyCancel

  • IngridNovember 3, 2011 - 6:56 am

    Laylah, when I was a child in the US most cars had seatbelts but no law required us to use them. No one I knew did. Now, everyone I know does. I feel naked if my car is moving and I don’t have my seatbelt on. Buckling it is part of the physical routine of starting my car. But how did this change come to be?

    When I was small, we all thought seatbelts were for sissies and people who worried too much. Carseats for kids were unimagined. This is what I saw take place that changed our attitudes:

    News media began to talk a lot about big, bad accidents and how people who wore seatbelts survived accidents more often. Whenever there was a big accident anywhere in the country, the news would carry it like this. They began to talk about carseats and how they save innocent, beautiful lives.

    Doctors and safety experts were quoted a lot on talk shows and news shows. Doctors, nurses pediatricians talked about it to patients in hospitals and doctor’s offices, stressing how carseats save beautiful, innocent lives. Schools taught this to students and their parents, too.

    People’s attitudes changed enough that they asked their congressmen to pass seatbelt laws. Traffic officers gave tickets to people who didn’t follow the law, and this was in the news, too.

    For about 10 years there were a lot of advertisements, signs and television programs to teach people or remind them to “Buckle Up For Safety.” The 80s commercials that featured crash test dummies and the slogan, “Don’t be a dummy. Buckle up,” became so much a part of our culture that an alternative rock band of the late 80s and 90s named itself the Crash Test Dummies. People would buy crash test dummy costumes for Halloween. That’s how deep into our minds this campaign dug itself.

    Once people really understood that not using carseats or seatbelts is very irresponsible, they completely changed. I know of very few people who don’t use them anymore, and every person I know would say something forceful to a parent who didn’t put their child into a carseat.

    Saudi culture and politics are so different from my country’s, but could this approach be adapted to work there?
    Could doctors and nurses be pursuaded to plead with the King’s ministers change the laws or enforce them? What about gathering statistics on underage driving and traffic fatalities to these children?
    What about a charity (or charities) that would fund a prolonged advertising campaign to “Secure your child and trust Allah,” or a campaign showing that riding an arabian horse or camel at 10 years old shows responsibility, but driving at 10 years old shows criminally clumsy parenting?

    Sorry for the long comment, but this issue of traffic safety and children in Saudi shocks me a little. The US traffic safety campaign was very successfull, huh?ReplyCancel

  • Oum SanaaNovember 3, 2011 - 2:07 pm

    I noticed the same thing in Tunisia and apparently they are absolutely not aware that in case of accidents they will have maybe the safe life thanks to their child who will have been of use to them as airbag… And I can say that I have already tried to convince persons and even by using religious arguments (your body is an amana, how can you think you will have no accidents while only Allah knows, etc)… They don’t care at all?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 4, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    same thing happens in Dubai… :[ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 5, 2011 - 11:17 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post I think you hit the nail for Saudis you have to approach things like this with taking that aspect into the equation will guarantee better success for change in attitudes. Speaking about judgement day should be efficient enough but the comparison about the camel left unattended is very thought provoking.
    Visual messages are very strong also,I would recommend showing parents pictures of injured children or videos of how dummies fly out of cars vs how they stay untouched in car seats.
    I would target hospitals!try maternity ward,women are emotional and will soak in any info better and birth of new life awakens parents sense of responsibility.

    Thank you for the interesting blog

  • SiivetönNovember 7, 2011 - 11:56 am

    Tämän postauksen voisi lukea joka ikinen Turkissa asuvakin! :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 11, 2011 - 11:31 pm

    Thank you everyone for your comments and apologies for not getting back to you sooner! I have been on a week long road trip around Saudi and haven’t been able to update my blogs much..

    Ingrid thanks for your insightful comment, you’re right things weren’t always so in the western countries either! We had a similar campaign in Finland too, we had constant reminders of accidents on TV, in the commercials and I can still envision those crash test dummies flying out of the cars!
    That would be exactly what Saudi needs, a public awareness campaign.
    They should enforce it on the children in schools and show educational clips on tv and all other media.

    Even though people didnt use car seats and belts back in the 50’s or whenever I dont think they used to let their kids hang out of windows and stand on the roofs..thats the shocking aspect of this whole thing in Saudi, the attitudes are just so care free its really unfathomable to me.

    People think if they die in a car accident, it was because it was meant to be, Allah took their soul. Thats why they dont care..

    The charity to fund an awareness campaign sounds like an excellent idea! Maybe a smart Princess could help out :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 11, 2011 - 11:33 pm

    Siiveton ja Marokon morsian-Kiitos!Sama halla-valia asenne siis vallitsee kaikissa arabimaissa..ReplyCancel

  • Marokon morsianNovember 11, 2011 - 8:57 pm

    So true! Mahtava kirjoitus, jonka vois julkaista vaikka missä valistusoppaassa missä päin maailmaa vaan. Hyvin kirjoitettu! Itse mietin aina samoja seikkoja ja katselen kauhulla liikennekäyttäytymistä Marokossa, lienee aika lailla sama hälläväliä-mentaliteetti :SReplyCancel

  • The Expat WifeNovember 13, 2011 - 5:14 am

    oh this is very interesting to me as we are moving to thailand very soon and my husband said when he was there he saw families with babies and children on motorbikes, kids on laps in cars and the taxi’s have no seat belts let alone baby seats. We have to hire a car for a few weeks until ours arrives and we are having so many troubles getting one with a child safety seat. Our baby is 18 months old and I am so afraid of just holding him on my lapReplyCancel

  • Angela VanlodsNovember 8, 2016 - 10:00 am

    Nice website

    This was very nice to develop such a nice website.ReplyCancel

I saw this idea on Noor’s blog Little Pink Strawberries and I thought I must give it a try too! The idea is to post ten random things from your life during the past week,
So here are ten random things from my life in the Magic Kingdom this week..Mom is staying with us for some while here in the Kingdom and I’m excited to show her all around Riyadh and the nice things there are to do here!

This is the scenery from the “Hash” which my mom refers to as the International Sports Activity Days. It’s basically a day of sporty activities out in the desert with a group of expats. There are Hash House Harrier group meant for expatriates to get together and enjoy the outdoors and wonderful scenery of their new home countries all over the world. In Riyadh the activity is more “secret” though and they don’t publish their information online like they do in other countries.

A man was walking with these funny shoes which look like socks that reminded me of my dad who uses them in Finland. Not sure if my father tested them in the snow yet.

We went shopping to IKEA and saw these clowns going around and people were taking their pictures. Even grown Saudi men wanted to pose with the clowns, it was quite funny. I think the other one (or both?) looked  a bit drugged up! I’m scared of clowns, they are so creepy!

I have some sort of a “obsession” of collecting sand from all over the world. I found some sand I had collected from my last trip to Farasan Islands and put it in this Iittala vase from Finland. The scented candles are Lily of the Valley, my favorite!
Speaking of Sand, this is the view from top of the sand dune I climbed at the hash. It was really tough! It seems as if every time you take a step up you slide two down, progress is SO slow and frustrating. Kind of like progress for women in Saudi-Arabia.

Going to meet the in-laws, we had some souvenirs from Finland with us. Blueberry chocolates and dried Cloud-berry-Strawberry-Blueberry powder which can be used to make tea.

We were offered some Arabic foods, coffee and tea to taste and my mom liked them all except that she mistake the Arabic coffee was tea because of the color and strange taste :)
The  flowers on our balcony smell so nice right now!
October was Breast Cancer Awareness month and the Kingdom tower was pink the whole month to show support to the cause. I wish it was always this color, it’s much nicer than the usual yellow.
Can you spot the third cat in this picture? This week my daughter learned to play peekaboo with the cats. One is hiding under the sheet. The black kitten was born on the exact same day as my baby. I’m happy that my daughter doesn’t seem to be afraid of cats or any animals at all and she is getting used to having pets around the house. The cats are so good with her they never scratch or anything eve if she pulls their tail!

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  • NoorNovember 1, 2011 - 10:40 pm

    Ahh I loved them all mashallah. The food looks so good and I LOVE cats very much btw I am obsessed with Jasmine I want to grow some. When we were in Bali it was everywhere and I fell in love.ReplyCancel

  • SennieNovember 2, 2011 - 1:56 am

    Toivottavasti ei tarvinnut vaeltaa aavikolla abaya yllä :)
    Todella mielenkiintoista vierailla blogissasi, kiitos avoimista kirjoituksistasi!ReplyCancel

  • ranaNovember 2, 2011 - 6:34 pm

    i love the idea with the candles, i will do it also!
    and I know those shoes well they are popular for running and trail hiking.
    Do you think you could possibly mention some blogs you know of other women living in gulf and even arabic women that blog?
    I would really love that!

  • Steve at the PubNovember 6, 2011 - 11:47 am

    Love these sandhill photos. So like home!

    That building with the pink lights lining it, looks ever so much like a big bottle opener doesn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 7, 2011 - 10:07 am

    I have enjoyed your blog for a while now. Keep up the good work! I like the pic of your daughter and the cat. The cat looks like it’s ready to pounce and is as big as her it looks. How do they get along?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 12, 2011 - 1:56 am

    Noor-You should try get some Jasmine trees, they sell them at those road side plant shops!

    Sennie-kiitos vierailusta:) aavikolla ei onneks tarvi abaya paalla vaeltaa, varsinkin kun menee tuon porukan kanssa niin ne on suorastaan kiellettyja sillon!

    Hi Rana and welcome to my blog!sorry for the late reply to your question, I havent been able to answer earlier as I have been on the road for the past week.
    On The blog list I have gathered are also some women living in Saudi that have blogs, check those out!

    Steve in the Pub- hmm, I guess htat depends on who you are asking ;)

    anonymous-thank you!they get along really well, both are quite curious of one another. If my daughter grabs the kitten too hard she will just move further away but will never scratch or do any harm to the baby. They are so used to each other since they were born!ReplyCancel

  • NoorNovember 12, 2011 - 2:17 pm

    Thanks Layla I certainly will I had no idea they sold it here.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 29, 2012 - 11:38 am

    umm it might be nitpicking, but the flower shown looks a lot like Plumeria (frangipani). Are they known as Jasmine in Saudi? The Jasmine flowers are very different to look atReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 12, 2012 - 5:24 am

    Assalamoalaikum ,Layla i liked your blog very nice masha Allah ….ReplyCancel

Arranged marriages have always been something very distant and strange for me culturally speaking. Before I moved to KSA I knew Saudis mostly wed through arranged marriages within the family, but I’ve noticed they are very common in Saudi Arabia in general. There are large communities of Muslim (and other religions) expats permanently settled in the country who also prefer arranged marriages. Those expatriates often find it easier to seek for suitable brides and grooms online or through newspapers classifieds ads.

For example there are hundreds of matrimonial sites for Indians and Pakistanis alone. Then there’s specific sites for the expatriates living in Saudi to which they turn to when the son or daughter is ready to get married. Using media for finding a bride/groom is seen as perfectly normal and efficient way to find a spouse. Many arranged marriages do succeed, but my guesstimate is at least an equal amount fail.

In the west on the other hand, people are more used to using internet and other media for dating purposes and getting to know the person they are interested in. Men and women also search for life companions  online, but not with the type of ads than you might see in a Saudi newspaper classifieds ads section. I find it very strange to see classified ads seeking for brides/ grooms/ second wives. To me it seems like they’re talking about merchandise or products rather than human beings.

In the west people who are seeking to find a life partner online would typically describe their character and personalities, views on life and future hopes rather than family background, social status, or skin color preference, which are the most commonly listed requirements in many Asian and Arab matrimonial ads.

For comparison, a short add in a European newspaper stating a man is urgently looking to marry any young, good-looking, non-demanding woman, of certain height and light skin color, would be seen as a bad joke or even racist and chauvinistic.

For those not used to the concept of arranged marriages, seeing these kinds of straight-forward marriage proposals comes across as really awkward. Sometimes it seems as if the most important qualities mentioned in these ads are racial/ family origin, skin color, height and age of the woman. Additional mentions go to cooking, home making skills and degrees. It’s also strange to see parents placing the ads for their children.

I stumbled upon some very racist and some funny marital ads on an expat website. The typos sure make some of these even more awkward.

A Pakistan National 47 years old man working in Saudi Arabia from 20 years seeking Pakistani decent Bridge under 35 years old, having strong financial position with family status. Reason for having another marry is lack of son. Interested families may be contacted at the following an email with full detail and photo, SYED -SUNNI & BUKHARI family is preferred.

“Looking for a Bride
Sunni muslim indian hyderabadi parents searching a bride for my younger brother and who’s profile
Age: 27 yrs
Height: 5.10 inch
Color: wheatish
Education: gradute (Bachelor of Commerce)
Position : Sales Coordinator
Settled in ksa Girl shoude be atleast
Age : 20 to 26 yrs
Height: 5.3 and above
Color : fair
Educaton: any
homely responly house duty religious minded
No demands
If these breif detail mates your requirement please forward the pic and details from your side to…”

“Urgent need a cute wife for my self (your all condistions will be accepted)
i am from saudiarab bassiclay from peshawar age 32, belongs to pathan family, working as an electrical supervisor, having cool financialy background, have 2 lak Saudi riayal bank balance here in ksa and having 90 lak rupees property in pakistan. i am independant need a lifepartner age 17-20 from any cast. i will supourt financailly. work visa will be given to her brother. if any one interested pls contact”

“Looking for 2nd wife
am looking for blonde girl .North American or European .from age 26 to 35.
height from 5,2 to 5,6 ft
take care of her body and health …honest
Iam work as ER doctor in Gov hospital
and my first wife still in Egypt not here in KSA
i have all equp to get married in month or may be less”

“Seeking for second wife
I am from hyderabad, PG, working in Jeddah, 6000 SR/month with family status ofcourse, goodlooking, religious, physically and financially strong alhamdulillah, already with wife and small kids eldest dgtr is 4 yrs,
looking for religious, god fearing, niqab observing,fair, sincere family oriented, atleast graduate girl, age not more than 32 years, (divorcees with children excuse please).
If someone finds this suitable please contact me through the email

and the same guy amended the add to this the next day..

“Seeking for second wife
I am from Pakistan City Faisalabad, B.Tech (Electrical) from Preston University, working in Jeddah, 5000 SR/month with family status of course, good looking, religious, physically and financially strong alhamdulillah, already married and going for seperation soon as we are not understanding totally to each other.
looking for religious, god fearing, observing,fair, sincere family oriented, atleast graduate girl, age not more than 25 years, (divorcees with children excuse please).
If someone finds this suitable please contact me through the email

“Looking for second wife
I am Saudi man working in health sector, looking for a bride in Jeddah as second wife. She will have a full respected treatment as Islam’s state on.
Preferred: good looking, whitish, Arabic, social, separated woman with/without kids. Of-course, fearing Allah, from decent family, well educated, open minded …etc.
I am 37yrs old, open minded, practical, fearing Allah …bla bla, financially capable to open 2nd house.”

“Seeking bride for our son
We are seeking a bride for our son, Electrical Engineer, age 26 years, slim and smart, raised & educated in Saudi Arabia, currently employed in a well reputed company. We are a Sunni Muslim Awan family belong to Punjab – Pakistan .

Bride should be simple, polite, beautiful, well educated and family oriented with Islamic cultured, enough to know the difference between a house and a home, age between 20 to 23 years,
Interested parents / guardians are kindly requested to forward the bride bio-data in detail through email. You all are very respectable for us and we assured you, that your all information’s will be treated as confidential.
Best Regards
Groom Parents”

We are looking proposal for younger brother, who is 27 years old, Fair, Good Looking, 6.1″ Tall,,, working in Hyderabad,
Bride should be very good in look, Slim, Beautiful with Sharp features & religious, very soft in nature, well-mannered, strictly practicing hijaab (veil and wimple) and knows all domestic responsibilities.
Interested parents are kindly requested to forward detailed bio-data along with very recent picture of the bride.”

Reading all these and there are hundreds like them out there, left me with a feeling of  sadness..what is a woman’s value these days? Isn’t there anyone out there looking for a woman as a companion and an equal partner nowadays? Are all these men/parents just searching for a white-skinned beautiful maid/cook/bedroom entertainment center/baby producing machine? And all these men looking for second wives..ugh. Disgusting. I wonder what their first wife would have to say to his ideas.

But then I saw these two ads and I thought, there is some HOPE.

“Looking for beauty with brains
Well travelled, educated egyptain doctor (46) is looking for a companion marriage. Someone used to travelling, has a mind of her own – not a yes-woman. Overall must be an interesting personality.”

“Seeking Bride
I am Filipino Nationals and i am looking for divorced or widowed saudi or egyptian lady with kids.
The lady should be educated and studied outside the Kingdom, speaks english fluently, open minded, caring and loving. No age limit required as long as she is willing to be my life time partner.”


Well I hope all the persons eventually find happiness..Except not the men looking for second wives. Sorry, but no, just no. They should learn how to treat the first wife with respect first before even thinking of getting a second one. Putting a sleezy ad online behind her back is not a respectable way to treat her nor is it what a God-fearing Muslim man should be doing! If the first wife is 100% OK with becoming a co-wife, and the second wife is all OK with that as well, then it might work. Most likely it will ruin everyone’s life that is involved, especially the children, like in most of these cases the end result is. 

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  • DentographerOctober 31, 2011 - 11:42 pm

    i remember there was a time i had to go through these,when a family member was in a deseperate need for a partner…it was ugly.

    one of the most memorable requirments that struck me with a stun was among asian indians demanding a husband or wife with specifity of having green card to either America or Canada,i thought it was really offensive and inappropriate.

    however long after i had a talk with a pakistani fellow who told me such requirments are considered very normal and its usually somthing that people offer/lookfor in the potential candidate,and he related it as they only seek it cos they want to secure the future of thier son/daughter.

    i guess at the end its another result of cultural restrains..where people dont have the ability to mingle and “Get to know” much,so people just stated their demands and “get it over with” if u know what i mean.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 31, 2011 - 11:56 pm

    Yes, I know what you mean. Its really straight to the point, but it also makes it sound so cold and business like don’t you think?

    A lot of the adds had as requirement must be iqama holder. Why do you think that is? I mean wouldn’t they automatically get the iqama by marrying the “well settled” guy?

    Or is that just another way of saying, hey I’m already married.ReplyCancel

  • NoorNovember 1, 2011 - 12:57 am

    I wonder so much about so many lol. Like why the Filipino only wants a married Saudi or Egyptian with kids LOL. Poor girls they are bargained out just like cattle in many Pakistani families. All that matters is what they can do and look good doing and even then they get a life of he** in the end from the mil. I know many stories from my friends its so sad :(ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 1, 2011 - 1:28 am

    The first thing that came to my mind was the Filipino is so kind-hearted he wants to help those ladies because he knows how impossible it might be for a Saudi lady with kids to marry again..But it might be my wishful thinking only??

    I’ve heard stories about those Pakistani mils too..its really sad that even this day girls are bargained like this :(ReplyCancel

  • StaceyNovember 1, 2011 - 3:25 am

    The ads are pretty shocking in itself, it’s even more shocking when someone answers them.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 1, 2011 - 7:12 am

    Low IQ people can be guided by advertizement propaganda publicityReplyCancel

  • DentographerNovember 1, 2011 - 1:07 pm

    for what its worth,you will find the same demands coming from families looking for grooms as equally demanding as it is for brides,at least thats the case in india which i have witnessed.

    demanding iqama is just a way for the families to secure thier son/daughter settlement in saudi…its somthing well known about indian expats when they decide to raise a family is that they like to obay all rules and get that completely in check,indians and pakis are not very rebellious in nature.

    i like how diversified your blog is.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 1, 2011 - 2:11 pm

    Stacey-I agree. I feel really sorry for the girl that has parents that think its ok for their daughter to marry some of these guys..ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 1, 2011 - 2:24 pm

    Dentographer-Yes I guess it goes both ways. But they are looking for different things from the grooms, like MONEY, MONEY MONEY!

    Thanks I try to keep it interesting :)ReplyCancel

  • SylviaNovember 2, 2011 - 8:27 pm

    Very interesting article, Laylah! It seems very business-like and sad to me too…men trading a ˝cool financialy background˝ for a woman’s youth, looks and child-bearing abilities(and vice versa). All of this sounds quite chilling to modern Western ears, though I suppose a similar rationale for marriage was still very common up to almost yesterday (and, sadly, still survives in traces, with oversexualised women trying to bag rich men and all that).ReplyCancel

  • JennyNovember 6, 2011 - 1:41 am

    After reading all those ads focusing on looks it was so nice to see the two more sincere adds looking for a true companion.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 21, 2011 - 9:35 am

    The first ad poster doesnt realize, though he is 47 years old, that the fact that he is not getting a son is not because of his wife but rather him !
    I am amazed there are supposedly educated people believing that having a 2nd wife will give them a sonReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 3, 2012 - 11:22 pm

    This was interesting article, but you know it is not only men who always want certain kind of females. It also goes for many women. Let’s face it. I have been living in US for last 10 years, and many male do look for girls who are hot.. skinny. etc And many women look for someone who is tall. broad..etc. It is something that runs in both gender.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 3, 2012 - 6:50 am

    Weren’t all those ads for the same two guys, specifically the electrician, and the brother of the other ad poster (who for all we know may be the same guy again)?ReplyCancel

  • Nuha نهىOctober 29, 2012 - 11:14 am

    polygamy is halal isn’t it?
    Didn’t the prophet SAWS practice it? So why blame brothers for something that is pure and halal?ReplyCancel

  • EfireflyDecember 6, 2012 - 4:43 pm

    Do women or their families not ever post for the type of husband that their daughter would want? Do people use facebook or other social media to help?ReplyCancel

  • zahid.nazirJuly 22, 2015 - 10:15 pm

    lets go look what happen destiny with meReplyCancel

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  • Asher Elsayed SahipaDecember 9, 2015 - 3:34 pm

    After reading all those ads focusing it was so nice to see looking for a true companionReplyCancel

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  • Rajeev JainMarch 9, 2016 - 12:53 pm

    Friend ki shadi Ke Liye ladki chahiye kisi bhi state se uski koi demand nahi haiReplyCancel

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    Friend ki shadi Ke Liye ladki chahiye kisi bhi state se uski koi demand nahi haiReplyCancel

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    Friend ki shadi Ke Liye ladki chahiye kisi bhi state se uski koi demand nahi haiReplyCancel

It’s surprising how many people in Saudi-Arabia are planning to have Halloween parties this weekend. Officially the country does not celebrate other than the religious holidays and Saudi National Day. Holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s and Halloween are considered as pagan holidays and are striclty forbidden in the Kingdom. According to Islamic teachings Muslims are not supposed to celebrate other occasions than Eid-al Fitr which is the celebration when Ramadan is over and Eid al Adha which is celebrated after Hajj ends. Many Saudi families don’t even celebrate their children’s birthdays let alone Mother’s Day (although Islam highly values mothers) because they think it’s all haram (forbidden).

Year by year Halloween celebrations are growing in popularity in the Kingdom, Most of the Halloween celebrations in Saudi are hidden from public view at kids private parties and expat gatherings on compounds and embassies. Halloween decorations are extremely hard to find in stores, although surprisingly, I did find many western chains like H&M, Mothercare and Pottery Barn selling Halloween costumes for children.

The CPVPV also known as muttawa are notorious for hating all things “western” or pagan and are currently going around shopping malls looking for any items resembling Halloween festiveness to confiscate. Read this post if you want to learn more about muttawa raiding shopping malls. I’m guessing pumpkins will be banned from grocery stores this week just like red roses are forbidden around Valentine’s Day.

Most western compounds and the U.S embassy will host very popular Halloween parties for expats. I’ve seen people showing up in traditional Saudi clothing. Men would have thobes and ghutra and women abaya and niqab(face veil) or sometimes only the niqab but combined with something like a sexy minidress.

I don’t think its smart to dress in traditional Saudi clothing for a Halloween party in Saudi and getting drunk in the process. That’s like mocking and ridiculing the very culture you live in. Also, it’s making fun of other people’s religious beliefs. This Halloween there’s this campaign called “We’re a culture not a costume” launched by students from the Ohio University. Check out the pictures here: They call for sensitivity when it comes to dressing up in another cultures traditional attire. They campaign against stereotypes and racism that culturally insensitive costumes create.

The campaign has a picture of a white guy wearing ghutra and thobe with bombs attached to his chest. I think that’s definitely crossing the line. Here is a link to their site “Students Teaching about Racism in Society“. I have to say I totally agree with this campaign even though I’m not some religious fanatic or uptight person. I don’t consider my own culture as superior to others. I don’t have any problems with making jokes of my own culture’s stereotypes and poking fun at our funny habits.

I consider myself a pretty relaxed person with sometimes a very sarcastic sense of humor but sometimes there’s a limit to what’s funny and what’s simply tasteless. Many expats in Saudi of course miss Halloween celebrations from home. People have fond memories of Halloween as a kid and they want to celebrate it even though they are in Saudi. I don’t see anything wrong in that as long as people don’t start sneering at their Saudi hosts and Islam. I remember as a kid in the States we used to go Trick or Treating around the neighborhood and it was fun to get all that candy (and eat it until we felt sick)! Trick-or treating would probably not go down too well in Saudi-Arabia though..

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  • ExploreOctober 27, 2011 - 5:48 am

    I think dressing up as another culture is okay, I don’t mind if people do it with mine. But if it’s with a very negative connotation like terrorism then that’s really not cool.ReplyCancel

  • Proud MuslimahOctober 27, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    This has always been a bit of an issue with me since I am a Muslim from a Christian family. I participate in Christian holiday celebrations like Christmas but I do not participate in the prayer since the prayer ends with “in Jesus’ name…” which would make me praying to someone other than Allah. Otherwise, I pass out candy on Halloween, I celebrate Christmas with my family, I eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and I do it because it’s a wonderful time to spend with my family and friends. :) It’s always been a bit hard to grasp that my kids might not be able to go trick or treating someday. I dont know what I will do instead.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 27, 2011 - 4:20 pm

    wearing an Islamic dress, abaya, niqaab, to a party and drinking alcohol is just wrong!! How dare they make fun of Islam like this?? Theyre is many other costumes to wear than this.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 27, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    Explore-thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog! What culture are you from? I saw that you currently live in Scotland :)

    anonymous-Some people might think abaya and niqab are Islamic garments ONLY but I see a strong cultural influence in them. Women didn’t wear such clothing during the times of the Prophet Mohammed. That’s why I think the people who wear that kind of clothing to Halloween parties are doing it more to make fun of the culture, not the religion, but I wouldn’t know for sure of course.ReplyCancel

  • SaudiExpatOctober 28, 2011 - 4:20 am

    I agree with you on the dress but Halloween and trick or treating does happen here in Saudi and the Saudi’s DO participate. They come onto the Aramco compounds in mass to trick or treat with their kids. It is a win win for everyone.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 28, 2011 - 7:23 am

    its really sad to hear muslims talking about participating in halloween..everyone is gna be calling me an extremist..but no i just practise my religion and don’t cut and paste what i like and don’t like..what is there to like from pagan rituals?? please explain..i am not trying to attack anyone on this blog..but if you do read about islam and some basic principles of imitating other religions it all counts…its simply not allowed to be done in Islam. Please don’t fool yourself by telling me that your taking part in family can do family things on any other day of the but u want to make it the same day that christians believe is the birth date of Esa..kinda hard to understand.

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 10:56 pm

    SaudiExpat-oh wow I didn’t realize Saudis go trick or treating :) but if its inside aramco walls they’re safe from muttawa.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 10:58 pm

    CocoMuslimah-thanks for sharing your views:) I dont think you were personally attacking anyone. Everyone is entitled to share their opinions here!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 11:00 pm

    Proud Muslimh-I understand your dilemma. Balancing the christian holidays, islam and family happiness is not an easy task :)ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©October 29, 2011 - 7:12 am

    I used to LOVE Halloween as a child… but now I have the dilemma that I need my daughter to know about Eid as well.. She has been so focused on Halloween, Eid has been completely overshadowed… but I will try my best to make it much more fun… maybe even start having costume parties for Eid.. (every year… now she would love that one!!)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 29, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    That’s a great idea!Make it a tradition in your family and make it a special occasion for cooking some special foods, I bet she will start looking forward to it more :)ReplyCancel

  • Ahmed Karam.October 31, 2011 - 9:09 am

    So you live in Riyadh? gosh that’s like a million times worse than in Jeddah. Over here in jeddah my aunt went to the mall with no abaya and her head wasn’t even covered she wore a white traditional Moroccan outfit and that’s it. The mutawas here are a lot loser than in Riyadh, I rarely see Mutawas over here, colored abayas with bling are everywhere and women wearing Niqab is rare too, it’s weird how there can be so much differencesReplyCancel

  • MarionApril 15, 2014 - 6:17 pm

    “Inside Aramco walls”? More examples of western compounds being abused and exploited by Saudis who think that the western community is a place, like Chuck E Cheese’s, where they can go for certain “activities”. The western community is not a public place, and is provided exclusively for westerners for one reason only: because westerners are not comfortable having to follow Islamic rules at home or in private (even though they have no problem with it in public.) They do not have a concept of “haram” and Halloween is not haram on the compound. Therefore, anyone who considers it to be “haram” should not be there. There is nothing worse or more hypocritical than seeing a Saudi or other Islamic national on a western compound where Islam is not followed, disrespecting the western community there by continuing to follow Islam in some way such as wearing a headscarf, while attending a western function or participating in some haram activity. That is also a great disrespect to Islam if not a downright disgrace. Western people do not have any problem at all following Islam out in society, not expecting any Halloween, Valentines, or even to be able to buy a birthday cake, observing prayer and wearing headscarves. Western communities are there out of respect for Saudi rules and culture/Islam and not wanting to change it, but to compartmentalize a place where those rules don’t apply. Western communities are not social places to host followers of Islam for haram weekend parties, Halloween, or anything else. People who want to do that should do so quietly in their own home.ReplyCancel

  • DeeMarch 12, 2015 - 12:35 am

    Marion, I find your post a little bit offensive. I’m Muslim and I’m an expat and lived my whole life in the West. I also live in a compound. Am I offending you by wearing a hijab in the compound?? Really? Do we have places in the west that are for Muslims only where it is seen as a disgrace for westerners to show their faces and come around not covered up or join us for an Eid party? No we do not, because it is a ridiculous concept. Not all Muslims have the same opinions on things like Halloween, or birthdays and we’re not all as ultra conservative as Saudi Arabia or agree with their ways.
    Who are you to tell us what we can and can’t follow? Just like not every westerner is a conservative Christian or Mormon, the same applies to Muslims. As long as Muslims going in there aren’t trying to tell you what you can and can’t do within your own compound why should it bother you? It only shows that you wish not to integrate or deal with Muslims at all outside of your compound walls.ReplyCancel

One of the most unsettling aspects of traveling to Saudi-Arabia for women are of course the abayas. The abaya always seems to make women wearing it for the first time feel insecure and very self-conscious. Wearing abaya for the first time feels strange but expats quickly get used to them. That doesn’t mean we would love to have a chance to be without them every once in a while though. 

Women traveling to Saudi Arabia for the first time often would ask questions about the dress code such as: What should we  wear underneath the abaya? Is it ok if the lowest or highest buttons are open? Should the abaya be plain black only? Can abayas have decoration on them? Should I always wear a shayla (head scarf) with the abaya? Will wearing high heels with abaya get me into trouble with the notorious Saudi religious police? Answers to these questions can be found here.

Here’s a list of things to do and places to go in Saudi that do not necessarily require wearing of abaya and a woman could remove hers if she chooses to do so.


The Desert
Any place far off in the desert will be safe for women to take their abayas off when there’s nobody else around.

The most beautiful and secluded place around Riyadh would be the Secret Lake. Women can remove abaya and walk around the lake or climb up the hills for spectacular views. Climbing with abaya would actually be dangerous! Secret lake Riyadh desert
Rawdhat Khuraim  long walks around the huge area without abayas, there was literally no one else there. Also good for some desert female driving.
Thumamah park is a beautiful nature reserve outside Riyadh, we went there for a picnic with no one else in sight.

The historical area which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site is virtually empty from visitors on weekdays. We enjoyed a short walk on a farm and later a picnic in Wadi Hanifa. On weekends an evenings it can get very crowded in the picnic areas and taking off abaya would not be recommended during those times. UPDATE 2016: With the recent huge restoration project in Diriyah and Wadi Hanifa valley, this has become a very popular area an removing abayas is no longer recommended!

Faisaliah tower
Women can take their abayas off at the top of the tower in the “Globe” restaurant, the Cigar club and the viewing platform.

Ladies only Kingdom
For first timers in Saudi it’s always interesting to see how Saudi women really look like behind their veils. Third floor in Kingdom shopping center women shop and work in normal clothing

Quad biking
There are few areas around Riyadh for quad biking but the most scenic ones are Red Sands and Thumamah. During the weekdays its very quiet and women can drive around without being disturbed especially in the mornings. I would not recommend going to these places alone or without males on weekend peak hours though. Guaranteed unwanted attention from the hundreds of male drivers.

Women can take their abayas off as soon as they pass the checkpoint at Jeddah harbour.
In Farasan Islands women can explore the hundreds of deserted islands in peace.

Diplomatic Quarters
The DQ in Riyadh is the area where most of the embassies are located. The huge area has some amazing parks worth visiting. The area is safe for women to walk around in western attire.

Inside all compounds abayas can be removed. Some western compounds even BAN abayas inside!

KFSH Cave park inside the hospital compound has some lovely fountains and places for BBQ’s, which can be accessed by public and no abayas are required there.

Golf clubs
Dirab and Riyadh golf clubs out of the city allow women to golf sans abaya.

Horseback riding
Dirab stables, the stables in DQ and the Riyadh Equestrian club are abaya free zones.

Istiraha and other rentals
An istiraha “rest house” is a place sort of like a vacation rental outside the city where people go on weekends to relax. A family can rent out their own istiraha complete with private swimming pools, yards and housing equipped with living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens.
Another option is to rent a Bedouin style tent which will come with a private area where it’s perfectly fine for women to remove their abayas. Some nice tent rentals can be found in Thumamah park.

Private beaches
Women swim in “normal” swim gear in the numerous private beaches in Jeddah and Al Khobar.

Do you know of any other places worth mentioning?


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  • Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat LaneOctober 26, 2011 - 6:49 am

    I’ve in many places but never in the KSA, so I found this very interesting. I’ve always wondered about how hot it must be to be covered up head to toe, but I imagine everything surrounded by walls is air conditioned.

    I’m enjoying your blog and getting a peek into life in the KSA. Right now winter is on the way here in Moldova and if only you could send me ten or fifteen degrees of heat, I’d take it!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 26, 2011 - 10:51 am

    Hi Miss Footloose! Yes most things with walls will have AC but it does get hot in the summer, especially Jeddah has some NASTY humidity which will make your abaya like a personal swimming pool..

    Winter is on the way here too, I saw men in their winter thobes already! Its about 32C right now and in the evenings around 18C. It feels MUCH cooler than it sounds though because of the lack or humidity here in Riyadh.ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©October 26, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    Our Cars :D :D :D… At the hospital… when i have my babies and I am at the hospital.. i never wear my 3baya around the hospital till i am ready to go home :D

    Seriously though.. lemme try think… hmmm.. I think you covered them.. and Tara’s additions are also good :)

    I have noticed ladies not wearing their 3bayas at some hotels here.. and ofcourse the airport :DReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 26, 2011 - 2:55 pm

    Thanks for the additions ladies..
    I still didn’t go the Royal Mall but now I’m even more interested :)

    Def. some hotels are ok with ladies not wearing abaya Jeddah..And then theres the women only hotel in Riyadh too!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 27, 2011 - 4:13 pm

    Thank you for this info! its a relief to hear I don’t have to wear it all the time when I come there..ReplyCancel

  • nazliMarch 11, 2012 - 1:30 pm

    hi laylah..been reading ur blog bout saudi and it’s amazing how u expose the hidden vividness of this seemingly boring saudi..i’m also a nurse here in riyadh and i find ur blog sorta like a guide to explore riyadh..uhm can i know some compounds where i and my fiance can dine maybe after our wedding? thanx alot!ReplyCancel

  • nazliMarch 11, 2012 - 1:33 pm

    hi laylah..been reading ur blog bout saudi and it’s amazing how u expose the hidden vividness of this seemingly boring saudi..i’m also a nurse here in riyadh and i find ur blog sorta like a guide to explore riyadh..uhm can i know some compounds where i and my fiance can dine maybe after our wedding? thanx alot!ReplyCancel

  • LindaOctober 24, 2014 - 12:34 pm

    Salam, I was wondering if there is beach for FEMALE only. thanks :)ReplyCancel

  • […] The solution to being able to share with readers how to get there but not post the location publicly and risk ruining it for everyone was to write a guide book about it. The guide contains up to date detailed instructions, maps and GPS coordinates of the location. The downlaodable ebook can be found here: Guide to Secret Lake […]ReplyCancel

  • Adhyayan VermaJune 14, 2016 - 7:58 am

    can u guys please tell me where are the private beaches in al khobar??ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert » Blue AbayaSeptember 13, 2016 - 4:09 am

    […] 1. Red Sand Dunes. Easily accessible, just about 20 min drive from Riyadh are the Red sands, a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quad bikes to explore the area around Kharrarah National Park and on the way there you will see more quad bike rental places next to the road. You can rent them for an hour at a time, and women can drive without abaya without any problems. Check this post to find places in Riyadh where women can go abaya-free: Sans abaya in Saudi   […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 1. Red Sand Dunes. Easily accessible, just about 20 min drive from Riyadh are the Red sands, a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quad bikes to explore the area around Kharrarah National Park and on the way there you will see more quad bike rental places next to the road. You can rent them for an hour at a time, and women can drive without abaya without any problems. Check this post to find places in Riyadh where women can go abaya-free: Sans abaya in Saudi   […]ReplyCancel

  • NihJanuary 16, 2019 - 10:03 pm

    Panorama mall in Riyadh. There’s a floor dedicated to ladies only where you can remove your abayas. Saloons, dress shops…etc are there. And btw, love your blogs! :)ReplyCancel

I stumbled upon this news article on a Finnish tabloid magazine about the GCC youth camp that has been arranged for the first time in a tiny town in Eastern Finland. The article about these millionaire Khaleejis in the Finnish forest made me laugh a few times but it was also interesting. Looks like the reporter has been dramatizing the story somewhat although this might even be her real perception of Arabs. I think this article summarizes pretty well how Finns in general perceive Arab men and the Gulf countries.

What made this story even more interesting to me is the location of the camp. I moved to Eastern Finland for a short while to a small town nearby. Everyone seemed to know one another and there were always rumors about the neighbors. If someone had lots of money they never showed it because Eastern Finns are known to be quite jealous and always talk about other people’s money! The Finns of the Eastern province are also known to be talkative (to the point where they make up or blow up stories), laid-back and humorous but they might also have certain reserves for foreigners (or even Finns from other regions).
The mentality of the people of Eastern Finland shines through in this article and it made me smile.

Another thing worth mentioning: The man interviewed from Finland is the father of the woman who recruited me to Saudi-Arabia. We were even co-workers for a short while in the nursing recruitment agency. What a small world.

So here is the article translated into English:

Filthy Rich Arabs came to do forest work in Savo

Luxury palaces changed to everyday work in autumn Finland

Mohamed Hamed has previously met for example Saudi-Arabia’s and Kuwait’s heirs to the throne.Good relations to the Arab countries rulers made the oil billionaires choose Finland for their camp location. 

Three men are kneeling in prayer at the Vanamola camp grounds in Joroinen, Southern-Savo(eastern Finland). When the religious duties have been performed, the men gather around the campfire to enjoy some arabic coffee. Dates brought from their home countries are offered to guests too.

The majority of the 76 arab men are currently learning how to do forestry in the nearby pine forest. The temperature is only 6 degrees and with the chilly autumn wind blowing on the yellow birch leaves, beanies and quilted coats are clearly coming in handy.

The men are from rich oil countries:Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, UAE and Saudi-Arabia. In their home countries they are used to multistorey palaces and being constantly surrounded by servants. In Finland they must even make their own coffee in pots.

What made the millionaires come to the cold north?
We have a history of many years of co-operation with the Persian gulf councils (GCC) youth ministry. They decided to arrange the first Persian Gulf countries youth camp and the location was finally decided upon Finland and Joroinen, the projects organizer Mohammed Hamed says.

He works as a youth-worker for the city of Varkaus, but has known some big shots from the Arab countries for many years. Close relations to ministers and successors to the thrown played a crucial role when the arab countries started searching for a suitable destination for their youth camp. The camp is the first of its kind in the entire Europe.
-The ones that had been to Finland before described it as beautiful and safe, Hamed knows.

Salman AlMahmood, Abdulla Ebrahim and Mohamed AlRashedi would like to visit Finland again, even though the October weather does not suit the Arab youths that are used to temperatures as high as +60C. 

Life of luxury

The rumor in Savo has it that there could be even royals or at least some sort of sheikhs among the campers, but Hamed does not directly endorse the claim.

We are not elaborating on their backgrounds because we want to highlight everyone’s equality. They are all rich, that we cannot deny though. For them it’s perfectly normal to live in three to four story houses, which in Finnish terms is a sumptuous palace. At home they are constantly surrounded by servants, but this time I have been instructed to put them to work Hamed says.
A Finnish man that has been observing the hassle of the campers reveals that there have almost been some dietary issues. The guest’s religion forbids eating pork among other things and even the animals that have reached the dinner table have their own slaughtering regulations.

But when you ask the campers themselves, they have had nothing to complain about. Mohamed AlRashedi, Salman Almahmood and Abdulla Ebrahim from Bahrain praise the Finns to be open and friendly. The beautiful nature has also made an impact.
They think that Finland has been surprisingly expensive when compared to other European countries. Despite that the men don’t have to worry about lack of money, because the oil countries can afford to take care of their citizens.
-Back home our lives are very simple. We don’t pay any taxes, studying is free and if you want to get married for example, the government will give you money to organize the wedding, AlRashedi says.

Yonsef Al-Saady, Mubarak Jeaithin and Saleh Ghareeh are making coffee by the campfire.

One euro is currently only half a Bahraini dinar, so the men are hoping for some affordable shopping in the next few days. The entourage is leaving to Helsinki on monday, where they are hoping to meet the President of Finland herself. An application requesting to meet her has already been sent, but they do not know yet if it was accepted.
Hamed says getting such a prestigious group of guests to the 5000 inhabitant strong Joroinen was like winning the lottery, because the wealthy arab countries are willing to pay for the expenses of their campers.
-This visit will not cost even a penny to the Finnish government, because the participating countries are paying for every single thing. Instead the guests will leave big money to the surrounding communities and Helsinki, Hamed states.

The camp is organized and funded by the Persian Gulf council (GCC) youth ministry
The EU-like GCC consists of wealthy oil countries such as Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi-Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
Almost 80 guests from different countries are participating in the 10-day camp
The camp programme will consist of introduction to the Finnish culture, meeting with Finnish youths, doing forest work and a friendly football game with the local football team. Next week the campers will go to Helsinki for some sightseeing.

I cracked up when I saw the guy holding the arabic coffee pot over the campfire!

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  • NoorOctober 23, 2011 - 11:23 pm

    LOl that was funny I love how they keep talking about how rich they are and the country.ReplyCancel

  • DentographerOctober 24, 2011 - 1:29 am

    Finland is really one of the places i really aspire to go to,to observe the aurora borealis with the naked eye,take pictures,and witness that quite part of the world.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 24, 2011 - 9:41 pm

    Noor-yes its funny how thats all they talk about yet we do not learn much about the purpose of the camp :)

    Dentographer-I hope you visit one day! I would recommend going in the summer when the sun doesnt set in Lappland and you can see the midnight sun!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 26, 2011 - 5:13 am

    Niin mikäs lahti se GULF on.. meksikonlahti, suomenlahti… taas nähään miten todellisuutta aivopestäänReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 26, 2011 - 10:46 am

    Niin, arabithan kutsuu sita ARABIAN lahdeksi, mutta auta armias jos menet sanomaan etta se on muuten PERSIAN lahti. Kansainvalisesti se toki tunnetaan Persianlahtena myos englanniksi.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 26, 2011 - 3:23 pm

    mun siskon koululla kävi noi jäbät, kaks niistä tuli kysymään että “are you muslim, where are you from” koska se käyttää huivia. mun sisko sano “yes, im from iran” vanhat rasistit nyrpisti nenäänsä ja kääns selkänsäReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 26, 2011 - 10:41 pm

    Aika torkeeta jos noin kavi, eiko ne edes sanoneet mitaan, vaan kavelivat pois? Tosi harmillista :(ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 1, 2011 - 5:12 am

    16v tytölle, ei törkeetä, vaan pelottavaa. kiinnostavia aikoja eletään, varsinkin sillä alueella.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 1, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    No johan oli aikamoisia juntteja jos ei voi edes nuorelle tytolle puhua. Ja mika oli heidan taka ajatuksena ylipaataan tulla jutteleen noin nuorelle likalle!!ReplyCancel

  • NasserMay 28, 2015 - 2:48 pm

    { وأما بنعمة ربك فحدث }
    Hello, i citied that from the Quran, maybe you ask your husband to translate it.
    As a GCC citizen, and an exchange student in New Zealand, I talk proudly how my government work for my comfort, not for their comfort. I like to show how I have basic things in life that i don’t have ro pay for and the government must provide, for example ” schools and textbooks “. Public schools in New Zealand are not free, plus you have to pay for your books.
    Taxation, I’ve never heard of taxation system until i moved to NZ and it was a shock to me as I was thinking “their governments are stealing them”.
    Public universities are free + you get paid monthly from the government with a free accommodation if you are not from the city you study in. Meanwhile, in new zealand, public universities are not free, and you have to go through ” studylink” which is a process citizens must go through to get loan from the government to study and do their degree. Trust me, if any country apart from thr GCC have what we have, they would talk about it to the others from different countries.

    Yes, i will talk proudly about what my government provide for me as a citizen, why not??? I wanna show the world how lucky we are, and how happy I am having those opportunities easily and free.

    I like your blog Layla. Thanks for sharing this articleReplyCancel

    • wwk5dJuly 8, 2015 - 12:21 pm

      Well, of course you can talk about what your government does for you…you have substantial oil revenues to subsidize all those costs for the citizens! Yes, you guys are lucky that your country has a natural resource that the rest of the world wants/needs. At your governments are managing it better than say, some countries like Nigeria…ReplyCancel

An interesting event worth checking out in Riyadh is the International Children Culture Fair organised at the King Fahad Cultural Centre. Aimed at parents and children in Riyadh, this exhibition was organised for the first time in 2011 at the beautiful King Fahad Cultural Centre. This building is a masterpiece of design combining the traditional Najd architecture with modern clean lines with a stunning location on the edge of Wadi Hanifa. The Cultural centre offers regular exhibitions and events year round (to keep up to date with Riyadh events follow Blue Abaya on Facebook and Twitter)  they have a full size theatre, a children’s library, real movie theatre and even a planetarium inside.
Location coordinates of the King Fahd Cultural Center: 24o 38.47’ N; 46o 39.23’ E
I went to the fair with a friend (and mother of eight!)Aisha Al-Hajjar, who does freelance writing for Arab News. Aisha is a childbirth educator and she writes columns for Saudi Life and has her own blog Saudi Birth Story. I was accompanying her to photograph the event for the Arab News coverage.

The main focus of the fair was on books and reading. I’ve noticed that reading to children is not as common in Saudi-Arabia than it is in Finland, but it seems to be growing in popularity. Reading to your kids is always highly beneficial for their language skills and strengthens the bond between the child and parent.

Coming from a culture in which the importance and role of reading to children is extremely important, the fair was a very positive surprise for me. There were so many children’s books available, ranging from toddlers touch and learn type books to older kids’ bedtime stories. The fair had many books in English as well and some English learning centers were represented along with a few embassies such as Sweden and Japan.

My husband bought some books for our 6 month old baby, she is already such a little bookworm! These were her first Arabic language books. I started reading to her when she was a few weeks old in Finnish and now whenever she sees a book she tries to grab it so it is definitely paying off already.

A nice bedtime story will always help the child relax and wind down before falling asleep. The children might even begin looking forward to bedtime! I hope many parents get the inspiration and encouragement of reading to their kids from this fair.

In addition to the book stalls, the Cultural fair had other activities such as a small museum, plays for children in the big theatre, traditional dance shows and an interactive learning center.

The King Fahad cultural center has very modern architecture and pleasant surroundings with fountains and gardens.

Children being interviewed for television.

I was surprised how all the classic fairy tales that we know from childhood could be found at the fair and had passed the Saudi censors. There was some excellent books on Islam in English language for children available too.

Fun interactive books for toddlers

There were lot of booths to browse various kinds of children’s books. Most were in Arabic language but they did have English books too.

This book was about the history of Saudi-Arabia
These young Saudi men were dressed in traditional outfits and were performing traditional dancing at the fair.
Saudi hand puppets!
A happy kid enjoys the fair with his father
Face paintings were a hit!
You can have your name written in Japanese at the Japanese embassy booth!
Pretty Saudi girls dressed in traditional dresses with flower bands on their hair.
A girl being interviewed by media.

More hand puppets.

More toddler books! Was hard to choose which ones to get for my daughter.
Monkey manners is a marvelous way to teach kids basic manners ;)

Fountains outside the center.

Such a pretty girl and pretty dress!

A marvelous book for expecting mothers with children and curious questions to answer how the baby got there!
The architecture inside the King Fahad cultural center is impressive!
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  • AnonymousOctober 12, 2011 - 3:33 am

    salam aleykum
    Masha’Allah.. great post thanx for sharing. I wish I could have been there.

  • HeliOctober 12, 2011 - 7:59 am

    Looking at all the little girls in their pretty dresses, I wonder, at what age do they start using abaya?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 12, 2011 - 8:34 am

    usually when they get into puberty..but some families have them in abayas much earlier.ReplyCancel

  • NoorOctober 12, 2011 - 1:41 pm

    Wow mashAllah this looks so nice I would have loved to go. Is it over?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 13, 2011 - 9:21 am

    I wish I went with you yesterday :( I don’t think my husband is up to going at all :( I am glad it went well.. yala.. enshallah we make a plan for next years one ;)(I think 2day is the last day.. right? or is it 2morrow?

    Om LujainReplyCancel

  • DentographerOctober 13, 2011 - 2:27 pm

    this is one of the things that keeps me awake at night,given that i am actively engaging my self into reading and not yet made it a habit,it does take me an effort to keep it a daily activity,i used to read when i was younger,comics,and pocket books and everything but it was somthing that i liked to do at a younger age and it was not somthing my parents instilled in me.

    now being parent,its becoming a stressful burden on me and i always wonder are we raising our kids to be little readers or not,not to mention being in this age where there is ALOT of my daily read is done on a computer,and kids have yet to understand that not every sitting infront of a computer is entertainment OR educational, teaching the habit of reading physical books is becoming a challenge.

    Mommy is a very busy bee with her finishing her masters,so she is doing all her readings anyways because she have to,i am doing all my readings for leisure.but i do admit that i am falling behind every dead line i am putting,yet i am still pushing my self everyday…

    lets hope for the best.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 15, 2011 - 4:56 pm

    Noor-did you go?

    Om Lujain-I would’ve loved to go again with you because most of the time I was there I was just concentrating on taking photos so I couldn’t really enjoy all the fair had to offer.

    Dentographer-oh yes keeping reading a daily habit for oneself can be challenging!I hope to be able to read to my daughter every night when she’s older.
    Reading physical books is becoming more and more rare because of all the ebooks on offer nowadays. But then again you cant take your computer to all the places you can go with a book :)

    Stephi-Yes it was, and I even found disney piglet!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 16, 2011 - 2:21 am

    Fabulous Layla. From JulieReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 16, 2011 - 3:30 pm

    Mashallah you take such beautiful pictures! What a lovely culture you have, I love hearing about your finnish stuff! Reading to your children is an absolute must! Out with the TV!


  • NicoleOctober 18, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    Oh oh oh, my sister-in-law was working at a booth there and was telling me all about it! I was so wishing I could be there; I am salivating at all of those books, and I don’t even have any kids! I’m a book fair nerd from way back, lol, and if KSA has book fairs, I’ll be fine. ;-) And a Children’s International Culture Fair? I’ll be in heaven! :-)ReplyCancel

  • […] King Fahad Cultural center […]ReplyCancel

Our family recently took a quick trip to Istanbul and I wanted to share some photos I took of this magical city. We had just under a week there which I found was not enough to explore everything Istanbul has to offer. Incredible, irresistible, inspirational, intriguing, sometimes irritatingly crowded Istanbul made a huge impression on me and I will definitely return there one day with better time on my hands.

Turkey is a popular holiday destination among Saudis and we saw many of them in Istanbul. The city is easily reachable from Saudi and visas can be purchased on arrival. The beautiful mosques, shopping, great food and Islamic history attracts large numbers of Saudi tourists here.

Turks love love flowers! This is from a flower market at Taksim square.instanbul flower lady


We took an evening cruise on the Bosphorus it was beautiful despite the cloudy day. And also very romantic of course!
Cruising between the two continents.
Taksim Square, this lady was selling bird seeds for tourists to feed the pigeons.
Topkapi Palace splendor. The Sultan had over 500 concubines in his palace! It was so huge we didn’t have time to even see a third of it, but enough to get a general impression of the ridiculously lavish life style of the time.
Mouth-watering Turkish foods. These men were breaking the clay pot dish with the spoon and they made it into a spectacular show on the street where people sat watching on the restaurant terraces.
The Sultan’s harem at Topkapi palace. This place was freakin huuuuge! There was separate quarters for the favorite concubines and mothers to sons and then a less fancy motel like part where I guess the less popular lovers were kept. What a sad life that must have been (for the women)
Check out the Sultans modest bedroom furnace!

Inside the Harem a view to the sky. I wonder how many women looked through these holes and thought of escaping their miserable life as basically sex slaves to the Sultan..

The “flower passage” is lined with restaurants and cafe’s.

Turkish baba enjoying some traditional Turkish ice cream.
Inside Aya Sofia the original place of the Virgin Mary is almost identical to the direction of the Qibla, is it coincidence? How amazing I thought!
The entrance to the Aya Sofia which was originally a church then turned into a mosque.The images of Jesus and Mary were covered and then revealed again after it was turned into a museum in 1930’s. I saw only a few Muslim tourists at Aya Sofia. Comparing to the neighbor Blue Mosque where the crowd was mixed of non-muslims and muslims alike. I thought it was sad and showed how religious tolerance among Muslims is non existent. Why would they not want to visit Aya Sofia as much?
Cat at the Blue Mosque.
Sultanahmet mosque courtyard
Inside Blue Mosque
Alladdins lamps and a thousand other things for sale at the Grand Bazaar’s 4000 shops
I love these lamps!
Most delightful Turkish delights.
Just another of the thousands of Istanbul’s mosques
A sheesha cafe in Sultanahmet.
A poet and his kitten at an ancient cemetery.
Aya Sofia by night.
A lazy well fed and groomed street cat.
Maghrib prayer.
Crowded Istilkal Caddesi
I love the cats of Istanbul they are treated so well they look like house cats
Roasted chestnuts sold by street vendors
The Turks are obsessed with the evil eye!

My daughter had many admirers people would come up to her all the time to squeeze her cheeks and say mashallah.Here a police officer stopped us to give her a ticket for being too cute!

Which picture do you like the most? My favorite is the Turkish Baba :)

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  • Fruitful FusionOctober 8, 2011 - 9:29 am

    I LOVE all the shots!!! The daily Istanbul life, the gorgeous scenery, everything. You’ve made me want to go to Istanbul!!!ReplyCancel

  • lldi VancsuraOctober 8, 2011 - 9:35 am

    Hi dear Laylah, i love your pictures! I felt I travelled too :) Thanks for photo journey. My favorite pictures are the lady in flower crowd and your sweet & courious daughter!ReplyCancel

  • DentographerOctober 8, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    loved them all wallahi,i liked the night bridge photo and the blue mosque the most.

    your photojournalism speaks out!ReplyCancel

  • ♥hind♥October 8, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    salam aleykom

    masha’allah all of them are so beautiful. very nice photographs… makes me want to explore Istanbul with my own eyes….
    thank you for sharing

  • AnonymousOctober 8, 2011 - 1:40 pm

    It’s hard to choose, they are all so wonderful. Such intense colours and imaginative composition. I wish I could take photos like this. It looks like a very interesting place. My favourite photos are: Cruising between the two continents, Sultanahmet mosque courtyard, A sheesha cafe in Sultanahmet and A poet and his kitten. Its funny to see a stern middle aged man with a kitten on his knee. In the UK a man like that would probably think it too girly to pet a kitten in public. I love the photo with the Turkish food, that man is gorgeous. I want to go to Turkey now!

  • Ms RosenstareOctober 8, 2011 - 3:40 pm

    Really beautifull pictures but if one have to choose I would say the photos of the young men serving turkish food and the one taken of the roof inside the harem. But as I said the whole collection is marvellous!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 8, 2011 - 7:08 pm

    THANK YOU each and every one of you for your encouraging words and thoughtful comments I’m truly humbled by such positive feedback!!
    This made my day, no my whole week!!ReplyCancel

  • Sadiya MerchantOctober 8, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    dis is a delightful post. i think d architecture is beyond brilliant. i soo sooo crave to go to a place like dis. my fvrttt pic tho wud b d guy wid a kitten.
    hv hrd turkish ice cream n coffee to b wrld famous. hw does d ice cream taste. pray telll! :))ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 8, 2011 - 7:24 pm

    Fruitful Fusion-thank you!I hope you get to visit this fantastic place someday too :)

    Ildi-You’re welcome!My daughter is a curious little girl, she might get that from me :)

    Kat-thanks!I’m really flattered, I didnt think ppl would say such nice things of my photos!The man at the cemetery was touching, he had actually two small kittens with him :)But ya I agree in other countries it might give a “feminine” impression;)

    Dentographer-wow I’m flattered to hear compliments coming from such an amazing photographer as you!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 8, 2011 - 7:42 pm

    Ms Rosenstare-Thans for your compliment, the one from the roof is one of my favorites because it seems to tell a story of its own, like small windows of hope..

    Hind-wa aleikum salam, hope you get to visit there someday too!

    Sadiya-I love the architecture too its so intricate!The ice cream tastes delicious and the consistency is different from other ice creams its like more “stretchy” is sort of chewy, hard to explain :D

    Soile-thanks!I must have taken like 50 pics of that lady walking around with her cup and I liked this one the most..I was sitting next to a fountain and Lamia was watching the birds from her stroller.

    Sofija-thank you the cruise was very special and my daughter enjoyed the scenery too.

    Debi-thanks!You live in a very beautiful country also, Oman is one of my favorites!ReplyCancel

  • SoileOctober 8, 2011 - 4:51 pm

    Wow, really great pics!

    My favorites are the woman with the pigeons, the sunset pic and the cat at gha mosque.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 8, 2011 - 5:33 pm

    I am also a fan of your daughter. What is already high. All pictures are worth recommending to me like the most August evening cruise and blue inside the mosque.

  • DebiOctober 8, 2011 - 6:16 pm

    Wonderful photos! I’m in Oman and made a trip to Istanbul last year. I too was enchanted by the sights, sounds and people of Istanbul…and it is the land where my father was born, so it was a very special trip!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 8, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    They are all gorgeous, but I have to say the poet and his kitten is so cute. Rapidly followed by your little princess and the police! Thanks for the lovely pictures.ReplyCancel

  • COctober 9, 2011 - 2:47 am

    Awwww your daughter is so so so adorable mashallah! I love the poet with the cat, very very beautiful pictures!ReplyCancel

  • KalyanOctober 9, 2011 - 10:41 am

    Simply beautifully captured shots…lovely!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 9, 2011 - 10:05 am

    Beautiful photos mashallah! That’s true there are less people visiting Aya Sofia than for example Blue Mosque, but it didn’t come to my mind that it could be for religious intolerance. Muslims still consider Aya Sofia as a mosque. More people visit other mosques where it’s possible to pray and without 10 euros entrance fee. Istanbul is such a beautiful city, hoping to visit there again soon inshallah!

    Suomisisko TurkistaReplyCancel

  • SuviOctober 9, 2011 - 4:37 pm

    Niin kauniita kuvia jälleen :) Kaikki ovat mieleisiä, mutta jostain syystä silmiäni miellyttää ehkä eniten kuva “yhdestä Istanbulin monista moskeijoista” :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 9, 2011 - 10:27 pm

    Amazing photgraphy~brings back memeories
    I noticed the same thing in Istanbul in the aya sofya.there was no muslim tourist what so ever.I thought its because they think its haram the images are exposed inside and like the above commenter says they still think its mosque with those pictures of jesus=haram.I guess that could also be defined as intolerance though.
    girl from greeceReplyCancel

  • Miss HijabiOctober 10, 2011 - 8:20 am

    Love the poet and the kitten. Too beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 10, 2011 - 10:31 am

    C-thanks!It looks like the poet and the kitten is getting the most votes :)
    Suomisisko- Salaam and thank you for your comment! I think the other comment had a good point too about Aya Sofia, the images that are now on display there (Jesus,MAry etc)might deter some muslims from going there. But I still dont understand why there was literally only one or two muslims out of maybe a thousand visitors, but in Blue mosque and other mosques around Istanbul there was so many non muslims!whatever the reason I think its sad because Aya Sofia was to me the single most impressive sight in Istanbul.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 10, 2011 - 10:35 am

    Kalyan-thank you and welcome to my blog!

    Suvi-kiitos!Ei hajuakaan mika sen moskeijan nimi on, niita oli satoja saman nakoisia!

    girl from greece-thanks for your insight I agree that might be one reason muslims are not visiting Aya Sofia perhpas they see it as haram who knows?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 10, 2011 - 10:41 am

    Vajiha-aww thank you so much for the award I’m flattered!!

    Miss Hijabi-looks like the man writing poetry with the kitten on his lap appealed to most women :)ReplyCancel

  • VajihaOctober 10, 2011 - 7:56 am
  • ArwaOctober 11, 2011 - 1:36 am

    I stumbled upon your blog while reading about expat experiences working in the Middle East, It has been an enjoyable read.

    Your pictures are lovely however some of your comments are uneducated.

    RE the note under the Aya Sofia picture.

    Your comment about religious intolerance among Muslims is a gross generalisation. You cannot infer a misguided observation on an entire religious following based on one sight-seeing experience.

    Kind Regards.ReplyCancel

  • anumorchyOctober 11, 2011 - 5:01 pm

    All of them are so lovely! Impossible to choose one. I miss Turkey.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 11, 2011 - 10:29 pm

    Arwa-thanks for your comment an welcome to my blog.
    What do you mean my comments are uneducated? I think that’s a bit rude to say someones opinions are uneducated. Makes you sound pretty stuck up or arrogant. I hope I’m wrong and perhaps you just expressed yourself poorly.

    It would be interesting to know what you think keeps all the Muslim tourists away from Aya Sofia?

    My comment does not mean I think all muslims are religiously intolerant people. That’s just the way you have perceived it.


  • LaylahOctober 11, 2011 - 10:34 pm

    moi Anu kiitos visiitista :)Thanks for your comment!ReplyCancel

  • ArwaOctober 13, 2011 - 12:28 am

    Laylah, Im sorry to have offended you, it was in no way my intention.

    Often I assume that other people are as keen for healthy debate as I am but alas that is not always the case. I do concede that my response may have been rather unforgiving but as a Muslim it is pertinent to me to contest unfavourable perceptions of Muslims regardless of whose ego may be injured in the process.

    I understand that you live in KSA so I am sure you are well-accustomed to the Muslim’s pride and protectiveness of their religious beliefs and their efforts to overturn the negative conceptions of Islam which have become so prevalent nowadays.

    Rather than intolerance I would surmise that the lack of Muslims at Aya Sofia can likely be attributed to the grater cultural significance and fame of the Blue Mosque in comparison. There is no merit to alleging that Aya Sofia was discounted by Muslim tourists due to its Christian symbolism since after all it has been return to its original glory as a Mosque.

    I have enjoyed reading your blog immensely and will continue to do so. Best Wishes :)ReplyCancel

  • DonPepe1972October 13, 2011 - 11:51 am

    You have a lot of beautiful photos from Istanbul and I noticed those photos has a lot of cats in them. Obviously you’re a cat lover like me. They are CUTE!!! :-)ReplyCancel

  • MaaMaaOctober 23, 2011 - 8:31 am

    Fantastic, absolutely fabulous photos of Istanbul!! We visited Istanbul couple of years ago and fell in love with ieverything it has to offer…defo needs a revisit!

    Vastavierailulla blogissasi, siis :)
    Upeita kuvia, sen huomaa heti ensi silmäyksellä!
    Selailen lisää postauksiasi samantien! Hauska tutustua!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 23, 2011 - 11:13 pm

    Arwa-thanks for your reply.

    I found the way you expressed yourself at first a bit harsh.
    I understand your need to defend Islam, I am a muslim too. But sometimes we don’t need to defend other Muslims if they are doing things that give Islam a bad name, right?

    I’m still in the impression that Muslims chose Blue Mosque over Aya Sofia at least partially for religious reasons. I asked a few people that went there and they witnessed the same odd phenomenon.
    Funny how they are both mosques but only at the Blue mosque non-muslims were made to cover, men and women alike. It’s as if Aya Sofia was still predominantly an ancient church and thus it was not needed for them to cover their bodies.

    The most conservative Saudis do think its haram to have those images of Jesus in a mosque.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 23, 2011 - 11:15 pm

    Don Pepe- oh yes I love cats!I have LOTS of pics of the Istanbul kitties :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 23, 2011 - 11:16 pm

    MaaMaa-thanks so much for visiting and your kind words!! I hope to see you here again :)ReplyCancel

  • SiivetönOctober 24, 2011 - 10:08 pm

    Jäin sanattomaksi…Olet kuvannut Istanbulia upealla tavalla!! :))) En osaa valita parasta kuvaa, sillä kaikki olivat todella kauniita :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 25, 2011 - 9:40 pm

    Voi kiitos!!!ihan punastun moisista kehuista!ReplyCancel

  • diana | nessreenOctober 27, 2011 - 11:56 am

    I LOVE this photo set. <3ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousApril 12, 2012 - 2:27 pm

    hey lovely lady. today i jst saw ur blog by chnce and after ı read it ı felt more am sinking ınto ıt :)) frst of all ı must say thanks to u for sharıng all these:) well am a turkısh gırl who goıng to move to rıyadh ın next ı was anxıous about how to adjust the lıfe there. am muslım ok but the lıfe am vıng ın TURKEY and ın KSA ll be so dıffrnt ı know. but after readıng ur blog ı m feelıng more comfortble now .by the way my husband s a pakıstanı .he s workıng ın a company ın rıyadh so ı ve to adjust wth the new lıfe over there.. ı ll go on followıng ur blog.and am hopıng to meet u ın real to 1 day:) best of luck ın ur lıfe. GREETINGS from TURKEYReplyCancel

  • sohailJune 6, 2012 - 9:27 am

    I like the poet’s pic with the kitten in his lap. the kitten is looking so cute as she will not go to disturb his master.ReplyCancel

  • Beyond Footty FoottyJanuary 25, 2014 - 7:00 pm

    Every kind information about Istanbul pls visit ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Al-ShamekhMay 30, 2014 - 1:22 pm

    I really enjoyed the great photos. I’m going to Istanbul in a couple months but worried about taking my 14 month old, how was using a stroller there? Was it difficult? ReplyCancel

  • Dennis McAuliffeMay 30, 2014 - 3:02 pm

    Loved the photos, I lived in Ankara for 5 years and loved going to Istanbul always a treat.ReplyCancel

  • Top 10 Travel Destinations From Saudi » Blue AbayaAugust 18, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    […] is an amazing destination and super easy to get to from Saudi Arabia. Check out Blue Abaya post on Istanbul to understand why you shouldn’t miss […]ReplyCancel

  • DiyanaJanuary 11, 2016 - 10:49 pm

    Hi, I’m planning to visit Istanbul for a week and I’m so glad to come across this post with it’s beautiful pictures. Thanks for the sneak peek. I loved the picture with the flowers and I’m quite disappointed that I won’t be able to see them, since I doubt they’ll have much in January.

    Your comment about Aya Sofia caught my attention, but I thought Aya Sofia is “retired” as a mosque to use for prayers and is more of a museum. Maybe that’s why there’s a disproportionate amount of Muslims between it and the Blue Mosque. A lot of Muslims most likely went there first because they needed to pray and also the number of people included a lot of the locals. At least, that was the case when I managed to stop by Istanbul for a short layover 2 years ago. I only had enough time for a drive around tour and a prayer stop, which was at the Blue Mosque.ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraJanuary 12, 2016 - 2:17 pm

      Thank you for the comment Diyana! Glad this old post was still useful for someone today :) Have fun in Istanbul!ReplyCancel

Ice-skating in the desert? Well yes, in a shopping mall that is. Actually there are quite a few places in Riyadh and around the country where they have small ice-skating rinks inside the children’s entertainment areas.
The problem is (if you’re a Finnish woman craving to do some figure-skating moves) they don’t allow women to skate. UPDATE 2017: Royal mall ice skating rink allows women and the Snow City in Othaim Mall allows women in.
We Finns have always been an Ice-loving nation. Be it figure skating, curling or ice-hockey, we have mastered it. This year Finland won the Ice hockey WORLD Championships. We beat countries like RUSSIA, U.S.A and CANADA. And we are only 5 million people. But the sweetest victory was winning against SWEDEN in the final. I just HAD to say that. Oh and did I mention it was 6-1.
One of my Finnish friends here has the same “calling” to find a place to go ice-skating. She managed to find a rink where they allowed her to skate in an abaya but that was in the more relaxed Jeddah. That’s one more reason I will add to my long “why we should move to Jeddah”-list.
So you can imagine the EXCITEMENT when I randomly found this NHL-sized (well almost) ice-skating rink in Riyadh and best yet it allows women:

No need for abayas!

Wait how can this be even possible? Wouldn’t the infamous religious police have a say to uncovered women twirling around making obviously flirty movements?
Well the answer is of course, the rink can be closed off from view. That means you have to rent the whole place out for yourself, if you happen to be a woman that is.

So for any crazies out there who would share the passion of ice-skating in the desert, this place is in the upper floor of the ChinaMart next to the Carrefour. It costs 700 SAR per hour to rent including the skate rental. I think I will be there soon practicing my “Camel Spins” and “Mohawk Turns”.


P.S: Royal Mall has an ice skating rink and they allow women as well.


If you hear of other rinks that allow women to skate please let us know!


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  • NoorOctober 4, 2011 - 1:48 am

    Ahh I love ice-skating in Dubai they have nice ones mixed as well.ReplyCancel

  • Sadiya MerchantOctober 4, 2011 - 6:02 am

    d only ice skating ive ever done is in my imagination n don wanna brag bt i think im pretty awesome :D
    700 an hr sounds pretty steep, bt hey its gonna feel euphoric fr sure- so hav fun :)ReplyCancel

  • Tara Umm Omar...October 4, 2011 - 2:41 pm

    There is also one inside Royal Mall on King Fahd Road that is women only.ReplyCancel

  • ♥●• İzdiher •●♥October 4, 2011 - 11:51 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • ♥●• İzdiher •●♥October 4, 2011 - 12:00 pm

    Hey,this is a fun thing to do.ReplyCancel

  • Cinnamon SnowOctober 4, 2011 - 3:05 pm

    Hey, flying yourself to Sharjah might be cheaper :D They have 2 or 3 place and then there is Dubai a short trip away :DReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 4, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    Thanks Tara!!!Will check that out too.
    Cinnamon Snow-I’m soon going to Dubai so I can get my skates on there as well but yes you’re right it might just be cheaper!ReplyCancel

  • DentographerOctober 4, 2011 - 11:34 pm

    ive always longed to learn inline skating.

    i grew up and i managed to learn it,never master it…i remember looking for videos to learn how to skate backwards and all the aggressive inline moves…still didnt learn them till now.

    sadly,being born in saudi arabia dictate many many things from you,inline skating is one of them,you can only imagine how the already crazy drivers in saudi go crazy and intentionaly swivel the car to your direction just to “scare” you while you skate.

    i still miss it…i remember back in 2002 i was in cairo and i went for a long ride on my skates..somthing like 12 kilos,even though cairo traffic is alot more was 2 am in the morning and people always drove away and cheered thinking i am a westerner and fooling with me will get them arrested.

    i tried ice skating also in cairo,was so much fun,i thought maybe if i master ice skating ill master inline..but no time,and no money,i was still a student.

    i still have my brand new k2 nemsis aggressive skates my fiancé,now my wife got me back in 2002….and my only practice is staring at it everytime i go to the storage unit.

    p.s. are you really that good? wow!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 6, 2011 - 12:26 am

    Dentographer-No im not great at all I was just joking :)
    You could try restart your skating hobby at DQ!ReplyCancel

  • lldi VancsuraOctober 7, 2011 - 6:19 am

    Wooow that’s nice, But could be expensive to rent the whole place! uhhhhh! Somewhere they give you somewhere they take it. But you have chance (and have to have purse)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 7, 2011 - 10:59 pm

    Hi Ildi always nice to hear from you!
    Yes its expensive and would need a generous purse (or husband) LOLReplyCancel

  • wyolincolnNovember 2, 2011 - 3:37 pm

    My wife and I will soon be moving to Jeddah from Minnesota (the self proclaimed home of hockey in the US). Anyway, my wife and I are both goalies, we want to continue playing and I am trying to find out what the options are in Jeddah… Any resources you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Congrats on finding a place to skate!!!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 30, 2011 - 2:27 pm

    There is an ice-rink for the ladies in Riyadh. It’s in Royal Mall (a small and quite mall on King Fahd Rd, I believe?). They have two ice rinks; one for men and children and the other is just for ladies. I love going there with my daughter (I stumbled across it by pure accident…). It’s like 20 SAR per hour (but you can get a good deal if you buy credit in advance). Operating hours are from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM (I think), and you can use their skates for free. It’s best to go during week days as it gets pretty full on weekends.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 4, 2011 - 12:11 am

    Thank you for this awesome information :))Cant wait to check it out!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 9, 2012 - 9:59 am

    I'm going to try and go tonight inshAllah. When I just moved to Saudi this Summer, I was wounded to hear there were no cinemas, and other similar amenities that are actually made enjoyable for women in Riyadh. So when my friends informed me of the skating rink, I was over the moon! CAN'T WAIT FOR THE WOBBLING, GLIDING, AND FALLING!ReplyCancel

  • george khouryApril 2, 2013 - 3:12 pm

    Hello everyone,
    My name is George, I recently came to Riyadh from Lebanon. I’m an ice skating fan and i do practice some jumps and spins on ice. I’m very happy about your conversation about ice skating in Riyadh because i share you same ideas and concern. I also would like to introduce to you another kind of skating very close to ice skating and which can be practiced when it’s difficult having access to ice rinks. It’s called inline figure skating and you can visit this page on facebook to have an idea about it: or (inline artistic and figure skating).
    This sport can be practiced in small halls or basketball courts, tennis, in your compound, in front of your house, etc and preferably indoor. If you’re interested just send me your feedback on the page.
    I hope this will be interesting to you and hope you like it,
    Best regards from Riyadh,
    George :)ReplyCancel

  • Summer Is Here, What To Do? | Blue AbayaMay 23, 2014 - 10:03 pm

    […] Cool off Ice Skating Ice skating rinks I’m aware of: Royal Mall (also for females), Othaim Mall exit 15, Hayat Mall, ChinaMart Mall upstairs (can be reserved for private functions as well) read more here: Ice skating in the desert […]ReplyCancel

    • AmyJanuary 3, 2016 - 9:01 am

      Wondering if you have any contact information for renting the ice rink? We would like to try to rent ice weekly for children’s lessons. Any help is greatly appreciated!ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaNovember 25, 2017 - 10:19 pm

    […] Granada, Riyadh gallery, Panorama) have huge entertainment areas for children. Some even have ice skating rinks (Royal mall, Panorama, Hayat mall Othaim mall) and roller […]ReplyCancel