Having been a resident of Saudi Arabia for more than 4 years now, I can easily say that it is one of those widely misunderstood countries. During the first year in Saudi, I myself felt on countless occasions that the walls were closing in on me with their endless restrictions. However, I realized soon after that the walls are built by one’s own self. It is just a matter of changing your perspective.
Yes, you can’t venture out without your abaya (the loose, black garb that’s covers you from head to toe), but that gives you so much freedom to simply step out the way you are. No need to worry about whether your dress is in accordance with the latest fashion trends (always an anxiety for me since I am not big on fashion). Simply, put on your abaya and off you go! Yes, it’s not easy to find work here as an expat woman, but that gives you so much quality time for yourself and your family. I taught myself how to cook after marriage since there was nothing else to do and today it has become a stress-buster for me. Depressed? Engage in some retail therapy with countless malls and numerous brands here. You can go on a journey to self-discovery in Saudi like you can go in no other place. In fact, being a single male is more difficult than being a woman in here, ha-ha!
I prefer to think of Saudi as a really intimidating person. You are very scared of approaching him or talking to him, but once you do get talking, you realize he can be the friendliest soul on earth.
Being a strongly independent woman, the only thing I haven’t been able to come to terms with is that women can’t drive. There also isn’t a proper public transport system in place for women. And it is not advisable to travel in cabs alone. So, this was a big letdown for me. However, with the recent cab hailing applications, life has become much easier.
Majority of the expatriates who live here are apprehensive because of the different country, the rules, the people, the strange unknown language etc. So they do not like to venture out into the unknown. However, this country is as safe as any in the world. In today’s times, there can never be 100% guarantee of one’s safety. You just have to start living your life the way you want to, and let things simply pan out.
Being one of the 3 million Indians in Saudi, I quickly realized that a huge majority of Indians live a very routine and run-of-the-mill life. Their lives mostly center on their children/families, and on weekends, they venture out as far as the nearest malls. So many females don’t even know the roads of the city they have been living in since years! Although one of the reasons is because they cannot drive, they don’t care enough to find out. However, that reason isn’t good enough for me. I need to know exactly where I am at any given point of time, which road we are taking to our destination, and if there are alternate and better routes to reach there.
This has led me spending extensive amounts of time on lots of online and offline maps, studying them and looking for new and unexplored places in and out of the city. Both of us, I and my husband, who I shall refer to as T from now on, spend our weekdays looking for new places or activities in the city and on the weekend, we set out to explore them. And we have created some unforgettable memories during out travels.
This blog is mainly a journal of our explorations, travels and our experience. My main motive behind this is to bring to people’s notice that even though you are an expatriate, Saudi is a very friendly and safe place to be.