"Saudi Arabia - Myth versus reality" -An Introduction
I have been meaning to write this post for the website while I was in India last year, a time when it first dawned on me that my next few years will be spent in a country repulsed by many. And the less I talked about it with friends and family, the better it felt and I gave myself ample me-time to ponder over the decision I made along with my husband. Turns out, all the worry and preparation for a culture-shock wasn't really needed and you will know why as you read on.
There was a time when this country was dead as the moon to those expats who flew in about ten to twenty years ago for a living. And from what I have inferred, the scenes and happenings from then echoed back to their home countries leaving an impression worldwide that nothing has changed since then on how difficult it is for an expat family to live here.
It has been nine months since I arrived in Saudi and I have been amazed at myself for having outgrown so many blemishes in my life that I considered impossible to erase. I think we all long for a phase when there is some peace and quiet to think, rejuvenate or even turn over a new leaf. I never found that in Dubai because I was constantly looking for the answers to my failures. When you are in a busy city surrounded by busy people, every trivial yet precious action of yours is deafened by the noise. I wanted to be heard out and my heart sank each time it didn't.
There is something about this country that makes me want to adapt. Saudi being the third Middle Eastern country of long-term settling I have to deal with is slowly turning into my personal favorite.The panache of Abaya drapes, the way my Sheila hangs loosely over my head to the new found obsession to wear Attar or smell like Oud. The restaurants and cafes I walk into are studded with Arabic vibrance and bathed in an aroma of Karak or Ghava. The older nooks and corners of Dammam are forever bustling with the loners from a hardworking class striving to serve you with the best of imports, and bargains of trinkets, handmade all gorgeous and pretty.
I sigh each evening and think to myself. This was a break worth waiting for.
My husband and I happen to meet so many people from the working class whilst our hunt for DIY home project supplies. And they all have a story to tell, a story of a life without color. And I look around at their workplaces trying to wonder what keeps them going. Their life lacked anything extraordinary and it was then I penned that note to myself- "You know you are on top of the world if you can embrace, adapt and flourish wherever you are."
The access to facilities like groceries, malls, hospitals or eateries is just as good as in any other GCC. I no longer worry about unrealistic grocery bills, rising rents or water slips. Thanks to Saudi labor law, I now don't think twice for a medical checkup or to plan an annual vacation not just for us but our future kids too. Yes, Vat will strike us soon but it wouldn't hit us hard as it had in our previous countries of residence.
The present is a happy one. We have long conversations over Karak chai with dates sitting comfy in our house that we painted and decorated with so much love and dedication. We began to see some figures of savings at the end of every month. There is no artificiality, no noise. I wanted to be heard out and I can see it happening in a place what others see from outside as mundane.