The following is an excerpt of a letter I wrote to my family the day after I arrived in Riyadh.
We arrived in Frankfurt at around 8 am local time, and I was feeling okay. We had a quick stopover so there was just time for a shower and a quick snack, and then it was on to Riyadh. We again had lots of room so I was able to actually lie down. Unfortunately I had two glasses of wine right before I did this (but no drugs this time) and when I woke up I felt totally hung over. The whole flight is a bit of a blur so I think I slept for quite a bit of it. We arrived in Riyadh at 5:30 pm local time, and I felt like I was in a total time warp.
The hotel is okay although I have a room on the street side, which is very loud. Tracy’s right across the hall from me and her room overlooks the pool and the courtyard. And it’s much quieter. There was one room available that had a partial view of the pool but it was on the corner and you could still hear the street a bit. I could keep asking for a new room, but I’ve unpacked and I think I’ve decided to just stay put. The noise is in a way comforting and I do have ear plugs.
There’s a high-end mall attached to the hotel, and we went there last night for a little walk and a not-very-good food court dinner. Last night (Thursday) was Saudi’s Saturday night (the work week is Sunday to Wednesday). And apparently the mall is a popular thing to do for families. The food court was pretty busy. I was struck that as a toddler losing your mother, it would be difficult to find your mother again, as every woman is dressed in black and many have their faces covered too. You’d have to be really familiar with shoes!
I slept quite well last night — woke up at about 2:30 feeling a bit too awake so took half and Ativan and that seemed to do the trick. I also napped for about an hour this afternoon. We’ll see how tonight goes. Tracy says she finds nights two and three the hardest.
Today Tracy and I went to another hotel and played golf (!). The idea being we could get some sun and help our bodies adjust to the time difference, but also we don’t have to wear our abayas on the course. Bizarre rules in my opinion. We did have to be in long pants and long sleeved shirt, but it was nice to be outside without being covered in black. I’m so glad I’m travelling with Tracy because she’s been here so many times. I just do what she does. We don’t have to cover our heads when we’re in the hotel, but we do when we’re in the mall. Women are not allowed in the hotel pool or gym — which I knew about but it’s a real bummer.
The weather’s quite gorgeous — low thirties. The sky today was apparently a lot bluer than normal. Usually it’s so sandy it looks brown. All the architecture is the same colour — the colour of sand. And it was funny seeing the dirt at the golf course. A lot lighter than our dirt!
The weather didn’t stay nice. The first week was great, but the second week was mostly rainy and much cooler — about 5 or 6 degrees at night and 12 to 15 degrees during the day. I was cold, as I’d packed no jacket. And the hotel room had no heat. I turned the a/c all the way off and wore my hoody. Brrr!