First Impressions

6:00:00 AM Unknown 5 Comments

So, we've been here two full weeks and a few days ago finally left my house on my own for a little adventure out on the town. I chose the mall--easy and safe enough. I was a little nervous, but it was easy--I had no reason to be worried. This post is dedicated to my first impressions.

1. Weather--I was expecting hot desert heat, but I was not prepared for how humid this place is. Our compound is right next to the water--I mean literally, the back wall is 20 feet from the water's edge and that means lots of moisture in the air.  It is almost oppressive and people do not go out during the day. I don't think our AC has turned off more than once since I've been here.

2. Barren--Wow! This place is b-a-r-r-e-n!  Not much in the way of landforms, the area is flat and dusty. The wind blows at night which means that every day I wake up to a layer of dust on every flat surface.

3. Abaya--The number one question I get is do I have to cover my face. The answer is NO. When I leave the compound I do wear the abaya (a long black dress) which covers my arms and legs. I can wear whatever I want underneath, but I feel most comfortable wearing pants. It's not a super big deal to be honest. In the picture below I am wearing a scarf, but I am not required to cover my head. I just wanted to fly a little under the radar, but a Saudi woman told me I have nice hair and shouldn't cover it up.

4. Shopping--The Dhahran  mall is huge! I've never seen so many lingerie and children's clothing stores and they have an ice skating rink in the middle of the mall. One unique thing about shopping here is prayer time. Muslims have call to prayer 5 times a day and when it occurs, stores close or stop ringing up customers. So, if you are shopping in a grocery store you can continue to shop, but they will not open the cash register until prayer time has finished. Food stalls pull down their shutters and you simply have to wait.
Notice how the face and hands are blurred in this poster--this is not my handwork--this is actually how the poster hangs in the store. Another thing...there are no fitting rooms. Super buggy! You have 3 days to return your items for refund or 7 for exchange. It's a bit inconvenient which brings me to my next point.

5. No Driving--women in Saudi can not drive. I had to call a taxi to take me to the mall and my husband picked me up. My husband's company also arranges for busses to take women to and from the compound. It's a nice amenity, but you have to adhere to their schedule.

6. Compound living--It's not so bad. Our compound is practically a perfect square with a community center in the middle. The houses look exactly the same, there are about 20 rows like the ones in the photo above. Within 2 minutes I can be at the pool, library, tennis courts, gym or grocery store. Of course, everything is on a much smaller scale, but I like the simplicity of our life at the moment. On compound I can wear what I want and even drive.

7. Community--We have been welcomed with open arms. People have been so kind and helpful, as a matter of fact within a week 4 families had come over with treats in hand to welcome us. I think we will find happiness here. So far, our transition has been much easier than when we moved to Germany and my hope is that the area will grow on us--


  1. That really must be a culture shock. I am afraid the restriction on women would be a deal breaker for me. Why should I have my freedoms limited just because I am female? Nope, I couldn't do it.... it goes against everything I believe in about liberty and freedom and gender. I hope you have a wonderful time though, I am sure it will be an interesting experience!


  2. Saudi Arabia - very special - especially for you as a woman! (You look a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi ;-)
    So kind regards from the beautiful and open-minded south of Germany - where did you live in there???

  3. A huge change in lifestyle for you Brooke. I'm afraid I'm a little like Molly, couldn't do it :) How long are you there for?

  4. SA I read is the most strict in the ME when it comes to women. I hope you can adjust smoothly & not just in the weather department. I cannot wait to hear all about your new adventure.

  5. Welcome to KSA! I'm sure will do just fine. I have been in Jeddah for 8 years now. Love your pics of your trip to Oman. Best Wishes to you!