Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I missed the bus

A friend called me up at 7:51 am asking me if I was going on the shopping bus today. I haven't decided I said. She said, "Please go I need some tape for the cartonage class this afternoon."

How difficult is it to just walk/drive over to the store and buy masking tape you may ask.

In this country it's like a gigantic task! First of all you'll have to have the knowledge of where it might be sold. Now with the knowledge of where it might be sold, you will have to find the means of getting there. And if you found the way to get there, timing is really crucial because the shops don't open all day and if you happen to go at the wrong time, the shops will be close.

Getting there

Women are not allowed to drive. Period. Apparently if she is allowed to drive then it will give her the ability to meet up with men and commit adultery, thus destroying the moral fibre of the country.

She must also not travel alone. If there was an unrelated man and a woman in a car, the woman must sit in the back seat and the man in the driver's seat. If they were found sitting together by the muttawa then they can accuse the woman of being all sorts of things.

She must always be accompanied by a male muhrim ie either her husband, son, brother etc lest she will stray if not accompanied by a male relative.

If the muttawa doesn't harass her then perhaps the general male public will.

How about walking then?

First of all crossing the roads here is hazardous. The drivers would purposely speed up when they see pedestrian crossing. Perhaps they think its more fun that way.

Now, if a woman were crossing, then she will be honked at or the cars would purposely slow down (not to let her cross the road mind you) just to leer at her and making it even more impossible to cross the road.

And the heat. Well it is hard enough to walk in this heat, but under the oppressive black abaya, it feels like a walking oven really!

Public bus? No way. Filled with leering men who will suddenly all "accidentally" brush against you? No thank you. And judging by the dents they are probably mobile death traps anyway.

Taxi? Well they charge you according to your nationality (which they ask a lot here) or if they know where you are going and can get you there safely.

So the compound where I live provide a bus to bring us women to different shopping places every morning and afternoon. Except of course, I missed the bus this morning!

To go to the Mall where the bus had gone would cost me 35 Riyals. All just to get a 5 Riyal masking tape? *sigh*


In this country, all shops are required to close during prayer times. No business transactions are allowed. Most places open from 9:30 am - 12 noon. (Or Dzuhur prayers whichever comes first.) They reopen at 4:00 pm then close during Magrib and Isya' for at least 30 minutes during each prayer time.

What if you were shopping halfway and it's time for prayers, they will switch off the lights, chase you away and tell you to come back after prayers.

What do they do from 12 noon to 4 pm? They have their afternoon siesta of course.

I do not know what it is but I just have this feeling that this is a country where a woman's independence is something that scares the men!

I refuse to believe that it has anything to do with religion! During our Prophet Muhammad's time, women do run their own businesses (Khadijah), and even fought in wars (Aishah) but the women now are rendered helpless and dependent upon their men.

Yes I am upset that buying masking tape is such a huge task. I am upset that I have to be so dependent on the male population... just to buy masking tape!!

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