Very Foreign Travel

I’m back from Saudi Arabia.  It was a very busy business trip and although I took my camera along, I didn’t get to shoot very much at all.  We made it out to visit the souk, or open-air market for about an hour.  Our time was interrupted by the evening call to prayer, when all the shops are shuttered and everyone goes to the local mosque to pray.  When I lived in the Kingdom years ago, I was near 3 separate mosques, each with their own call to prayer.  It can be a very moving sound when the caller is melodic.  It certainly lets you know you are not in Virginia any longer. Riyadh architecture has developed tremendously since I was last there. Very interesting buildings were everywhere.

We wanted to get over to the spice markets, but it was too far from where we were staying.  Traffic certainly has its own hectic pace in Riyadh.  The souk we visited concentrated mainly on cloth and tailor shops and the sale of incense. This stall made a wide variety of the traditional sandals worn by men everywhere. A few interesting used goods/hardware/antique shops were scattered through the alleys of the market. The traditional coffee pots have a unique and very functional shape.  The coffee there is often served green with a mixture of cardamom spice and heavy sugar.  I definitely appreciate it and the tea we were served throughout our visit.  In several shops we found old traditional jezail rifles as well as British Enfields from the 20’s and 30’s.  The country itself is barely 100 years old and these were used by the fathers and grandfathers of the people in the city.

In the Middle East, there are a lot of people who do not like to have their pictures taken.  We were fortunate to have our VP for International Business as one of our team.  He is a dual citizen and was able to get this tailor to pose.  The richness of the materials in the shops is pretty impressive. 

I wish I could convey the distinctive aroma of the incense burning in almost every shop and buildings. Frankincense and Myrrh really do exist and along with natural woods perfume the air. 

One of the treats I used to enjoy was the local schwarma stands—think Gyro, only better.  We visited one which not only had the great side dishes such as tabbouleh and hummous,, but featured an amazing variety of freshly squeezed juices.  Fresh lemon with finely shredded mint should be the drink of the summer for everyone.

It turned out to be a good trip back to a very interesting place with the opportunity to meet some very nice people.