Shopping busses leave our compound twice a day for various malls. Most of the malls have grocery stores so it is pretty easy to get one's shopping done. After checking the schedule and talking to my neighbor, I decided to catch the late afternoon shopping bus to Granada Mall. Granada mall features the Carrefour Grocery Store, which has a good reputation. My oldest son wanted to tag along. And so we caught the shopping bus in the afternoon.
While on the bus, I met some friendly women who recommended that I memorize the license plate of the bus. Sometimes there are more than one bus waiting and so it is helpful to be able to recognize it.
Granada mall is close to my compound, about 15 minutes away. The mall is clean and spacious and boasts many European and American stores. Some clerks were Saudi men but most clerks come from different parts of Asia. Most everyone speaks English so it was pretty easy to get help.
I love going to shopping stores in foreign countries. There is something so authentic about shopping for the necessities of life. You can learn a lot about a different culture through shopping at a local grocery store. I also liked mixing with everyone. Black robed women swished around, pushing carts. You can tell the Western women because they don't cover their hair. It is a little harder to tell the difference between foreign and Saudi men. Some men wear robes or thobes, while others are dressed completely in Western clothes. Regardless of the various styles of dress, we were all after food.
The selection was really wide. I found a nice basic selection of vegetables--nothing too exotic. The squash looked anemic. But the carrots looked very fresh and sweet. The lettuce was dicey, but the tomatoes looked great. The store featured a wide variety of fresh fruits in season and reasonably priced. They also had an entire section of the store dedicated to dried fruits, nuts, grains, whole and ground spices that you could request in various weights. A clerk waited anxiously to help you with your selections. I saw whole white peppercorns. In Sweden, I used white pepper for certain Swedish dishes. It was cool to see the whole peppercorns.
Instead of bringing your vegetables and fruits to be weighed at the checkout stand, you get them weighed by clerks in the produce section. They weigh and label your produce.
The meat section included entire lamb carcasses! They had a variety of organ meats for sale including tripe. I am still trying to figure out what tripe is and how one prepares it. I played it safe by buying chicken and some beef from New Zealand. I am not very experienced cooking lamb so if anyone has lamb recipes they would like to share, let me know.
The cheese counter had a pretty good selection of cheeses. I asked about a large white cheese round that looked good and learned that it was a Hungarian cheese. They gave me a sample. Both W and I both thought it was delicious and ordered a kg of it!
My shopping strategy was to go through each aisle to get an idea of what products they offered. There was a good blend of foreign and local foods. I like to eat local foods as much as possible. I was able to find yeast (yeah!) so I can make bread.
We were about halfway through shopping when an announcement came on saying that the store would be closing for in 20 minutes for prayer time. I went back to the cheese counter because the clerk spoke English very well and asked him if I had to leave and he told me that I could stay in the store and continue shopping but had to wait until prayer time was over to purchase my items.
W and I found the things we needed and then waited until prayer was over. We joined the masses of people waiting to check out. I couldn't ascertain any logic in which line to choose. Some people stood in lines where the stand number was lit while others waited in lines where the stand number was dark. I saw another Western woman and stood behind her. I started talking to her and she said that you just guess which line to join and hope that a clerk will show up.
We picked the right line and checked out pretty quickly, though I fumbled with the money again. Then we went outside to find the bus. When we got outside, a man with a Carrefour shirt on offered to take the cart for us. At first I thought it was okay, since he had on a uniform. But then he started running. At the moment, I thought, "he's stealing our groceries". I chased after him, contemplating tackling techniques when he slowed down and asked where my driver was. I explained to him that I was on a bus and then showed him where I thought the bus was parked. He took my cart to the bus and helped me load the groceries. In the end, it was okay, but there was a moment when I thought I would have to take drastic action!
I feel pretty confident in handling myself on the shopping bus and in the mall again. I am going to try and go to the different malls so I can get a feel for the best places to shop.