Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Blooming Desert

Earlier last week, a friend sent out an email organizing a trip to the Blooming Desert, a place in the desert that is remarkable in the spring for its green vegetation of trees and even grass. On Thursday, we met a group of families with several cars and made the trek outside of Riyadh.

The King has a section of the Blooming Desert cordoned off for his private use. (Ah, the VIP privilege in Saudi Arabia. . . ) The rest of the area is a free acess area for anyone to enjoy. The Blooming Desert has poles around it to clearly delineate it from the rest of the desert.

Once we arrived, we decided to drive around the perimeter to find a good spot for our picnic. The area was bursting with cars and families enjoying picnics. One thing that never ceases to amuse me is that Saudis take their picnics seriously and usually bring casseroles, pressure cookers, and tea pots along. They also bring carpets and cushions to make themselves comfortable.

The desert trek around the park is best driven in a four-wheel drive vehicle. I was in a car with some friends and the tire went flat. We ended up piling in with another family. As a side note: when treking out to the desert it is wise to always go in a group with at least three or more cars. I've never been on an expedition that hasn't ended with someone having car troubles. If you do have trouble, then you aren't stranded in a dangerous situation.

We found a nice spot where we rested in the shade of several trees. I think we were the only westerners in the whole park. There were lots of groups of Saudi men and they sure stared out all the women with uncovered hair. I was hoping that we could take off our abayas but realized there were just too many Saudis around to do so. Honestly, I was really grumpy about it. I hate wearing the abaya outside when it is so hot. It just sucks in the heat and you stand around baking in your clothes.

Some of the men in our group started a game of American football on the grass. The were soon joined by some boys who wanted to learn the game. Lots of families came out to watch and take pictures.

When I took my kids around to walk and enjoy the novelty of grass in the desert, lots of people wanted to take pictures. I have found that within Riyadh, Saudis can be quite shy and reserved and aren't always inclined to talk to you. But outside of Riyadh, Saudis do want to talk and chat. It's fun and makes going out of Riyadh worthwhile and interesting.

Again, our group got lots of attention. No one bothered us, but there were lots of stares, especially from groups of men. The women would approach us and ask to take pictures. And the kids were really friendly, wanting to talk and play.

On our drive back to get the car with the flat tire fixed, we stopped and found some desert melons. Desert melons are small melons, a little larger than tennis balls that look exactly like watermelons in miniature. I don't know if you can eat them. They were really cool. I got frustrated with the heat and the abaya so I took it off. I think I shocked a few Saudi families, but really there are times when you can't be bothered with the hot black abaya, especially outside in the desert heat.

It was a fun outing, one that I'd like to do again. And hopefully, it won't be as crowded so I can take off my abaya!

1 comment:

  1. It's too bad abayas aren't white. Not that that would make me want to wear one all the time...