Jeffrey Black | Middle East Diaries

Segregated: Riyadh, 15th January 2008
January 15, 2008, 10:04 am
Filed under: Saudi Arabia

In the first segregated restaurant. Apartheid, without any seeming difference in service. The euphemisms are amusing. “Family Section,” “Singles Section.” Two Arabs and a Brit, smoking, watching football. Café culture, in aircon, served by a Filipino and a Sri Lankan. Kingdom tower, taller than it looks. Going up in the less salubrious tower, the lift to the fourth floor, no lights.

Entering the offices of the Such & Such Agency, I wondered why there was a large carpet rolled up in the foyer. Had they just moved in and hadn’t had enough time to spread out the floor coverings? Were they cleaning? As my appointment became later and later, prayer time came, as it ineluctably does. Three men came round from their offices into the foyer to spread the carpet out, and began to perform their devotionals. In the foyer, which was an ostentatious place to do it, but yet they prayed without display. I sat there, awkwardly, like a sort of religious voyeur. They paid no attention, except to smile at me politely afterward. Everything stops for a few minutes. Kingdom Tower in the evening, reflecting the clouds.

Two Asian guys outside the bank, scavenging used but usable stationary from the skip.


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