Wasted morning. Why oh why oh why did I agree to a trip to the Mall?!? I probably could have taken a few pictures when we first got there, when it was "dead," but of course, didn't even think to take my camera. It would be close to impossible to take any pictures once the stores start opening and people start flocking in. I can only imagine the commotion it would cause - snapping pictures of throngs of people - the men all dressed in their long white dresses with their red-checkered head coverings would be easily identifiable and I am not going to risk posting photos of men's faces on my blog without their permission. That would only be inviting trouble. The women, however, would be a completely different story. No one would have a clue as to who they were. I'd say a good 85% of the women at the mall this morning were dressed head-to-toe in black with only slits in their face coverings so that they could see [even though they really only need one eye opening], I saw quite a few women who had no slit at all, but instead the "sheer" face covering that allows them to barely see and does not allow ANYONE to see them. [I am only assuming they were women. When someone is wearing a full - I mean FULL - covering of black like that it is impossible to know for sure what gender is beneath the black!]
We have lots of malls. Two big ones: Rashid Mall [worth clicking on to see the pictures!] and Mall of Dhahran [also worth clicking on for pictures]. I went to the Mall of Dhahran, this morning. It has two small department stores, Marks & Spencer being the larger of the two. [The directory says there is a Gap - and there is, "Baby Gap," there is NOT a Gap for "big people."] I was surprised to see two signs that said, "Banana Republic 2008." That will be the ONLY store worth going to at the Mall of Dhahran. I was looking for black towels and did find them. I should have gotten them in the States when I bought the cream colored towels, but I didn't know I wanted black towels at that time. I paid way too much for them. They will have to do for now. And they had better do for at least three years - or for however long it is that we remain in this house.
The decision to go to the mall with Nuffie's Mom was made spur of the moment when we were walking the "Girls." Nuffie is the Giant Schnauzer puppy that my Kids have been walking with for a couple of weeks now - although since I am doing two walks in the morning - the "Girls" go first - I take The Baby and then come back and take The Boy. So, Nuffie's Mom and I decide we'll go downtown - she wants to get a pair of capri's to wear to some party at the beach this weekend and I wanted to get a new dust-mop head, some file folders and paint. I called for a cab as soon as we were done walking and was told that there were no cabs available and to call back later. No problem. We'll take the bus. Mistake. We took the bus, which leaves at exactly 9:00 and got to the mall where NONE of the stores were even open yet! What is the purpose of having a bus that takes you down to the mall at 9:00 if nothing is open?!? Starbucks was open. I'm not a big Starbucks fan. We just kind of milled around until Marks & Spencer opened and then I got towels and Nuffie's Mom found some capri's - which she couldn't try on - as there are NO dressing rooms in the shops and stores, here, and of course they don't fit. [Nuffie's Mom went back to the mall on the 4:00 bus to exchange them - there was no way I was returning.] I've now been to the mall twice this year - once in February looking for shoes - which I bought and paid too much for to wear for a single occasion - they have been given to our version of the "Good Will" store. Unless Banana Republic opens before December 31st, I will have absolutely no reason to go to the mall again for 2008.
I was surprised that there is a women's smoking section at Starbucks. It was not there in February. The men could smoke in their area, but the women's area, designated for "families" was non-smoking. There were quite a few - no less than five, "local" looking women sitting there enjoying their coffee and smoking cigarettes along with a couple of other clearly Western women and Nuffie's Mom and me. The bus pick up time is 11:30 and as we were completely done shopping shortly after we arrived I didn't mind that we took the time to have coffee and chat. I would rather have had our own car and driver so I could get my other errands taken care of, but such was not the case.
Mid-morning prayer time is getting earlier an earlier every day. I think it must be at about 11:15 because we didn't leave to go for the bus until 11:21 [exactly] and the stores and shops in the mall were all putting their gates down to close before we left. As well, we were still sitting when the prayer call began. I do not know if there is a prayer room - rooms - one for the men and one for the women - they do not mix, you know - in the Mall of Dhahran. I know that there are prayer rooms in the Rashid Mall so it would be fair to presume there are prayer rooms at the Mall of Dhahran as well, although perhaps someone decided there was no need for them. There were an awful lot of people at the mall at 11:15 - all exiting out of the stores into the mall corridors - the "locals" far outnumbered us Westerner's - and if they were doing the prayer thing it certainly was NOT obvious! Why were there a couple hundred people hanging out waiting for prayer to be over in the open areas? This is just an observation on my part but it was clearly apparent that the mid-morning prayer is pretty much regarded as a smoking break at the Mall of Dhahran as that is exactly what ALL of the shop and store workers were doing, along with hordes of "local" men, with the "local" women accompanied by their entourage of children and maids taking advantage of the benches and sitting areas.