Saturday, July 24, 2010

Build me a Home in da Vinci's City

As you have probably learned from a previous blog post, I go to the gym and to the pool here in Riyadh so that I can stay sane. It's a pasttime that is good for my body and well as my mind, and I enjoy it. However, it seems that Riyadh truly has it in for me and wishes only for me to be miserable. Now, I am being blocked by something that I cannot just move away:


In the compound I live in, there is CONSTANT construction going on. When will it cease? I wish I could take pictures and show you how much construction is going on near my villa, but I fear that'll be too risky. Please, just believe me when I say that the amount of construction in the proximity of my home has reached a new high!

For me to get to the gym, I used to have two options:

1. Walk on a sidewalk that made me walk around the back of the gym, near to some aloe plants and through a strange metal barrier that looks like it belongs near a stadium, not a gym. It's fast and usually people-free. It also has a large stretch of shade, which is better on certain unbearably hot, sunny days (i.e. every other day).

2. Walk past some tennis courts and over some ground covered in macadam to the livelier area of the compound. I'd go past the coffee shop and souvenir store, and right past the basketball court up to the gym. There are usually lots of people roaming around, and it's easy for me to stop at the supermarket for a pre- or post- gym Red Bull. I prefer this route.

Now, both of these options are basically gone. Let me tell you what has happened to each of them:

1. While I used to be able to just walk across my stone and sand-covered "lawn" to reach the sidewalk, there is absolutely no way across now. There are deep, big trenches being dug all around the sidewalk, blocking anyone's path. There used to be a slab of concrete that made a little bridge across the trenches, but now that slab has disappeared and instead the trenches are even deeper. There are piles and piles of dirt and sand on each side of the trench, making it pretty impossible for me to just jump over the wide gap. If I want to get back onto this path to the gym, I need to walk around all the trenches, which adds another couple of minutes to the walk. I also have to cut through someone else's "yard".

2. That macadam-covered ground is suddenly IMPOSSIBLE to get through. It is now covered with piles upon piles of tiny rocks. I don't know where they plan on spreading those piles, because I am telling you the piles are ENDLESS. I can't walk through them or around them, and walking on them is out of the question. First of all, someone would get mad; secondly, they made some poor labourer make those piles so I am not going to mess it up; and finally, have you ever TRIED walking on macadam piles? It's horrible! God forbid you decide to wear sandals that day because it will not work.

So now, what do I do? I have had to take path number 1 for a while now because path number 2 was a little bit longer, with a detour around an apartment building. Also, path number 1 at least has a shady area whereas path number 2 does not. As annoyed as I have become, I dealt with the change in routine and decided to just deal with it if I wanted to get to the gym.

However, I guess I will have to change everything and take that path number 2 detour around the building instead. Of course, my enemy named Construction gets in the way AGAIN!

Now, when I am walking on path number 1, underneath the shade, I walk through - guess what - more construction. There are now ropes and extension cords and metal scaffolding stopping me from walking in the shade. On my way to the pool today I had to walk around all of this, and guess what I met in my way? More trenches!! I had to make a long detour around everything in the sun, and walk right on the road. There was no sidewalk for me to use until later.

I made it there and back to my villa, but dear Lord, what is with all of this work? And it is not only the amount of work going on, or where it is, but when! There are workers outside during the hottest hours of the day. It's kind of sad because the hot sun hitting their face cannot be nice. At the same time, all of this is quite frustrating because I want to let them do their work, but it is because of their work that I cannot do simple things like go outside to the gym! Their contractors are really full of crap. Who makes people work during the hottest hours of the day?

I don't just see people working on construction in my compound. No, all over the city of Riyadh I see that evil construction. I see new buildings starting up everywhere, but I see that others are in the process of being built for years and years. Some of these buildings are never finished, either! And yet, still, new buildings keep being started. I have been here every summer for three years and still, there are some things that are not finished. Others have come to a complete standstill and who knows when or if they'll be started again.

What is the point of all this? If they cannot finish one building, why even try to build another? The sight of unfinished, grey concrete with lots of scaffolding isn't exactly appealing to the eye. And they are thinking of tourism in the Kingdom! They'd better start completing the city first!

I'd like to rename Riyadh. It's now, to me, the Unfinished City, a city where things start but never end, especially buildings. If they want to get tourism really going here in Saudi Arabia, maybe they should start thinking of advertising Riyadh as comparable to Leonardo Da Vinci's artwork. He never finished anything, either*!

File:Leonardo da Vinci Adoration of the Magi.jpg
Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi - another work that is unfinished!

*Okay, he finished some stuff, but not that many!


  1. LOL Well, from the sound of it - that journey to the gym just might count as your workout! So, when you do finally arrive, I'd say it's just about that time to take a quick dip in that pool and cool off! Now, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to go back just a bit here... The problem for me when trying to decipher her gaze in Vermeer's painting is this: I don't feel like she's looking at me, I feel like she's looking THROUGH me. Know what I mean?

  2. No problem, Chris! When it comes to the gaze, it's always tricky. With Vermeer's Girl, there are a BUNCH of people who argue that the Girl is not supposed to be looking at you but rather behind you or "through" you, like her penetrating stare is beyond the viewer. I totally understand. I think it's really up to you to decide. And that, my friend, is why I love art :) There are some wonderful things that you just decide for yourself.

  3. Oh... okay! :P Hello! :) Yeah, I agree, that's why I also love art. Now, when I get a little bit more time, I'm going to read back through the rest of your blog... so - I just might have something else to say!

  4. Hello to you too! :) I hope you enjoy what you read. Please, do comment whenever you like ;D

  5. Hello Khadeja :) Half-American half-Mauritian arty type living in KSA... well that's interesting! I've read a little bit of your nicely done blog tonight, so I think I'll say a couple things about it now. So, ............. yeah, that's about it, the rest after this sentence is just me using your blog to write down my grocery list, sorry. :( ... ;) ... :P Those video game/cultural comment posts were very nice, I generally agree. That is a nice abaya, but I don't think wearing one makes you a better Muslim. No matter who you are, how you treat your fellow human beings is what counts most in my book. I like Fairuz with a little sexy but not the most talented Haifa Wehbe sprinkled in. A supermarket without real beer... help! I've never had a crush on SRK, but I did once have one for Kajol. Come to think of it, I still do! I'm very tired at the moment, so I'll just end with this: a 21 year old that doesn't quite know what exit to take while driving down the road called "life" isn't rare... you'll find your way. :)

  6. Thanks, Chris. I sure do hope I find my way. We'll see what destiny ahs in store, no? ;)

    Also: being a good person trumps being a better Muslim/Christian/Jew/Hindu/etc. Every single time. We should not let social things and constructs get in the way of helping people and giving them freedom.

    Also: Kajol is beautiful! I love her. I love Rani Mukherji too. :D