Life in a another country can be much different from here in the United States. Delta resident Nyla Storch experienced this during a recent trip to Saudi Arabia to visit family.
Her daughter Amber, husband McLean Pace, and their three children live in a small town between Dhahran and Al Dammam on the west coast of the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia. The family has been living there for the past year and a half and will continue to live there as McLean works for an oil company nearby.
Amber and her three children were in Delta this summer so she could attend her Delta High School reunion in July. She was able to contribute to this story during her visit.
Nyla said, "I visited them for three weeks earlier this year. I left near the end of February, returning about the middle of March. The flight took me from Grand Junction, to Denver, to Washington, D.C., Kuwait City, then into Bahrain, a small country located on an island. My family met me there and drove us across a causeway into Saudi Arabia. McLean's mother was visiting at the same time."
They did some sightseeing, but mostly wanted to enjoy being with the family. They attended the children's programs and their dance, karate and swimming lessons and rode the busses into town.
Nyla took quite a few photos of mosques. "The architecture is very beautiful!" she said. "Some of the shopping centers will have a mosque inside. There are ladies' mosques and some for the men. They don't pray together."
Prayer time is announced over a loud speaker and times are well publicized, as prayer time changes by a minute every three or four days — apparently attuned to the sunrise or moon phase — and yet again for a specific town or area. It's quite possible to travel even 10 miles and find yourself in a different prayer time. Many of the clocks are programmed to indicate prayer times. During prayer time doors are locked and shades are pulled. If you are in a restaurant (even if you have finished eating) or are in another building, you stay there until prayer time is over.
Nyla found the downtown area to be not as clean as she thought it would. "Streets are narrow, trash is not picked up. Just living in the desert means that there is a lot of blowing sand that settles on everything."
Noticed while there: food choices are mostly chicken; many signs are in both Arabic and English; businesses such as Starbucks, Subway and Safeway line the main road along the shore; downtown stores advertise Kodak, KitchenAid and other familiar products; most camels are black with a few whites; everyone honks and makes three lanes out of two-lane streets.
Another discovery — restaurants have one entrance for single men, with a different entrance for single women and families.
Women are not allowed to drive so must always take a bus or taxi when going outside the compound. Typically women don't drive cars. They could drive in the compound but never outside. The men take the cars to work, so women use three-wheeled bikes. A basket on the back of the bike is used to carry items and small children.
Compounds there are like our gated communities, surrounded by walls — though those walls are topped with barbed wire. The compounds are entered at checkpoints with armed security guards. There are about 400 housing units in the compound where the Price family lives. Extras include several swimming pools, playgrounds, play gym and a store with limited supplies, a novelty shop, jewelry store and restaurant. There are trees, grass and flowers everywhere. The children attend an American school in nearby Dhahran.
Women within the compound will wear shorts, tank tops, dresses, pants — anything that you would see in the United States.
Outside the compound even western women wear abayas. Head and face coverings are not expected. All abayas are black, loose_flowing traditional garments though there are many adaptations of age-old designs. Some are embroidered with thread; others are decorated with beads, sequins or have pleats with colored insets.
Purchased abayas come complete with face mask and scarf. Some have sleeves that are soft and droopy, other sleeves are more form fitting. All have long sleeves, covering the arms to the wrist, are ankle length with necklines that rise to the collarbone. Younger women may wear a rope tied under the chest area, a bit more form fitting with the skirt forming an A-line. There are no pockets. Some of the garments go on over the head, others have snaps. Some ladies have gone to tailors and had pockets and zippers down the front added. There are even some women who do not wear the abaya. Not required by the Koran, this decision would be made by the men in the family. Even then they are covered from neck to ankles and wrists by a long dress or pants and long sleeved shirt that comes down to mid-thigh. A man's traditional garment is white and called a thobe and typically comes with pockets.
Nyla wore an abaya when she spoke about her trip to Saudi Arabia during a T&R (Tired and Retired) meeting this past spring. Her black, full-length, robe-type garment has a wide band of beading on each sleeve. She purchased it for $25 while on her trip. She bought two abayas, each with a different design. Prices can range from plain and simple at $10 to over a thousand dollars for a very ornate garment. As members arrived at the meeting they were greeted by Nyla in full costume including mask and head scarf. She removed the head coverings for lunch and the program.
Father Tom Seibert, from St. Luke's Episcopal Church, operated the computer and equipment for the slide show narrated by Nyla. She talked of her experiences illustrated with photos that she had taken. She is willing to offer the same program to other groups. If interested contact her at 874-9485.blog comments powered by Disqus