Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CITYMAX: They Got It All For You (Quite)

For the first edition of our newest category "Shop Spotlight," I'm bringing you the "SM" of Riyadh! Shoegarfreeruby has already talked about this shopping stop on the first Spend vs. Save entry of this blog and I'll just have to gush about it because I too found this a fantabulous shopping haven!

Maryhadalittlehump said she misses the "scent" of SM‭ Department Store. ‬Who doesn't? We Filipinos grew up in SM! We were hoping SM will open in Riyadh‭. ‬Of course‭, ‬that's only wishful thinking‭. ‬The truth is‭, we already found a sortta like little SM here but they carry their own brand‭ - ‬CITYMAX‭. ‬

This entry will just supplement the claim that indeed‭, ‬Citymax brings you cheaper alternatives to MNG‭, ‬Zara‭, ‬and other staple mall brands‭. ‬They even copy the designs of the last fashion seasons. During the sale months‭, ‬clothes can go as low as 10SR‭ (‬jeans incuded‭!). ‬

This is the only photo in this post that features the guy's section here‭. ‬Sorry, hehe‭.‬

Clothes all you want

Promo for the month‭: ‬a free 30SR voucher for every 150SR worth of prods you buy

Summer cover-ups‭, ‬perfect for the beach‭ (‬where‭?)‬

Watches with really classy designs

Cute hair accessories

Home decors

Bath essentials

Bags‭, ‬bags‭, ‬bags

Bedroom sippers

A good news for shoegarfreeruby‭: ‬the red version of her bow cardigan is still available‭! ‬Yiheeee‭!‬

There's a section for kids too and it has really cute dresses‭! ‬They also have a shoe section which sells more sandals‭ than closed shoe styles. ‬Their home decor section has lots of fab stuff for your flats‭. ‬I frequent their mugs display too. I found various imitations from MNG's and Zara's clothing designs‭ which I'll feature on the next Spend vs‭. ‬Save‭.‬ Citymax has lots of branches in the city. I frequent the Thalateen branch but I also visit the one in Le Mall. (Uhuh, they're totally far from each other, hehe.)

The only thing that irks me about some Citymax branches are the narrow aisles‭. ‬How can I fit my trolley‭? I carry around the mesh bag for shopping because it's more convenient. And sometimes, they also take too much time in arranging racks na parang dinaanan ng bagyo and misplaced items. Parking is quite okay as long as you go before the 6pm salat.

Of course it really pales in comparison to the retail giant that is SM but what the heck, Citymax is the next best thing to SM!

PS. There's still Centrepoint, the more upscale "SM" version but let's save that for another day.

*Citymax on photos is the branch in Thalateen St.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not For the Weak-Stomached

Most Filipinos know the newbie's rite here in Riyadh. A Filipino who lands for the first time in Riyadh is taken first and foremost to BATHA. Yes, just so you don't get culture shocked in the vast desert, you get to ride down homesickness lane via Batha, a Divisoria-like place where the Filipino community flock together on weekends. But even if it's familiar, Filipinos actually (unknowingly) get their ultimate dose of culture shock in this place (I won't tell why because hey, you gotta experience it too, y'know! ;P).

But as for me, a newbie here last May 2008, my first "initiation" was not Batha. My father took me to the Othaim Market. Not just the ordinary Othaim grocery market but the Othaim slaughterhouse near Batha. And we used the road where we get to pass beside the pugutan ng ulo square going to the slaughterhouse! Grrr... Heaven forbid, was my dad trying to intimidate me by bringing me there?!

Every Friday morning, the father goes to Othaim to have the freshest butchered part of a cow, or a lamb, or whatever fancies him. He usually goes for the innards for his fave soup - the pinapaitan. For a few weeks after my first time to Othaim, I get up half-heartedly to accompany him because that's our sort of bonding moment (sweet noh?! hehe). After a few trips to the slaughterhouse, I opted not to go. LOL! There were just too many guys, too many animals apart from the guys, hehe, too many spilled blood and dirty water, the stench and the filth... not to mention the fact that there were just too many muttawas in the place and so very few women. The reasons not to go are endless.

But then, I remembered, didn't I grow up going to the palengke in our little town? Besides, didn't someone once told me that if I really want to get to know more about the place where I'm in, I need to go to the local restaurants and the local markets... not the Westernized malls and parks? I feel like immersing myself more to this new place (as crazy as that may sound) so I still tag along with the father when he goes in Othaim. Like last Friday...here's some photos I took discreetly.

Warning: The following photos will probably turn you into a vegetarian. Believe me, I already spared you from the more grotesque ones.

An innocent looking meat stall...

Until you see the carnage:

Feast your eyes

A huge liver waiting in all its glory at the side of the stall.

I swear I can feel these huge lungs breathe... until I get closer and saw the ruptured veins and cut arteries.
Okay, it's dead (stop being paranoid!).

Want to guess what this is?
Turn it around and you'll see the eyes and the ears.
(Some stalls even display it like it's one of those deer head's trophies in a hunter's den, argh!)

To us Ilocanos, this is known as the "labakara" (towelette) part of a cow, mainly used for the local delicacy pinapaitan.

More innards right in your face!
(Can you see those blood and animal juices oozing on the blocks of ice?! Oh, the vendor here is my dad's suki.)

Next up, the fish market...

One of the reasons, if not the only reason, why I go... shrimps galore!

Filipinos on the prowl for the freshest meat and veggies.

It wasn't that bad, really, but you know... if you have innards and butchered animals in front of you, it still feels weird and nauseating. It probably is better than most wet markets in the Philippines but it's still is an unfamiliar territory to the newbies.

Anyway, now you know where to go when you're looking for freshly-butchered meat and quality seafood. There's veggies and fruits there too to complete your ulam. Be cautious though, the place is slippery when wet (it's not a wet market for nothing).

Apart from the in-your-face butchered animals and the gross way they display them, Othaim has taken me aback because my first encounter with a muttawa happened here. Nevertheless, I still go there. What intimidation?! Nice try, dad. Heheh.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Airport Wait

Photo from desert69

Despite the wonderful structure and interior design of the King Khalid International Airport here in Riyadh, it is probably the most boring airport in the world to get stuck in. The worst thing about it is that this airport and its staff will make you fall in line... and wait. And oh boy, what a wait it'll be! (Waiting in a boring airport? Gee, what a fun way to spend your day!)

The arrival and departure lounges are the only crowded places in this airport. The KKIA is one fine but empty architectural wonder. (photo from archnet.org)

So while those arriving are stuck in line waiting for the airport officials to finish their chit-chats and coffee and on to their processing, those picking up those arriving are also waiting outside. Every time we go to the airport to wait for someone (i.e. my father arriving from his vacation in the Philippines), I find various ways to perk myself up. Sometimes I stroll in the vast airport lounge (sadly, there isn't much to see), count those who are waiting for other people (too many), watch the makukulit taxi drivers urge those newbies to come with them, direct those who are clueless (because I was once like them) or... EAT!

Croissant love!

I couldn't take my eyes off the croissant display in the waiting lounge's coffee shop (its name escapes me now). The marbling on each buttery, flaky pastry is so shiny it gleams under the soft glowing lights of the stand. The smell of cinnamon and chocolate fills the air and lulls you into a gentle tug of "buy me, eat me." It's utterly tempting! The freshly-baked goodies surely know how to entice! Darn!

With coffee, yum!

They're overpriced at SR9-12 each (3 regular ones for SR15) but I had to try them just to satisfy my curiosity (and grumbling stomach). Besides, I don't get to wait in the airport all the time (not that I would like to wait there more than twice a year!) so might as well experience the ridiculously-priced food there.

The filled croissants are not in the usual crescent shape. Each warm croissant is flaky on the outside and soft inside. It lacks filling though! Hmpft! For its price I was kindda hoping the apple croissant is filled with apple jam and bits or the chocolate one will be filled with the dark spread until it bursts. Anyway, having croissants and a cup of coffee is a good way to spend the idle, waiting hours in the airport. Trust me, there's nothing else better to do.

For future Riyadh-bound Filipinos, we'll probably publish a "How To Survive the KKIA" soon, hehe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let There Be No Light

... for one hour on March 28, 2009, 8:30pm local time.

The Earth Hour 2009 is happening at the end of this month. 1,529 cities and towns in over 80 countries in the world have already committed to VOTE EARTH for Earth Hour 2009 as part of the global campaign against Global Warming. Guess which country hasn't committed to this cause... yet? Uhuh, Saudi Arabia (among many others)! Whatever the reason why KSA hasn't signed up for it (er, because they supply the world's "energy and fuel" yannow?!), we can't make this an excuse not to take part in Earth Hour. This is not about which country you're from or living in, this is about which planet you're from.

Voting for the earth is simple. Come 8:30pm of March 29, 2009, a Saturday, turn off your lights in your houses. Stay put in the dark for one hour and voila! You've voted for the Earth! Leaving your lights on means you've voted for global warming.

Can you imagine the whole of Riyadh shutting down electricity for one whole hour (especially those lights in the city landscapes pointing to the sky, which are like... what for?!)? If that'll happen, I think it's cool to watch it from an airplane. The grid of lights that is Riyadh suddenly shuts down and turns into darkness for one hour! (Okay, maybe it'll get messy in the streets, so let's not imagine.)

"We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations."


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This Has Nothing To Do With Apples and Bees

Applebee's Saudi Arabia has "restaurant" in its name instead of "bar" (you shouldn't wonder why).

The family and I went to Applebee's in Rimal Center in Exit 16 last weekend (not exactly within my neighborhood). We're not that impressed with the food because everything seems to be too salty. We enjoyed it nonetheless (who doesn't enjoy food?!) because eating is a family affair (the family that eats together gets fat together!) and Applebee's makes it possible to feast and be merry (without the booze, booo!) with their good 'ole ambiance and hefty servings.

Down memory lane

Vintage-y photos on the wall

It's a good thing we proceeded with the main meals because the portions are huge! If we had appetizers, we'll already be too full by the time the dining experience's centerpieces roll out. With the following pictures, please do not think that we're a family of pigs because even if 1 order is to 1 person, we shared! Really, we shared!

Ultimate Trio of beef fajitas, breaded shrimps, and mini cheeseburgers

Smoky and juicy ribs with fries
(The overgrilling [or my phone's camera] made the ribs look too "carcinogenic" but this one is nicely done but a tad too sweet. [Oh well, at least its not salty!])

Rib-eye steak
(IMHO, this is the most delicious among our choices. But this is my brother's so I have to restrain myself from stealing it from him. ;)

Tenderloin steak with shrimps (the steak is in there somewhere)

Margarita shrimps
(I'm confused, what's the main thing in this meal? The shrimps or the bell peppers? The sauteed peppers occupied half of the plate while the shrimps and the rice are fighting over the left half space. :P)

As you can see in the last three photos, Applebee's is fond of bell peppers! Hehe. No, we didn't polish off everything. I told you, we're not pigs just piglets. I didn't get the chance to jot down the prices of each but our bill totaled SR448. Not bad.

The Rimal branch staff is friendly, from the managers to the waiters to the cooks. Yes, even the cooks! I had to pass by their kitchen in going to the restroom and they're all smiles at me. Some even greeted.

Applebee's have an ongoing promo where customers get to scratch a prize or join in the raffle. We won chicken lime meals and sangrias from our scratched tickets. We can get them the next time we visit so we don't have to order anything! And... we won a gold coin!!! It's small but it's 22k GOLD (or was it 24k? Gotta check!). So that pretty much seals this dining deal.

I told you this has nothing to do with apples and bees. It's about steaks, fajitas, shrimps, and more goodness from Applebee's. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bling Fest

Excuse us for the delayed Collage Week (Sundrenched's fault!). This is supposed to be last week's collage.

Enjoy our bling fling last week as we pay homage to the start of yet another summer in the Kingdom. Summer flings will be long in this side of the earth... (and we call it a "fling"?!). Anyway, hope y'all be bedazzled!

The PT girls also romance the homeland in this edition. Proud Pinays much? Look how we wore the Philippines this week:

Accessories, and all that jazz...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anatomy of a Shawarma (Part 2)

Brace your stomachs food lovers! Especially Shawarma-devotees such as myself. I proudly present a second installment of the "Anatomy of a Shawarma" post. Below, you shall bear witness to what we refer to as the "Shawarma Plate". An equally scrumptious alternative to eating a rolled-up Shawarma with your hands. It has all its ingredients (bread, chicken, vegetables, pickles, garlic sauce and french fries) spread out on a plate for those who prefer to wolf down their shawarmas with a knife and fork. The serving is much larger and of course, 2-3SAR more than what we usually pay for an ordinary Shawarma. But it's worth it!

Scroll down and salivate!

This is from Assaraya Restaurant:
their Shawarma Plate in all its glory.

This costs around 10-12SAR, I think.

To. Die. For. XD

Some Shish Kofta (mixed, minced meat rolled up and grilled).

Appetizers: The green stuff is called Taboule, the white stuff is the heavenly Aioli aka Garlic Mayonnaise sauce and the one below is my favorite, the Babaganoosh! YUM-OH!

What are you waiting for?? Go on, call for a Shawarma delivery! Better yet, go get one yourself at the nearest Mama Noura or Assaraya Restaurant you can find! C'mon...You know you want to...


Cheers! *burp*

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Riyadh Turns Orange

Did a million horse riders decide to visit?

Is it the apocalypse already?

They're coming!

Time to grab my mask!

Shouldn't I be hiding now?

I'm turning into a Cheetos!

I can feel an asthma attack coming...

*cough, gag, cough*

This is Riyadh today. This is probably the weirdest sandstorm that hit this city.

Photos from Jorge, Val and Co.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Basic Don'ts (How To Survive In Saudi Arabia)

Every country has its culture to be followed and to be valued. And these cultures are comprised of customs, traditions, rituals, practices, beliefs, religions, events, and qualities that characterized their difference with others.

Living here in Saudi Arabia is not unusual, because like living in the Philippines we have our own culture and traditions that are being followed by everyone. But living in the most conservative country in the world will put you through a culture shock that will literally shock you to make a 180 degree turn - clockwise, counter-clockwise, repeat 3x! Your patience and understanding will be tried and your sanity questioned. However, we Filipinos are known for being chameleons. Having gone under influences of different cultures since time immemorial, we learned to adapt to changes and to turn challenges into stepping stones for progress. So... when confronted with Saudi Arabia's oddities, take a deep breath, utter a quick prayer and chant, "Kaya ko 'to!"

Keep this in mind: "Hindi pwedeng maging siga dito sa disyerto dahil kung hindi, sa kulungan ang bagsak mo! Kaya sanayan na lang!" ["Do not be a bully in this desert because if you are, you'll land in jail! Learn to adjust!"] Remember that you're the visitor or the guest in their country so it will be really helpful to prep yourself.

So, for all you Filipinos planning to visit and work in the Kingdom, we're providing some of the basic Don’ts that we think can help you in surviving this undulating, unforgiving desert.

WARNING: This list contains some images that are quite disturbing. You have also probably read these rules before. This just goes to show how important it is to follow them. Seriously.

1. Do not bring and eat PORK.

Bringing in and eating pork and pork products is a no-no in Saudi Arabia because of their religion. The prohibition is stated in their Holy Qu'ran. So before you go here, stuff yourself silly with lechon, pork sisig, bacon, and dinuguan so you'll not miss them. They will not be found here. Also, do not be pasaway in bringing in canned pork products. Yes, that includes pork and beans (even if the pork is not visible most of the time)! Be prepared to eat chicken, beef, fish, chicken, beef, fish. Feel free to alter the sequence weekly.

2. Do not drink alcohol.

Unlike in other countries where consumption of alcohol is acceptable, here in Saudi Arabia it is prohibited. Drinking of beer or any kind of alcoholic drinks (wine, spiked beverages, etc.) is forbidden. In other words, huwag dalhin ang pagiging sunog-baga dito sa Saudi Arabia! If you know you're an alcoholic yet you're bound to go here, prepare yourself for a gut-wrenching withdrawal process. If you're an average drinker, then start drowning yourself with beer days before your flight. You will really miss it. And oh, avoid asking for alcoholic beverages in the plane okay? You're not supposed to arrive drunk! (Well, alcoholic beverages might not be available on their menu anyway, beh!)

3. Do not practice your own religion.

photo credit: http://www.sweden.se

Unless you are Muslim, you cannot practice your religion here. Saudi Arabia is the seat of Islam. The two holy cities of Mecca and Madina are found here. This country has a population of 20 million and all of them are Muslims so please, avoid practicing your religion outright. We know most Filipinos are devout Catholics and we practice our faith by going to mass, making the sign of the cross, praying the rosary, celebrating sacraments and holidays, etc. but we cannot freely do these here. First and foremost, there are no churches and priests around. There are other ways of showing our devotion. After all, worshipping and praying can be done within ourselves. It just takes the heart and the soul to do it. He will understand.

4. Do not bring illegal drugs.

photo credit: http://www.photobucket.com

Of course illegal drugs are prohibited anywhere but just be extremely cautious here in Saudi Arabia. If you are caught with illegal drugs, it will cost you your life. You can choose between beheading and life imprisonment. Sounds fun, yes? So please, if you value your life and your family's lives, do not have anything to do with illegal drugs. For first-timers, be cautious of people in the airport who will make pasuyo in bringing in items for them. Who knows what's inside that envelope or gadget box? Say "no" politely or come up with an excuse such as "Ermn, my luggage is already full" or "Sorry, I'm really paranoid with stuff I didn't pack myself. That might lead me to trouble" and eye the item suspiciously.

5. Do not engage in PDA.

photo credit: http://blog.thestar.com

Married or not, avoid showing public displays of affection. It extremely irritates the muttawas. Yep, it's better to be livid and boring than be romantic and passionate... in prison, and apart. So control those lovey-dovey emotions while shopping, doing the grocery, strolling, picnicking, etc. Reserve them for the comfort of your homes. Yes, KJ na kung KJ! But, holding hands is acceptable for married couples. Okay na yan kesa wala? :P

6. Do not bring pornographic materials with you.

Hold it in guys, hold it in. If you are caught having or bringing films, magazines, photographs or other materials that contain sexually explicit materials, you'll face imprisonment. Better to leave your stash of FHMs and Maxim in the Philippines, boys. It's also advisable that when bringing in USBs, laptops, DVDs, and hard disks in the country, erase all photos and videos that might be deemed "pornographic" like your summer photos in Galera where you were wearing your fantabulous swimsuit while sunbathing or photos and videos of you smooching your bf/gf (that you wished to become a scandal of some sort in Pinas). They randomly check this stuff in the airport and who knows, baka ikaw ang maswerteng mapili for the day!

7. Do not mix and match.

Simply put, guys and girls who are not related in any way cannot be seen together in public. Oh yeah, even if you're related like being brother-sister or cousins, you cannot still be together in public. Do not mingle. Avoid making too much eye contact. Married women must be in the company of their husbands and single ladies must be accompanied by their fathers/sponsors when going out. Mostly, nurses go out through their company's transpo services but they must at all times be with women companions only. In going out, women must only be driven around by their designated drivers aka and husbands.

8. Do not engage in pre-marital fornication.

photo credit: Aexton

Obviously, we're trying to be modest in saying "fornication" when all we want to say is premarital sex. This is a rule for all of us everywhere but of course, we have different stands and views on pre-marital sex. It's just that here in Saudi, your views on it don't matter. When caught engaging in pre-marital fornication, you'll be punished with up to 100 lashes. And when you're single and you accidentally got pregnant, consider yourself doomed. Or okay maybe not as long as you leave the country pronto. But if not, you'll have a hard time giving birth in the hospitals here (and manghihilots are not that easy to find).

Committing adultery is a different matter but we just want to say that if caught, you'll be stoned to death. As in. Stoning is as old as time but believe it or not, they still practice it today. (This is Saudi Arabia so you better believe!)

9. Do not forget to wear the abaya when going out.

photo credit: http://www.nowpublic.com

This is their take on being dressed modestly... by covering yourself up! So ladies, please do not forget to wear the black overgarment when leaving the house. We know the urge to dress fashionably and all but let's follow their rules mmmkay? After all, we chose to be here, so we chose to adhere to their rules. Besides, just seeing how the religious police enforce the dress code will make you hide literally. Wear the tarha (veil) as well. Just think of this as a challenge. How can you strut your stuff and be fashionable while wearing the abaya?! Hmn, tough stuff? We Pink Tarha girls don't think so! Kahit na ano pa ang damit mo, nasa pagdadala lang yan.

10. Do not drive.

photo credit: http://www.theglobalvoice.com

We're talking to females here. Saudi Arabia is the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive. It has always been a great debate why and when this right should be given so while they're at it, let's not drive. Besides, if you see how some maniacs men drive here, you'll be grateful for this law. But of course, it will be great if women are given the right to decide for ourselves if we want to drive or not.

Respecting one’s culture is so basic, it shouldn't even be discussed but if you're a new member of a society like Saudi Arabia, you need to be extra respectful and cautious. Learn to adapt and adjust. Be prepared! Ignorance is not an excuse. Besides, their culture is already established even before we were born so DEAL WITH IT!

Surviving here doesn't really require you to OUTWIT, OUTPLAY, OUTLAST. You just have to BE SMART, BEEF UP, and ADJUST!

This is the fourth of the Life Line Series. For other guidelines, click here.
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