Saturday, October 29, 2011

Addressing Adresses

Eyecandy and Sampaguita Pride grew up in Riyadh. Shoegarfreeruby has been here for 10 years. Me? Nearing 4 years. And you know what's odd? We still don't know where we live exactly. Uhuh. Let me explain.

When you ask one of us where we live, we will answer you with "at the back of Nafoura Restaurant" or "near King Fahd Medical City." There's no specific answer. Because like everything else you'll find in Riyadh, KSA, the address/location system is unique and one-of-a-kind.

Folks who are living outside Saudi Arabia, here are a few things you need to remember about an address here in Riyadh.

1. We live in P.O. Boxes. Okay, not exactly LIVE there because we wouldn't fit but addresses are P.O. Boxes. There are no flat numbers, apartment numbers, and street names like normal addresses have. Most of us use the P.O. Box of the companies where we work instead of where we live (houses and flats) because we don't avail of our own.

These are not the usual P.O. Boxes in Riyadh. I hope.
For example, a nurse working in King Fahad Medical City can use this address:
[name]
[department]
P.O. Box 59046
Riyadh 11525
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Take note that you don't even have to specify the hospital or company. The P.O. box number and zip codes are the important things to put there. Most companies and hospitals have their own mail room that sorts and distributes mails and packages. If it was following the Philippine address system, it would have went like this:

[name]
Department of Pediatrics
Room 62, Building 26
King Fahad Medical City
Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Bin Julowi St.
Suleimania, Riyadh
11525, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

It is longer so having a P.O. box has its own advantages. One disadvantage though of having a P.O. box as an address is when we shop online. Some stores do not ship to P.O. boxes. Sometimes, I have to contact their customer service and tell them that hey, it's all we have here in Saudi Arabia! So I hope stores like that are reading this.

2. Houses and buildings have no identification numbers. They have numbers alright but they're mostly ignored. You will not usually see them in our address. We just know them and would use that to direct relatives and friends who are coming over. I use all prominent landmarks around our place to direct people. For example... here's a conversation I have when ordering for delivery.
Resto Guy (RG): Hello.
Me: Hi, I'm ordering for delivery. Here's my order (blah blah).
RG: Where are you located?
Me: In Dabab St., turn right to Ar Razi St. The street going to Military Hospital.
RG: Where exactly?
Me: Uh, building 25, flat number 3.
RG: Where is that? Near Military Hospital?
Me: Uh, a few blocks away from the hospital.
RG: Blocks?
Me: I mean, not so near. I mean, a little bit. (HUH?!)
RG: Uhhhh...
Me: The building is beside DHL, across Little Ceasar's...
RG: Okay, I will just tell the driver to call you.
It gets frustrating that's why whenever we order for delivery, the father insists that I call. Why does it always have to be me?! Hehe. Of course, that would've been easier if I can speak Arabic or the operator (or the driver) can speak English. Some delivery guys find the right street and just cruise up and down until they find the right building. Btw, that in the conversation is a true location but it's not where our flat is located so please don't stalk. Hahaha. Jk.

3. Street names here are long and winding roads. Imagine saying to someone, "We just live in the corner of Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Bin Julowi St. and Al Amir Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz St... kuha mo?!" Most popular roads have, thank goodness, shorter names like Olaya, Mecca, and Oruba. Some have nicknames which are totally unrelated to their real names seen on maps. For example, Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Bin Julowi St. is better known as Dabab St. while Al Amir Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz St. is better known as Thalateen St. The parallel street named Al Amir Mohammed Ibn Abdul Aziz St. (spotted the difference?) is known as the hip and happenin' street of Tahlia. Confused much?

Oh, and if the confusion is not enough, they're also spelled in various ways. Tahlia can be Thalia, Tahaliya, Talia... Takhasussi can be plain Takasusi, complicated Thakhassusi, or longer Takhassousi. Spell them however you like to pronounce them. Go! :)

4. Floors are counted as ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc. It's different from how we count in the Philippines where we consider the ground as first floor and so on. Sometimes there are some buildings who follow that so to each his own. No one said there's uniformity around here. Haha. Thankfully, no one lives in sky-high condominiums with 40 floors. Not yet.

Eeenie meenie miny moo, to what store should I go?
5. Most store signs are in Arabic, especially the ones in the older areas of the city. It makes it more difficult to find the right store for foreigners and expats unless it's a common store for something. Some stores look like offices from the outside and it's upon you to guess what they are correctly. Hope the store keeper or manager speaks English.

And just to remind you... Riyadh is not just a city. It's also a province. So there's a Riyadh City located in Riyadh Province (ArRiyadh). It's like Tarlac City in Tarlac province in the Philippines. There's also a "Riyadh Center" symbolized by a circle with a dot in the middle on most road signs. We don't really know what is within the city center and where it ends but we just take it as this: if you're near the Faisaliah and Kingdom Towers (two highest buildings in Riyadh), then you're still in the city center. Once you get out of range of the two (meaning if you see them in your horizon like needles sticking out of the sand), consider yourself out of the center and into the outskirts.

The faraway hazy area? That's the outskirts and beyond.
Needless to say, it's confusing to find a specific address here unless they're prominent and famous. It's always been a must to provide maps to a specific destination, especially if we're talking residential. We wonder how ambulances, fire trucks, and police find the places when they get emergency calls. We guess local knowledge really helps a lot. But what if you're new in the city? What if you don't go out as much? What if you rely on Google Map, Wikipedia, and GPS coordinates?

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR WAY IN RIYADH?

Do it the Pink Tarha style! Tips on the next entry! Hope you don't lose your way before then. ;)

*Click on photo for photo sources and credit. 

§undrenched

2 had something to say:

Janis said...

i can totally relate not knowing my address.. i used to live in a duplex and my neighbor refuses to share the house #, hence, ours remained numberless.

whenever the pizza delivery boy asks me the house no., I would just say, we do not have a house no. and he'd just have to guess which one's my house.

it's bananas!

my yellow bells said...

ahahahah its almost the same here, "we live in P.O. Boxes" only it is different that in Dubai we have a lot of tall really tall buildings and a lot of different communities like city in a city

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