In this part of the world, parties are not unheard of… if we’re talking about parties that have separate places for men and women. When you ask about parties that make men and women mingle with each other, you’ll probably receive blank looks.
We, Filipinos, of course attend parties with our families and friends so it’s hard to imagine a party with gender segregation. So how do we celebrate large gatherings like birthday parties or wedding receptions in Saudi Arabia? Through places called “isteraha.”
Isteraha in Exit 8.
Isterahas are gated compounds which house several big rooms for cooking, eating, and dancing/singing. Some isterahas have swimming pools and playgrounds. There’s a wide lawn for outdoor picnics too. Each compound is surrounded by high walls to keep in the noise and avoid prying eyes from nearby establishments. Some isterahas are big enough to accommodate vehicles inside. Parking though is always available outside. Rental rates go from 450SR on Fridays (5:00am to 12 midnight) to 600SR on Thursdays. There’s a cluster of isterahas off Exit 8 and another in Khurais road.
The good thing about isterahas is that they give us the freedom to celebrate parties with our loved ones without dividing the crowd. The bad thing about isterahas is that they also get raided by the religious police, especially during Christmas. Argh. No matter, it’s still good to know that Filipinos are enjoying occassions together, as one big happy family!