My First Saudi Dinner Party...

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I'm lucky to have some very well connected friends here in Saudi.  A couple of weeks ago, my same friend who took me to the Saudi Grad Party invited me to join her for dinner at a local Saudi home.  (one of the girls she teaches at the college asked her over.)
My friend has been to this home before and she had told me that I wouldn't believe my eyes.
Now, I had been sick for about a week and I really didn't want to go, I just wanted to crawl in bed.  (and I almost did just that)  And, boy, would I have kicked myself for missing out on this night.
Her husband picked me up along with another friend of ours and drove us to the house.  This was at 7pm at night.  We pulled up to this building with white walls reaching at least 12ft high surrounding the whole property.  We walked up to a massive gate and waited for someone to let us in.  When the gates opened, my jaw hit the floor.  Let me correct that...my jaw hit the marble floor.  Marble tiles covered the entire courtyard...a courtyard large enough to hold two American football fields.  Now, here's the kicker...we were on the women's side.  Yes, just the women's side.  Through another massive gate I could see another courtyard...full of cars (naturally there would be no cars on the women's side)...that was the entrance to the men's house.
The only photo I got up the nerve to ask to take was when we were outside after dinner (around 11:30pm)...so, I'm sorry for the crappy quality, but I didn't want to push proper etiquette and bust out my massive DSL camera.  Anyway, this is a shot of the women's home.  Remember the only time women and men live together is if they are married or it's with immediate family (brothers, fathers, sons).  Something else, no?  (you can see the men's house tucked behind on the right)
 click on the photo to see it larger

So, we enter the front door and I have to keep my jaw from hitting the floor...again.  I could fit nearly my whole house in the foyer.  There are two massive chandeliers that were at least 4 feet across...each.  To the right (which we didn't get to see) we were told there was a large ballroom.  Straight ahead is a massive stairway that split off left and right at the top.  To the left was a large square room (the small lounge) where we went to sit and visit.  The room was decked out from top to bottom.  Complete with a sparkling chandelier in the middle.  The colors were done in spring green, pinks and gold.  There were 12 throne chairs (you know, with the high side arms) painted with gold trim and three couches (painted the same) large enough to hold at least three people. 
I asked about the house itself and was told. "there are 17 bedrooms and 25 bathrooms.  Each girl has a separate 'room' for their clothes (I'm guessing a closet...but one that is probably bigger than my master bedroom) Each house (men and women) has two dining rooms, two lounges (one large, one huge), and two kitchens."  So, you know, just a modest home.  The girls seemed a bit embarrassed when they mentioned that their friends call the house a palace...well, um, yeah, it is.   
Let me give you a little info on the family...The lady of the house has ten children. (her husband has passed on)  She has three sons and seven daughters.  All the daughters live in the home.  The wife of one of her son's also lives there.  She is the one who invited us.  
There we are in the room with the daughter-in-law (from here on referred to as DIL) and then the lady of the house comes to join us.  Saudi women greet each other by giving a kiss on one side of the cheek and then 5 to 6 pecks on the other cheek.  (yes, they do this every time they see each other...every time.)  
The lady of the house doesn't speak English so DIL was busy translating back and forth.  We were offered a variety of juice to drink.  (tip number one...you don't turn down anything)  After visiting for a bit, one of the daughters joins us.  We all stand...kisses all around...sit and continue chatting.  A little time later, another daughter comes.  Same routine.  (by now I'm already having a hell of a time trying to remember their names)  
Next, they bring out Arabic coffee (coffee made with cardamom...so different and so good) that is served in very small cups (similar to espresso) and dates.  
Another daughter arrives...up we go, kisses, etc.  After about two hours, all the daughters have arrived (along with a close friend and a couple of cousins)  They are having a grand time with me and laughing as I try to recall all their names.  One of the daughters has excelled in college and is trying to get a teaching job.  The oldest is a teacher in a small village that takes her an hour and a half...one way...to get to work each day.  They pick at one of their younger sisters who isn't as good in school and is majoring in, what we would call in the States, "home economics."  Her sisters find that funny.  The DIL has two sons but she just graduated college as well and is hoping to get a job too.  DIL's husband is a lawyer who attended Harvard in the States (and aced his classes).  They lived in Boston for four years and she told us how much she loved living there.    
During all our talking, they have brought out tea to drink as well as chocolates and dates.  It's nearing 10:30pm...about time to eat dinner.
We are ushered into the dining room where we find a table set for sixteen. (there are over 20 women present, but some chose to stay in the lounge)  There are twelve platters of food lined up down the table (enough to feed my family for weeks).  We all sit and then one of the daughters picks up my plate and begins to pile food on top.  She doesn't ask what I like, if I'm allergic to anything...just fills my plate and happily puts in back in front of me.  I'm sitting right next to the lady of the house who gives me a look like, "what are you waiting for?  eat!"  I have no idea if they ordered the food or if they cooked it, but either way it was really good.  I was so full, but kept eating to be polite.  The lady of the house made sure that I tucked in to my dessert as well (I wouldn't need to eat for a week.)
After dinner, everyone went to wash up.  Right near the dining table is an area with a beautiful sink and mirror.  You wash your hands, then on a table nearby they have a variety of scented oils, perfumes, and lotions.  You pick one, and rub it onto your hands and/or arms.  That was a new one for me!
Next, we went back into the lounge and more coffee was brought out.  We sat and talked for a bit and then some of the ladies wanted to go for a walk outside.  We asked to join them and followed the group out the front door where we just started to walk around the courtyard.  They showed us the other buildings that are built into the corners along the wall where they hold parties. (if they aren't using the ballroom in the house)  Large circular rooms perfect for dancing!  (they said that the next visit we would hang out in one of those rooms)  The girls were so excited to show us the different trees, herbs, and flowers they have growing in the yard.  They also have a large pool...but it's empty.  With little kids around, they worry about someone falling in.  So, instead of keeping it full, they just fill it whenever they want to swim and drain it after.  (of course, most of the girls don't know how to swim anyway...so it doesn't get much use)
We sat outside on the outdoor chairs and they showed us youtube videos of typical Arabic dancing and even a video showing the wedding of one of the princesses.  Pretty cool.  I really think they enjoyed sharing their culture with us.  
One thing is for sure, these girls oozed class.  They were beyond polite, always made sure we had drinks or snacks or whatever.  Not to mention, they were all beautiful...each with long black hair...the shortest was to her shoulders, the longest was past her derriere.  The tallest was about an inch shorter than me...so glad I didn't wear heels!  
It was a truly unforgettable experience...I'm so glad I was asked to go..and that I didn't crap out and stay home in bed!  Hoping to be able to go back soon and maybe I'll get up the nerve to ask to take a few shots of the inside of the house (making sure no one is in the pictures of course!)
And there you go...my first Saudi dinner party...what a way to get your expectations up!  lol



What an account of what would be for most people, a "once in a lifetime" experience!.....But, this is just becoming a part of your life in Saudi! As your uncle Eddie says, "Way to take your shoes off and get into the game!"

This very much reminds us of a palace in Morocco, where we were fortunate to have attended a royal wedding of sorts.... Maybe you and Matt will be invited back for such a grand occasion, since they all seemed to enjoy your company and one would assume, equally intrigued by you, and your culture!!

Speed Master

Hello Madam,

How are you,

My Name is Syed Musthafa Indian, got a Admin Officer job in YANBU

i am new reader of your blog, its nice,

soon i will be in Saudi, i am new to Saudi and new to foreign job. i need some
information's and advice from you about Saudi.

Request you please go through my mail, pl spend some time and reply

Did you ever heard about this company, did the pay good at every month

my placement goanna be in YANBU, it yanbu is nice place

Yanbu safe place to work for a foreigner

What are the main things I need to bring there?

How much money I bring with money till my 1st salary comes
My salary is Basic 3000 + Allowance 1500 == Total Gross Pay 4500
food + Accommodation + Travel + medical

but i need to take care my Break fast

How much cost for breakfast per month, i always eat very well in morning

How much cost for Internet connection per month, i need unlimited net
connectivity with good speed

How much cost for Telephone per month to India, i need to call my Mom
everyday in India and some calls that it any good plan

How much cost for Men Gym per month,

Is dresses is cheap then India. Or I bring dresses from here?

Normally in INDIA a Good quality Shirts & Jeans start from Rs 1000 (SAR 70+)
Is jean pants and T Shirts are allowed to wear in Saudi,
In office how the dressing should be?

In Saudi i heard there stricter to take photos?
Taking at beach with friends and places?

its offence against rules

Sorry i have asked Some much question, please reply


sommieh flower

Hi Staci,
I might take a job with Taibah University as an English teacher and they've told me I might be placed in Madinah or Yanbu. I know about Madinah but not Yanbu so I googled it and your blog came up. Sounds like you;ve adjusted pretty well to being there.. Can you tell me if the water is clean enough to swim it and if there is an oil smell everywhere? I mean that industrial smell you sometimes have near oil refineries ;-)
Sommieh Flower

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