A livin’ in KSA-personal “meme” 

(View within the Haraam-taken by me, April 2010)

I’m right now going through the bazillions of pictures we took during our Omrah and trip to Medinah (okay, maybe not a bazillion…but its a LOT anyway AND spread between my camera and my husbands camera…so en’shallah in a few days I’ll have a proper LONG post up about it-or atleast the beginnings of one. LOL…)

So in the meantime, as I was beginning to pack up items which we will not really need for the next two months that we remain here—uh “winter” clothing, more abayaat (really, how many do I need at one time? LOL)…excess scarves (um?), excess stuff and lots of random books weve found at Jareer bookstore and other places. I got to thinking that I really ought to do an updated “how life in KSA has affected my lifestyle/clothing” sorta Islamic clothing meme thing, similar to what I did last August, before I left the States.

anyway so, here goes… Let me know what you think!


First non-clothing related items

So, my favorite in this topic would be perfumes and bokhoor/ouds…

Although i’m still a bit shotty on what exactly IS bokhoor verses oud and soforth…I know that oud is a scent. The scent that comes from Agarwood BUT its also used rather ubiquitously for any scent that smells uniquely “Arabian” like with scents of musk, agarwood, etc…while bokhoor is what you burn and isn’t necessarily a scent. But still…ah the confusion!


MY husband and I have both developed a severe addiction to bokhoor/oud and “arabian” perfumes…our idea of a good time is going to the mall and going from perfume shop to perfume shop smelling samples and buying like 1/3rd tola sizes of the scents. My husband loves musk and the real oud scent-which is very potent and overwhelming at first whiff but mellows down nicely. There are what seem thousands of different versions of the oud scent and some are extremely expensive. Some of the real oud essence (in an oil base) are a couple hundred US dollars for a tola, while other ones which are equally authentic are under a hundred…I think the price varies due to the quality and where the agarwood is sourced from.

I prefer oudy-florally scents…like Arabian scents for women. Floral scents are incredible here, you can get many different kinds of rose scents for example…Istanbuli rose, Taifi rose, plain rose, etc etc and there are varying degrees of quality and essence strength. There are also luscious floral blends called “attar al-zohoor” and every shop has their own blends. They use rose, jasmine and other floral scents. And the nice thing about these oil based essences is they last on the skin for an incredibly long time! One little dab will last all day and scent your clothing, hair, everything. The very, very strong pure oud will last on the skin for several days, even withstanding showers!

Here are my two favorites…

The big spray perfume is from Junaid which is a really old perfume company originally from Bahrain and is called Ihsaas, its a very soft, feminine/fruity scent. Although I dont normally go for fruity scents…I really adore Ihsaas. Since its not an oil based essence it doesnt last as long as those kinds. The smaller 1/3rd tola container is pure zaffron perfume essence from Al-Haramain. Again, I prefer floral/oudy scents but the scent of Zaffron is just too incredible and my husband likes it too.

Here is a picture of our bokhoor burner, its called, I believe its called a “mobakhar”. Basically you put a piece of smoldering charcoal inside the metal grill inside and place the bokhoor or wood on top and it burns, sending up scented smoke! Its delightful! And…in the malls, many, many shops burn bokhoor outside of their shops so when you walk into a mall here they are usually well-scented and smell fab. Though, I reckon those with severe allergies to anything smoky would have a problem though.

On the body care-front…

The Moroccan Hammam stuff is extremely popular here! The gooey, stinky Olive oil soap-leftover sludge stuff is sold in huge tubs here along with small containers of greyish-clay (ghassoul?) and a soap which I think is Olive-oil based but doesnt smell like it, most popular kind is the Taous brand. Anyway, you can buy all of these separately and very, very cheaply or smaller sizes in a box as a “one-stop-shop” sort of kit. They come with rough scrubby mits.

When done right…all of this stuff will leave you feeling extremely refreshed, well-scrubbed, pink and shiny! hehehee. scrub-down routine,only big difference is everyone in Iran everyone uses these balls of white clay which you either break a part or crush in your hands and rub along your body or use the whole ball and rub, rub, rub! They exfoliate and apparently whiten the skin (!!!), but both dh and I prefer the Moroccan-style hammam scrub-down now as it cleans the body much better. Plus, dh has very, very oily skin and hair and well, this stuff really gets him nicely dried out for a bit. teehee.

So, this is what you do…or can do…you first take some of the clay and you add it to some really hot water, let it soak, break up and become sort of paste-y. Then you slather it on your hair, face and body. Sit and let it dry. Wash off and then slather yourself with the olive oil sludge-it stinks and feels really, really icky but man, does it work! Rub in and let sit for a few minutes and then scrub with the mit everywhere as hard as you can. Layers of dead skin peel right off! Then you wash it off with the Taous soap and…voila! Some of the cleanest skin out there!

Onward to food!

One big downside to being here is boredom, lack of exercise (especially for women) and then eating to comfort yourself—all the expat women I know have this same problem, regardless of where they come from. The Lebanese women (both Muslim and Christian) are by far the worst at handling it-I think-because they also smoke excessively and drink way too much coffee! So yah, Ive obviously gained weight and am looking forward to loosing it when we return to the States.

But, c’est le vie.


So when dh and I first arrived we saw this Persian rrestaurant in the local malls; Isfahani and were balled out, like WOW! You mean we can get chelo, and kabab and everything else at the mall!?! whoh! So we splurged and got a big meal…

BUT, to say the food sucked is indeed an understatement! It was really, really far from being anything near to delicious or authentic. Ah well…IT was a mall food chain. But, shucks…we were so upset!

Their ash-e reshteh was…um, I dont even know what and their gormeh sabzi was equally strange…just everything was really, way off! It really saddens me when I go to the food court and see Saudi’s lined up infront of the spot, thinking its good food. Oh and its not just us who disliked it, several Persian-American/Canadian women who live on this compound also told us similar stories –one women even took some friends there to give them a taste of Persian food and man, she was angry! She apparently called the manager and chewed him out.

There is a *nicer* Persian restaurant down by the Corniche but its a big joke too…even though the manager IS Iranian and he walks around and greets everyone…but still…its quite unsatisfactory!

BUT, the bag is pretty so I kept it! LOL

Onto yummier thing…

First off…YES we do indeed have this here too! 10 points to whomever can guess the brand. Even though they say its not from concentrate…this orange juice doesn’t taste as good as the same kind sold in the US-I guess because of its being shipped over and packaged here.

Ahhh…dates…dh and I have always loved dates but in the US most are old and stale and dry-even at the good Arab/ME shops and we’d only ever get to eat real, fresh, juicy dates in Iran where they are brought in from the far south in BIG tubs (real dibs anyone? yum!) but here…fresh dates are everywhere, they are evening hanging offa the trees! But, the kind which we love the most is this kind…

They are really dry on the outside and seem hard, but on the inside are soft and very sweet. They aren’t sticky or juicy but have a very delicious taste thats all their own. Great for outings because they don’t get your hands gooey.

Oh and ofcourse I can’t forget ramen! You might be surprised to learn-I know I was…that Ramen is a VERY important item in the Saudi diet!! Saudi’s LOVE Ramen…they call it by its brand name “indomei” (sorta like how Americans call tissues by Kleenex or diapers by the name Pampers). Seriously, ramen is an important food item here! And, its not something reserved just for poor students or low-wage laborers (unlike in the US where ramen is considered a food for poor, young people trying to make it on their own and University students). Here its eaten by the whole family!

The most popular brand is…ofcourse IndoMei…with the fried Noodles being the most popular. There are other knock-off bands like Toya, Kantik and one from UAE called Jenan. Now, while Ramen here does have MSG…all of them are a bit more “natural” than ramen in the US.  Ramen in the US is full of weird, random crude you cant pronounce…here other than the MSG-they aren’t too bad and the Jenan brand is targeted to parents as something to serve to kids so they add a lot of vitamins to it and Kantik brand has a small packet of vitamin powder you can add after its done cooking.  Needless to say, fatty but yummmmmmmmmmmmmy!


Second-yup…you guessed it! Clothing related items.

(Adjusting glasses in the Masjid an-Nabi in Medinah)

Okay so originally I had wanted to finish this a few days ago, but for a few days it was next to impossible to log ino WP and several other online apps which I use frequently. Alhamdullah, things seem to be back to normal now.


I admit to becoming weirdly obsessed with shoes since coming here. I think I mentioned in my previous meme that I always found it difficult to find shoes which fit right and were comfortable. Well, for some reason upon coming here, my feet have changed and I can now wear shoes which in the US would have given me problems. LOL!

For example…I never wore shoes with any sort of height to them OR flats as they would invariably dig in somewhere…BUT…the shoes here are SOOOOOOOOOOO cute! mashallah, since women here usually just wear all black the shoes (and bag) are the accessories and even the most covered up Saudi women will sport a pair of bright, flashy shoes to show a bit of her personality!

I love that! And, unlike in the US where all the cute shoes are invariably quite expensive, here shoes which come from the Western brands are just outrageously expensive (Even the cheapo shoes places like Payless Shoes are double/triple US prices!) Here, you can get really adorable and surprisingly comfortable shoes for the US equiv. of $5-7 everywhere and they last a surprisingly long time. The styles are really nice with both plainer, simplier styles and really outrageous, splashy styles. Also, since most Saudi women are exremely petite and short, many of the shoes have 1 inch “kitten” heels or are similar to clogs.

Here are my two favorite pairs sofar…I have a ton of shoes now, but these go with everything and given how cheap they were, they have lasted a long time and fit really well! And, you can’t imgine how many months it took me to find a pair of PLAIN black flats! I kep finding black flats with random stuff on them.

The navy clogs are soooo comfy and work well with the longer abayaat I have.

There are some really cute, brightly colored summer flats Ive been seeing around, so i’m going try to spice things up and get a few of those soon too. *teehee*


Well, Ive obviously been buying a lot of new scarves! Some “khaleeji” style black shaylahs and some colorful stuff. Since I prefer simplier designs I havent bought anything too flashy, becuase…well…here they attract too much attention and in the US, they would be a bit much too. but, I do admit to drooling over them.

This is my favorite scarf;

Okay, you might say…okay, what da heck? Its just plain black! Whats so special about that?

Okay, yah on the surface and from the pic it looks very plain jane. BUT, its actually an INCREDIBLE scarf and one in which I think every covering sister should have atleast one in her wardrobe…that of a luxury quality shaylah! This shaylah is from an upscale abaya/shaylah boutique here in the Gulf region and was rather on the expensive side, BUT, is worth every halala! Its a whopping 2 meters long and 1 meter wide! Its HUGE and is made out a substantial feeling yet light as air crepe that is unlike anything you could ever hope to get anywhere outside of this region. It has sturdy serging on all the edges. Really, its incredible! I can wrap around my head 2 times and still have a huge piece which drapes over my front.

really, I love this shaylah. LOL

Ive also developed the  ability to wrap my shaylahs sans pins and sans underscarf-totally local style where you just wrap and go. And, unless I’m using a scarf with a slippery texture, then there is little or no slidage involved.

Here are some other scarves in my collection;

Those two scarves are from UAE but I purchased them here in KSA-a huge difference I noticed between UAE shaylahs and KSA shaylahs is UAE shaylahs tend to be made from a sheerer crepe which is much lighter than KSA shaylahs. Even the cheapest crepe shaylahs here in KSA are quite opaque in comparison. I dont wear those two above, too much as I have to wrap them in a particular fashion to achieve opacity and coverage, but they do look lovely with a plain black abaya and black flats and a matching purse.

This one above is pure silk and 2 layers from the UAE boutiqe My Fair Lady which is popular for its very lush shaylahs and even more lush matching abayaat! The crepe they use is incredible and unlike anything Ive felt anywhere else here in KSA.


6 thoughts on “A livin’ in KSA-personal “meme” 

  1. So do I get 10 pts for the florida natural oj? lol
    I really liked this post.
    I want to try some of that exfoliating bath stuff too!

  2. You should totally sell the Moroccan products; they are extremely expensive in the west. The squishy soap in the jar is called ‘Sabon Noir Baladi’, it is olive oil based. The solid soaps depicted I believe they are argan oil soaps; this is why they smell different. The grey clay is called ghassoul in some berber dialects; rhassoul in others. There is a very fine grade of it which is more suitable for facial use; but it is extremely difficult if not imposssible to obtain in the west, do they have it over there? It looks like powder as opposed to jagged lumps of clay; and is a bit more of a taupe colour.

  3. Assalamu’alaikum! Hi, I’m from Indonesia. Masha Allah you’ve just experienced a great trip to Makkah. Just for your information…Indomie is an instant noodle brand originated from Indonesia. ‘Mie’ means noodle. It’s a very widely known brand here. Glad to know that you like it too…:)

    • Jazakhallakhair for your tidbit. I did infact know this as I studied a wee bit of bahasa Malayu in University-just on the side and Indonesia and Malayu are similar and use the same words…mi, nasi, etc…

      infact almost all the Ramen here is from Indonesia or Thailand…via either UAE or here in KSA…cept for I think, Jenan which is UAE.

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