Bizarre Bazaar in Hofuf
Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
154Trip End May 28, 2011
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The drive was fine… about 45 minutes of desert highways with very little traffic, and we enjoyed driving Jeremy's 20 year old Mercedes 300 Coupe. Things got a bit more crowded as we entered Hofuf, but we are pretty used to middle eastern driving now. Who cares if someone in the right lane from you wants to turn left in front… that's what your brakes are for! And if you can’t get across a median strip while exiting a driveway, just turn left into the oncoming lanes until you get to an intersection.
We went to the newest mall in town, the Al Othaim. From our western perspective, what a bizarre bazaar! It is very modern and spiffy clean, with a lot of recognizable brand names like Starbucks (what do you think we drove 45 minutes for?), Body Shop, and so on
Out in the mall, women browers seemed to outnumber men, maybe 2 or 3 to one, but almost all were fully covered in black including full face covering. There was only the occasional woman with no head covering, including Pat, but they all seemed to be ethnic Asians. The majority of male shoppers wore the thobe and headscarf, but all of the male shopkeepers wore shirt and slacks. And speaking of which, there was not a single woman worker in the whole mall. Every shop and café was entirely staffed by men, as required by law. Most bizarre is that many of the shops sold very flamboyant and often sexy women’s clothes and lingerie, often flimsily draped (by men I guess) on half naked mannikins, but the sales clerks were all men! I don’t know who does the bra fittings!
The range and expensive flamboyance of the women’s clothes was amazing, especially given that they can’t wear them
There were a number of kids stores with very top end clothes and toys. Apparently the one way women can express themselves in public is by dressing up their kids. Interestingly, the photo displays in all of the kids shops had blond and blue-eyed tots. It is amazing that commercialism trumps culture just about everywhere.
The top floor of the mall’s three levels was a full fledged playland arcade for kids, with bump a cars (Saudi driving school), mini roller coasters, and even a flume ride! While we were looking at the kids to try to figure out why 8 to 14 year olds were not at school, it dawned on us that every one of them was a boy! Of a hundred some odd kids, not a single girl!
Around the circumference of the playland was a food court with all of the usual suspects, Krispy Kreme, Macdonalds, Popeyes, and many other less identifiable booths
We also stopped in to the 5 star Intercontinental Hotel on the way out of town. Boring! I think we’ll stick with the Udhailiyah “resort”.