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If you want something done, get someone else to do it.

It’s been four days since I arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and it feels like a month. I don’t even know what to say. This is probably a bit of a weird time to post on here considering that I just had the shittest day. Ever. I’m sure I’ve just drifted in and out of tears all day. Let me just say a few things about Saudi Arabia.

Today was technically supposed to be the first day working at Princess Nora University. There being no system in place in Saudi, being told to be at a certain place at a certain time leaves so much room for creativity and interpretation, it’s remarkable. I think we waited for almost five hours, doing absolutely nothing before being told to leave and to come back the next day at the crack of dawn.  My soul spewed a bit of blood at that, but I shan’t despair. I’ve learned to just laugh at the general incompetency of how things are run here. You kind of have to otherwise your hairline may recede. On a brighter note, PNU is one of the most beautiful university buildings I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t even say how huge the campus is – there is a train system that travels throughout the building. That should speak thousands. It makes me resent the university buildings that we have in London, melting in the concrete backdrop of the polluted city, tucked away behind grimy stations. PNU, with its ridiculously large campus, is surrounded by beautiful gates with palm trees all around. It looks like something from a picture. Pictures to follow!

Being a university for women, it was amazing seeing the transformations of all the students when entering the building. After they flood inside in large groups, wearing the obligatory abaya and some also wearing the niqab (black veil that covers the face only leaving the eyes), as soon as they pass through the entrance it was abaya’s off and niqabs out, unveiling a swarm of beautiful young women with their long tresses of thick Arabian hair. One thing I really think I should mention of the girls is that their eyebrow game is STRONG AS F**K. God dayum.

Anyway, now I will moan about some stuff.

I’ve learned that the best and most efficient way to get things done around here is to get someone else to do it for you. Yeah. And that’s not even being lazy; it’s generally how things happen in this country. For the most reason, women don’t do anything for themselves, but that’s because they can’t. Women don’t travel alone – you won’t see them walking around outside and you definitely won’t see any women getting a taxi alone. The only places where I’ve seen women actually doing things without their husband or male relative is in the supermarkets and shopping centers. Here they are left to roam as they please, until they have finished and their husband is waiting for them in the car.

This being said, it is virtually impossible to get any things done. Here’s just one example. My colleague and I ventured out in search of purchasing a decent WiFi connection. You see, our concierge has insisted many times that he’s getting a stable connection installed but if I’ve learned anything in these last few days, it’s that “okay” means “whatever”, “wait” means “I don’t know what to do with you so I’m just going to leave you in the corner for a bit” and “soon” means “NEVER”. So we decided to get our own for our apartments. Thinking nothing of it, we walked into the store and instantly we were shot cold looks of hostility. We were the only women in the store and apparently the men were not pleased about it. They muttered underneath their breath in Arabic saying things like “they think this is America” and some variations of the word ‘shameful’. They continued to glare at us as though we were spectacles to be gawked at and prodded.

In that moment, I was more aware of my gender than I had ever been in my entire life. Never had to think about whether I, as a woman would be allowed in to certain places (apart from the male toilets of course), yet here I was, in the middle of this female shaming room wanting the ground to open up and swallow my face up. Actually, that’s not the only thing that I wanted to happen, but whatever. The men settled down after joking amongst themselves that we were unruly until we were seen by one of the male staff and I spoke to him in Arabic. This confused the men as I assume that they were convinced that we couldn’t understand. They did look quite embarrassed, which was good. Rude.

As well as that, we got locked out of a shop again today because of the sunset prayer, which we stupidly forgot about. I really need to start carrying the prayer times with me otherwise I’m going to start having panic attacks. The worse thing about being stuck outside during prayer times when everything closes is the looks you get from the men. I’m not sure if they disapprove because we’re outside in general or that we should be inside praying but it’s so unsettling and it makes my blood boil. One of these days I’d really like to give them a piece of my mind, but of course that can’t happen so I must keep my head down and shut the f**k up.

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I don’t have a name for this post.

When I woke up this morning, I completely forgot that I was in Riyadh. It was such a weird feeling. I woke up to the sound of the Adhaan (the Muslim call to prayer) quite loud outside of my window and actually, it was really quite nice. I can’t explain how, but it just was. Anyway.

This country is warm. It’s so damn warm. Today I made my first trek into the world outside of my apartment. One word. Dusty. Despite the fact that it’s over 40 degrees today, it really is bearable, not like the sticky yucky heat we get in England. I also lost my sunglasses somehow, which was great. WEEPS.

Getting around Riyadh is a bit of a nightmare. No, it’s an absolute nightmare. First of all, women are not permitted to drive, which is just great. Taxi drivers are mostly Asian so not only do they not speak English, they don’t speak much Arabic either. How does this make sense?! Alright, that’s an exaggeration, I’ve had ONE taxi driver who was Asian. Lol. But more importantly, everything looks the same. I mean, completely the same. The roads all look similar, it’s so hard working out which way you came from and which way you need to go, especially seeing as the taxi norm here is not to tell the driver where you would like to go, but to have a dialogue that goes a little something like this:

“Left please. Then right. Go straight”

“Straight where?”

“Straight here!”

“No, I go other way.”

Like, what? How is this how it’s done? Why don’t they have Sat Navs? Or why does nobody here use addresses? Who knows.

One thing I realised today that I should have already known was the importance of prayer times in Riyadh. Honestly, I think it will prove more useful carrying the prayer times around with me than a debit card. The Muslim call to prayer happens five times a day – one at sunrise, one just before noon, one in the afternoon, one at sunset and one in the evening. During the prayer, every shop closes for up to 30 minutes – a bummer when you’re in the middle of doing a food shop, which I can say I experienced today. Just as I was mulling over a purchase of pickled cucumbers, the lights went out and I was trapped! Bit annoying.

Something I feel as though as I simply must address is the laid back, lax attitude that seems to consume every Saudi here. There is a lingering feeling of chill in the atmosphere – there are hardly any systems in place and everything you say or ask will most likely be answered with “inshallah” and/or “Just wait a bit”. This can be so infuriating, as inshallah means ‘if God wills it’, I sometimes think that they just say that because they have no intention on actually acting on whatever your request is, or they know that God is indeed not willing, and they couldn’t care less. Either way, it’s annoying and it should stop. Case in point: i’m in a two bedroom apartment, which is pretty glorious and spacious, but I’m being moved into another apartment because it wasn’t ready when I arrived. Wait, what? When I asked how long it would take for my new apartment to be ready so I could get a move on with unpacking, he then replies with, “soon, he just started it now”. Lol kill me in my face. Then I told him to just let me know as soon as its ready to which he replies with, “Inshallah”. Like, hold on just a minute. Why would God not will for you to tell me when my apartment is ready? Why would He object to that? Anyways.

I should probably say that although there are those little inconveniences, it would be unfair of me to not credit Riyadh where it’s due. I actually really like it already, I do like the relaxedness of it all (is relaxedness even a word?) and I do like the fact that urgency just does not exist in this country. I don’t like urgency. I don’t think urgency ever helps anyone. It’s also very friendly, from what I’ve seen anyway. From when I arrived at King Khaled International Airport, through to now, I’ve had help with bags, shopping, taxi’s, and all the rest of it. I’ve noticed that a woman who appears to be alone will never carry bags if there are men around, they just come and do it for you. I think that’s really sweet. I didn’t even have to take my shopping from the car to my apartment myself. It’s good stuff. One of the concierge is called Omar, and I’ve already decided that he’s a top lad. He makes a lot of unfunny jokes and is always singing really loudly whilst listening to his iPod – right now he’s singing an arab love song and it’s hilarious. I will make him my pal. Riyadh is also very very cheap – I just did a legit shop for £30, and that included a cooking pan and some towels. WOOPEE!!!

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TARTS

I know that this blog is intended for the use of writing about my time working abroad and I intended to fill it with lots of fascinating cultural and worldly things but then this chocolate tart happened and I don’t care. CHECK IT BITCHES.

Since I went vegan, my baking game has not been strong. It has not been strong at all. And whilst this upset me for a very long time, it also opened this thing of determination inside of me. I know that vegan baking can be done, I see it online all the time but I just couldn’t manage it without crying tears of cake withdrawal into lumpy vegan cake batter.

I tried chocolate brownies, which refused to actually bake and resulted in lumpy gooey chocolatey shit. I tried a normal sponge and that just hardened into crusty crap and the list just went on until I considered sacking veganism off. No I’m joking, that’s ridiculous. I managed a banana bread which was quite good but it tastes most unagreeable the next day so I definitely messed it up. I need to just throw it out there that I’m a glorious baker, and used to frequently whip up cakes of deliciousness, ask anyone. So its not me. It’s veganism.

So! Here is an actual successful dark chocolate and coconut tart. 100% vegan, 80% raw and a million percent sex. Have at it.

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Now, it may not look pretty and perfect but you know what they say, messiest is bestiest. Nobody says that and I know that’s not a word but I’m a bit high on chocolate ATM.

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I should also say that the base of this tart was a very lazy attempt, so before I make more to really nail the perfect base, I used some good old digestive bickies.

Dark Chocolate and Coconut Tart

Ingredients:

For the base:
1 pack of digestive biscuits (any brand you like but check ingredients if going for a vegan option)
3 tbsp raw agave syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter

For the ganache:
200g good quality dark chocolate
1 can coconut milk
2tbsp dark soft brown sugar (optional)

Method

To make the base: Put the biscuits in a sandwich bag and using a rolling pin, or your bare fist if that’s what  you’re about, smash them up until they resemble a fine flour like consistency. Alternatively, put in a food processor.

Add the melted coconut oil or butter depending on which you are using, along with the agave nectar. Mix evenly and press down on a tart tin or regular cake tin if you haven’t got one until evenly covered. Press some of the mixture around the tin.

Bake in a preheated oven for 6 to 10 minutes then put aside to cool.

To make the ganache, break the chocolate in small pieces and place in a large glass bowl.

Heat the coconut milk in a pan,  and bring to a slight boil. Pour over the chocolate, let stand for one minute and then slowly fold together until creamy and beautiful.

Pour the chocolate and coconut mixture into the tart base and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.

Shove it in your face and be a happy person.

Happy Tuesday 🙂