Sinners in Saudi

To think that I’ll be breaking up for the summer a few short months fills me with so much happiness. Nothing against Saudi Arabia, but damn, do I miss England. It’s the little things too – the coffee shops, the walks, the cold, not to mention the basic human rights/freedom.

But more than all of that, I miss not being a walking target simply because I have certain body parts. I miss not having to have a semi heart attack when I realise my leg or my arm is showing, for fear of being hounded by the so-called Religious Police. I miss not having to tune out the whistles, the degrading and sometimes abusive comments. I miss being able to go to the local shop without being thrown looks that could kill from all the men in this supposed men-only zone. I miss not having to rely on taxi’s and favours to get around. For a while, I tuned out the religious part of this country, mostly because I find it to be despicable, but also so that I wouldn’t go bonkers. It’s not really something to discuss, and even if it were, there would be nobody to discuss it with.

I can deal with the fact that women can’t drive, I can deal with covering up what my mama gave me, I can deal with alcohol being strictly illegal, I can deal with the fact that cinema’s, bars and pretty much anything fun is non existant and illegal in this country, I can deal with murder and theft bring punishable by amputation, torture and death (okay, not really but that’s an entirely separate blog post). I can also (with much sadness and depression), deal with the fact that all books go through strict regulation control before entering the country (because sex and violence) and therefore, it is basically a myth buying any books. I can deal with it. I can deal with all of it.

I can’t however, deal with the fact that this country hates women. Literally, they detest us so much. If they only remembered the fact that they came from one. At first I thought, no, they don’t hate women, they’re just old-fashioned. And I was fine believing that for a while, until I stopped blocking things out and realized this country and the men in it for what the really are. The looks they give. Oh, the looks of disgust the men will give a woman for no reason at all. They really don’t like that we’re even out of our houses. When I went to Jeddah a few weekends ago (Jeddah is just lovely btw, it’s so much more relaxed than Riyadh), a man shouted at me and then shouted at the air hostess because his seat number was next to mine. Yeah, for real. I was so confused and shocked at the fuss that he was making because his seat was next to mine. What’s more is that our seats weren’t even directly next to each other, there was an empty seat in between us but that was still too ghastly for him to imagine. It was awful, I wanted to tell him that I don’t have the lurgy’s you know, you won’t die.

It made me feel so crap about it all, ashamed almost. But at what? It’s hard to explain. But at that moment, I realized what the women in this country have ingrained in their minds so young. Just this one situation had me feeling so insecure, out of place and embarrassed to be a woman, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what goes on in the minds of the women who have been dealing with this their entire lives. It’s actually quite terrifying. And unfortunately, they just have to accept it.

Weirdly, a lot of the girls I’ve met here have said that they chose to come and work in Saudia so that they can work on their faith and their religion. Sorry? I just want to set a huge misconception straight. For any of you Muslims out there who might even feel the same way. Just listen.

Saudi Arabia is not, I repeat NOT somewhere to go if you want to “work on your faith/religion” (whatever that even means). It is not a place where you will feel lightened by the light of God or touched by the beautiful ways of the people who reside in the land of Islam. And you’re deluded if you think otherwise.

Lots of parents also think that they’re kids moving to Saudia will sort them out and will put them on the straight and narrow path. HA! Sorry but no. If anything, you will leave this place an alcoholic degenerate because there’s not much to do at all so when you manage to find some illegally brewed anything, you will chug it like you were back in college, and you’ll be pleased about it.

I know that’s all really harsh, but it is the truth on these particular issues. It’s frustrating, so very frustrating at times. When I think about these things, I remember Samantha Jones in Sex and the City when they all go to Abu Dhabi and her bag drops, creating a spill of about a million condoms and this happens:

I have sex!


It was a beautiful moment for everyone involved. But you see, the difference between wonderful Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia is that if this happened here, you would either be: arrested, whipped, deported.. I don’t know what else, but I’m sure that’s not all of it.

That was a lot of venting, and it feels good. I know I’ve painted a picture of an evil, horrible and unforgiving land, that’s not the case, it’s only a little bit of the case. It has nice stuff too. I don’t want to ruin the miserable tone of this blog post by saying positive things so maybe that will be my next one…


The Clean9 journey comes to an end!

I am fantasizing about coffee this week with an intense and powerful desire, as I’m on day 8 of the miraculous Clean 9 cleanse, and as you can imagine, caffeine is out. I do feel much better for it but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fantasize about a soya flat white, or a hot Americano, or a cappuccino. Oh!!

The cleanse is going great though, in just the first two days, I lost an inch off of my waist and another 1/2 inch off of my thighs. I haven’t weighed myself yet, that exciting event is being held off until tomorrow, the last day. My skin is clearer, my hair is shiny and my energy levels are through the roof. I don’t even feel too hungry either because my water intake has rocketed (2 and a half litres a day, sometimes more), and I hear that we often confuse our thirst for hunger, so there we go. I’m also sleeping a hell of a lot better too. For someone who has struggled with a healthy sleeping pattern for practically my entire life, this feels so wonderful. I’m waking up way before my alarm goes off feeling fresh, energized and ready to take on the day. If you know me at all, you’re probably laughing at the fact that I have just uttered the words ” energized and ready to take on the day” but it is true! I took on the Clean 9 cleanse challenge expecting to drop a few pounds and drink more water, but I’m feeling the effects from head to toe, inside and out.

So, I know that a lot of people get put off by cleanses and detoxes and all the rest of it, so I thought I’d sort of document how this one has gone so I can share with all of you lovely people. So, the first two days of the Clean 9 cleanse requires that you don’t eat any food (relax, you’re not going to die). Instead, it demands that you up your water intake to at least 2 litres a day, which is very do-able, and will do you a great deal of good (clear skin, shiny hair and faster metabolism anyone?). You also drink the purest of Aloe Vera gel in the morning, for lunch and before bed (this decreases after day 3). I’m no dietitian so I don’t want to talk too much of the health advantages of drinking it, so I’ll just leave this here your consideration http://skinnywithfiber.org/14-really-important-health-benefits-of-aloe-vera-juice/

Anyway, as well as increasing your water intake and drinking the aloe vera gel, you are also required to take three types of supplements, all taken to improve digestion and metabolism. Finally, a vitamin shake that is taken once a day during the first two days, and for breakfast and lunch from days three through 9 (you also have a 600 calorie meal for dinner, but you can make the swap to lunch if it suits you. You also have to (SURPRISE!!) exercise for a minimum of thirty minutes a day (low intensity during the first two days).

I’m always astonished when people practically have a heart attack on the spot when they hear that you don’t eat anything solid for the first two days, and usually follows with things like, “Oh, no I couldn’t do that” or “Yeah but you’re like, starving yourself, I don’t think that’s healthy” or “OMG, that aloe vera gel is so gross, I can’t drink that”.

Okay let me address these issues one by one. First of all, yes you can do that because if your regular diet consists of junk, processed foods, fizzy drinks, alcohol, sweets, chocolate, cakes and dairy, then you’re body is probably crying out for a couple of days of nothing so you can give it the rest time that it needs and drink things which will flush the toxins out of your body, and clean you out ready to start a cleanse. So yes. You can do that. You will not die. You won’t feint (unless you’re anemic in which case, talk to your doctor before starting any type of cleanse, obviously).

Secondly, it is nowhere near starving oneself, because it’s a cleanse, you’re cleansing your body, I’m not sure how people can expect to cleanse their body whilst they’re shoving things into it throughout the day. Also, the Clean 9 programme ensures that you won’t be left feeling weak and malnourished as you’re taking the supplements and drinking the vitamin shake, which has much of the good stuff that your body likes.

And thirdly – this is my favourite point to make. A bunch of my friends keep saying that they wouldn’t do it because they simply can’t stand the taste of the aloe vera gel. One friend of mine literally gagged and spat it out when I gave her some to try. Here is the deal. The worse the gel tastes to you, the more toxins there are in your body. So really, if you’re gagging at the taste of it, you probably need more of it, so suck it up and let the good shit in.

Proper soz if that came across as a bit of a rant, but I’ve had all of these questions during the last three days of my cleanse so I just felt like I needed to set it straight. My friend’s are looking at me with these really sad sympathetic eyes as I tell them what I can and can’t have, why I’m doing it etc, but I really don’t understand why. I feel great. Like, literally I feel awesome. And stronger, and healthier, and lighter, and more alert and just better in general. And when everyone around me is bitching about how they find it so difficult to wake up in the morning, or that they’re always tired, or that they feel sluggish because of that massive wrap they’ve just eaten at 10am and that they haven’t exercised in ages, I’m just here like…hello?

I did plan to do a daily diary sort of thing, but I completely forgot and I’ve been quite busy. But oh, the best part of my day is dinner. Last night I made a black bean and mushroom sauce with bulgar wheat and a small salad and it was so good I could have cried. I was tempted to just load up my plate and be done with it there and then, but thankfully I didn’t. Gotta fight those devilish words that creep into your mind!

The first two days of the cleanse are definitely the hardest and I’m sure anyone else who has done the same cleanse will agree. But once you’ve passed it and are on to day three, it gets better and easier as you’re introducing a 600 calorie meal for dinner into your routing. If you’re the kind of person who would rather eat at lunch and have a shake for dinner, you can switch it up easily enough – it’s designed to work around your schedule. At first I was having a shake for lunch and the 600cal meal for dinner but I decided to switch it up because I don’t have a fridge at work so the shake was all warm and gross. I live by a desert so as you can imagine, it gets pretty toasty. Today I’m going to make a butternut and cashew sauce with courgette noodles (or wheat pasta, depending on my mood). Mmmmm.

I think a surprising amount of people assume that you can eat anything you want as part of your meal, as long as it stays under 600 calories. Uh, wrong! The whole point of the cleanse is exactly that – to cleanse your body. That being said, it’s important that you eat nutritious foods that can be digested easily. I would suggest laying off of dairy (it doesn’t say that anywhere in the cleanse programme, that’s just me talking). I only say that because dairy isn’t our body’s best friend, and we have a bit of a hard time digesting it, so whilst you’re cleansing, it would probably do you some good to cut it out.

Then there’s the exercise. I don’t suppose anybody got the body/fitness/strength/weight loss they wanted just from eating right. You gots to move dat ass. It doesn’t have to be intense, Hulk-level work-outs, but you do need to move if you want to get the most out of the nine days. A brisk 30 minute walk is better than nothing. A light jog is even better. After day three though, stepping it up will do you wonders in the long run as you start to see results. And mix it up too – boredom is the devil’s work. I don’t even have a routine per se – some days I’ll do some kick-boxing with Pilates, and other days I’ll do yoga and strength. Just mix up the cardio and strength and you’ll be golden.

I’ve one day left to go, and I am excited to weigh myself! I’m going to predict losing about 6lbs. Hopefully more. Each morning my stomach is looking flatter so that’s a good sign, and I definitely feel lighter. After this, I’m going to have a look at the F.I.T.1 programme, the next step after the Clean9 cleanse. It’s a thirty day programme designed to build on the healthy habits you just learnt and includes lots more food and exercise. Watch this space, Beyonce number 2 is coming.

There it is, my journey so far on the Clean9 cleanse. I hope at least one person reading this will decide to make a healthy choice for their bodies and take on the challenge themselves!

Happy and healthy thoughts to all



Ten Most Beautiful Saudis 2014

Saudiwoman's Weblog

These are the top ten most beautiful Saudis in descending order. This list does not reflect my personal opinion. It is the result of extensive consultations with dozens of Saudis on social media and off. Enjoy!

10- Nadine Al-Budair

Al-Budair has her own show on the Rotana Network. She is known for her socially liberal public stances especially concerning women rights and  the religious police.

Nadine Al Budair Nadine Al Budair

9- Razan Alazzouni

Alazzouni is a fashion designer whose dresses have been worn by celebrities like Paris Hilton, Emma Roberts, and Kelly Osbourne. Besides being extremely talented, she’s also very disciplined and passionate about her clothing line.

Razan Alazzouni Razan Alazzouni

8- Saud Al-Dosari

Al-Dosari is an interviewer and radio show host whose heart-throb status spans generations.

Saud Al-Dosari Saud Al-Dosari

7- Abdullah Al Jumaah

Al Jumaah is an author and university lecturer. His book signing at the 2013 Riyadh Book Fair was cut short because he was mobbed…

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It’s been two months!

Oh snap, it’s been two months since I posted on here. That won’t do. So much for my mission to maintain a frequently updated blog for the first time in my life. Sigh. Anyway, hello from Riyadh! So much has happened in the last two months that I couldn’t possibly try and relay everything in a blog post. I also can’t remember much (oh yeah, I’m losing my memory – this is a legit thing that’s happening in my life and I’m very upset about it). I can’t really remember anything major happening. The King Abdullah died a few weeks ago whilst I was in Thailand. Oh and I went to Thailand. I 100% recommend it for a holiday, it was so much. offensively cheap and breathtakingly beautiful. I would upload pics but I already scattered them all over Facebook and Instagram.

Hmm, what else? I went to a party at an American Army Base? That was pretty spectacular. Being in a country where booze is illegal, anything that you can get your hands on is home brewed, dangerous and downright disgusting. Being home brewed, it doesn’t have to pass any health and safety checks, so really, you might actually die from it. No wonder we all feel like death has graced us the next day. Ugh. But anyway, this Army Base had a BAR with everything you could imagine. Some of us wept. We wept quiet tears of happiness, relief and joy. We had Disarrono, Hennessy, Jack Daniels, oh it was like something out of a fairy tale!

I know that other things have happened, but I’ve forgotten half and the other half doesn’t really seem worth mentioning, so let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

In the last week or so, I’ve really been missing my usual coffee shop spots. There aren’t many coffee shops here, and the few that are around are typically for men. Some of them might have a “family section” tucked away in the corner, with room dividers covering it but it doesn’t feel like a coffee shop and it’s not that enjoyable. I can park my arse in a coffee shop longer than anyone else I know, and I feel like sometimes there are fewer things I would rather do besides sitting in a chilled coffee shop with a good book and a coffee for hours and hours and hours until they finally kick you out. If you’re in London, let me recommend my three favourite spots so that you, oh fortunate people, may be able to enjoy the pleasures of some of the nicest coffee houses in London on my behalf. In no particular order (apart from the first one):

Harris and Hoole, Imperial Wharf – This is my number 1 local and favorite coffee house. It’s right opposite my house, so I love it even more. The staff are so very friendly, their coffee is perfect, the atmosphere is so bright and fresh (those words just seem right), and they have acoustic performances every Sunday.

The Fix – Shoreditch. Get your coffee fix here. Ahaaaa. I think this place was on the list for best places to study recently, it’s got a great chilled but productive atmosphere. Also, they have their toilet brush in a Starbucks mug lol which is obviously wonderful. Their coffee is good too.

Timber Yard – Old Street. I spent every day for two weeks at the coffee shop helping my sister with her dissertation last year and I love it. It’s set over two floors, has a quirky little thing going on where parts of the ceiling of the lower floor is glass so you can see what’s going on upstairs. Their food is so so yummy and they do lots and lots of herbal teas. nb: their matcha latte’s are so damn good.