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Published: March 3rd 2006
Lizards and monarch butterflies pay frequent visits
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, means "gardens" in Arabic, and is where we call home. This is apropos, as we adore our villa garden, with koi pond and flowering trees. We even grow roses and vegetables, though it waxes above 120 degrees fahrenheit.
The city is punctuated by astounding architechure, including the Kingdom Tower, with a trangular cutout shape at the top. Each person has a different idea of what the structure evokes. The Faisaliah Tower is outstanding, topped with a gold sphere where you can enjoy a meal with a view of the city.
All the symbols that evoke the Arabian desert can be found here: a lizard may (and has) drop from his high perch into my lap while sitting in the garden, and camels stride smoothly across a plain just outside the city, or can be seen in the back of transports on the highway. During a visit to the "camel souk", where people come to buy camel's milk, camels can be approached freely. One, however, balked quite loudly when being hoisted, in a harness, into a truck for transport, and I can't say I blame him.
Greetings in Arabic
As with any country, gettings
Enjoying a break from their duties.
are always learned first. Literal translations of Arabic greetings are infused with kindness and poetry: "salam aleikum" (hello) translates to "peace be unto you". In saying good morning, or “sabah al khair,” there is a prescribed response which means, "morning of light, or “sabah al-noor.” Indeed, in this land of sun, "morning of light" is highly appropriate.
I did quite well managing these simple phrases, but got an unexpected and amusing response when I attempted to learn how to say "have a nice day". How hard could that be?
Since ladies do not drive here, I soon settled on a trusty driver to get me to the office during the workdays, which are Saturday through Wednesday. (Thursday and Friday are the much anticipated weekend days.) As for my chauffeur, his English is impeccable, but that was not the case with a substitute I had in the first days.
This substitute was unable to speak English, and my Arabic was just as weak. Our attempts at communication were halted, but fortunately he managed to get me to the office. To attempt a polite departure, I thanked him in Arabic and told him in English, “have a good day.”
A favorite nook
He was befuddled by that last statement. I tried to whittle it down to simplicity. “Good day,” I said. He repeated after me, looking very perplexed. “Good day.” I went on, “how do you say ‘good day’ in Arabic?”
“Oh!” He exclaimed, with a look of recognition. “Good day, Arabic? Thursday!”
I am told by my driver that since, he has been nicknamed "Thursday" by his colleagues.
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