6 May 2014

A few first impressions of Riyadh

I went shopping at the mall tonight (Monday), leaving the KAPSARC compound for the first time since arriving Friday. We went on the shuttle, which is easier/cheaper than a taxi (there does not seem to be much public transportation). It's WAY too hot (35 degrees) to walk anywhere.

Riyadh is 1,000 km2, and we are far from the center:
From the 1940s, Riyadh "mushroomed" from a relatively narrow, spatially isolated town into a spacious metropolis... Following the example of American cities, new settlements and entire neighborhoods were created in grid-like squares of a chess board created and connected by high-performance main roads to the inner areas.
The compound itself is MASSIVE and mostly under construction (it seems the construction workers are leaving google reviews of KAPSARC). We have excellent living quarters.

The largest female-only university in the world is next door. They have a monorail and very tall walls.

There seems to be some internet censorship targeted at "skin" (I had clicked on "great photos of so-and-so" on a regular news site.) Locals use twitter far more than the internet as a means of sharing ideas. I have no idea what they are saying, so I sent this tweet to see if I get any responses:
We have a reliable supply of potable water from our wells. The water shortages reported as late as 2012 seem to have gone away in recent years, but some neighborhoods depend on water delivered in tanker trucks.

The compound has a very beautiful mosque that's named after the king.

The layout echoes the US in several ways (weights are in pounds and letter-sized paper in a metric country). I found this intersection to be less-than-optimal for pedestrians. First, it has stop signs instead of a roundabout (stopping without cars in sight is strange). Second, the pedestrian crossing passes through the landscaping. I tend to cross "overland" anyways.

Addendum: (1) No replies to my tweet so far. I need more Arabic cred. (2) I tried to tell housekeeping to stop (straightening my toothbrush, etc.), but they are relentless(ly underemployed), so I left dirty dishes in the sink (I never do that), and now they're clean. Can I get tax credits as a job creator?