The photo above was taken while we were walking to the market in Saudi Arabia. We came across these couches in a vacant lot. Saudi men get together and have tea at night, often times sitting out on the desert.
One of the things I miss about living in Saudi Arabia are the close friendships I developed with people from every corner of the planet. People from all over the world move to Saudi to work and are away from home and family. You develop close friendships because you have this in common. My first living experience in Riyadh was renting the top floor of a villa (home). The owners of the villa were a Saudi couple with 4 children of their own. I saw the lady once a month and she was kind enough to let me use her phone. No phone lines were available and we waited for two years to have a phone of our own. Although I really had no one to call I was 8 months pregnant when we arrived and so I needed to phone hospitals and doctor’s offices to find out where I needed to go to deliver my baby.
After two years in a villa, then an apartment we moved to a Western compound. This was a very wonderful experience and where I learned to cook many authentic Middle Eastern dishes. The neighbors were from all over the globe. My next door neighbor was British, across the street an Indian lady, to the left a friend from Bangladesh and so on. People from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Morocco and various other countries. Typically in the Middle East neighbors are very important. When you are sick, have a baby, need help, or your nice neighbor just wants to share a dish, you can expect to receive aromatic foods you have never tried before. This was a highlight of living in Riyadh on a compound type setting. When you ask for the recipe the reply is usually an invitation to come and watch them prepare this food. At first I politely declined and asked for a written recipe.The first recipe I requested and got was for cheese sambusa. This is a delicious,delicate pastry filled with cheese and deep fried. It used two different measurements, a small Saudi tea cup and a larger glass. I got out my shiny measuring cups and gave it a whirl. After numerous attempts and measuring in my tidy little measuring cups I failed miserably and agreed to go and watch! This became my new method for learning how to cook food I was not familiar with. I also reciprocated and taught women my dishes and specialties.I learned that different is good and everyone has their own unique interesting way to not only measure but to cook as well!
I learned to make Couscous from a Moroccan friend, several different Curries from Bangladeshi and Pakistani friends as well as a list of Middle Eastern foods. I would say I miss these wonderful people and their unwavering friendships most!