Travel & Food
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Memoirs of an Unexpected Expat

Memoirs of an Unexpected Expat

Riyadh… The place from were all those fine Mars and bounty Chocolates I had as a kid came from.

Before I boarded my flight to Saudi Arabia I did an extensive internet research on the country for a week and the reviews were not that encouraging.

A wonderful job of self Sabotaging a peaceful life in the Great Indian Mainland ensured I boarded my flight to the land of the Prophet.

After a really long & uncomfortable flight I reached the cold Riyadh Airport early in a Thursday morning. There was mist & dust every were.

Riyadh International Airport

I walked through a passage and then down a stair, which opened into a huge terminal. There I saw an Arab for the first time in my life.

He was young, well built and fair, dressed to kill in the traditional white long dress & checkered red and white head wear with artistically maintained golden facial hair.

He stood right in the middle of the immigration counter with absolute authority & signaled and guided the incoming travelers to different immigration counters.

As I approached the immigration desk my mind was shadowboxing with a lot of thoughts. “Am I having right paper work, Is the company I am supposed to work for a real company?

Did somebody place a prohibited substance in my bag?, Will I be thrown into a farm with goats and camels, did I Clear my search history in my phone and laptops?.

The official in the counter was quite different from the guy whom I saw in the entrance. He was dark and cold looking.

Just by the look of him I was so sure that he was an apathetic & brutal guy who would love to arrest me to torture in a camp in the middle of a God forsaken dessert or even worse send me back home.

I gave him my passport which I now realized was almost getting wet in my hands.

The official cross checked something in the screen with my passport. He seemed to be confused with something.

I was about to ask him whether everything was in order but before i could open my mouth I was asked to wait in the chair opposite to the immigration.

As each personal was cleared from the immigration desk my heart beat replaced every other sound around. I felt a heaviness in my left part of my body, Torture, Deportation, beheading, and even worse, hanging in a bulldozer these images filled my mind. The empathetic looks from other fellow travelers didn’t help either.

The longest 5 minutes of my life. I looked around for some form of comfort. I saw a woman being provided a place to sit since it was a really long line. 5 minutes passed, I checked my phone and found my phone’s battery is at 4 %.

” Mr. Krishna…” the official called out my name in a heavy Arabic accent & with 2 fingers he signaled me to approach his desk, with his same expression less face. Chris Gayle is what came to my mind. I approached the desk pounding heart.

The Arab official sipping a cup of latte casually asked me.

“First time to Riyadh…. ”

With what was remaining of my so called confidence… I replied. “Yes Sir…”

He replied returning me the passport with a smile ‘Welcome To the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.. Please put your thumb in the scanner.”

I was so elated when I realized I am not going to jail and or back home. My fingers were so wet the guy offered me a tissue to dry my figures to redo the scan.

Once I was done with the procedure I thanked him, he wished me luck with a smile which in my opinion he should do more often.

This was my first 30 mins as an expat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…

The First Bite

After my draining 30 mins I was hungry. I had 150 SAR with me, which I converted earlier at Trivandrum international Terminal for my emergencies in an insanely unfavorable exchange rate which I till date regret.I walked across the terminal looking for something to eat. voila … Coffee Shops…

My eyes lit up as I rushed to the most adorable looking arrangement of Arabic pastry and sandwiches, my happiness reached borderline euphoric when I found out how cheap the food was.

I was now in the most existential crisis for any foodie “what to eat”. Should I go Sweet with a french toast, a donuts sandwich or should I be spicing up a bit with an Arabian grilled sandwich.

To be honest I wish I could have them all. Just when I was about to select a combo I felt the vibration from my back pocket.

Yup I just made a small boo-boo… I didn’t call my contact in Riyadh and my phone was dead! The brain dead me was now in an international airport with no sense of direction and no means to contact my man in Riyadh and have no clue about Arabic language.

My obvious course of action was to find my charger and a port. Fortunately my charger was not compatible with the ports in the Airport (should have payed attention to that article regarding power outlets in movingshoe by my friend Alex).

So I was left with two options, Buy an adapter port for my charger or buy/borrow a normal local charger compatible with my phone. It turned out, borrowing a charger was not an option as it required me to have some command of Arabic language.

My efforts to explain what I meant by an adapter to the Chinese guy in the electronic store was probably the second most embarrassing 10 minutes of my life, which of course resulted in me purchasing a american made charger which cost me 60 SAR.

That means now I am left with just 1/4 th of the menu to order from and I had to make sure I eat from a cafe with charging ports

I took a walk and found a cafe with a free port which was in the very end of the terminal. The menu of the cafe made me realize that was the single most expensive cafe in the airport. which in a way made it very easy for me to select what to eat, as I was left with just one plain Sandwich I could afford. ,

Was it disappointing, Absolutely Not! I could hear the guy humming an Arabic tune as he was preparing that simple roll. After a long time I saw somebody who really enjoyed making food. He served me that plate with a really cute smile and a small bow of his head.

While I was about to collect my plate and turn he stopped me “Saddiq…” (which means friend) to give me that extra packet of ketchup. I shared my gratitude to him and walked towards the nice spot I picked up near the charging port.

A simple spiced egg omelet wrapped in a thin khuboos. The Consistency of the sandwich is what made it so good. The layers were so evenly placed. I could feel the cinnamon but i did not feel dominated by the cinnamon flavor over the sandwich. It was like the kiss of your lover in a dream, you are almost feeling it.

I avoided the ketchup as I am a strong believer that ketchup takes the personality of the food away. May be that’s why I got the opportunity to enjoy that unique balanced usage of cinnamon.

I was real quick to finish off my sandwich as I scrambled to check whether I have that precious 5% Charge to switch on my phone. Yup as usual my Microsoft Lumia 550 has done the job for me.

The moment I switched on my phone I received the call from my contact in Riyadh, he has reached the front gate. I walked past the front entrance of Riyadh International Terminal with that mix feeling of fear, hope, apprehensions and excitement like any Expat,

What I didn’t know was Riyadh had totally different plans for me.

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