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Blogging on Saudi Arabia: Best of Search Engine Terms

I have always been wondering about the people who are reading this blog. More importantly: in the vast dimension of the internet, how on earth did they come across my blog among so many others? Algorithms provide an interesting angle from which one can look at this question. My analytics page shows me some of the search terms which have been used before the link to this blog has been clicked. I think that’s a great tool. Now that I had a look at the list of the last three years, it is pretty remarkable to see what things go through people’s heads when they are on the internet. Although I am sure I didn’t want to see everything I came across, now that I think about it…

Some terms are just key words, some are specific questions (which I have partially answered in my FAQ section and which I will extend ASAP) and some search queries I found particularly amusing as I scrolled through the list.

So today I thought to share with you some of my favorite search engine terms that my blog has registered. If you happen to find any of your own queries among these, please don’t take it personally! I appreciate every visitor on here and while I can see where my visitors are from, what links they click on my page or what search terms they used to find me, I have absolutely NO IDEA about their identity. So don’t worry about your persona and let’s just embrace my dry German humor and maybe share a grin or two.

“how do saudi men find their women if they get lost in a mall”

Interesting question indeed! I mean, if all women wearing the niqab pretty much look the same, how do they know? How do children find their mothers in the supermarket? How does a man get hold of his wife before she can spend all his money? My guess would be specific abaya designs, handbags or shoes as  recognition marks. Once you know a person well enough, you may be able to tell her apart by the way she moves or the way she wears her hijab on that particular day.

“why riyadh so cold”

Riyadh? Cold? Really? Is there another Riyadh where frying your breakfast egg on the tiles of your porch as it is being caressed by the blaring Saudi sun has never been heard of? I must visit that place next! 🙂 To be fair though, winters in Riyadh can get very chilly in comparison to the spring and summer months.

“i really want to go to saudi arabia”

Do you really though? Do you? 🙂 Well, you came across this blog so you must at least have been thinking about it.

“can u live in saudi arabia if ur handsome”

According to articles online a few years back, an actor from Dubai was told to leave Saudi Arabia which he was visiting for a festival, on the grounds that he was too handsome. While I still suspect that may have been a hoax, I can see how this is becoming a concern for potential visitors. Imagine going through the exhausting process of getting your documents together, obtaining your visa and then being told that you can’t enter because you know…you are simply too gorgeous for this place! What a self-esteem boost! 😀

“people in saudi arabia are sad”

Aren’t we all? Everywhere?

“saudi arabia women not allowed to eat ice cream”

Okay, I know that women not allowed to drive is the number one thing people know about Saudi Arabia but…ice cream? Really? Let’s keep it real for a second… Do not worry, dear wonderful feminine sugar addicts like me! You are free to enjoy the best of Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin Robbins and other brands served and sold in quantities Europeans can only dream of. 🙂

“can i jet ski in the rain”

Fact: It does not rain in Saudi Arabia very often, but when it does, the whole place turns into one large sea. Schools, offices, businesses and traffic shut down.Cars float around like they are nothing but wooden boats. In these rare instances, some people do the best of the situation by getting their jet skis out into the streets.

Got any more questions for me? Let me know in the comments! 🙂


Guest Post:24hrs in Riyadh- Female Solo Travel in Saudi Arabia

Yes, you read it correctly. I did actually put the words Saudi Arabia, female and solo travel next to each other and I am just as excited about that possibility to occur as some of my readers may be confused. 🙂

For a blogger or a writer of any sorts, there is nothinng better than getting in touch with his or her readers. Since I started this blog, I have received many  E- Mails from Saudis and internationals, journalists and PhD students, filled with praise for my work or questions regarding my experiences in Saudi and of course some occasional, inevitable criticism.

If any of you are reading this right now: Thank you very much for your time, you are what keeps my work going. I love you all, even my critics!

A couple of months ago, just as I was pacing in front of the lecture hall before my first exam of the semester, I received an E-Mail from Kiera, a lady living in Dhahran who asked me what I would recommend for a short trip to Riyadh. I stood still for a second. Traveling alone in Saudi? As a woman? ALONE?? That was definitely interesting! Women traveling in KSA was nothing new but the ones I knew of did so in groups of at least three in the company of their personal driver.

I immediately forgot about my exam stress as my head started filling with questions. My trip to Jeddah at the end of my stay in the Kingdom ended up not happening so I didn’t really know what to tell her. I admired her decision to take a trip to Riyadh by herself. I wished I would have had the time and the courage to do the same so I did the best I could and told her about things I had done in Riyadh and some of the things I wished I had done, had there been more time and more opportunities.

Today, I am beyond happy to share her story with you! To give you a taste of what awaits you, here’s my favorite quote so far: “People in Riyadh are open-minded but the laws are strict somewhat”.

Service Denied

I came across something on my Facebook feed today that sparked in me a new load of thoughts that may keep this blog going.

There was a video about how a Starbucks in Saudi Arabia had denied service to women and asked for their drivers to get the coffee instead.

Dear haters and critics out there, I don’t want to proclaim that Saudi Arabia is a paradise for women (not by comparison to other places, in my opinion).  I know that finding yourself in a situation where you can’t even get a cup of coffee just because you are a woman sucks. No matter how minor the issue is, it’s just not a nice thing to experience.

The video I saw made the wrong impression that women are now generally banned from entering ANY Starbucks in the ENTIRE country. As someone who has spent some time in the field of journalism, seeing this twisting and omission of facts, makes me want to roll my eyes as far as possible.

My further reading on this ban revealed that the women have been banned from entering this one particular Starbucks because the wall that separated single men from single women or women with their husbands, collapsed and therefore women could not enter the place until the issue was resolved. That is something the makers of that video apparently chose to ignore. I have no idea how such a wall can collapse and why it would do so but the absence of a separation medium as a reason to not allow women in sounded like a realistic explanation.

The average Westerner may think that setting up physical barriers between men and women in 2016 is absurd and I agree with that. It is a matter of principle to be offended by the fact that someone is not allowed to do something based on gender. But it should also be said that if gender segregation is a part of Saudi daily life based on religion and tradition and if Saudi society thinks that they want to keep that up even in 2016, then, dear haters and critics, I doubt that there is anything we “civilized modern people” can do about it by raging on social media. So just save your energy for more important things that your discontent can actually have an effect on once you add a pinch of action to it. Something like climate change or the waste of still edible food or Trump becoming president of the United States!

Some of you may argue that if there was no separating wall in that Starbucks, then why not just leave the men outside and let women in?

Good idea! For the sake of a change of scenery in the media coverage on what happens in Saudi Arabia, let me tell you that while women are banned from only one particular section of a shop, men can sometimes not enter at all unless they have a woman who accompanies them. Not to mention whole floors in malls or entire shopping malls as a whole that are reserved for women only.

There are quite a number of shops in Riyadh that have “Family Only” written above their entrances. In that case, a man who is on his own, will not be allowed inside the shop no matter how much he wants to get in.

That might not sound like a big deal to you (but to be honest, being banned from one single Starbucks while there still thousands of others out there should neither, in retrospect), but sometimes it also becomes an inconvenience to Saudi and non-Saudi men alike.

I remember having a conversation with a young man from Uzbekistan who had come to Riyadh for work. He had a wife back home and because in Riyadh you can find all sorts of fancy stuff not available in some other countries, he decided to go to the mall and get some cosmetics or perfume for his wife. The place where he had seen a potential gift however, was a “Family Only” shop. So he had no choice but to think of something else to get her. Something that he could get at a place where men were allowed inside.

So you see, if you are a man and you want to get an item that is more oriented at women or if your wife sends you out to get that something for her, chances are you just won’t be able to get it, unless you find it in a shop that is open to everyone.

I expected to find a reverse situation when my friend and I found ourselves at a ZARA MEN store. I assumed that since this was a store that only sold items for men, my friend would not be allowed in to pick a shirt for her husband. On the contrary! No one said a word about our presence. The staff was even kind enough to ask whether we were looking for something specific and if they could be of any help.

From the posts of a fellow blogger in Riyadh, I gathered that when little children attended organized gym classes for toddlers, or play dates or whatever it is you call that, there are cases when only the mothers are allowed to attend with their kids.

So, if you are (rightfully) going to pose the question of how come women are denied things just because they are women, then, for the sake of the bigger picture you may also ask:

Why should a man not be able to buy his wife something he wants her to have just because he is a man and has no other woman to come along with him? How come a father can’t accompany his own kid to some pastime activity just because he is a man?

The fact that men are allowed so many other things put aside because inequality is a matter of principle, isn’t that all a bit unfair despite being a minor issue? Especially if you are a man in that situation? But I guess no one has ever thought about that, right?


German- Saudi Culture Week 2014

Saudi Arabia has made it to Berlin! Wish the fair took place last year, too before I left for Riyadh.

The Berlinish Journal

During my first years in Germany, I have visited all sorts of fairs and so called “culture weeks”. Be it the annual Grüne Woche or ‘Green Week’, an exhibition to get to know the Russian Federation, The Long Night of Science or The Long Night of Religions. Berlin has them all and this week, even Saudi Arabia made it to the area between the Sony Center and various cafés near the Potsdamer Platz.


I arrived  to the heavy smell of Arabic coffee and henna. Probably more than a hundred people moved slowly among the stands that looked like sand stone buildings typical for Saudi Arabia. People were standing in line, taking pictures, talking to the people who kept the event running for about a week now.


Even though I expected it to be otherwise, the attending audience was rather different. I heard a mixture of German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish and…

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Saudi Cheat Sheet

Margo Catts

When people learn I live in Saudi Arabia, the first question tends to be, “So what’s it like there?” A big question. But given enough time (say, a meal, rather than a cash-register transaction), the conversations tend to cover the same ground. Here, then, are the basic answers to the basic questions about what it’s like in Saudi Arabia so you don’t have to dig through a dozen cryptically-titled blog posts to find the answers. (I have, however, provided links to blog posts that go further on each topic, in case you’re interested.)

Is it really hot there? Yes, it’s hot, but not all the time. The annual weather cycle is pretty similar to Phoenix, Arizona, with half the rainfall. Summers can get over 50C / 122F. Winters are mild and sunny, with cool nights and light-sweater days.

Do you have to wear…(vague head-to-toe hand gesture)? Women are required to…

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Advice I’d Give My Daughter- The Post That Has Nohing to Do With Saudi Arabia Itself

This morning I was posting the list below on my other blog, when I thought that it might be a good thing to share it here as well.

It is a list of suggestions that I came up with, that I would give my daughter when I have one, one day. These things are either something I learned from my own, oh so short, life or from those of others.

I know that this has nothing to do with Saudi in particular but some of the things I have listed here come from experiences I have had in this country. So I guess this post more or less qualifies to be here.

Since I can imagine that many of my readers here are women, I thought some may be interested in seeing what a young, “inexperienced” girl like me will have to say about life. I bet that some of you, men or women, will be surprised.

Enjoy, my darlings!

1. Actions speak louder than words.

2. Don’t take everything literally. There is always a hidden meaning to things.

3. Avoid being financially dependent on someone. Especially men.

4. Never let a person alone be responsible for YOUR happiness.

5. You may not be alone but nobody else will do things for you. Learn to stand on your own as soon as you can.

6. Don’t make definite plans for the future and rely on them. Things will turn out more different than you can imagine.

7. Always be open to change. To new places and new people. They are likely to bring out the best in you or teach you a lesson you won’t forget.

8. Being with people is important. But there is nothing wrong with being on your own every now and then either.

9. You’re beautiful the way you are, no matter what others say. Even me.

10. Never pretend to be somebody you aren’t.

11. If somebody wants you to be in his/ her life, they will make room for you and invite you to be part of it. If you have to fight and struggle for a space, they are not worth it.

12. Always be  ready for disappointment in life, but never let it crush you.

13. Travel as much as you can.

14. If it feels wrong, DON’T do it.

15. Even if it feels right, think before doing it.

16. People rarely really change. It’s just the mask that falls off.

17. THAT man is not the last one in your life. Stop weeping and move on. Other mothers have handsome sons, too.

18. Never make big decisions or take actions when you are very angry or overly happy.

19. You can’t plan on  relationships. They happen unexpectedly with the most unexpected people.

20. However, choose the man with brains in his head over a man with only money in his wallet. If he is smart, he’ll know how to be sustainable. If not, all his wealth will be gone before you can say paycheck.

21. The more closed-minded you are, the more likely is it that life will give you a lesson to change your perspective. Be ready to accept that this is a good thing.

22. If you have to argue with me in order to make your point, ARGUE!

23. I’m always there for you.

24. If you feel down and candy can’t fix it, day dreaming will.

25. There’s no harm in knowing one more language.

26. The first impression you get of people is often very misleading. Give it time before you make up your mind!

27. Listen to your parents but always keep your own wishes and ambitions in mind. Parents don’t know everything in this world.

28. Avoid judging people. You don’t know their story and they don’t know yours.

29. Hands off the alcohol.

30. Learn to say no.

31. Hard work always pays off.

32. Being different is awesome.

33. Divorce is inevitable. It can happen to anyone. Don’t let the fear of it ruin your family plans.

34. Everything will turn out well, eventually.

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