The Luxury Ghetto aka Compound

In all the other countries that I have lived in so far, I stayed in an appartment in town. Basically like every other person. Be it a local or not.

If you are living in Riyadh however, the term “normal” becomes a rather relative one.

So in Riyadh, I live on a compound, which is something like a small “village” surrounded by tall, thick walls, behind which all the expats live, which is why I sometimes give such places the name ghetto but just for fun. Our compound is great indeed. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures to share because I think I should be careful when it comes to taking pictures in this country,

The compound reminds one pretty much of a luxurious five star hotel. There are about 400 residential houses here. Each house is very big and has an own garden, not to mention all the furniture that is inclusive. Or at least in my house it is.

Furthermore there is a gigantic tennis, volleyball and soccer court, a handful of swimming pools, a playground for kids, a supermarket, a restaurant, a fitness center (usage free of charge), a Swedish school that is most likely a kindergarden and probably some other things that I have not seen yet, since I have arrived just two days ago.

All in all this place reminds me of Fuerteventura. I mean there is sunshine all year long, palm trees everywhere and the houses are made of sand colored stone.

While you have to adjust to the Arabic customs when you are in town, you are free to maintain your Western (or wherever you come from) lifestyle within the walls of the compound. Women may wear ther everyday life clothes, be outside without a male guardian etc. Sometimes you may be able to get alcohol but only sometimes and ONLY on the compound.

Generally I feel as if I am on vacation here, which is obviously not the case since I am here to accompany my family while finishing senior year in high school.

So even though the expats here are sort of kept all together in one place, it doesn’t mean that it’s boring. It is actually quite awesome when you can still go swimming in the pool at ten p.m because there are like 42 degrees Celsius above zero outside and the moon is shining so pretty. And if you are tired of swimming, you go to the restaurant where you can get delicious food, meet very nice people and drink the best NON alcoholic mojito I have ever had and trust me, I have had many.

I will keep exploring our little village during the next couple of days. There is surely more tell about it.


Day One- The Arrival

When I was a little girl, I was always kind of scared when I saw women on the street that would be covered from head to toe and all I could see were their eyes. I never had anything against them. It was just the general effect that so much darkness would have on me.

And now, more than a decade later, I have decided to move to Riyadh, where me myself have to obey the local dresscode. I never would have thought that I would get that far in life but looks like that’s how it is now. 🙂


The flight from Berlin to Riyadh was rather a stressful one. I ended up running up and down Frankfurt airport in search of my gate and whoever has ever been to Frankfurt will know that this was not an easy hike. Having only a few minutes left until the boarding, I ran to the ladies room and put on my abaya (the black cloak that women are supposed to wear) and got on a tremendously big plane. However, Lufthansa planes are very comfortable. Comfortable enough to spend five hours in them while watching Night train to Lisbon on my personal little screen and maybe even talk to a very nice German lady who ended up living on the same compound as me and loved cats, too.

Next to me was sitting a Saudi man. He was not dressed in the traditional white thobe as some other men on the plane, but his skin color and the fact that he did not have to fill out a migration card, let me conclude that he must be a local. He was surprisingly kind. As I was packed with a large backpack and a camera bag, he offered me to put my camera bag under his seat, so I would have some space left to myself. As I was desperately looking for a pen to fill out the migration card, he asked me whether i needed help. So here is to my first confrontation with the local people.

Five hours later I reached the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. The inside of it made me think of a five star hotel. It was all shiny with a marble kind of floor (if I am not mistaken about the material) and lots of light.

And here comes my first piece of advice to future Saudi Arabia visitors and especially women or short tempered people: In this country, people who are in authority positions, will always make sure that you KNOW and FEEL that they have authority.  At least this is the impression I got from the staff that was checking the passports. So I would suggest to just keep calm and do as they say unless you are a man and have powerful friends I guess. Also, if you want to travel to Riyadh, you better bring a lot of patience with you. People who come into the country for the first time go in a special waiting line that is VERY long. So get ready to spend two to three hours waiting in line to get a stamp into your passport, a picture taken as well as the registration of your fingerprints.

I süent quality time trying to find my suitcase. After walking around the Frankfurt treadmil, as Frankfurt was where I came from according to the screen, I found out that my suitcase was going in circles under the British Aiways screen, for some unexplainable reason.

After some long and exhausting hours of traveling, I was picked up from the airport and brought to my gorgeous compound where I am going to live for the next year.

Tomorrow I have my admission test in high school, so I better get some rest before the big day.

Here is to my arrival in Riyadh.

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