Assalamu alaykum everyone. Back to blogging after a long time, as usual, alhamdulillah. Most of you will know that we have now moved out to Riyad, Saudi Arabia. We have only been here for nearly two weeks. So, I will only be sharing my first impressions which may not be a good way to judge the city “smile”
Weather/Going out and about- It is very hot and dry. You can’t walk outside at all. Looking back at memories of going out for long walks with kids in Britain feels like a totally weird thing to do here in Riyad. People want to live near shops, schools and other amenities not because it’s a walkable distance so they can just walk to the place. Even if it is 5-10 minutes away, everyone seems to drive everywhere. The concept of women not being able to leave the house alone- totally false. I saw and talked to so many women who go out and about, as long as they are not walking alone and not entering certain buildings full of men. So, any woman can go out and catch a taxi on almost all main roads to go to work, to a shopping mall, visit a family or friends or go to expensive restaurants etc.
Entertainment/Past time activities– There are not massive range of activities for kids. Most activities limited to swimming, horseriding and martial arts classes. However, prices can be very expensive and all the places are so spread out. It is really hard to find a place to live where you can be close to everything you need (work, school, kids activity centres etc). And traffic and transport are the biggest hurdle for anyone who wants to do things outside the house. We found Riyad zoo, iceskating in one of the shopping malls and a couple of museums. Things like science museums, children’s centre where they provide educational activities such as baking, cooking, painting etc- almost non-existent or my search has been unsuccessful. Our children have been indoors all week as we have not yet registered them at school. So, the only place we take them out on the weekends have been malls so far where they go on rides (each mall has a fun fares section with different rides). Shopping malls (shopping centres) are where most people seem to go- because it is cool, ACed, full of cosy coffee shops and other eating places and rides for children. But, I’m hoping to organize something more educational on the weekends once we settle so we can go ice skating, zoo or other museums or organize our own indoor activities inshaAllah.
School– is a massive problem in Riyad. There are tons of international schools, English medium private schools. But their teaching standards are really poor despite the fact that their tuition fees are really high. So, tuition fees range from 16000 SAR up to 75000SAR per child per year. British International school charges 56000SAR (so 12K in GBP) per child per year and American International school charges 75000SAR (15K in GBP). It’s a ridiculous amount to pay especially for families who have 2 or more school aged children. But these schools are full of non-Muslim expat kids so they celebrate Christmas, Easter and follow the non-Islamic trends of British or American curriculum. I have not heard any positive feedback regarding their academic side either. Do they focus on developing child’s character and personality, encourage creativity or promote analytical-critical thinking? I have no idea. Other international schools are between 18000-30000 SAR on average. Again, works out very expensive for families with 3-4 children attending school. Most of the time, half the teaching staff in international schools are not qualified. They just employ everyone and anyone who has a good understanding of written and spoken English. However, being able to speak in English doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach Maths, Science or other social subjects in English. So, the standards are pretty low because schools don’t invest in bringing qualified teaching staff from overseas.
We are planning to send them to private Arabic school so at least they pick up the language inshaAllah. And continue homeschooling in English at home in the afternoons when I return from work. There is also Tahfeedh programmes running in the afternoon between Asr and Magreb Salah at most places. But it could be too much for children….
House– we are still looking for a house somewhere close to work and also has a good school nearby. Like I said, it is a mission to find a place where you have all your needs met. Riyad is a massive city built right in the middle of a dessert with no means of public transport. So, you either wait for your husband to be free (only weekends for working men) or end up spending so much money on taxis.
Homeschooling– surprisingly I found a big community of homeschoolers in Riyad, Alhamdulillah. I have not met any of the sisters yet but they have all been very helpful on whatsapp (:P) and hoping to attend the meet up sessions in the future inshaAllah. There is not much happening at the moment (not as much as in Bradford anyway), but I think sisters are just returning from holidays back home (UK, USA and Canada) and seems be getting more active. I am hoping to run education programme for all homeschooled children in Riyad, again after we settle down. Planning and preparation under way at the moment, inshaAllah.
Work/Job– Both myself and husband like our jobs. Everyone seems so welcoming and friendly. It is a nice environment to work and workload is not much. It is just long hours (you have to fulfill the contract so must spend 8 hours in the office) and commuting to work can be tiring.- I spent 2 hours travelling back and forth to work each day (one hour each way)- a total waste of time. Other than long hours and traffic-the actual work is not hard. Alhamdulillah
Please keep us in your duas that we find a good place to live and a good school to send the children. May Allah make our stay in Riyad beneficial for our dunya and akhirah.