Is it blue or is it purple, I wondered to myself. Actually, I think it's more indigo, but with streaks of eminence and french lilac. So really it's 'blue-purple' I concluded, slightly amused with myself. I've never seen anything like it.
The smell of smoke wafted in my direction as I lay down and contemplated the night sky on the roof-top of our apartment building. The heat from the ceramic tiles seared through my back, much like the steak & chops being barbecued on the grill. Somewhere in the near distance Malika stoked the fire while Nada prepped a table, as we waited patiently for the others to emerge from their respective apartments with the drinks, salads and dessert.
You do know Nada means "nothing" in Spanish, yeah? I told her playfully.
Shut up, she said smiling, throwing a marshmallow at me - which I caught and shoved into my mouth simultaneously.
That's "nada", pronounced naa-daa. I'm Nada, say it with me Nad-daa, she said in a thick British accent, brimming with sarcasm.
I giggled and rolled over to face her before saying, where is everyone?
I don't know dear, they're probably on their way... everyone's on Arabian time remember, she responded.
After some thought about my experiences and upon further reflection of this statement, I came to another conclusion, which I postulated to my friends later that night.
See, the thing is, time doesn't really exist in Saudi Arabia. In fact, they don't even have names for their days which, for example, are usually called "Al-Ahad" ("the first day"), meaning Sunday as per the Gregorian calender or "Al-Ithnayn" (the second day) or Monday.
Instead, there are really only four concrete passages of time here, and they are:
1. Now (Arabic: Al-Aan or Al-heen): meaning, anytime between this very second and the rest of the day.
2. Tomorrow (Arabic: Bokra): meaning, anytime in the week, or just any.time.
3. Jumu'ah or Jummah ("Gathering day"): literally Friday, or meaning [modern cultural transcription] the-day-everyone-disappears-and-all-the-stores-are-shut-and-the-streets-are-emptier-than-London-on-Christmas-day.
4. Insha'Allah ("If God Wills it"): meaning [modern cultural transcription] I'm-not-sure-and-I-can't-promise-you-anything-but-it-probably-won't-happen-anytime-soon-if-at-all.
It's been almost 6 months since I've traded Rands for Riyals, Johannesburg for Jeddah and the RSA for the KSA, and many have asked me what it's like to live here... the only response I can give is: it's not what you think it is. I usually tell people (regardless of whether you've been here for Umrah and/or Hajj or not) to forget everything you think you know about Saudi Arabia. Staying in a hotel for 6 - 10 weeks and eating and praying all day differs vastly from actually living here and interacting with the people and the society. Its been a profoundly soul altering experience thus far, in many different ways, for many different reasons... stay tuned ;)