Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Flirty-Go-Round

A strange phenomenon occurs when you combine a city full of big butts, guts, and only one nice sidewalk: The Flirty-Go-Round.

Many people here would like to walk for exercise but, the lack of sidewalks can make this unpleasant. Some neighborhoods also lack sewers and there is sewage leaking from overflowing septic tanks into the sidewalk-less streets. Also, walking on the road can turn you into a moving target for this country’s unskilled drivers. Only recently has the city begun to create actual sidewalks on some main drags.

The first place to get a nice new brick sidewalk was the city hall building (Al-Baladiyya). It is very wide and completely encircles city hall and its surrounding greenery. There isn’t any houses close by, only the maternity hospital and a big post office building. People began to flock to the new sidewalk, which resembles a track, to get their daily exercise. It’s popular because of its nice wide circular shape, nice green scenery, its central location, it provides a measurable distance for the walkers, and it’s just become a “thing” to do.

Pregnant women, fresh from seeing a doctor at the maternity hospital, would go walking/waddling there to bring on or progress labor. Other women, who work at some of the neighboring hospitals, also started going there and would walk while chatting with their friends after their shifts. Some men, in full jogging gear, also began going there, weaving around the slowly walking abaya-clad women. More and more people came to walk and it wasn’t long before the young men of the town caught wind of this new place to go and potentially meet women on the move.

Recognizing the “danger” posed by all this gender mixing, the people inside city hall came up with a rule to help curb potential flirting. The rule was; anyone walking around city hall has to walk in a clockwise direction. This would help to keep men from “bumping” into oncoming women or vice versa. It would also curb any flirty looks at oncoming walkers. So, the walking continued, in a more orderly fashion.

One can come any day after ‘Asr prayer and see the clockwise walking continue right into the night. There’s usually a girl/boy order to the walking: a gaggle of girls immediately preceeding a flock of flirters in freshly ironed thobes and starched ghutras…yeah, they’re there to exercise...sure.

One determined young man decided to use his education to convince the government officials of their folly in deciding to keep everyone moving in a clockwise direction. He took an appointment with the highest minister in city hall and proceeded to argue logic.
He quoted from his science books:

“Sir, it’s scientifically proven that if a human being continues to move in a clockwise direction, his heart will explode! The rule that everyone has to walk in a clockwise direction will harm our health and should be revoked immediately.”

The minister sat, and let the earnest young man complete his spiel without objecting or saying a word. Little did the young man know but this particular minister was a science major himself. After he was done the minister showed the young man out. He informed him it was doubtful any of the walkers could attain such a speed, only attainable in a centrifuge-like device, so as to cause their heart to explode and thanked him for his concern.

I guess he’ll have to find another way to meet women.


Amy said...


Not the most intelligent comment but... yeeeeaaaaahhhhh. Silly boys.

L said...

LOL, the lengths people go to to meet members of the opposite sex. I can sense the desparation :)
And I can just picture all the men "exercising" in their starched, perfectly white thobes and ghutras. So funny.

I kind of wish I could visit Saudi just to see these kinds of interactions :)

Anonymous said...

While I love Saudi, this rule is certainly a bit silly. Only walking clockwise, what if someone is walking towards the hospital or city hall? It is not always efficient nor practical to walk only clockwise.

saudi stepford wife said...

There's really nothing on either side of's not like city halls elsewhere. Even the hospital is quite a distance and upon arriving, any walkers would blend into the direction of the other walkers.
Anyone who's headed inside the city hall building itself would head straight for the main gate so they wouldn't get caught up in the Flirty-Go-Round. The only people that this rule would affect is the walkers only.

Although the root of this rule may seem a bit odd, it's not unheard of by any means. I remember at most fitness clubs in the States the tracks have a one way rule also.

Cairogal said...

My God, what will happen when they build more sidewalks? Think of the rules they'll need to create for that!

Samia_DK said...

salaam ssw.
just want to let you know that i've tagged you :o)sorry- but you have Hema to thank for it.
as for the msn, i look forward to it :o)
take care.


Feroz said...

This really happened?
Things are different in Dammam, we have corniches and everyone goes walking - up down, and even sideways if you really wish ;).

Anonymous said...

LOL!Now pple have to create *venues* just to be seen! I think it is hard for anyone to *get it* unless they have lived in ME. Things taken for granted anywhere are like a big NO-NO there. One thing I really don't get is why they LOVE to STARE!!! I find that extremely rude and uncomfortable. sf

Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

It's one thing for a health club to make a rule about which way people need to walk, it's another thing all together when the government does it.

I can't help but think there are probably more pressing matters these guys need to be concerned about...mmm... maybe the atrocious condition of the roads, the lack of safe sidewalks (I can't count the number of times I've nearly fallen into an electrical stump!) or even the enforcement of IMPORTANT things like driving laws, the neglect of which results in tens of thousands of deaths in Saudi Arabia each year!

Those are the issues a government needs to worry about - so what if men and women walk past each other face-to-face? Did anyone get injured or die?

Governments spend money on the things to which they give high priority, and even if this is just a silly rule, I think it's a pretty telling silly rule. As always, thanks for making me aware of it SSW.

an original 2 said...

looool I really thought u were kidding..
Thank god I only have to go to hassa for special occasions and about once every 2 months vist to his parents, I love to walk and dammam, khobar and jubail has beautiful area's. I think in hassa walking like that I would always be looking behind me. imagine someone walking behind for a long time, wow makes me nervous just thinking about it.

Anonymous said...


They should create that rule in some of the malls here.

"You may only stalk in a straight-forward-direction, no turning-around-and-following-her-up-the-escalator, that is in deviation of the rule and we will remove your starched snake-look-alike ghutra as a penalty - that is if we, the police, are not breaking said-rule ourselves and can be bothered to enforce anything"

Ya, I think that's how it would go.

Nzingha said...

Lets see next time a pervert comes my way I'll shout "STOP, your not walking clockwise!"

saudi stepford wife said...

Huda- luv the suggestion...I'll pass it on to my mole in city hall.

Nzingha- will anything keep the pervs away from you?

Cairogal-when more sidewalks are finished the flirters will just have to go back to the malls where they came from:p

feroz-the most aggressive flirters are in Khobar in my experience! Probably due to all that willy-nilly walking up there.

anon and original2- One of the safest and most comfortable places you could be in the WHOLE of KSA is Al-Hassa. Even if your being looked up and down while being followed:P

SGIME-By the way, I've yet to see anyone 'enforcing' this clockwise rule. For the most part Al-Hassa's pretty mellow. There aren't roving bands of abusive Muttawwa here or anything. I rarely ever see them but I'm sure they they've paid a visit to the flirty-go-round a time or two.

Is everyone forgetting the bikers/walkers paths in many parks in the west? There's even signs, walkers to the right, joggers left. It's more like suggestions. Not adhering to the clockwise rule won't get you into any kind of trouble here but may earn you a few weird looks.

Last night I happened to go past this place on my way to the supermarket. There were several families there with their kids going for a stroll. Everyone's chatting nice and enjoying the weather. I don't think too many people are at all bothered about the rule and in all honesty I think it's a good thing. Serious walkers will benefit the most from the order and it will keeps everything flowing nicely.

sister T said...

I finally have gotten a chance to read this blog I have been hearing soo much about. I couldnt stop laughing. Isn't there a greater chance of people getting dizzy and falling into each other instead of just briefly brushing passed one another.

MiMi said...

Those people need years to change!!
unfortunately this is still happening!!

saudi stepford wife said...

SisterT- well it took you long enough! I've had 4000+ views since March and just today you finally managed to mosey on to my blog. Now your penance for not coming sooner; you must read AND comment on every single last post I have made or will make:P

saudi stepford wife said...

Mimi- no one here holds their breath when expecting change or advancement. It's a neglected city, when compared to it's sister cities to the North and around the Kingdom. Al-Hassa's developmental delay is evident in the city's infrastructure and in the people themselves. Saudi Podunk with really nice, laid-back but generally naive inhabitants.

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