Report on KSA
Report on KSA is one of my attempts to make sense of my time in KSA through the lens of a man sent there to study and report back to a shady organization.
Today I decided to drive 60 kilometers north of the city along King Khalid Road, which turns into Highway 535 in the outskirts of Riyadh. I thought it might be interesting to explore this area and complete an oval direction by taking a right toward Thumamah National Park and driving back to Riyadh along Highway 550. The encroachment of Riyadh into the desert ends like a clearly defined plant cell wall and beyond that space, that line, is the singularity of the desert, only broken by activity along the highway.
At a flat and clear intersection north of the city I encountered an outcropping of ramshackle structures occupying a wing of the intersection. It looked like a long derelict desert boat, creaking along in the sand, ripped plastic tarps used as roofs shaking in the wind. Upon closer inspection I could tell this was a roadside market and that the boat was comprised of maybe a dozen partially destroyed booths, occupied by women dressed in black selling something in this unforgiving space. I decided to pull over and find out what they were selling.
I believe this was my first encounter with another person in Saudi Arabia that could have occurred in another time. The structure itself was made of two by fours and blankets. In front of the structure a long table made of plywood was covered with bags full of a chunky white substance I could not identify. Behind the table was a bed of similar construction covered in colorful blankets with the body of a woman sitting on the side. Upon my approach she rose to greet me and began speaking in slow, musical Arabic. Her hijab and abaya were home made and worn. But it was her voice that hypnotized me with its gentle and wise rhythm and tone. She gave me a bowl of goats milk and I purchased a bag of the chalky white substance. The only thing I understood was her say, “Huh? Huh?”