Once again I find myself in transit so what better way to spend time than writing!
As you might know, Riyadh does not have many options for legal family entertainment. They have a plethora of malls, restaurants, a single museum and a zoo that has different entry days for men and women so families cannot go together. There are no cinemas, no public parks or anything else that might be a way for families to spend some time together.
Part of the reason is that this is the middle of a desert and there will always be constraints about what outdoor activities are possible. Part of the reason is the culture- the Kingdom seems hell-bent on ensuring that there are no public spots where people will meet within the larger cities. They even banned the walking of cats and dogs recently as it provided an opportunity for the different genders to interact.
Those who can afford it go to Bahrain for the weekends, however the working class cannot afford to do so. The local substitute we saw were parking lot picnics! It was an amazing site. Late one night in the IKEA parking lot I noticed a family having a picnic. I commented to hubby that it was rather strange. We moved down the aisle and that is when I noticed that it was not just the single family, there were tens of families doing the same thing. They had spread blankets on the ground, and had coolers of food and drink. Kids were playing soccer and tossing around balls.
It was rather surreal and really brought home how desperate families must be for a little bit of low-cost, high-quality, legal family time.