It started raining in Riyadh on Wednesday. At first it was light, but then yesterday it started pouring and slowly the streets started filling up. The road outside our building turned into a river of fast moving water, and I watched in fascination as it thundered and poured all afternoon and evening. People from the surrounding buildings were all standing outside, watching the rain come down and roads that were slowly turning into deep lakes and rivers. My husband's friend had come over for lunch after Juma, and he stayed with us until Ishaa. Around 9pm, we decided to drop him home and we drove to his building, which is only a 5 min drive from our place. That drive slowly turned into a moving disaster. Getting to his place wasn't too much of a hassle, as the main highway was clear. After dropping him off, we drove back in the direction of our building, unfortunately we couldn't take the highway back, so we decided to go through the side streets. It got much worse as we tried to navigate through the water-filled roads that were about 1 and 1/2 feet deep in certain places, and yes, we have a sedan so we weren't happy campers at all!
The worst happened when we tried to drive by a construction site, and due to the high water level, we didn't know what the road underneath looked like. All of a sudden, we heard a horrible grinding noise, and the front-left side of the car sunk into the water, at a freakishly steep angle; we were properly stuck... We then noticed smoke rising from our hood, so my husband turned off the engine, switched on the hazard lights, and tried to figure out what to do. We had apparently driven into an unmarked ditch of some sort. We tried opening our doors and exiting the car, but the water was too deep, so we couldn't go anywhere. My husband started calling various co-workers and family, but strangely enough, no one was answering their phone. After about 20 minutes of sitting and trying to figure things out, a car passed by and slowed to take a look. The car had about 5 young Saudi youth who were in their early 20's, dressed in traditional white thobes and shemaghs. They spoke to my husband in Arabic and he explained that he was stuck in a ditch and the car wasn't moving. They immediately pulled over on higher ground, got out of their car and took off their sandals, pulled up their thobes and held it in their teeth, rolled up their underpants and started wading into the muddy, dirty water towards us! At this point I was feeling a mixture of embarrassment and relief.
My husband remarked to me in the car, "these guys are too skinny, they won't be able to pull the car out, we need a tow truck." In any case, they instructed him to put the car in reverse and they tried pulling from the back, lifting and pushing from the front, and a variety of other tactics that included all five of them, at one point, climbing into the trunk of the car and jumping in it...
Luckily, their presence was extremely beneficial, as an SUV happened to drive by with towing capabilities and a tow rope, and they were able to stop him and ask him for his services. He pulled us out of the ditch and didn't even wait for our thank you, just drove away as if it were a normal turn of events!
And when we tried to thank the Saudi guys, they were too busy wading in the water and trying to cover up the ditch in order to prevent others from suffering the same fate!
We did manage yell out a thank you, which they promptly waved off and quickly returned to the water to finish off their job.
We reversed out of the lane and drove back onto the main road, in an attempt to return home with minimal problems. Just when we thought we were in the clear, we noticed that the only road that leads to our building, was now full of water, almost about 2 feet deep and that all the traffic that was attempting to drive down the road had two wheels on the sidewalk, and two wheels in the water. It is also important to mention that all of the traffic were either SUVS, pickups or passenger vans.
My husband maneuvered the car towards the side of the road, right next to the sidewalk, where the water level was the lowest, and we slowly tried driving through the water. We passed a few cars that had gotten stuck and had turned off in the water, and we slowly reached the end of the road.
Thankfully we made it home without any problems and our car was alright, but it was an extremely close call. I keep on wondering what would've happened if it wasn't for the Saudi youth that were so eager and quick in their desire to help us, regardless of their own circumstances. Alhamdulilah, I'm really grateful to them for their help and it is really comforting to know that there are people like them in this country.
Apart from our latest mis-adventure, things are really starting to settle down and are looking good in Riyadh. I do have other interesting topics to discuss soon, and I am hunting down a good tailor these days, so that I can start answering lots of those abaya requests that are waiting for me!
That's it for now