The Ambassador's wife has a falcon, and another family at the Embassy has a parrot that they bought here, all of which led us to start thinking of getting a pet bird of some description, with a parrot being the favourite choice.
We'd been told about a large pet shop on the Khurais Rd that has a dinosaur skeleton in the window; not the best advert for a pet shop but a good distinguishing feature. Being still new around here I thought, "we'll never find that on our own" ... how wrong could I have been?
This happened weekend before last - told you I'd been sitting on some stories without posting them. It was Wednesday evening (that's Friday to you), and we went out to Fuddrucker's for dinner. Fuddruckers - for those who don't know it - is an American chain of burger restaurants. We'd never been to one before but from the full-page advertisement in "Riyadh Today" we were expecting something along the lines of TGI Friday's (or TAI Wednesday's as it would be called here). Instead, what we got was something halfway between McDonalds and something not much better than McDonalds. You have to go to the counter to place your order and pay in advance, but then sit down and they bring the food to you. As usual here, there are separate sections for Men and Families, and the Family section consists of curtained-off booths.
Anyway, the plan was to have dinner then venture further South on Takhasussi St. (or Everything St., to use its nickname) in search of Wheels, the famous bicycle shop. So, after a very large burger and chips, plus 2 bottles of No-alcohol Budweiser and two free desserts because they forgot to deliver our onion rings, we set off in he car in search of Wheels, which Riyadh Today says is also on Takhasussi St.
We drove around several times and there was no sign of it; we concluded that our copy of Riyadh Today must be an old one. I later found out that Wheels is nowhere near Takhasussi but I still haven't found it yet. What we did find however, was the pet shop with the dead dinosaur in the window aka Joon Trading Company.
By this time it was dark, and all eight parking spaces outside the shop were occupied. But, what luck! Just as I coast up, two people come out of the shop and get into a 4x4, and its reversing lights illuminate! I'm right behind where the space is, with my right indicator going, signalling that, "I hereby claim this parking space once the previous occupier has left". I get as close as I can to the reversing 4x4, because I know what the motorists are like in Riyadh; If I leave even so much as six inches between us someone will come along and occupy it with his front bumper. So there we are, my car the and other 4x4 locked in this dance of trying not to let anyone else in while at the same time letting the poor guy who wants to leave, out, when yes, the inevitable happens.
A large American sedan sweeps past both me and the exiting car, and turns right in front of the 4x4, into MY parking space... GAAAHHH!
I should have been angry, but all I could manage was stunned disbelief, mixed with faint admiration for his sheer audacity. The Arab driver gets out of the car and waves at me with a "You'll learn" smile.
At this point my disbelief and admiration sour into resentment, so I do what any Arab motorist worth his salt would do - I double park and block the guy in. I order the family to vacate the Discovery and look at pet birds, so into the pet shop we march, in the footsteps of our car space thief.
The shop is huge - for a pet store. As soon as you enter there is a circular checkout counter right in front of you, with a live falcon perching on each side. A sign informs me that there is a SR10 entrance fee, refundable on any purchase over SR20. That seems fair to me, particularly when I realise how much there is to see in here - cheaper than the zoo!
Joon Trading Company has, in stock:-
Tropical fish, rats, mice, ferrets, chipmunks, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards, tortoises, a Lynx, monkeys, Toucans, a fox, budgies, love birds, parrots, falcons, and hen chicks all dyed in fluorescent colours (something of a trend here apparently). there's a glass case full of chicks; lime green, pink, orange, purple, bright red. It's quite bizarre. On entering the shop I immediately regret not having brought my camera. I did snap the multi-coloured chicks with the camera on my mobile phone, but haven't yet worked out how to get the photo onto my laptop.
There are some Arab boys - about 10 years old - messing about at the back of the shop, they're running around a perspex pen containing two Rottweilers and deliberately annoying the dogs by banging on the windows, until the shopkeeper tells them off - YES! They were REALLY getting on our nerves.
Just then the parking thief comes up, speaking quickly and waving his arms about. I don't speak any Arabic, but being the seasoned world traveller that I am I instinctively know that he would like me to move my car so that he can depart. I comply with this request (but walk VERY slowly out to the car to get the last laugh).
By the time I get back to the shop Karen and the children are in the bird section admiring two beautiful red parrots sharing the same cage. They really are lovely to look at, so I ask the assistant how much they are.
Do you have any idea how expensive parrots are? I was expecting it to be £70, or maybe even £100, but the actual price was SR3,200, which is about £480!
"Ermmm, how much are the Love Birds then?"
They're about £80 each, and of course you need two.
"Um, what about a budgie?"
We still haven't bought anything yet.