It occurred to me recently how effective Irish people are at sticking together, socializing regularly and generally being there for each other wherever they are in the world, Riyadh is no different ….
After being here for a year now, I have found that I have built a decent network of people, not all Irish of course, however in this conservative society, even the Irish have developed great ways to meet, eat, play sport and have fun together.
The Embassy of Ireland in the Diplomatic Quarter, currently resided by HE Dr. Niall Holohan and his wife Felicity are very open and generous hosts and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both the embassy and indeed their home on a few occasions and they are extremely welcoming and helpful to all comers but of course always have a kind word for recently arrived Irish, they regularly host various events including a fantastic event on St. Patrick’s Day last when some 400+ Irish from right across the Kingdom attended.
Riyadh also has a GAA Club, Naomh Alee GAA Club has been running successfully here for many years and has both Men’s and Ladies Team’s who compete with neighbouring clubs here in the Gulf, and the club not only attracts Irish ex-pats but also has Australians, New Zealander’s, South African’s and Germans playing gaelic football and regularly host kids events too. Patrick Moynagh from Cavan is the current chairman and we had the pleasure of attending the end of season get-together last week, which was another great opportunity for the Irish (and many others) to get together for a bit of “craic” as we say back home.
On a smaller scale, there are many other smaller gatherings held in homes across Riyadh from time to time, much more informal gatherings with some good food and company, and telling stories of how long they’ve been in the Kingdom, how their work is, how the kids are doing, when were you home last ? etc., or to discuss the latest encounter with the “Religious Police” perhaps….
It struck me also that Riyadh and Saudi Arabia is a very transient place. At each gathering, I meet people who have been here many years, have just arrived recently, are back for the second time or are heading home for good in a few weeks, a kind of “Airport Terminal Waiting Lounge” of sorts here in the Middle East.