St Patrick’s Day Saudi style

Hello and welcome to another day of sun in Riyadh! It is spring here now and the days are like the best of our summer weather – warm, cloudless and sunny, days for shorts and Tees. I think we have to make the most of it before the temperatures begin to soar.

We were home for a short while to renew our visas but we’re back and the blogs will be getting back on track also!

So this week was St Patrick’s Day, or as it’s called here, Ireland’s National Day (no referencing saints!).


A balloon shamrock floating in the Irish Embassy pool in Riyadh.

We were lucky enough to be invited to a reception at the Irish Embassy to mark ‘National Day’ and it was such an interesting evening. There were about 700 people including diplomats from other Embassies, together with representatives from Saudi government organisations and businesses mingling with so many Irish people who are all working and living in KSA.

The evening was hosted by the Irish Ambassador and the guest of honour was the Governor of Riyadh Region, Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. He is 75 and is the King’s nephew.

There was quite the skirmish and buzz as he arrived. He went into the Embassy to be received by the Ambassador then they came out and both national anthems were played. The Ambassador then made a short speech which was followed by the cutting of a cake with a shamrock on the top which they used an Arabian ceremonial sword for, then the Governor popped back into his car and off he went!

Where all the official ceremony took place…

Following his departure the dinner buffet was served which was a smorgasbord of Arabic and Irish dishes. And the evening drew to a close with displays of Irish dancing and Arabic music. It was really something of a pinch yourself experience. Not something you expect to experience in Riyadh. A National Day we will not forget!!

Two cultures collide – traditional Arabic music infront of the Irish flag under a desert sky…

And the National Day fun did not end there! Apparently Kingdom Tower (tallest building) in Riyadh joined in with the rest of the world and went green, but unfortunately we couldn’t see it, although if the weather had been clear we would have been able to on our way to and from the Embassy – it was just a bit of a hazy night.

I also held an informal coffee morning for the other women in our compound to mark the occasion. There were women from South Korea, Lebanon, Jordan, China, Pakistan, England, Poland and South Africa and everyone got into the spirit by wearing something green, even though I think none of them had ever heard of St Patrick’s Day, they were still keen to enter into the spirit. I served wheaten bread, soda bread, fairy cakes iced with shamrocks and of course the ubiquitous fifteens which were a huge hit (as was the novelty headware)!!

(My trademark group photo pose ;0) )

Then, just to keep things even, and completely unexpectedly, I went to a newly opened supermarket on the compound bus – only to be greeted by this:

To say I was taken aback was an understatement. And there was more:

Made out of plums, garlic bulbs and bunches of grapes…

And then they played God Save the Queen at top volume (and they never play music in supermarkets!) It was a real pinch yourself moment. Obviously it is a brand promotion for British goods, but I have never seen anything like it before… (here or at home!!)

You just never know what this city is going to surprise you with next!!

Until next time,

Anne :0)


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