Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stuff Arabs Like #1: Shiny tile floors

The hubs and I have now traveled to 4 countries on the Arabian peninsula, and I think this gives us the right to post a few of our observations. At first I thought some of the funny quirks we noticed about Saudis might have been limited to just our new home. But now that we've been to Bahrain, the UAE and Oman and we've seen a lot of the same quirks, I think it's safe to say that these are not unique to KSA.

Thus, dear readers, we give you the first in a series of posts: Stuff Arabs Like.

Our first entry: Shiny tile floors

Look how shiny!!

Anybody who has nominal knowledge of thermal properties knows that tile floors generally stay cooler than carpet or wood floors. That makes them a natural choice for flooring in the Arab world (cause it gets hot here). We have seen more tile since arriving the Saudi Arabia than we ever thought possible.

No matter where you go, most businesses have shiny marble tile floors. I'm not sure if they're all marble, but they are polished to a glistening shine regardless. It certainly gives the impression of opulence, but they also make dusty footprints VERY obvious.

Don't you worry, the Arabs have a solution for that!

Asian migrant workers! Whether it's a mall, a mobile phone store, a movie theater, or just a bathroom, Arab businesses have a diminutive Asian man dutifully following behind their customers with a cloth broom to wipe up those pesky footprints and make everything shiny again.

They're like the silent force of the Middle East. You never hear them say anything-wait! I lied. I did have one of them give me the creepy eye and say "Es Salam Alaykuum" (or however you would transliterate that phrase) in a mall in the UAE this week.

Anyway, they don't complain, they don't roll their eyes when you walk over the exact spot they just wiped, and they rarely look up from the surfaces they are polishing. These human Zambonis just do their thing and keep the floors sparkling.

So here's to you, Asian Migrant Zamboni. Thanks for doing the grunt work and allowing us to feel like we're always in the lap of luxury.

Vicariously yours,


  1. I think this should be a spinoff to your blog...I feel there is a lot of fodder over there for cultural generalizations. PS. I don't think Asian migrant workers who clean are limited to just SA...in my office building, we have a diminutive Asian family that keeps the place tidy.