RIYADH, 22 August 2004 — Expatriate communities make the Kingdom a home away from home for a comfortable and peaceful living. There are several places which are better known for their expatriate concentration and therefore by their nicknames.
One such place is a typical Pakistani city in the heart of Riyadh. The place, popularly known as “Islamabad”, is centrally located in the Shumaisi district, hardly a kilometer south of the Riyadh Central Hospital.
Their concentration in the enclave is best explained by the large number of Pakistanis coming out of the area’s Ummu Saleem mosque after Friday prayers. Most of them come dressed in their national costumes and disperse after the congregation babbling in Pakistani dialects and never forgetting to hug each other.
The entire area caters mainly for the Pakistani community. The hairdressing saloons, video shops, groceries, restaurants, bookshops are all manned by Pakistani expatriates.
Magazines, newspapers and video and audiocassettes in Urdu are aplenty. The groceries are also stacked with stuffs that meet the needs of the community. It is also an ideal place for non-Pakistanis to taste the Pakistani cuisine in one of the food outlets.
A travel agency in the area mainly handles reservations and ticketing to various destinations in Pakistan.
The Sialkoti Sweet House has more than 25 varieties of the country’s sweets besides its “faluda sherbet” and other sweets such as burfi, kalakand, gulab jamun, rasmalai, mesui and other forms of desserts with local ice cream. Opposite this is a Punjabi restaurant where a wide range of Pakistani dishes are available. The restaurants and kiosks in the area sell such dishes as biriyani, korma, kadai chicken, acchar gosht, shami kebab, sheesh kebab and chapli kebab.
Visitors to this area in the evenings would never miss a beautifully landscaped roundabout where most of the Pakistanis gather for a chat. One could see several groups of community members exchanging information about their relatives and events that are taking place back home.
“My house is too small to entertain my friends, so I bring them here and chat with them for long hours,” said Ahmed Khan who was in a group of Pakistanis at the green circle. “This is our rendezvous and we ask our friends to meet with us here,” said another Pakistani.
“Friday is my day off and I have come from the industrial area to meet with my friends and tell them about the happy events in my family,” Haque, who has brought his sister’s wedding album to be shown to his friends in “Islamabad”, told Arab News.
In the mornings, the roundabout turns into a different place where people come to pick their laborers for various types of work. Those who need plumbers or masons for their house repairs could easily pick workers from this place.
A visit to the place provides an interesting experience to newcomers. If you don’t speak any of the six Pakistani languages you are a foreigner in “Islamabad”.
The “Little Pakistan” is not far from the Wazarah district where there is a large concentration of Pakistanis and other South Asians.