Yesterday after being dropped off at the hotel, I swear that our handler (hereafter referred to as "Tony") said he'd be back at 12:00 to take us shopping. Having had a mobile phone recently, I'm used to being able to contact people when things don't go according to plan so I didn't think to press for more details. I just figured that we'd take a nap in the room, eat some breakfast and wait for Tony in the lobby at 12:00. I'd heard about the Arab sense of time so it wasn't until 1:00 that I decided Tony wasn't coming. After calling my school, I was able to get Tony's mobile phone number and call him to find out if I was in the wrong place, the wrong time or even the wrong day. Tony didn't seem to know what I was talking about and even said that he had plans to pick another person up at the airport later in the afternoon so he couldn't meet us until early evening. Now, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I was pretty sure he said he'd meet us at 12:00. It's not a big deal because it's not like we were doing anything else anyway. I do have to say that he has been really helpful and is a pretty nice guy.
We were able to arrange for Tony to pick us up to show us our apartment. We didn't get the villa like we'd hoped but it is a fairly large 3-bedroom apartment with 2 and 1/2 baths. The floors are all marble. It really is a nice place in a good location. We have 5 days to furnish it enough to make it livable. For us that means a fridge, stove, beds, washing machine/dryer, and possibly a sofa (Don't worry, we already have our rice cooker that we bought in Japan).
We were able to get an hour at IKEA yesterday with Tony driving. Today and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) are weekends so we didn't want to bother Tony so we took a cab to a nearby shopping mall to find out appliances. I have to say that the malls are impeccably clean with pretty much every store and restaurant you'd find in the States. Some examples are: IKEA, The Body Shop, Timberland, Baskin Robbins (every couple blocks or so), Fudruckers, Applebee's, Hardee's, and a number of others that I wouldn't expect to have an international presence.
On the ride home, I got into a taxi that I realized too late was run by a company that a friend of mine warned me against with regards to crazy driving. Watching the meter randomly flip digits that had no bearing on where we were going, I was preparing myself for the inevitable confrontation that would come when the driver presented me with the outrageous fare. We arrived, the driver motioned for me to get out and said something I didn't catch. After asking him to repeat it several times I finally caught what he was saying: "As you like." Apparently he was leaving it to me to decide how much I should pay. Luckily, I knew what the fare was from the ride over or I would've had no idea what to give him. Also, I'm sure I would've overpaid because the price was incredible cheap. Possibly due to the readily available gasoline.