I have just got back from a few days in Riyadh. I can't say I would recommend it as a holiday destination but if you do find yourself in the area you could do worse than pop into the Rotana shop in the Al Faisalah Mall (next door to the tower of the same name, which is the skyscraper with the giant golden ball in the middle). They have a large selection of Saudi and other Arabic CDs going for 15 riyals a pop - roughly £2.50 in your English money.
Needless to say I could not resist a bargain like that, so came away with CDs by Majd El Kasem, Talal Maddah, Khaled Abdulrahman, Saif Shaheen, Mansour El Mohanadi, Mishal Alarouj and Nabeel Rodeh. If any of you have information about any of them I would be delighted to hear from you.
No doubt you will get pestered with some of that in due course, but let's start things with the only CD I bought by a female singer - "Shu Mghaira...!" by the Queen of Lebanese pop, Najwa Karam. Known to her devoted fans as "Shams E-Ghinnieh" (The Sun of Song), Najwa has been strutting her stuff since winning a Lebanese version of The X Factor in 1985. Well I say strutting - presumably only in a very demure way if she ever tours in Saudi, covered head to toe in black and maybe swaying very slightly. In the same way as her female Saudi fans do while waiting in the women only queue at the MacDonalds in the Al Faisalah Mall.
"She Mghaira...!" came out in 2004. To be honest I am not sure Najwa's music is entirely my cup of tea, but see what you think.
"Shu Mghaira" - Najwa Karam
"Akher Dawa" - Najwa Karam
Here she is creating havoc at an army checkpoint last year.
And, with a predictability that regular readers will have foreseen: