Strangers in the night (chemist)


I’d just finished to visit a friend in hospital and figured that I might as well stock up on some ‘A/C-induced-flu’ medicine from the hospital pharmacy before I made my way back home.

I opened the door to the chemist’s and was greeted by a smiling face.

“Do you have something like Calpol, you know liquid paracetamol for kids? And, can I have a couple of packets of Panadol, please?”

I drummed my fingers idly on the counter as the assistant busied himself amongst the shelves.

“Fevadol is for children” he placed the box before me “And Panadol.”

“How much?” I asked pulling the notes I was expecting to use from my wallet.

“This, 17 riyal.”

Not much of a man of receipts, I placed the exact money on the counter and reached for the medicine intending a quick exit.

“Wait!” He said forcefully and thrust his hand forward; hovering it above mine with his fingers spread to indicate stop.

I looked up, gently releasing my grip of the medicine and slowly withdrew my hand.

“I give you kis” he said domineeringly.

What could I possibly reply to such an obtuse request?

As I stood there reflecting upon how ticklish his moustache looked, he must have construed my delay to respond as a form of passive consent.

He reached under the counter, fidgeting for something and pulled out…

… the plastic bag (known as kīs [كيس  kees] in the local dialect) that he’d just offered me.

Al-hamdu lillāh, fear was replaced by relief.

Nowadays, I just smile to myself whenever a shopkeeper asks me “kīs?”

“No, just a bag will do thanks!”

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8 Comments

Filed under The World Through My Eyes

8 responses to “Strangers in the night (chemist)

  1. Well there’s a cheesy excuse for a chat-up line, if ever I saw one! Allah forbid… unless it’s from your spouse… but still, how cheeeeeesy?!

  2. Hey!

    KSA is a country where all the shop assistants are male. So it’s unlikely to be used much as a chat-up line, at least by me anyway (not sure about some people that I’ve seen though.)

  3. anonymous

    I’ve heard this in the Bengali version. The word is kissa, abbreviated to kis.

  4. That could well be the origin. They word “seeda” (meaning ‘straight’ ) is also a part of the local dialect, which I’ve been told comes from Urdu.

  5. alistiqaamah

    He really said Panadol and not Banadol?

  6. There are few of them out there that have mastered P sound. But then again there are also some beoble who haven’t.

  7. Umm Musa

    When we first arrived here, my husband would come home often cringing telling me how Arab colleagues or even students would have rubbed their noses against his and kissed his cheeks.

    I told him to embrace it and get over it lol.

  8. I’m not 100% keen on all the hugging and air kissing to the cheeks either.

    Although I haven’t come across anyone wanting to rub noses yet. I thought that was something unique to Inuits/Eskimos?

    I’ve had a fair few kisses to the shoulder and a got a respectful kiss to the forehead from Shaykh Al-Ajmy which was nice.

    But in general I think my British awkwardness and aversion to the kiss shows when I shudder a little and my eyes go wide from fear upon the approach and so many Saudis spot this cue and hold back from completing it.

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