ENGLISH IN SAUDI ARABIA
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society and Western ones are very different.
of this fact from the start will avoid potential conflict.
following items cannot be taken into Saudi Arabia: alcohol, pork products, pornography,
drugs and guns.
immigration form you fill in on entry tells you in prominent, red letters: "WARNING
DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKER".
and computer disks are liable to be held for 24 hours and checked for pornography
- a problem if your final destination is not near the airport.
religious items may be confiscated permanently, including Christmas trees and
decorations. · Interpretation of prohibited items can be surprisingly broad.
may be confiscated or have offending pages torn out - for example if they have
photos of women with bare arms or legs.
diet pills with banned ingredients have landed people in jail.
searches are usually thorough and not always orderly.
with special equipment, books or presentation materials may need the help of their
Saudi employer or sponsor to clear customs.
in doubt, check with your employer or sponsor, or an expat familiar with the regulations.
and Exit Visas
Arabia does not normally issue individual tourist visas, although there are plans
underway to gradually introduce organized tourism.
for business or visitor's visas are frequently turned down if everything is not
entry visa allowing you to enter and live in Saudi Arabia, does not give you the
right to leave. Exit and reentry visas or exit-only visas are required by residents
who wish to leave the country. Obtaining these visas generally takes at least
two days, although emergency visas can be obtained in a few hours.
to make visa applications a week or two week before your departure date. Allow
even more time before the Eid holidays.
a visa has been issued, it must be used or cancelled before the expiry date, or
there will be a fine of 1,000 riyals.
or "Iqama" Should Always Be Carried
should always carry their passports with them. These will be needed even to buy
a long-distance bus ticket.
employed residents must carry an identity document called an iqama. Dependents
can either carry their passports or a properly stamped and authenticated copy
of an employee's iqama listing family members.
Foreign women, travelling on their own are regarded with suspicion, particularly
if not married. Saudi women do not travel long distances without an male family
member - either their husband or a very close relative.
In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive.
Time and Shopping
offices and other businesses, including restaurants, must close during prayer
times, which vary and are published daily in the newspapers. There are prayers
five times a day, and all of them except those in the early morning fall within
prayers are announced you must leave the shop for about twenty minutes. In some
parts of the country restaurant patrons are allowed remain inside, but no more
food or drinks are served.
The Mutawwa, or "religious police" are accompanied by uniformed police and their
function is to monitor public behaviour and ensure that the Islamic code is obeyed.
Things which might attract their attention would be inappropriate dress, physical
contact between the sexes in public or eating in public during Ramadan.
argue with the mutawwa. Find out what you have done wrong, apologize and correct
Although smoking is common, it is not acceptable for women to smoke in public.
- Many Muslims are totally
opposed to photography, except for essential items such as passports.
photograph people, particularly women, without first asking permission, and do
not expect automatic consent.
installations, airports, government buildings palaces should never be photographed
without prior approval.
who ignore these conventions risk confiscation of their film and possibly their
photographers should obtain an official permit from the local government offices,
although the envelope containing the permit is seldom opened, as the stamp on
the envelope is usually considered proof of permission.
permission has been given, photographers will find that some Saudis are enthusiastic
subjects, especially children.
Polaroid camera can be useful to provide extra, instant photos as gifts.