Being an Expat in Saudi Arabia

The Full Guide to being an Expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia

Working as an Expatriate in Saudi Arabia can be highly rewarding for many, but for others it can end up being nothing short of enforced slave labor. This hub will try to show you exactly what it is like to work and live within this highly regulated and at times very confusing country.

I worked within the country as a Western Expat (From the UK) in both consultancy and Senior Management roles, while my wife worked in Nursing and is from the Philippines. So I have had the opportunity to mix with people who have worked in many different roles from street sweepers and maids through to company executives.

I will try to give you a full breakdown of everything you need to know about working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah Saudi Arabia

View of the Red Sea Jeddah Saudi Arabia
View of the Red Sea Jeddah Saudi Arabia | Source

Saudi Money

Why Work as an Expat in Saudi Arabia?

There is one very good reason for working as an Expat in Saudi Arabia and that is MONEY!

People come to work in Saudi Arabia from all corners of the globe on the promise of highly paid work, all without tax. In addition to high wages most contracts also include your accommodation and many of your other expenses. Of course these things will all depend on where you are coming from and the job that you are taking.

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is relatively low and most expatriates within the Kingdom have few problems saving the majority of their wages.

Expat Wages in Saudi Arabia

You can be sure that if you are coming from the west and taking a management or senior engineering position that your wages will be higher than you would be able to find back home, especially when you take into account the lack of tax (But be careful about your home countries tax rules as you may still be liable for some taxes back home!) While the "mega" wages that many boasted about 20 or 30 years ago may not be as available you will still find a very good wage; in my last position I was getting around $11,000 every month tax free!

Most westerners will find themselves offered a wage that is a little higher than a good wage back home, but once you are within the kingdom it is possible to network and find yourself significantly higher wages.

However, if you are coming from a poorer country such as India, the Philippines or Indonesia to work as a Maid or a Driver you may find that your wage, although "high" for your home country is very low when compared to other wages within the Kingdom. You will often earn just a thousand Riyals ($375) every month, but you will still have your accommodation and food covered.

Educated individuals from places such as Pakistan can find work at western rates in some companies, however they are more likely to find themselves being offered much lower wages than Westerners or even other Arabs for the same position.

Problems with being paid in Saudi Arabia

BUT; beware. Although there are rules regarding how people should be paid according to their contracts, the power very much rests with your employer. Many expats that I have met end up being paid far less than they were originally promised back home especially if they are taking unskilled jobs.

I also know of many expats that go unpaid for months on end; while some can get help from the Saudi Labor Courts such as the whole staff of one hospital in Jeddah that went without wages for over six months. Others, such as maids can be really badly deprived of their monies and often resort to having to run away from their employers.

How Many Expats in Saudi Arabia?

While Saudi Arabia is a huge country, its population is not that big, around 27million people in total of which over 8million are expats!

The discovery of Oil in Saudi Arabia has created one of the richest countries in the world, but they know that they cannot rely on this source of money forever! Saudi Arabia has invested very heavily in its infrastructure and in creating Industrial Cities to bring additional wealth into the country. This has created a huge demand for labor within the country and for expertise as there are just not enough experienced and educated Saudis.

Saudis also do not consider themselves as laborers or common workers so all manual work is on the whole done by expats with Saudis taking supervisory or management positions.

Information on Saudi Rules

Follow this link to find out details of what you need to know about Saudi Rules and Regulations.

Women Must Cover up

Saudi Women Sun Bathing by the Red Sea
Saudi Women Sun Bathing by the Red Sea | Source

Following the Rules in Saudi Arabia

With wages being so high in Saudi Arabia you would think that everyone would be rushing to work there! However, Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and one of the most restrictive countries on the face of this earth. Especially if you are used to the freedoms that we experience in the west.

It has many rules and regulations that many from other countries feel that they just cannot live under. I have known many expats that have come to Saudi Arabia believing that they can handle the difference who have then left (If they could) after a few weeks or months unable to handle both the rules and the Saudi Culture.

These rules cover everything from ensuring that women are fully covered from head to toe in their Abaya whilst in public and full sexual segregation in both the workplace and public places. The Saudis are a very conservative people with regards to things like pornography any you will see strange sights such as cereal boxes in the supermarkets being covered with sticky labels or permanent black marker pens to obscure the pictures of scantily clad women on them.

You will also find that your internet is highly restricted and censored. You will find that many sites will be blocked and you will not be able to access them. This can be easily gotten around by changing your IP address by using a proxy, but set this up on your computer before you get into the country as you will find that most proxy servers and providers will be blocked by the Saudi censorship also.

The box to the right contains a link to another hub, which runs through in detail all of the various rules and regulations that you need to be aware of if you are going to visit the country.

How to Get Your Saudi Visa

The following Link will give you all of the details you need on Saudi Visas and how to apply for them. It also relates how I was thrown out of the Saudi embassy, how I was blackmailed into paying for my Wife's Visa and how I had to be smuggled out of Saudi Arabia.

Work Visa and Iqama

Saudi Visa
Saudi Visa | Source
Saudi Iqama
Saudi Iqama | Source

Saudi Visas

Getting your Visa for Saudi Arabia can be a mind altering and stressful experience for many. They do not make it easy to enter the country and you will find that you will have to go through medicals and provide a huge amount of certified information before your visa will be issued.

Your visa is initially requested through your potential employer (Your Sponsor), if they are able, they will get a work visa approved for you which you then have to process through the Saudi Embassy in your home country (or the country you are staying in.)

In some instances, you will find that your sponsor is unable to get a Saudi Work Visa approved and you will be offered a "Business Visa" or some other form of short term visa to get you into the country. You have to be aware that these visas do not offer you employment or any form of protection from just being abandoned as an "employee" by your sponsor as you will not be officially employed. They use these visas usually if they have failed to comply with the Nitaqat laws which specify the percentage of employees that have to be Saudi or if they have fallen out of favor with the local prince or other official!

The link to the right will give you detailed information on the types of visa that you can apply for and the process that you will have to go through. It also details out my own experiences and troubles in getting a visa for both myself and my family. It will also tell you how I had to escape from the country illegally after my visa expired due to my sponsors mistakes!

Once you have your work Visa and enter the country you will not be able to leave without the permission of your sponsor! Your visa will be converted to a residency visa or Iqama within 3 months of your arrival in the kingdom. You need to carry your Iqama with you at all times as your identification.

Your Sponsor will Take Your Passport

Your passport will be held by your sponsor (employer) within Saudi Arabia as these are the requirements. Even Westerners will find themselves deprived of their passports and will only have them returned when it is time to leave the country.

Exiting the country is by way of visa also, if you have already gained your residency permit (Iqama) the only way you can leave the country is by your employer issuing you an exit / re-entry visa or final exit visa.

How to find a Job in Saudi Arabia

For additional help and advice on How to Find a Job in Saudi Arabia just follow this link.

Finding a Job in Saudi Arabia

If, despite the many problems that other expats encounter working in the country still wish to work there, and believe me the rewards are worth it, then you will need to find a sponsor.

For most people this will involve either searching through the many online job sites or finding an agency in their home country.

There are many different job sites and there are literally thousands of jobs being advertised at any one time within Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. It can be very simple to find a job to apply for and for many you may be surprised to find that you have little if any competition due to the lack of people wanting to work in such an inhospitable country.

In countries such as the Philippines and India you will find many agencies actively recruiting workers for Saudi Arabia. Most of these companies are legitimate, however, there are many that exist purely to feed off of peoples hopes. Some of these agencies will charge you a fee for just about everything and will either want this money up front or will expect to claw back the money from your employment. It is the sponsor's responsibility to cover all recruitment expenses so it should cost you very little.

The link in the box to the right will give you my experiences and advice on finding a job in Saudi Arabia.

Information about Working in KSA

The following link will give you additional information and help regarding working in KSA.

The Saudi Workplace

Work in Saudi Arabia
Work in Saudi Arabia | Source

What is it Like Working in KSA

Working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not something that should be considered lightly, the culture, rules and whole way of doing things is just completely different to what many of us have experienced.

Saudis have a very different attitude to work than most of us, in fact, most Saudis that I have encountered would not know what work was if you beat them with it! Therefore, most companies prefer to employ expats rather than Saudis, however with a high unemployment rate for Saudis the Government of KSA has made many positions available only to the Saudis (Such as Human Resources) and given companies quotas that they have to hit for employing Saudis.

Working with them is also very different; you can't jump into a meeting or into someones office and launch straight into business and expect action. Their culture is such that they will want to spend a huge amount of time discussing everything except business first. This can be very frustrating if you are not used to it. Also; even if they do promise to do something, don't hold your breath waiting!

If you are on the "lower" end of the working ladder as a laborer, maid, driver or some other lower paid employee beware. Many Saudis treat people as slaves and will not have any problems shouting at you or even using physical violence!

The box to the right contains a link to a more detailed hub containing all of the information you are likely to need regarding working in KSA.

The Treatment of Expats in KSA.

If you would like to read more information regarding the treatment of expatriates in KSA just follow this link.

Expats Beaten by Saudi Police

How do Saudis Treat Expatriate Workers

Many Saudis feel that lower paid workers are slaves and that non-Muslims and even non-Arabs are sub human! I say many and I really do mean many! There are some Saudis that will treat you very well, invite you into your homes, introduce you to your families, but these unfortunately are the minority in my experience. Most will treat you with indifferent respect at the best of times and will rarely be rude towards a westerner.

However, if you are an Asian or even look Asian or from some other poor region you had better keep your head down! I have witnessed many times how some Saudis will treat their "slaves"! I have seen maids, drivers, and even shop workers shouted at, abused and even physically beaten publicly!

I have run a poll on one of my other hubs and have had over 700 people from poorer countries register their information; of those 67% have claimed to have suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of Saudis.

There is a huge labor "black market" in Saudi Arabia, which is on the whole populated by runaway maids, and other workers who have escaped from abusive or non-paying sponsors. I have spoken to many maids that have runaway over the years in Saudi and have been horrified by the stories of abuse. Many have been locked within homes and physically and sexually abused; many having been raped by their employers.

But if you report rape you are likely to find yourself either ignored by the local police who will do nothing to a Saudi or you will be the one who is in trouble as having sex outside of marriage or being with a man is illegal! There are cases of women who have been raped, being jailed and being whipped for their "crimes."

The link in the text box to the right will give you more detailed information about how Saudis treat expatriates within the Kingdom.

Women in KSA

The following link will give you information about women within the kingdom of saudi Arabia (KSA); Women working in Saudi Arabia.

Women in Saudi Arabia

Unless you are living in another solar system you will most likely be aware that women in Saudi Arabia are subject to some of the most draconian rules possible.

A Saudi woman, in fact, any woman that visits the country is required to obey all of the many rules that are imposed on them by both Islam and by the Saudi Culture. This means that they have to follow a multitude of rules such as;

  • They must be fully covered by an Abaya in Public
  • They cannot mix with men unless they are direct blood relatives (Father/brother/son) or their husband.
  • They cannot travel without their husband's or father's permission
  • They cannot drive

This creates huge problems for any woman that does want to for instance work as they cannot mix with their male colleges and even have major problems just getting to work.

Women can Work in Saudi Arabia

Working as a Woman in KSA
Working as a Woman in KSA | Source

Staying in Saudi Arabia

For more information you can read the following:

Hotels in Saudi Arabia, which will tell you all about the various hotels in KSA and everything from their food to security arrangements

Saudi Compounds which will give you information about the various compounds and everything from facilities to their nightlife.

Saudi Compounds

Saudi Compound Villa
Saudi Compound Villa | Source

Saudi Hotels

Jeddah Hotels
Jeddah Hotels | Source

Living on a Saudi Compound

Where to stay in Saudi Arabia

If you are coming for just a few days or even a few weeks, then you will find some very familiar hotels to stay with in the major cities. Most of the major hotel chains have branches within Saudi Arabia. In fact the Fairmont hotel in Makkah (Mecca) is the highest/tallest hotel in the world, although you will only be able to visit it if you are a Muslim as only the faithful are allowed to enter the holy city of Makkah.

However, in the other cities you will find all of the major hotel chains as well as a few well decorated local hotels, which offer excellent service and some very fine food indeed. Do not stay in a Saudi hotel if you value your waistline!

If you are going to be coming to Saudi to work however you have two main choices, either living in a compound or finding an apartment off compound.

Compound living is generally favored by most westerners as these are secure and provide you with an environment within which you are able to avoid the local Saudi rules. So you will be able to dress "normally" and even drive around the compound as a woman. Many even have bars, although they are strictly still illegal! They also generally have, stores, swimming pools, gyms, and other amenities making them often very like a holiday camp.

Villas on compounds vary hugely from prefabricated, but spacious and well furnished homes through to magnificent mansion like villas. The price of a place on a compound can range from 30k to 40k Riyals per year for a one bedroom apartment through to many hundreds of thousands of riyals for some of the bigger properties on the more sought after compounds.

Places on compounds are highly sought after, in fact, I spent a day ringing every compound in Jeddah and found only one vacancy! Compound living is also much more expensive than living off compound, but it is highly secure and provides a huge amount of relief from the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Compounds generally have very high walls and are highly secure, there will be armed security forces at the entrance ensuring that only residents and invited guests get to come in. It can take a little getting used to having to drive your car past the barrel of a tank to go home!

Off compound living is generally avoided by westerners, I met only one other westerner in my time in Saudi that lived off compound as I did for a few years. Many will not rent to you due to fears regarding your security, in fact, it is generally accepted that westerners are only allowed to live on compound, that being said I enjoyed three years living in an apartment in Jeddah and really enjoyed myself.

Most people live in apartments, these can vary from very basic costing between 5k to 8k Saudi Riyals per year for a 1 or 2 bed apartment to quite nice spacious apartments for 30k to 50K riyals per year. I rented two apartments in my time in Jeddah, the first a brand new 4 bed apartment with fitted kitchen, living room and dining room which cost me 40k. The second apartment being a slightly older apartment with 3 bedrooms and a huge living area in which I could place a pool table, my sofas and TVs, dining table and still have room to have a disco with all of my wife's friends. This cost me 33K for the year.

Most companies either fully pay your accommodation or they will give you an allowance from which you should pay. This can be an excellent way to add to your savings if you don't mind living somewhere cheaper than your company feels you are entitled to.

Hotel and Compound Security

Compound Security Checks
Compound Security Checks | Source

What to do in Saudi Arabia

If you want additional Ideas of what to do in Saudi Arabia have a read of this hub.

Saudi Compound Parties

Enjoying Life on Compound
Enjoying Life on Compound | Source

Shopping in Riyadh

Entertaining Yourself in KSA

If you are living on a compound, then you may find that you have everything that you need right there from bars through to a gym. Life on compound does begin to feel a little false with the same faces and the same things to do night after night, week after week.However, if you want to go outside your choices are limited compared to back home.

Alcohol and drinking alcohol is illegal, so you will not find a bar, you also cannot even take a single woman out with you as mixing of the sexes is also not allowed! There is not even a cinema for you to go and sit in!

If you want to go out you have few choices if you are a single man, you can go to the Mall, but sometimes they will not allow in single men at the weekends when there are lots of families there. You could also go to a private beach, but again many will not allow in single men!

If you are married and have children, then the malls are great, many of the larger ones have full amusement parks with rides for the kids. The private beaches are also quite relaxed and many will turn a blind eye (while they are not starring) at women in swimsuits or even bikinis. But be careful as not all will allow it and it will depend on the other guests present.

There are some great restaurants as the Saudis really like to eat, but everything is segregated so you will either have to sit in the bachelors area (Single men) or in the family area (women and families). There is no mixing of the sexes allowed, not even in Mc Donalds which you will find on almost every street corner along with KFC, Burger King and every other US chain you can think of.

You can explore the Souks (Markets) also but be prepared to bargain well if you want to buy anything. They will try to rip you off as much as they can.

You can also find excursions through most of the compounds, allowing you to go off for everything from trips into the desert to diving in the Red sea.

Dating in KSA

For the full info on how to date in Saudi Arabia as well as some great true stories read this article.

Meeting Women in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, as you will by now be aware, it is illegal for a single man and woman to be alone together. This, as you can imagine, can make meeting and dating with a member of the opposite sex almost impossible; especially if you want to follow the rules and stay out of trouble!

It is possible to date on the compounds, however, there is a huge shortage of single women as most of the women are the wives or the daughters of the other guests on the compound. This does not stop everyone and I have known of several affairs during my times on compound.

There are also female workers on most compounds, however you will often find that the staff are hurried back to where they stay at the end of their work and locked up beyond the reach of the male guests! That being said, it is not unheard of for staff to end up in relationships with men on the compounds.

There are also women that work illegally as maids on some of the compounds and enter the compound even though they should not be able to. Some of these have been known to offer services other than just cleaning your home! I was even aware of one villa on one compound containing 3 young ladies of African origin who accepted gentlemen callers at all times of the night and day!

Parties on compounds are also a great place to occasionally meet unattached women; they will often be invited by friends who are on compound. Although it can be pretty difficult for an unattached man to get a woman approved on his own invite list!

Off compound things are for some harder while some unattached expats have got it down to an art! It is very simple to catch the eye of women of almost any nationality; although I would advise against trying to pick up actual Saudi women although it can be done (quite easily!!)
Once you have caught a woman's gaze and she is showing she is interested you need to pass by and carefully pass your phone number without being noticed. This takes some practice!

You will find in some souks and even malls that there are women actively seeking eye contact with men in the hope of getting passed a phone number; these are not the girls that you can take home to introduce to your mother or that you should be seeking a long term relationship based on love and trust!

Taking women out once you have started exchanging texts and chatting with them can be a dangerous task. You can meet where you are being chaperoned by a married couple or if you want to meet alone, you will have to be very confident and just act as though you are already married; just hope that no one asks to see your marriage certificate or id! It does happen so be very careful, if you are the nervous type that always looks guilty do not try dating in KSA!

Don't get Caught Alone With Women in Saudi Arabia

Who said you can't meet women in KSA?
Who said you can't meet women in KSA? | Source

Traveling in Saudi Arabia

The following links will educate you further regarding what it is really like to travel within Saudi Arabia;

Traffic always bad in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Traffic
Saudi Traffic | Source

Driving in Saudi Arabia

Travel in Saudi Arabia

Getting around in Saudi Arabia as a guy is relatively easy as you can drive or fly just about anywhere you want to within the country. However, as a woman you can not only not drive but you will need a male relative or your husband's permission to fly off!

Most women are driven by drivers hired specifically for them, however, I have known drivers and women arrested for being in the car together as they are not related, so be very aware that this is a risk that you take.

Taxis are a nightmare! Most will try to give you a fixed price way beyond what you should be paying and if they do put the meter on they will take you via an alternative route. So try to act as if you know exactly where you are going and how to get there.

The actual driving in Saudi Arabia is probably the worst in the world. I have lost count of the number of times my car has been hit and the number of near misses I have had; yet before coming to Saudi I have never had a bump! I saw an accident literally EVERY day when driving to and from my work.

Driving across the country is also a real experience, Saudi Arabia is not a small country so it is a lengthy drive (More than 11 hours) from Riyadh to Jeddah for instance. The roads are generally OK, but can get covered with sand so be very careful as this can get slippery or even quite deep if the wind is blowing. Sandstorms are a real experience when you are driving and visibility can be very poor indeed!

Signage is not all that good, within the cities the signs are in Arabic and in English, although outside the city they do not always show English which has caused me some delays in the past; but then back home our signs are not in Arabic so what should I expect!

Flying internally can be a pain also, I have had nothing but trouble trying to book a flight with Saudi Airlines (Saudia) online, in fact, I can honestly say that I have never managed to get through the booking process! Also the automatic terminals in the airport have never worked for me either.

Checking in for flights can be a nightmare, the queues are often long and the Saudis will often just jump straight to the front refusing to queue behind the foreigners!

On board, it is normally OK, although more often than not there is some disruption as people are moved around the plane so that women are not left sitting alone with men!

I have always been lucky when flying from Jeddah as I have friends that work in Saudia, this has always resulted in a "private" check in away from the queues and an upgrade on my seating. Within KSA it always pays to have friends.

Where is Saudi Arabia?

Help in Saudi Arabia

If you get in trouble in Saudi Arabia you need to be prepared! Always carry a number or two through which you can contact your sponsor (especially if you are a woman). Also, always carry numbers of any friends that may be able to help you and if you have ever socialized with high ranking Saudis keep their numbers also - you never know when it may help to know the chief of police.

Police will rarely talk English, however if you keep talking at them, they will more often than not just wave you on your way just to get rid of you! Don't try this if you are a Filipino or an Indian as you will likely just get locked up!

I have found contacting your home embassy next to useless if you have a problem as most of the time they will not be able to help you. Certainly this has been my experience and the experience of many people that I know.

Also beware of lawyers in Saudi Arabia, I went to a lawyer to start a case against my employer, handed over paperwork only to find that the lawyer handed all papers and fully disclosed our discussion to my employer as they were on retainer to them!

Helpful Information for Saudi Arabia.

The following are some additional links to information that may help you if you are staying in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Saudi Airlines (Saudia) is the national airline within KSA and most of your internal flights and even incoming or departing flights are likely to be with this airline.

Saudi Arabia Embassy in the UK, lots of links and details to help you with getting your Visa for Saudi Arabia, use this website to find all of the entry and documentary requirements for your visas.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs KSA (MOFA), links here will enable you to monitor the progress of your Saudi work visa or any other variation of Saudi Visa by using the reference number you will be given for your application..

Saudi Government Links is a Saudi Government website, it has many links to other government sites which will help you with finding other information that you may require for your visit to Saudi Arabia..

Saudi Arabian Embassy Washington is the main Saudi Embassy in the US, here you will find all the information required for your Saudi Visa.

British Embassy in Riyadh is the UK Embassy in Riyadh, very useful if you have questions about Saudi Arabia or need any help. I have found them very helpful when I have needed advice, plus they hold events for us Brits in the country at which they serve BEER!

US Embassy in Riyadh is a helpful link for those of you from the US should you be visiting the country. As with the UK embassy they have events and lots of advice for entering KSA.

Philippine Embassy in Riyadh just to help those of you coming from the philippines to work on a visa in Saudi Arabia.

Indian Embassy in Riyadh Indian Embassy in Riyadh

Embassies in Saudi Arabia has Contact Details for All the various Embassies in KSA should your individual embassy not be listed above.

Saudi Arabia Travel Advice is US Travel advice for Saudi Arabia which is equally applicable to any other nationality who may be considering gaining a visa to visit Saudi Arabia.

Arab News Arab Newspaper

Haj Travel Information Saudi Arabia Haj Information

Muslim Sacred Sites in KSA that you could visit once you are there.

Entertainment in Saudi Arabia Things to do in Saudi Arabia.

Learn to Speak Arabic Learn to speak Arabic online so that you can chat up those beautiful Saudi girls.

Arabic words and phrases Some Handy words and Phrases to help you out or at least give you an idea of what people are talking about.

Muslim Date Conversion Saudi Arabian Muslim Date Conversion; they do not use the same calendar as us so you may find yourself getting very confused!

Do You Want to Work in Saudi Arabia?

Having read all of the above would you still consider working in KSA?

See results without voting

Expat Saudi Support

If you have any comments or want to ask any questions at all about being an expat in Saudi Arabia feel free to leave them below and I will be happy to answer them.

More by this Author

Comments 119 comments

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

It's interesting to hear so much of the same experience I had back in the 1990s, but from a different point of view. This hub could have been ten hubs! There is so much info here. Are you still working in the Kingdom?

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 3 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

My dad went to work in KSA at the age of 70 He was denied an exit visa until he found a qualified replacement. As a power economy advisor this wasn't easy, eventually he was allowed home nearly a year later

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Kathleen, many people say that it has not changed much over the years. The purpose of this hub is to summarize about 15 hubs that I have written about Saudi and my experiences there and give the reader one hub to start from to find out about living and working in the kingdom.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Gypsy, this is a major worry for many people working in KSA. With your sponsor holding your passport and being in control of issuing your exit visa they have full power over you. Many expats end up being denied holidays and having their departure delayed like your dad.

I even have emails from a married couple where the wife has taken another job and transferd her sponsorship to the university where she was working so as to work legally She then found that she was denied holidays to match her husband and they then tried to force her to move away from her husband to another city and refused to release her!

I have another where the sponsor is insisting that the woman move into a female only compound away from her husband and again is refusing holidays and exit.

Refusing exit until a replacement is found is a very common complaint that arrives in my emails.

You have to be very careful indeed working in Saudi and ensure that you vet your sponsor carefully to try to avoid these types of problems.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 3 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

A good read! I did 6 months there and for the most part enjoyed it well enough, but I wouldn't rush back. Qatar is a lot more comfortable (except that the cost of living is pretty high here).

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Paraglider,

I have not been to Qatar and only spent a brief time in some of the other gulf states. But my time in Saudi Arabia I thoroughly enjoyed; although I did everything that I should not have done and went everywhere I was told not to! Which is probably why I had so much fun and had police waving guns at me and other experiences. I would go back to work there tomorrow but I am not so sure they will have me back anymore!

calculus-geometry profile image

calculus-geometry 3 years ago from Germany

I always enjoy your articles on living in Saudi Arabia. My main complaint from short stints living abroad is lack of variety in the grocery stores, especially with fruits and vegetables. Being in the desert so far from the main producers, do Saudi Arabian grocery stores have a more limited selection, or does the overall wealth of the country allow them to import everything under the sun?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Calculus

The Saudis love to eat and the supermarkets are overflowing with different produce from all around the world. You can find a very wide selection of produce, in fact if you think about it the Saudis with little but sand grow very little of their own food so almost all of what you see in the stores has been bought in.

You will even find camel meat alongside your beef and lamb on the meat counter!

PRINCE OM 3 years ago

I read& found useful valuable info you share with us about saudi.

plz tell me if you know about National port services , NATIONAL TERMINAL CONTAINER MGT CO.-saudi co., a british co .,when its new project is going to start in jubil & other KSAparts.

thnx in advance

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Prince, I am not up to date with what they are doing, you will have to search the companies involved to find out what their intentions are within Saudi Arabia over the coming years.

Cohen 3 years ago

What do you know of banking sector? As I understand they pay 14 or 15 months salaries... Pls elaborate on this topic...


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Cohen, not being a banker in Saudi Arabia I can't really elaborate for you, but maybe one of the other readers will be able to leave a comment with the answers you are seeking. Otherwise if you are seeking a job in the sector just start to apply and ask them directly.

SR 3 years ago

You've done a splendid job of sharing all that you've learned. Thank you. I am a non-white US citizen, living stateside, my wife is Irish-America and we have two mongrels (that's how I refer to my 15 and 10 year olds). I've never been to KAS and never had any desire either. That is until now, when circumstances have compelled me to be 'flexible' and look at 'all' job options. There is a position in Saudi Aramco (Allied Medical Services) that I was going to apply for but someone said that age 60 is a real barrier to employment. I am turning 59. Should I even try?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi SR,

Currently they are looking to retire expats at 60 so there would be little point in you applying. That being said if they cannot find anyone younger to fill the post they would have little choice. Even one year of employment in Saudi can be very worthwhile financially.

SR 3 years ago

One more question. In 1992 I had a serious altercation with the visa officer at the Saudi Embassy in London after they had really dickered me around and made lame excuses to not give me a "business" visa which I was actually going to use for visiting a friend who worked there at the time (since visit visas were not done then). In my outrage I stormed out after uttering very harsh words (mentioning bodily fluids, unnatural acts) about their country, their king and their flag. The shocked facial expressions of the arrogant visa officer were priceless. Do you think my name would be on some kind of a 'security watch list' given their fascist security apparatus. Would I be in any danger if I did end up in Saudi?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi SR,

I was physically carried out of the Saudi Embassy in London a few years back after one of the counter staff there told me that they "did not want you sh1t in our country"! As you can imagine I took offense at this and was shouting at him and demanding to talk to someone in authority.

This resulted in me being "escorted" bodily out of the building into the street outside.

I applied for my visa through an agent a few days later and it went through their system and I was back in Saudi a few weeks later without any problems despite my little problem in their embassy.

Dev 3 years ago

I graduated in engineering from India.During my college days I made a friend(roommate) who was from Saudi and we eventually became best friends.Last year he went back to Saudi and I started working in an MNC in India. Last week my friend offered me a job in Saudi with a tempting salary.

After reading your article I am bit confused and scared.

Having a friend in Saudi will ease out the problems a bit or not ?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Dev,

I actually had some Saudi friends before I went there also. It was a big help in settling into the country however it can also be trouble if you are not careful. Most of my friends turned out to be drinkers and smokers of hash which in Saudi is a very big no! So I was very worried to be caught with them should there be a problem. For them they would have had a slap on the wrist and be let go, for me it would have been a very serious problem. So just be careful what your friends are leading you into!

Sergio 3 years ago

Thanks for your deep description! My company sends me to Riyadh in few days and the more I read, the more scared I am. I think I'm not going to step out the compound, too easy to make a mistake :-s

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Sergio, as long as you stick to their rules you will be fine. As a guy it is pretty easy there to be honest, you will be fine.

hamdan Kappil 3 years ago

Thanks for your article,

You are always trying to degrade Indians as poor.. Do you know how many rich Indians are living in KSA?... of course I can agree some sort of discrimination can be seen in airports and in work environments. As an educated guy i didn't experience any sort of discrimination from anyone. Some saudis have tried to quarrel with me although i have given them the replies which they deserve. Within the one year of my arrival I managed to speak arabic as well. I think the problem with the westerner is that they don't try to speak the local language since they think that English is known for everyone in the world. I don't say all saudis are good, i know personally some of them are very reluctant in their work but some are good..

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Hamdan,

Sorry that you feel that I am degrading Indians, I can promise you that it is not my intention. Like any population it has its mix of very poor and very rich. However the majority of manual laborers, drivers etc that come from India are from poor families and are treated very poorly within Saudi Arabia by many of the Saudis. You yourself state that many have tried to quarrel with you.

My hub about how expats are treated contains a poll of the readers within which several hundred people have voted. This poll shows that around 2/3rds of the people from "poorer" countries have experienced verbal and physical abuse at the hands of Saudis. In most other countries this would result in outrage and law suits.

Yes some Saudis are good but far too many are very poorly behaved especially when it comes to treatment of people that they feel are less than they are!

Westerners are far from perfect as is every human being, we all have our faults and our differences. I don't live in my home country anymore as I feel uncomfortable there and unsafe! Some aspects of Saudi are better than my home but others fall far short.

Unfortunately I am one of those useless western expats that cannot speak Arabic, although my wife after 12 years is fluent; I am just not very good at picking up languages, I far prefer to work with numbers!

Anyway; I hope that you continue to enjoy your work in Saudi Arabia.

DiDi 3 years ago

Never ever work here as an expat.

Hamdan Kappil 3 years ago

Actually i didn't intend to have a healthy debate with you. As an expat I too have some difficulties to survive here in this desert. In my view if each expat try to give a reply to those who try to harass them may eradicate this social behavior. Every time I felt that Saudis want to pretend themselves that they are holier than anyone. In each time if an expat could give a cut throat reply these people may hide in their holes. Meanwhile I too have many good Educated Saudi friends, they keep wellness with me.

Anyway thanks for your efforts to give a brief description about this "wonderful" country. If I had read your article before one and half years I would not have reached here except for Hajj and Umrah (Since those are must to do pilgrimage event once in our lifetime).. Anyway Saudi job is not a sweet honey for me. By the end of the next ramadan I will go for a final exit, Insha Allah ( I will do it, don't declare this as a non event :) ).

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Didi, I personally enjoyed working in Saudi Arabia, it was an experience that I will never forget and certainly one that I often enjoyed despite many of the Saudis.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Thanks for reading Hamdan. I too wish that Saudis themselves would stand up and try to eradicate the behavior of those poorly behaved hypocrites within their society rather than just denying their existence. Then they would truly start to advance.

Mohammed Fahad 3 years ago

my company is not legalizing my status from 5 months. I submitted my iqama to them on 15 june 2013 and my iqama got expired in october 2013 and they are not renewing it.and my passport is in there hand. if i complain to police then police will catch me..To whom should I complain??? please reply on my email id:

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Mohammed,

It is the responsibility of the sponsor to keep your Iqama up to date and if they fail to do so they will face fines. Talk first to them; tell them that you will contact the labor courts if they do not take their responsibilities under Saudi labor law seriously.

If you have to, talk with your Embassy and then go through the labor courts which will force your sponsor to correct your problem as it is no fault of yours. However you also need to understand that they could also decide that your contract has ended and that you should return home!

Swapneel Gaikwad profile image

Swapneel Gaikwad 3 years ago

Hi LeanMan,

I have read your content and god bless you as your writings has given me in depth knowledge about Riyadh. I am getting me visa by last week of November.

I have a query which i am sure you can address.....the company with which i am taking an assignment is first sending me on visit visa for 3 months and then they will convert / offer it to employment visa for 2 years from Riyadh Itself.

Wanted to understand, in this kind of situation, will there be any hassles for me working in Riyadh as I am going to work as Business Development Domain.

Awaiting your revert.


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Swapneel, it is very common for companies to bring people into Saudi using a business visa initially although they also do this when they are having problems getting work visas approved so be aware. I got stuck using Business visas for almost a year and had many problems although I also know many people that have used them for years without any problems at all.

You should not have any problems working with the company using the business visa there in Saudi.

You will still have to leave at the end of your business visa and then process your work visa before returning. It will not be done in Saudi (Unless of course your employer has a friend in MOFA who is going to do everything for them!)

Kavitha 3 years ago

Hi lean man

I am offered a job in Saudi... but am pretty confused as I am a women... pls let me know if I will be able to manage without a male accompanying me...

Sangwon Moon profile image

Sangwon Moon 3 years ago

Wow. I was just finding some information about Saudi 'cause I'm moving to Saudi next year to investigate the Middle East markets especially Saudi. (I'm from South Korea, and working for Samsung now) But I'm very worried that there're not enough information anywhere! But your article is really awesome. then Can I ask something more?

any travel spots? (Nice views, accommodations, sea, beach.... or something fun)

and as ex-expats what part was good in Saudi? very controlled and nothing fun nation but what's good??

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Kavitha;

Start by reading this guide; Within it you will find information and links to in depth info as to what it will be like working in Saudi Arabia as a woman.

Personally I would not recommend working in KSA as a single woman, although many women do. Be aware that as a female expat you will have few rights and will be under the full control of your sponsor (employer) with regards to almost everything.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Sangwon

It really depends what you like! If you are a Muslim then obviously a trip to Makkah and Medinah would be worthwhile.

Otherwise you will find that there are amusement areas in the malls for kids and lots of desert if you fancy a trip out.

At the coast (Jeddah and Al - Khobar) you will find various beach "resorts" and even organized diving. However as a single guy you may not be allowed access into many of the beaches as they are for mainly families.

There are public beaches (but remember that you should still dress decently!) and there are also some nice walks along the Corniche.

In Jeddah there is also the old city to walk around if you like old buildings.

Other than that there are many Souks (markets), malls and of course restaurants.

Don't however expect bars, cinemas or anywhere to meet nice girls!

Saudi Arabia is not really a country that is aimed at the tourist unless you are a Muslim going on a pilgrimage.

Anand 3 years ago

Hi Leanman,

I am here in Riyadh on a work visit visa from India for a couple of months and your hub is a very useful source of information and made for enjoyable reading!

Many thanks!

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 3 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Anand,

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you enjoy working in Riyadh during your stay in Saudi Arabia.

johncliff 2 years ago

Yes I was verbally abused by my S.Superior...he told me if u resign I don't care in fact I don't tell him I will resign maybe he speculates or heard rumors for me to resign because of wrong status iqama issue my iqama now has doc. control position but my actual position is an engineer level...this S.Superior told me to change my doc. control iqama status cos he said he want a clear documentation.....he said he will observe my capabilities for the three months and gave me chance but I can't remember I did mistakes/wrong to him eversince I still 2 months now and he said I am not reliable and low profile in fact he transferred me now to another section....he is very arrogant and bossy without filtering what he says.. he is S. Chemical Engr. by profession.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi John,

Sorry to hear that you are having problems and not enjoying being an expat in Saudi Arabia. Hopefully you will get better treatment in your new section. 2 years ago

hello friend i need clear a doubt ,my friend used alcohol who work past ten years and he got punishment for that 80 slashes and he return to work in his company.but he not like to continue his work in Saudi that time and himself he like to return his home country (India.)and he request "exit' visa.(kurz). now my question if he like again working in Saudi is it possible to visit Saudi ? already three year passed after his exit ?what the rules of if an ex patriot after get punishment ?can he got

a new job to another company ?pls explain the rules after punish a expatiate /...?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

HI, it can be tough for many in Saudi not having access to a drink but many of the expats that I know have easy and regular access to alcohol. Getting caught is always a worry and I am surprised that your friend was not deported. That being said if he was punished and allowed to return to work then he obviously not on any black list for employment and should be able to return.

times101 2 years ago


Was wondering what worse happens if I go on holiday and don't turn up back. So I don't do a final exit!

I hear there is a ban for 2 years but you can come back, can you enter another GCC country in this case.


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Times,

Yes you are banned from Saudi for 1 or 2 years if you fall to return from a vacation and have not done a final exit. Please however be very careful on returning if you have left any debts behind. Having uncleared debt is a crime and you could be jailed on your return to the country.

Going to any other country however should be fine.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Vladimir,

Your sponsor will help you to take care of it. They will know who to take it to, or you will have to exit to Bahrain or Dubai as many people do each month.

dis-cover profile image

dis-cover 2 years ago from Serbia, Belgrade

Hi Tony, thoroughly enjoyed this hub, lots of useful and interesting information, thank you for sharing your experience. Voted up as useful.

Best wishes Predrag.

SeriouslyNow 2 years ago

Hello! I enjoyed reading this page. I was wondering how I could find a job as a maid or caretaker, as I have years of experience in this field. I live in the US and am looking to move. When I looked at various job sites for Saudi I didn't see any positions for such a job. Mostly only professional work. Do you have a website where I can be guided for such work? Thanks

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Seriouslynow,

Most maids and caretakers will be employed from the poorer countries such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines; there are recruitment agencies set up within these countries who seek out people there. The wages however are not very high, most maids earn only around SAR1300 which is just under $350 a month.

SeriouslyNow 2 years ago

Thank you LeanMan for your quick and detailed response.

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Leilani12 2 years ago

Hi there

Do you have any tips or advice on how to vet a KSA company thoroughly? I am considering applying for work with Saudi Aramco and I am concerned about travelling in and out of KSA as I am a single female and I would be wanting to visit the surrounding Gulf states, Lebanon and Iran.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Leilani

Aramco is one of the better companies there in Saudi and have the biggest and best compounds for their staff so you should be ok with them. Traveling anywhere as a single female in this area should be a MAJOR concern to you; it really is not a safe place for a woman alone! You will need your Saudi sponsor's permission to do any traveling.

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Leilani12 2 years ago

Hi LeanMan

Thanks for that. I had reservations about the travelling so that just confirms for me it's a no go especially as I would be wanting to do a few 'weekends' in Beirut to catch up with friends.

Tamra 2 years ago

Good day! Enjoyed reading your hub immensely!

My hubby has been contacted to work at Ma'aden mine via Kentz Group.

Is this company a very reputable company to be sub contracted with?

We are from Canada, he will be the only one going and they have said they'll provide compound, meals etc. Cannot find much information on forums of this mine or company in Saudia Arabia.

Any information you may have would be appreciated :)

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Tamra,

I don't know the company. Have you tried searching on LinkedIn or even facebook to find people that work there? I find LinkedIn to be the best way to find info on companies even in Saudi Arabia. You can try mailing someone that works there.

Zameer 2 years ago

Hi LeanMan.

I enjoyed lot the way you have explained about saudi in this blog.i am thanking god he is given chance me to go through your blog before coming to KSA.

My name is zameer Ahamad. I am from bangalore india.I am having 3.5 years of experience in SAP IT field(SAP and Oracle administrator).need help for knowing the job description of mine which was offered by agent here.

Currently I am working here as iT software consultant in reputed company. Earning okay 28k and life is going fine now.i struggled lot after my father death when I was in 10th standard. I am the elder son and I am having 2 younger sisters and 1 younger brother.Currently now I am handling entire my family.

I got offered from one of the agents for saudi arbia in makkah as IT co-ordinator for restaurant ALBAIK. Is the job IT coordinator is available in albaik or your are having any idea about IT coordinator vacancy.

Please let me know how to trust the agent. He is telling I will definitely get the job in makkah as IT coordinator in albaik.

Please help me out.I am a middle class family person and I am very excited when he told,the job location is makkah.

I am very much happy if you help me out and moving from my IT field as SAP person to different field.

What's your opinion on this.I am single 25 years old.I am bit worried about my decision whether I am doing correct or wrong moving from IT field.


Zameer Ahamad

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author


Only you will know if you can do the job that is being offered. Ask them for a full job description and decide if you really want to work there and if you can be a success at the job.

james 2 years ago

Totally focused on negative sides and i worked there for long time and not all what you mention is true. Most of the people there are friendly and kind

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi James,

It seems that you are still there in Dammam enjoying your life. I am so happy that you have had a fun time without any issues. However if you would care to look at my hub about how expats are treated you will see a couple of polls there that have been answered by over a thousand people.

You will see on the polls that only 25% of western expats report that they have never had any problems and this reduces to just 12% for non-western expats. They also report that 43% have suffered some form of violence at the hands of Saudis.

Yes many people that you meet are friendly and kind as they are in any other country, however those that are not tend to take thinks to extreme limits. This is not a country for non-Muslims or expats to visit or work in without a lot of very careful thought especially if you are a woman.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Saudi Arabia but I also had many problems and met many others that had suffered everything from physical assaults to rape. Yet I have witnessed the police's indifference to what happens when my wife's friend was grabbed, assaulted and they tried to drag her into a car to abduct her; the police came after I called them but refused to do anything as the woman was "only" a Filipina and she was not a Muslim. Can you imagine that reaction in the UK or the US if someone tried to drag a woman kicking and screaming into a car?

I hope that you continue to enjoy your time in Saudi James and hope that you never have to endure what many others have had to.

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GillH 2 years ago

Absolutely brilliant information, thank you. I am contemplating working in Saudi and have devoured your information as it's a bit scary being a white, blonde,European woman!

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi GillH, I would consider what you are doing very carefully before making any decision to go to Saudi as a woman alone. If you do go do not make a habit of wondering around alone and NEVER go anywhere with the guys there - it is just not worth the risk.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

its quite different from saudi arabia and malaysia. But i remembered that you aren't supposed to be alone with a lady at night, get caught, lots of problem

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Peachpurple; it is much worse than that in Saudi Arabia. Women are segregated in many places such as restaurants and even banks. You are not even allowed to talk to a woman if she is not your wife / mother / sister / daughter. Being caught alone with a woman would probably see you being deported from the country and if you were a woman you may end up having "prostitute" stamped in your passport after you have spent time in jail.

Rhonda 2 years ago

Hi. My father is a US citizen, working in KSA. His work visa is set to expire in a few days and as of yet his sponsor has not renewed it. What are the potential problems if he is discovered on an expired work visa? Tia

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Rhonda,

Whether it is a work visa, business visa or Iqama he could potentially be held by the police if it has expired. This could be anything from a few days to months while his sponsor sorts out the problem. The issue is for his sponsor to resolve and they are responsible for any fines should they expire, however that will be of no comfort if your father is caught and put in a Saudi jail.

Your father should formally request that his sponsor renew his visa / Iqama or send him home. If they do not then he can complain to the labor court who will ensure that it happens without any come back on your father.

Please note however that without a valid visa / Iqama it is next to impossible to leave the country!

Gk2005 2 years ago

Hi enjoyed reading your pages, they are excellent, thank you

I have a question if I may? I hope to be working in riyadh shortly and I'm at the block visa stage! Apart from the sponsor can I get information from the MOL regarding the status of the visa? I've been waiting 6 weeks now and have no idea how much longer I will have to wait?


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

If you have not received your visa number then you are very much at the mercy of your sponsor when it comes to information. Getting the visa number is often the most time consuming part of the process and I have many people that have contacted me about being offered jobs and still waiting for visa numbers months later. Saudi companies often have problems getting visas approved but they will of course not tell you that..

Daniel Bassilios profile image

Daniel Bassilios 2 years ago from Newcastle Upon Tyne

This has all the information anyone really needs. Thank you.

My dad worked in Saudi for a few months, an experience that was only worthwhile given the generous salary he received. Otherwise, he was looked down upon by everyone for being an Egyptian christian, he had numerous delays with his visa and of course he had no life outside of the gated community.

The Saudis really need to clean their act up and end the abhorrent disregard for many basic human rights.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

The salary is the main reason that most expats go to Saudi Arabia. The rules there are extreme if you are used to living in the west and have western values; however if you want to earn the money that they offer you just have to put up with it. I am sure however that things will change over the coming years as the older generations are removed from their positions of influence.

kartick 2 years ago

Hi Tony,

I have an offer from Tamimi Markets for a Retail Store Manger role based out of Riyadh or damam. My visa is under process. This organization is a part of the Al Tamimi group. Apart from the salary they have confirmed private accommodation fully furnished. Any feedback....

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 2 years ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Kartick

Best of luck with your new job. As long as you are happy with the salary and the conditions then that is fine.

rdmedranoo 2 years ago

Hello kartick

I have been offered by Tamimi Markets too, they also mentioned Dammam or Riyadh. How can i get in touch with you?

anthony 22 months ago

You have a good depth of the saudi way !

Can the saudi employer refuse to bring my family to Jeddah if in the employment contract, it stipulates that this has been written as part of the employment contract.


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 22 months ago from At the Gemba Author

The family visa is applied for by you; you would be the sponsor of your family and you would have a right to bring them. However you would also have to support them and pay all of the expenses if your sponsor has stipulated that they will not support the dependent visa. There are many companies in Saudi that will pay travel and accommodation for your direct family members but not all will do this.

John the Traveler 18 months ago

Hi Leanman, these posts have certainly been reflective of some of my experiences that I had there. I was there for a good length of time (it seemed like forever) and had my family with me. My oldest daughter had to wear an abaya and head covering and she hated it. I will never forget one experience we had at a shopping center early in our trip. She had to go to the bathroom and so walked away from me for a few minutes. When she came back she was really nervous and I asked her why. I guess while she was in the bathroom a Saudi woman with two daughters -- all of whom were completely covered in black, head to toe -- scolded my daughter for not covering her face. She spoke only broken English and first tugged at her own head covering hoping my daughter would get it (she didn't cover her face). She then tried to speak in broken English and when my daughter sat there confused the woman approached her, looked around quickly and then pulled a scarf out of her purse and WITHOUT ASKING MY DAUGHTER took off my daughter's head scarf and after she was done the woman took the scarf from her purse and wrapped it around my daughter and used her own hair clips to secure it (the new covering was all black, like my daughter's abaya). Unlike the original one my daughter was wearing this one covered her entire face except a small slit for her eyes. When my daughter tried to complain the woman said to her in broken English something like "you are very beautiful, you should not show your face to anyone except who allah says you marry". The two daughters then helped the woman straighten out my daughter's abaya and covering... in the end my daughter was covered head to toe in black like the local women. My daughter then tried to take it off but the woman stopped her and said "no, you keep it to wear". So my daughter comes out and I initially didn't recognize her but she was horrified. We never saw that woman again but that really woke me up as to how the people here are, we think that woman was trying to help but the fact that she forced that upon my daughter without even asking her says a lot about the people there, they want everyone even foreigners to conform

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 18 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi John,

Personally I don't think I would ever take a young girl to stay there in Saudi. I had enough problems with my wife there and she lived there long before I arrived. If we had a daughter I would not ever let her loose. I have had many emails from expats who have had their daughters harassed there in Saudi Arabia because of the way that they dress or to get them to convert. It is not a safe place to let your children out of your sight - especially if it is a daughter.

John the Traveler 18 months ago

Hi Tony, we have no idea why this woman did this to our daughter, we're not sure if they were trying to convert her or if they just couldn't stand to see a girl showing her face. I'm not sure I believe the Saudi woman's excuse -- that she did it to "save my daughter's beauty" for who she marries, though maybe she did since that's the culture here, I don't know. After that incident though we left the mall quickly and figured it was best for my daughter to keep it on in there just in case that woman was still there. But after that we took it off right away. I don't know what that woman was thinking... maybe you can guess? Luckily we had very little issues in the future after that.

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NJAWE 18 months ago

assalam alaikum tony , im really glad to see ur helping a lot of people here.

can you please guide me about how to get job in ksa & how do they confirm you . they take any online interview or what?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 18 months ago from At the Gemba Author


There is a section above about finding work in Saudi Arabia with a link to a more in depth article here that you can read. Most of the employers will call you or interview you over Skype while some may actually travel to interview you. It will all depend on the type and level of the job that you are doing.

IntlManofMystery 18 months ago

I have a relative in my family who knows a filipina going over to work in Saudi Arabia, from what I can tell she hates it and wants to come back. I'm sure that's a common sentiment...

Mae 18 months ago

Hi Every one,

Is someone here living in Qassim? Can you give me an idea if it is hard to live here or what kind of culture they have..

Boma West 17 months ago

Hello! this thread & post has been nothing short of amazing , i'm enthralled, scared with lota butterflies in my tummy ! whew! ok... down to the crux of the matter . i'm 25 , Nigerian , single & trying to score a job with Total E&P Qatar , do i stand a chance with all these stringent laws?

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Nimble057 17 months ago

Thanks for all the info just wished I'd found it before arriving out here in Riyadh! Looks like I've been suckered on housing allowance!

It seems I'm on a contract with all Brit expats, as I suppose I now am, however they're all a good decade older and with cynicism unparalleled having worked all over the MENA region. In the week or so I've been here they've done nothing but suck the excitement out of the adventure with constant moans about how it's not Dubai essentially.

So many thanks for the injection of positivity.

One quick question, her indoors back home quite fancies giving it a go out here but she's black British and I've heard some horrors already so any comments would be great.

Additionally we've a 4 year old have you any advice vis a vis schooling?

Many thanks for all your efforts once again

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 17 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Nimble,

There are many expats wherever you go in the world that like nothing better than to moan about the conditions that they have to put up with and everything else - just ignore them and get on with enjoying your life. Saudi has a lot to offer as long as you don't want to spend all of your time sat with the same group around a compound pool drinking home made booze until you can forget where you are...

As to bringing your wife I would say - don't... Saudi really is not a place for a woman to be and being stuck on compound all day everyday can be a little bit of a pain to say the least - at least that is the feedback I have had from some of the other wives. My wife spent 12 years there and has had more than her fair share of run ins with the local mutawa and other officials and even attacked by local Saudi guys. Going out alone really is not advisable as a woman in Saudi!

However long distance does not always work for some so you really do need to talk it through with her and make sure that you do what is workable for her and you. Maybe a long vacation there with you if you can. I knew some that used to have their wife come to stay for just a couple of months as well as going off with the family using their generous vacation allowances so they were never really apart for more than a couple of months.

As to schooling, I am far from expert in this area but I would talk with the guys local to you to find out where they send their kids etc. Just ensure that it is an international school you are sending them to with a more balanced curriculum than 80% Koran based!

suraj punjabi profile image

suraj punjabi 16 months ago from jakarta

Wow that is some scary experience right there. I remember I was going to Bali from Jakarta, and there were a group of arab travellers in the waiting room. So I found an empty chair and I sat and I did not notice there was a women covered from the tip of her head to the tip of her feet in black burkha. I did not really cared much. Then her husband came out of nowhere and starred at me and told me to get the hell up. Thank god I did not do that in their homwtown, god knows I probably would not be here writing this right now. Ridiculously conservative.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

It certainly always best to avoid sitting beside Saudi women, especially when they are with their family.

Gypsy Willow 16 months ago

My dad worked in Rhiyad for over a year in a high ranking job. He was not allowed to leave until he had found a replacement Power Economy Advisor. Not an easy task! Great scary hub!

Mark Pelletier 16 months ago

Hi Tony,

First off all, thanks for the great hub. This question isn't exactly about KSA, but it is related topic-wise I think.

My daughter is good friends with a Muslim girl who lives down the street from us. The family is very nice and our children hang out frequently after school, etc. I'm learned a lot about Islamic culture from them (very important in this post 9/11 world), as the daughter wears a hijab (has since 6th grade) and stopped wearing pants a couple years ago. Both our children are high-school age.

Recently my daughter has been casually mentioning to me that her friend is talking about covering her face as well (showing only her eyes, ie niqab). I first heard of this several months ago but my daughter now says her friend has brought it up several times this past week. When my daughter asked her friend, she said her brother (who is currently in college) is encouraging her to do it, and while she doesn't seem opposed to it she doesn't seem to be embracing it either. When my daughter went over there yesterday to work on a book report, her friend was trying on various niqabs and asking my daughter halfheartedly which she thought looked best.

I am concerned because I fear that this girl's brother and her family are trying to push this on her against her wishes. She was very slow to adopt many other Islamic practices: she did not wear a head covering until middle school (by then I already knew her very well) and started wearing long skirts around mid-9th grade. This girl already stands out among her peers and I fear that if she is persuaded to wear a niqab then she will lose many friends and become alienated. I also do not want other members of her family to influence her in ways like this and I am very concerned.

I am thinking about saying something, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea. On the one hand, I don't want to interfere, but on the other hand, I don't want people forcing doctrine down this girl's throat or telling her that she is not a good Muslim unless she covers her face.

What would you recommend here? Sorry for the lengthy post. If there are any Muslims here I would appreciate your input as well! Thanks!

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

I have lots of emails from people asking for advice because they want to leave and their employers will not let them until they have a replacement. It is a scary place to work as the employer really does have all of the power..

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Mark,

Their culture is very different from ours and there are many areas in which we do not agree with what they preach and believe. But at the end of the day this girl has to make her own decision, I am sure that she has many of her peers telling her not to as well as family members telling her to do it.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Mark,

The problem is that we have very different views on modesty and what is right for women. Unfortunately you cannot really interfere and she will have to make up her own mind.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Fa, Mark

Whatever you want to call yourself. I published one comment with a link knowing full well that you were probably trying to advertise your own stuff, but the content of the comment was worth the risk - at least you were trying! But when you start sending more comments with more links pretending to be someone else with more links through the same IP address it just starts to get annoying. This hub is to help the people working in Saudi Arabia not a platform for you to spam with your advertising.

Rick 16 months ago

What are the rules concerning carrying small blades and other tools for personal protection. Are there problems with crime? If you encounter the potential for assault, robbery, etc., and you protect yourself, what are the legal consequences?

Thank you!


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Rick

I would not bother with carrying a blade, there really is no need. There are very few problems with crime, certainly as a man I don't have a problem and most guys I know have never had a problem.

For women however it is a different story and my wife used to carry a sizable knife in her bag - she had someone grab her, put something over her mouth which made her very dizzy before shoving her into the back of a car - she went wild with her knife in the back of the car destroying the seats until the guy let her out! I have known several women be grabbed in the street if they are walking alone - it really is not a safe place for a woman!

rehan 16 months ago

Hi I'm a bit worried about my transfer of sponsorship to the new employer..they gave me a demand letter after which I submitted my release letters to the new company they have to send an online request for which they say their system is down question is can be the ministry of labour system go into downtime of specific company? Please revert back

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Rehan,

It is possible that the ministry's system is down, however I would not expect that it would be down for long. Just keep pushing your sponsor, as you are aware things can take longer than expected in Saudi.

Noamme 16 months ago


im from india and im working in ksa now, if my girlfrnd (indian) would also get a sponsorship on employment from a company in ksa, then is it going to be possible for us to get register marriage here in ksa itself?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Noamme,

Yes it is possible to get officially married within Saudi Arabia either with a Muslim marriage or within your own embassy. However you should note that having your girl friend on a different sponsorship may mean that as a woman she will be unable to get free to meet you.

Noamme 16 months ago


thank You.. but i didn't get what you meant.. you mean to say even if we get married we wont be able to meet each other or stay together since we're on different sponsorship?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Noamme,

If your girlfriend comes to Saudi to work with another sponsor then she will have to follow their rules. I know many sponsors that keep their lady staff on small private compounds or villas and the ladies are very rarely allowed out. So if she comes there to work before you are married there is no guarantee that you would be able to meet even.

You also have the issue that even if you do get married then she still has to go where her sponsor says and I have many emails from married couples who have been separated by one sponsor or the other moving their employee elsewhere in the country or demanding that they live in shared accommodation etc.

So just be aware of what could happen.......

Noamme 16 months ago

That's a thing to worry about..

Well, how if she would be having residential permit of Bahrain and travel for work to KSA.. still we will have to follow the same restrictions? we can't have to travel together? has she to be in abaya all the time?

Noamme 16 months ago


like if she'll be provided a resident visa of Bahrain and she travels to KSA on Multi visit only for working hours.. whilst her journey can we travel together? has she to be wearing abaya? even at the office?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Noamme,

There are many professionals that work in Khobar and Damman that commute over the bridge every day from Bahrain. However most sponsors of a single woman will dictate where their employee will stay as it is their responsibility. So most single women are restricted to their compound or shared villa/apartment and will be guarded to prevent any one coming in and even restricted on their going out. The first compound that I worked on rounded up all of their female staff and locked them into their accommodation at around 7pm every evening. They were only allowed out in groups on organized trips with a chaperon. Other staff that I knew that worked for a local hospital were kept in a large villa where they were about 6-8 per room, they were taken to work in a bus and returned to the villa at the end of their shift. There was an armed guard on the gate and they were only allowed out for specific reasons with written permission and had a strict time limit to return within.

If you are not married and you are caught together you are in very serious trouble, she could easily be locked up and be sentenced to lashes and deported with "prostitute" stamped in her passport. So no you cannot just travel together unless you have a married couple with you as your chaperon.

Yes she must be wearing her abaya at all times, even in work if it is an area where men can come into or see into. However many workplaces are totally segregated and women will be in a "secure" area with separate facilities to the men.

The rules for women in Saudi Arabia are not flexible and are not only applied to local women all women must follow them. Women are controlled totally and have very limited freedoms and you cannot just flaunt their rules and traditions and hope to ignore them without suffering the consequences.

My advice is to get married before you go there and then you invite her as your spouse so that you are her sponsor. Then you will have far fewer problems. But then she cannot work as you can only legally work for your sponsor in Saudi.

NOAMME 16 months ago

I'm a bit confused now :o

okay you tell me.. like i said she'll be working for a company in Khobar whilst residing in Bahrain.. company will be providing accommodation and travelling(during working hours only).

so we cannot be together unless we cross the passport island. Right? :/

Coming to the point, if we want to stay together (maybe after 3 or 4 months).. where is it easy to get registered for us? in KSA or Bahrain?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 16 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Noamme,

Like I said, you will be lucky to find a company that will employ a woman in a job in Khobar and will then allow her to live over the bridge and commute daily from Bahrain.

If by registered you mean get married then it is better to do that before you go to Saudi.

Noamme 16 months ago

But im already in KSA :/

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 15 months ago from At the Gemba Author


If you want to marry your girlfriend and bring her to Saudi Arabia then I would suggest that you get married on your next vacation and then bring her. Trying to be with her before you are married in Saudi is going to give you problems. Finding her employment that will suit your specific needs is also going to be very difficult.

Arnel H. Peralta 15 months ago

I got my passport with visa stamped for 90 last Oct 10, 2015 then I arrived in Saudi Arabia on October 12,2015. Hence, I obtained a block/working visa for 90 days, It could be possible to extend additional 30 days because it will expired on 28-Dec-2015 based on the date of visa issued last 30-Sept-2015?

Or do I need to inform my Sponsor/Company to provide me a FINAL Exit back to my home country in Philippines and apply for the new visa hence, still no update regarding my residency/IQAMA if still on process or Not?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 15 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Arnel,

Your visa should be for 90 days from arrival in Saudi Arabia. So if you arrived on October 12 it is OK into the start of Jan. Your sponsor should be dealing with your Iqama so I suggest that you talk with them about it being issued prior to the end of your visa.

Muhammad Rashid 14 months ago

i want to release from my current sponsor before 9 years i was give transfer to my current company

Mike 12 months ago

Hey Tony, do you know anything about Dubai, specifically what the rules/regulations are there? I'm an engineer and I'm considering getting a job there, and I'd like to know if the rules for girls/women are the same there as in Saudi Arabia. Thanks...

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 12 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Mike,

The actual rules are the same in Dubai; however they are very much more relaxed and you will be able to mix with women far more freely. Don't get overly amorous in public places as you are still likely to get arrested.

Mike 11 months ago

Hi Tony, thanks for your comment. Would foreign women still be expected to wear hijab in public in Dubai? Or is it not required there?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 11 months ago from At the Gemba Author

You can get away with it in Dubai unlike Saudi.

Marcel 10 months ago

Hi. I just received an employment agreement from the Security Force Officer Club in Ryiad. Does anyone knows this employer? I am from Germany. Can I expect them to pay my agreed salary in a timely manner, I mean monthly???? Will they keep my passport also? I haven't signed yet......... Need your advise first! Thanks for helping!

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 10 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Do not know that specific employer. But most foreigners from the west will be paid regularly, but there are never any guarantees about delays; even I had delays with my first employer due to only three people in the company being able to sign for money and they twice went out of the country together in the first 6 months I was there.

All employers are likely to keep your passport as this is standard practice, however they should return it when you leave. As it is when you gain your Iqama (residency) you will not be able to leave without an exit visa issued through your sponsor / employer so they have full control over your ability to leave the country.

Kellen Philips 9 months ago

Hi Tony, we've got a rather unique situation I think. I was recently offered a job in KSA and I'm strongly considering it due to the lack of tax. One issue: none of our family is religious, except my daughter, who's Muslim (she converted after going to a mosque with some friends from school).

My understand is that my wife and our kids would be exempted from (some of) the rules because we're not Muslim. But what about daughter? I'm assuming we'll have to tell the government she's Muslim; will they enforce stricter rules for her because of that?

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 9 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Hi Kellen

Muslim or not, ALL of the rules in Saudi are strictly enforced on all people within the kingdom and punishments for not following them are very harsh. Your daughter may be very surprised at the conditions that she will be under within this very strict kingdom.

Your wife and older daughters will be expected to fully cover up and should not go out alone. The going out alone is not necessarily a rule; it is just not safe for women to be walking alone in the country and many men there will take advantage of the situation.

Kellen Philips 9 months ago

Hello again LeanMan,

I understand that it will be a very difficult (and very different) experience for all of us.

Regarding the conditions, could you elaborate further? I am still in the early stages of researching everything. Based off of my understanding, my daughter would wear something like this?

(Is covering the face necessary?) My wife, who is not Muslim, I assume would not be expected to wear the hijab.

LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 9 months ago from At the Gemba Author

Your daughter and your wife would both have to wear the abaya which will cover the whole body whenever they are out in public. It should not be necessary to cover the face, however, you do get very zealous religious police (Matawa) who may insist that they do while you are out. If this is the case cover up and get away from where they are as quickly as possible as it is possible for the situation to deteriorate.

Just because someone is not Muslim it does not mean their rules do not apply - the rules in Saudi Arabia apply to everyone and you will be expected to follow them all to the letter. Follow the link in the article above regarding all of the rules and laws that you will need to obey.

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Abbey85 4 weeks ago

Hi leanman

My husband is going out to work in Jeddah very soon (we are from the uk) he will be working in a management position over there and currently has a friend from the uk and his wife living and working in Jeddah (he helped get him the job) they both live it over there and tell us it isn't as bad as people make out. His wife is blonde and beautiful and says she walks to the mall alone and doesn't wear a head scarf when she is out with her husband etc. My husband wants me to go and join him out there eventually with our two daughters (3 and 2 months old) to live in a compound. We are not drinkers and as our children are very young we would spend our evenings at home on our own with our children in bed asleep and I wouldn't leave the compound on my own with my children we would just visit the beaches and malls together on a weekend as a family. The plan is for me and the girls to stay with him for 3 months and then come home for 3 months and then back with him for 3 months etc only ever travelling in and out of the country with my husband. I'm just very scared about taking my children to live in this country even tho I am told that Jeddah is very family friendly and that because my children are so young we'all be fine. Could you advise on if you think it's safe enough for me to take them to stay on a compound for 3 months at a time only leaving the compound with my husband. Not driving drinking etc is not an issue at all for me it's just the safety aspect for me and my daughters even if the majority of the time we will be on the compound or with my husband. Any advice would be really appreciated as we are a really close family and my toddler will really struggle being away from her daddy for a long time if we don't go do some stints in Saudi with him but I'm just anxious to take them there. Thanks

Coffeequeeen profile image

Coffeequeeen 2 weeks ago from Great Yarmouth

I've never visited Saudi Arabia, but I used to work in Abu Dhab back in the 80's. I loved my time there.

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