This particular tip should be linked to my tip about Jeddah regarding pretty much the same phenomenon. It is very common in Saudi Arabia to see beautiful old houses allowed to collapse from neglect and abandonment. There is little to no concern amongst the general population for the preservation of architectural heritage (although that is changing in certain sections of the educated classes) and, as a result, little to nothing is investing in preserving the rich decorative traditions of the people who inhabited Riyadh before the oil boom and the massive expansion of the capital in the 1980s and 1990s. In the pictures can be seen the way in which houses that feature intricate molding and carving have been allowed to go to waste in the poorer section of the capital.
- Historical Travel
Love of the King
This tip is not particular to Riyadh - Saudis across the Kingdom love their King, regardless of their views about the state that he heads. It is not uncommon to see his portrait everywhere you turn: on highway overpasses, billboards, signage, posters, even food products. Yes, food products: like the cake in the pictures. The love for the King means that any sort of derisive comments about him or the monarchy will get you in hot water and, whenever there is some sort of milestone related to his person (such as his return from surgery abroad) you can expect to find the streets crowded with jubilant Saudis.
Dress is always something that is on the top of people’s minds when they come to Saudi Arabia, and it is often the most difficult thing to explain to people visiting the Kingdom. In general, there are no set rules on what men can or cannot wear, but the best guide is to ensure that any man is wearing pants and at least a t-shirt, if not a long-sleeve shirt. Tanktops are a no-go, and those wearing shorts will usually be refused entry to malls or public spaces. Men can wear the traditional thobe, although it is usually seen as an oddity for non-Muslim men to do so. Some say it is perceived as insulting, but I have never experienced this attitude (and yes, I have worn thobes and dishdashas in public in Saudi and Kuwait). Women’s attire is both easier and more difficult. It is easier because it is simply to prescribe: wear the abaya (a long cloak covering from shoulders to ankles) and a hijab. How loose or tight the abaya is, how much or little decoration it has, and how much hair can be shown from under the hijab are all hotly contested issues that Saudis themselves have not resolved. Some women wear them as if they were accessories; others have multiple layered abayas that distort the human form and are entirely devoid of detailing. The niqab (the veil that covers the face) is not obligatory, but it may be advisable even for foreign women traveling to the more conservative regions north of Riyadh and in the south-west of the country; the same goes for gloves. Some more pious women will wear a black gauze sheet over their faces to obscure even the eyes. This is a mark of extreme Wahhabi belief and is by no means required by the Saudi state.
- Arts and Culture
Until the 1960s, Saudi Arabia recognized only two holidays: Eid al Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice; also known as Eid al Kabir, the Big Eid) and Eid al Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast; also known as Eid az-Zgheir, or the Small Eid). The Wahhabi religious establishment refused the celebration of many of the other holidays that are recognized throughout the rest of the Muslim world, such as Hijri New Year, Ashura or Muhammad’s Birthday. In the 1960s, under King Fahd’s direction, September 23 was added as a Saudi National Day or Al-Eid al-Watani. The dearth of holidays means that Saudis usually put on a big show for those that they do get off, and you should expect that public squares will be decorated with traditional crafts and strings of lights in preparation for night-time gatherings. Some include traditional dancing (men only) and traditional music (drums and chanting) and can be a treat to watch for a show of the rich Saudi heritage that is so infrequently on display. Just remember that the same restrictions and rules apply to these gatherings, and families will always be separated from single men.
- Arts and Culture
Public Segragation + Iqama
Supposing you plan to go somewhere in public, a restaurant, a mall or other public areas always have your passport (if your iqama hasn’t been given yet) and ID with you or other supporting documents.
If you are a non-Saudi citizen hired to work in Riyadh you will be given an iqama by your employer or company, which will validate you as a resident in the Kingdom. Iqama is a green/brown booklet or card that contains your name, occupation, photograph and thumbprint, which you should carry at all times.
Keep in mind that you are entering the most conservative place on earth. Be advised that a woman and a man are not allowed to talk in public places unless it is a business related matter or if the person is an immediate family member. Therefore keep distance because dog barks.
Also, remember muttawas are almost everywhere looking for someone to arrest.
Almost all public buildings would indicate entrances or areas for men which is away from all the women and family, or if there’s a chance that you would be rearing to the wrong direction do not worry, a guard or police would tell you aloud.
Women in public are mostly accompanied. It is not advisable to go to public area unless you are wearing an abbaya or any black robe with proper documents.
Although some Westerners and Asians could take cabs alone and go shopping alone, still take necessary precautions on places which are not yet familiar and bring someone with you. It is unpleasant to be suspected as a call girl, a hustler and or just to avoid lustful glances from men who are not accustomed to this independency.
For Muslim women, it is stricter because all Islamic laws apply, there will be no compromises.
One of the rules of Saudi Arabia restaurants are divided in two sections men section and family section this picture is one of the example of cubicles in family section where the whole family and couple must be inside so that saudi woman should be free to take off their face veil cover when they eat.
Usually sometimes single woman may or may not allowed to eat alone in family section
Wearing an ABAYA
Women in Saudi Arabia must wear an Abaya in public places whether you like it or not it is a long loose black cloak worn over your regular clothing. Saudi woman must veil their head and face and it is up to the expat woman whether not to choose to wear a veil but sometimes there is happens muttawa ask you to cover your head esp in market area, teenagers over 12 years old are required to wear an abbya too.
Abbaya has a different kind of style you can choose from simple to elegant with embroideries or beads design.
As an expat here for a years now I learnt that wearing the abbaya is very convenient as I did not have to worry if my clothes under were not matched or not ironed. Now I wear my abbaya as my fashion I have 4 abbaya in different style.. :-)
Arabic Common Expressions
Inshalla (arabic language), I was confused when I heard this word at the very first time, in the hospital, market and so from our Arabian friends. And I learnt after 3 months here in Riyadh that it means “ God willing or If Allah wills” they used this word even they speak in English as a traditional expression. My children pediatrician is often to use this word ( ex. Get well soon Inshalla , or Inshallah you will be back here next month ) they usually pronounced this word before or after they state a good wishes or said in the future situation.
As-salam’ alaikum – “Peace upon with you” another common expression that you can hear when you are in the Islamic country this greetings served as a traditional greetings, most everywhere public and private places or either answering the phone. When someone greets you this you will reply “wa’ alaikum as- salam”. It means “peace upon with you too”.
Attestation formalitites for Indians seeking Saudi
A lot of friends from India have been asking me for information about the attestation procedure of their certificates before coming to work in Saudi Arabia. This post is intended for them. Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge and so are the documentation requirements!
A basic requirement for expatriates from India is that their educational certificates have to be attested and endorsed by various agencies, prior to visa stamping. Typically, this would be their degree certificate. This certificate has to be attested by the Ministry of Human Resources as well as the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India before being endorsed by the Saudi Embassy in India. Please note that you cannot hire an agent to do this job, and the candidates themselves have to be physically present to do it #-o , so outstation candidates have to undergo the hassle of going to New Delhi personally!
HRD Ministry attestation procedure:
First, take a postal order for Rs.50 addressed to "Secretary, Department of Secondary Education and Higher Education" payable in New Delhi.
The Ministry is open only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for attestation, so outstation candidates must note this.
Please ensure that the Vice Chancellor's signature and seal are very clear in your degree certificate, otherwise it will be rejected by the Ministry. This could be quite inconvenient for outstation candidates.
If your degree certificate is laminated, make sure to remove the same, otherwise it will be forcibly torn by the attestation officer and the certificate may be damaged.
If your certificate is neither in English nor in Hindi, it must first be translated into English and attestetd by a gazetted officer before being submitted to the HRD Ministry.
If your degree or diploma has been issued in the state of Andhra Pradesh, you must first get the same by the General Administration Department of the Government of AP in Hyderabad. Similarly, if your certificate has been issued by Karnataka University, Dharwad, it must first be attested by the registrar of that university before being handed over to HRD Ministry, New Delhi.
Take a printout of the application form given here and attach your postal order, original certificate, marksheet of your final year / semester, photocopies of all of the above plus your passport copy.
The HRD Ministry opens at 9 am, but to beat the queue, you must reach there before 5.30 am I-) Do not entertain any brokers or agents, it is a waste of your money.
Accepted documents are verified and delivered between 3.30 pm to 4.00 pm.
External Affairs Ministry attestation procedure:
It takes around 10 minutes from HRD Ministry to reach the External Affairs Ministry by autorickshaw. The Ministry opens at 9 am. Go to Gate # 2 and submit your original certificates. Delivery will be done within one hour. ;;)
The final step is to take the attested certificates to the Saudi Arabian embassy. You will have to pay the equivalent of 300 Saudi Riyals, which is about Rs.450. You must reach the embassy before 10.30 am to get the delivery at 3.30 pm, otherwise, you will have to wait another day.
That's it! Hope you liked my post. I would appreciate if you could drop in your comments, which is my motivation to write more.
2008: Riyadh Public Holidays
Saudi National Day
-->September 23, 2008
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
-->October 2 - 5, 2008
Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
-->December 9 - 12, 2008
The date for these holidays are subject to change.
*Photo taken from the internet*
Shopping Mall instruction! Welcome to Saudi Arabia
Execpt for Several main shopping centers, most of them just allow families to come in, especially in weekends.
I found it annoying to see some young kids banned to enter, as I haven't face any problem with that, seems I look well-mannered to be allowed comming in.
You will find more openness in Jeddah and Al Kobar in term of having female shoppers not wearing head scarfs.
(From The Millennium Adventure Home Page -http://www.jimrogers.com/ - I found this and I wanted to Share with you)
20 November 2000 – Shopping in Saudi Arabia is a vastly different experience. No women work in any of the shopping centers – not at the cosmetics counters, shoe section or lingerie area – except for a few non-Saudi nationals working as cleaning women in the female toilets.
And there are a handful of ‘female-only’ shopping malls where all the workers are women, but again these are rare. So far in all the shops I've visited, I have met only one employee out of scores who actually knew anything about what he was selling.
Most of the male workers appear bored – perhaps since few customers exist, or else enamored with one another carrying on and laughing, instead of helping potential buyers or even taking money from eager customers.
But even more frustrating is there are no fitting rooms! No fitting rooms. Of course this makes perfect sense according to Sharia Law, as the male employees working in the shops cannot intermingle with women trying on clothes.
I asked a worker at Zara International where I should try on my potential buys and he said, “You must buy the things, take them home and return anything you do not want within the next three days.”
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
Plan your shopping out of prayer time
Saudi Arabian shops closes two times during after noon and evening hours, Magrab and Esha prayers.
I recommend that you plan your shopping either before Magrab pray time (sunset time) or after Esha Prayer (In summer time after 8:30 pm).
Some restaurants and large shops are allowing shoppers to remain inside their place while they close their doors for prayer time, so if you plan to eat out and committed to meet people just 10 minutes before prayers time for dinner, so you better be in hurry and get in the resaturant and make your order before the pray time, so you can enjoy your food while its close.
Ikea furniture store is allowing its shoppers to remain inside, and its large enough to tour it, and it has its praying place to who want to practice his religion.
There are possiblity to have other closing time such as Dhoher for banks, and Aser if you want to fill your car with fuel. Its rare that you have to wait for Fajer prayer unless you are going to one of these coffee shops that remain open till morning.
Miswak is made from a twig of certain trees which Saudi locals (some) used as a natural toothbrush.
It doesnt only gives a person a fresh breath but it also strengthens the gums and prevents tooth decay.
To use this, you have to bite one end of the twig and then the fiber will come out which looks like a regular bristle of a toothbrush. Rub it to your teeth as if your using the regular brush.
Ramadan is the 9th month of lslamic calendar, It is one of the most important date and holiest month of all islam country, all moslem spend an extra prayer and abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from the hours of sunrise to sunset (with the exception of pregnant women, very young children or those who are ill or travelling).
Non-Moslems are also required to refrain from eating and drinking in public places. After sunset, the fast is traditionally broken with dates and yogurt, which are followed by a meal. At the end of Ramadan is a three day holiday.
- Arts and Culture
- Religious Travel
Iftar in Ramadan
IFTAR is an Arabic word which means to break fast. Muslims break their fast at sunset with few Dates and Arabic coffee coupled usually with fresh breakfast cream or Tahina (made of sesame)
The reason why they eat dates when breaking their fast is because dates contain high sugar content to balance the sugar level in the body after refraining from drink and food for the whole day.
Main course inlcudes: Soup, sambusa, baked macaroni and rice with chicken or meat.
Sweets or desserts are usually served as well like dumplings or creme caramel.
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