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Work Abroad

Aug 26, 2003
Working in the Kingdom
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General Information

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) lies on the Arabian Peninsula, occupying 2,250,000 square kilometers. It has Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait as its borders on the north, and the Indian Ocean on the southern area. The Red Sea covers its western region, while the Arabian Gulf envelops it from the east.

According to the Central Department of Statistics’ Demographic Survey, the country’s population as of year 2000 has reached 20.8 million, still a measly figure compared to the land that it occupies. 54.3% of the population are male, 45.7% female. Almost half of the Saudi inhabitants are below 20 years of age.

Riyal is the monetary unit, with banknotes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500. Their coins are termed halalas, and come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100.

Immigration and Customs Policies

There are two airports in KSA, one in Jeddah, and the other in Riyadh. Both have very strictly implemented Customs Policies, which are considered one of the most thorough procedures in the world.

Upon arriving, you will be ushered to the immigration booth. If this is your first time in Saudi Arabia, make sure that you have already filled up your landing card when you come to the immigration desk. If you fail to do so, you will be asked to go back at the end of the line. The landing cards are usually given in the plane, where you have ample time to write down the needed information.

After immigration, you will now be subject to the customs policies. Saudis are very sensitive when it comes to their religion, and your belongings will be painstakingly inspected for items that might have religious connotations, or might be anti-Muslim. First-timers are usually checked more thoroughly than others. Even books, magazines, and artifacts are scrutinized, and if the checker decides that it is indeed unlawful, you will never see it again.

As for CDs, VCDs, DVDs, and videos, these will also be checked, and often times, even viewed in the Customs’ Censor office. Some are viewed right then and there, while others are kept in the office. Most of the time, you will never see these items again.

Saudi Arabian customs are also very wary of any drugs or alcohol. Once your bag is found with any kind of medicine, you will be asked for a prescription, justifying your reason for carrying this drug.

Culture and Religion

Saudi Arabian culture is mostly founded upon its religion—Islam. The country’s constitution is the Qur’an, which is considered their holy book. Pork products, and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited, and are not allowed entry into the country.

A major holiday is the Ramadan, a full month of fasting between sunrise and sunset. Even tourists and foreigners are expected to observe this custom, and anyone caught drinking, eating, or smoking during this time can be sent to prison until the Ramadan ends. The joyous Eid Al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast), one of the main festivals, is celebrated at the end of the Ramadan. The other major festival, Eid Al-Adha, which means the festival of great sacrifice, is observed from the 5th to the 13th day of the month of Dhul Hijjah.

There are also seven days in their week: As-Sabt (Saturday), Al-Ahad (Sunday), Al-Athnain (Monday), Ath-Thulatha (Tuesday), Al-Arbia (Wednesday), Al-Khamees (Thursday), and Al-Juma (Friday). Their weekends are Thursday and Friday, and working days are from Saturday to Wednesday.

They also observe strict prayer times during the day, where they are called to the mosques that can be found in different parts of the country. These prayer times are as follows: Fajr (dawn), Shuruq (sunshine)- this is the latest time that Fajr can be performed, Dhuhr (midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghreb (sunset), and Isha (night). Everyone, even foreigners, is expected to respect these prayer times, and there are special religious police, or Matowa’een, that ensures that these times are strictly followed.

Work ethics

Much of the working force in KSA consists of foreigners. Around 40% of these are made up of Americans and Canadians. Because of this, English is usually used as the common working language in the country.

Foreigners who choose to work in the country are expected to abide by its rules, most especially in dressing. Saudi men wear the thobe, an ankle-length shirt made of either cotton or wool, depending on the season. As for working men, trousers and shirts are usually acceptable work outfits, so long as they do not wear tight or transparent garments, or wander around in shorts or without their shirts on.

As for women, they are expected to wear the abaya, a long, black cloak made of silk or synthetic cloth that is worn loose or wrapped around the body. It is worn to show respect for the country’s culture. Long, loose-fitting dresses with long or elbow-length sleeves are also acceptable, so long as the woman’s “figure” is not shown.

Working hours in the Kingdom also very significantly with other countries. For one thing, the week starts with Saturday, and the weekends are Thursday and Friday. The prayer times observed during the day affect the business hours of all establishments. Government offices are open from 730pm until 230pm only. Banks operate from 8am to 12noon, and again from 5pm until 8 in the evening. Private establishments are open from 8am to 12noon, and reopen at 3pm until 6pm.

Another important thing to remember is to always have our Iqama with you, which serves are your ID in the KSA. This card includes information about you, your workplace, and your sponsor. Once you are caught without your Iqama, you are considered to be staying in the country illegally, and will cause them to arrest you.

These are some of the most important things to consider when applying for work in Saudi Arabia. Although most of them might take a while to get used to, the advantages of working the KSA are tremendous. For one thing, you get to enjoy a lot of holidays while at work, not to mention the several breaks that you get because of the prayer times. You also get tax-free income, plus free housing. Other daily necessities are also provided for you aside from your salary.

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Working in the Kingdom is one of my dream place to - Sunit
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