Here’s an article I wrote about Saudi Tourism and the Economy for Internationale Politik magazine, the magazine for DGAP (Deutsche Gesellshaft fur Auswärtige Politik), German Society on Foreign Relations. IP is a Germany’s leading foreign policy magazine that covers contemporary subjects from around the world. Their 03/2018 issue is about the Gulf States and the economy, and can be read online here: Wirtshaft Golfstaaten My Article “Ab in Die Wuste” can be found here. ( please note that it’s a premium content and to read full article the reader must pay the subscription fees). The online version is in German language but you can read a summary of the article below in English.
Saudi Tourism and Economy
Saudi Arabia is gearing up to become a future tourist destination for international travelers. Mega projects, new cities, archeological surveys and developing entertainment are ways that Saudi intends to boost its economy through tourism.
The Future of Saudi Tourism
No Backpackers, souvenir shops or sounds of cameras clicking. Until very recently, Saudi Arabia has been a country infamously difficult for foreign visitors to enter on tourism purposes. Apart from religious tourism and business visits, visitors have not been able to enter Saudi Arabia in the traditional role of a tourist. For decades, only a few tour operators had special permission to bring in tour groups to Saudi Arabia, and those tourists were subject to various entry regulations and restrictions of movement.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia has revealed its plans to begin opening the country for international tourism. Will this ambitious plan succeed, and if so, what are they key factors to determine success?
Residents of the Gulf countries have been able to visit Saudi Arabia without the need for a visa but this is a small fraction of foreign visitors to the Kingdom. The majority of foreign visits to Saudi Arabia comes from the Hajj and Umrah visas, both of which allow entry to Muslims of all nationalities for a specific time period and area only. Hajj 2018 saw 1,75 million foreign pilgrims and a total of 2,3 million pilgrims performed Hajj in 2018. Umrah visitors during 2017 were a total of 19 million pilgrims visiting Mekkah and Madinah for religious tourism, of which 6,5 million pilgrims came from outside of Saudi Arabia.
While the numbers of religious tourism keep growing and the religious tourism industry is constantly being developed and new facilities are being built to ensure the pilgrims a more comfortable experience in Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt that opening the country to international tourism will boost its economy even further.
VISION 2030 and tourism
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the Saudi economy and a large part of the vision is developing the tourism sector. The plan is to create new jobs and attract foreign investors to the tourism industry. The Vision 2030 has launched several New “mega projects” such as the future city NEOM and the Red Sea Project, aimed to make Saudi Arabia an international world class tourism destination in the future.
Opening Tourists visas
The implementation of opening up the country for foreign visitors is not a simple task. Since the country has remained closed from other types of tourism for so long, a sudden free access to a mass flow of tourists would not be feasible. In this sense a gradual step by step plan to open up the tourist’s access to the Kingdom would seem the best practice in Saudi Arabia’s case.
And this does indeed seem like the direction that the country is moving to. Rumors of the tourist visas opening in April 2018 were circulated and then in late September 2018, Saudi Arabia announced the opening of the tourist visa for visitors coming to the newly announced Diriyah E- prix in Riyadh. These e-visas are a quick and simple way for international visitors to gain access into the country. By opening the tourist visa for a specific event and time frame, the flow of the visitors will be easier to control in a sort of soft opening phase. This way it will be easier to prepare and plan ahead for opening the unrestricted tourist visas.
The New E-Visa- Easy Access into KSA by joining Events
A purchase of the formula-E ticket is required to apply for the e-visa online on the Sharek website, created for this visa application process. The formula E visa is valid for a duration of 14 days. So far it seems that there are no restrictions on who can obtain this visa in terms of age, nationality or gender, as earlier has been speculated might be the case. There is however a mention of restricting the area in which the tourists would be able to visit, but no further information on this can be found the website currently.
Attending sports events and festivals might be the first channels through which international visitors will be welcomed into the country, and tying up the visas to an obligatory ticket purchase is a guaranteed way to generate income from tourism.
The reason behind restricting the tourists to certain areas is most likely due to many of the more rural areas currently lacking the sufficient infrastructure and services to welcome a large amount of visitors. There are massive development projects going on all over Saudi Arabia to develop facilities, infrastructure and hospitality sector to welcome more visitors in the future. The capital Riyadh and the two large cities of Jeddah and Dammam however offer a good network of hotels and other facilities for the tourists and these areas are ready and able to host foreign tourists.
Saudi Arabia’s Potential to Attract Foreign Tourism
Saudi Arabia certainly has the potential to attract more visitors with its unique and diverse landscape, remarkable historical sites and colorful culture.
Saudi Arabia is a vast country with plenty of beautiful landscape and opportunities to experience different types of tourism. The main landscape regions that have potential for developing tourism industry are the modern cityscapes of the large cities, different types of desert terrains, the Red Sea coasts beaches and underwater world, and the mountain areas of the South. A large quantity of historical sites from different ancient civilizations can be found in all regions of Saudi Arabia.
Developing National Tourism
One of the aims of the Vision 2030 is to develop the national tourism and attract more Saudis to stay in the country for their holidays. There is a huge flow of tourism and spending flowing into the neighboring countries and several measures have been taken to lessen this loss of potential income to the Kingdom. These measures have started to show a positive effect, the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia visiting Dubai in 2017 decreased by 7% to 1.53 million visits, however Saudi Arabia still remains in the top three source markets for Dubai tourism.
The drop in numbers of Saudis visiting Dubai could be explained by the increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to develop the entertainment sector and national heritage tourism.
Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), launched in 2016, is a part of the Vision 2030 efforts to boost the local economy. Through its mission to “diversify and enrich entertainment experiences around the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the GEA aims to organize, develop and lead the entertainment sector to provide exciting entertainment options in all regions of the country.
The projects launched by the GEA aim to keep the tourists inside the Kingdom, who would have in past years sought for these same entertainment opportunities, such as movie theatres and concerts, in other Gulf countries such as UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Tourism coming in from GCC
The Gulf tourists visiting Saudi Arabia (apart from the religious tourism) have main interest in the heritage tourism and milder climate of Saudi Arabia. Abha and its surroundings are popular places for Gulf residents to visit in the summer months, due to its pleasant, mild climate and green scenery. During the winter months many of the Central areas in Saudi Arabia offer very cool climate which attracts the Gulf visitors. Another draw for the GCC market is Saudi Arabia’s large heritage festivals such as the Janadriyah Cultural Heritage festival, attracting over 3 million visitors annually, Souk Okaz and the King Abdulaziz Camel festival.
Tourism Mega Projects
Since the launching of the 2030 vision, several projects to develop the tourism and entertainment industry have been launched. The most ambitious project is NEOM, the future city. NEOM promises “The world’s most ambitious project: an entire new land, purpose built for a new way of living”.
Other mega projects evolve around the Red Sea coastline, the Red Sea Project and the most recent addition of mega projects, Amaala.
Qiddiyah is a project to build an entertainment city including a Six Flags amusement park on the outskirts of Riyadh.
Various projects to develop UNESCO sites such as the historical city of Al Balad in Jeddah and Turaif district in historical Diriyah are in progress. Once ready, At Turaif will become the largest open-air museum in the world.
All of the mega projects promise to create jobs and offer investment opportunities to foreign investors.
These projects are very much needed and once completed will offer a variety of options for both national and international tourists.
The Promise of Al Ula
Al Ula valley boasts an incredible array of historical, nature and heritage sites. Thanks to Al Ula’s location in a protected valley with plenty of water sources, this area was inhabited by different civilizations for thousands of years and was the hub for trade routes.
These civilizations have left their marks on the rocks of Al Ula, in the valleys and the forgotten cities. The desert landscape of the Ula valley is breath taking and otherworldly, something which cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
The Al Ula Royal Commission was established to help centralize the development of the entire area into one body. The goal of Al Ula Royal Commission is to transform the area into one of the world’s premiere destinations for history, nature and heritage. With France as the main partner in achieving the goals to transform Al Ula, the development projects a long term plan which will empower the local community and boost local economy.
Al Ula Royal Commission, established in 2017 is responsible for the survey of the Al Ula archaeological sites including Hegra ( Mada’in Saleh) The Lion’s Tombs (tombs of the Dedan Kingdom and the Ikhma library. These sites were closed from public visits in December 2017 and are estimated to reopen for tourism sometime in 2020’s. The archaeological survey is undertaken by several international teams of archaeologists to make sure everything in the area has been discovered, before building or developing the area further.
After the surveys have finished, the sites will be developed to handle a large number of international tourists. World class services and facilities will be built, in accordance to protecting the value of the sites and the surrounding nature.
Projects by Saudi Commission Tourism and Heritage
The SCTH, established in 2000 and headed by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman, has been very active in the past years in developing the tourism sector through several different projects. The main goals are to develop heritage sites around Saudi Arabia, rehabilitation of archaeological sites and readying them for visitors, developing the hospitality sector and listing more sites as UNESCO World Heritage, bringing the total number of sites to 7. The SCTH works together with the National Transformation Program, which aims to provide the youth with more job opportunities and better the quality of life for everyone.
The real challenge might come from convincing the Saudis that opening tourism is a good idea in the long run. From the economic perspective it will bring an undeniable boost, but the concerns evolve around the ideologies that the more conservative part of the society fear tourism will bring along.
One of the main keys to the success of the tourism then, would be to involve the Saudi youth in tourism projects, training them in tourism and hospitality sector. A major role would be creating awareness of the available options for tourism in Saudi Arabia, which many Saudis surprisingly are very unaware of. Boosting pride in national heritage sites, nature and interest in attending the culture festivals are ways to motivate and include the youth in this process.
Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to make the Kingdom a world-class tourism destination in 2030 all well on the way. Once completed, the development plans will offer a selection of “something for everyone” and Saudi Arabia has the potential to become one of the “must visit” places on earth.
Discover more about places to visit in Saudi Arabia here: Explore Arabia
Jeddah is just an 1,5 hour flight away from Riyadh making it the ideal weekend getaway destination in Saudi Arabia with all the cool things to do in Jeddah.
Sometimes we don’t have to travel far or abroad for a relaxing weekend getaway! Saudi Arabia offers many great destinations for families to choose for a staycation.
Jeddah has always been a favorite staycation destination of mine in Saudi Arabia because it offers so many fun activities. There are so many fun things to do in Jeddah and each trip we discover something new. It´s easy to find flights to Jeddah on five different domestic airlines that fly to Jeddah daily from all major cities in Saudi Arabia. The best thing about Jeddah for me is definitely the Red Sea and all the leisure opportunities it offers to visitors.
I travel to Jeddah several times a year with my children for some much needed Vitamin Sea and always feel so energized from the ocean breeze and change of scenery. Sometimes a weekend trip to Jeddah feels like you’ve actually gone abroad, the landscape and local culture are so different from what we have in Riyadh.
I would say Jeddah is a must visit at least once for everyone living in Saudi Arabia! Whenever my mom visits Saudi Arabia (she’s visited us 8 times already!) I always take her to Jeddah for a weekend, because nothing beats the Red Sea breezes and the Jeddah vibe.
So what are the best things to do in Jeddah, especially if you’re traveling with kids? I’ve gathered a list of my favorite things to do in Jeddah with kids (and of course why not for adults too) for some ideas and travel inspiration! Jeddah has developed a lot during the past years and there’s constantly new things to do in Jeddah especially around the newly opened Jeddah Corniche area.
Things to Do in Jeddah
Visit the new Jeddah Waterfront and Corniche
A must see when in Jeddah is the new Jeddah Corniche and waterfront area. The new Jeddah Corniche has become a hot spot for families to spend time together ever since its opening in 2017. You’ll find a beautifully landscaped waterfront area with parks, recreation facilities, children’s playgrounds, fountains, beaches and cafes. The best way to explore the Corniche is on foot, so make sure you to stay closeby with walking distance to the best spots on the Corniche to avoid traffic, especially on weekend evenings. Check out where to stay on the Corniche at the end of this post.
A visit to Jeddah is not complete without a visit to the historical city, Al Balad. A UNESCO listed heritage site, the area is best visited in the early mornings or in the late afternoon/ evenings. Learn about the history of Jeddah by visiting Naseef house and browse through the colorful souks. More things to do in Al Balad here: 10 Things to do in al Balad, Jeddah
Located just on the Corniche, it’s very easy to walk to the aquarium and spend several hours learning about the colorful marine life that can be found in the Red Sea. The Jeddah aquarium is a perfect way to experience the underwater world of the Red sea without the need of getting wet! Kids will be in awe of all the different kinds of fish and corals and a walk through the ”fish tunnel” where visitors can watch sharks, turtles, rays and fish swim above them.
Day at the Beach
There are some family friendly private beaches to visit for a day trip located in Jeddah’s North Obhur area. The whole family can swim together at Lafontaine beach, Salhia beach, Silver Sands beach, Fal beach and La Plage beach. Most of these places do require a yearly membership but some allow day passes as well. For the best public beaches in Jeddah, the ones on the New Corniche area are safe with calm waters that allow for children and men to swim.
The most beautiful beach in Jeddah
Day out at Red Sea
Red Sea divers, Blue Reef divers, and many other dive operators can arrange boat trips for day trips out to the reefs for snorkeling, diving, fishing and swimming. This would be ideal for older children already comfortable in the water. The reefs outside of Jeddah are a great place to explore with kids, the colorful corals and the many different kinds of fish will keep kids entertained for a long time.
Jeddah has plenty of great family friendly restaurants, many of which can be found along the Corniche and in the Red Sea mall. Papaya restaurant, which is right next to Souk Shatee, is located inside an indoor tropical garden with small fountains and daylight coming in from the glass roof. Recommended especially for breakfast and lunch time. For the evenings, try out the restaurants near the waterfront, for views out to the Red Sea try Sofitel Jeddah’s restaurants. A new beautiful outdoor place by the sea is restaurant Angelina. For traditional Saudi food Hejazi style, head to Aseil restaurant or try The Social Kitchen, where you’ll be treated to one of the first Saudi female chef´s cuisines!
Restaurant papaya in Jeddah
Corniche evening stroll
The new Jeddah corniche itself is lovely, clean and family friendly option to spend a relaxing evening. Numerous imaginative, safe playgrounds have been built along the Corniche and visitors can admire local Saudi artists works there too. You can stop by to watch fishermen fishing on the pier or have an ice cream in one of the many cafes on the Corniche. Don’t miss a visit to the JEDDAH-sign after sunset, the best place to take memorable shot of your Jeddah staycation!
Bounce with whole family
If you fancy some indoor fun and physical activity to get the energy drained out of your kids, the biggest trampoline park in Jeddah, BOUNCE INC is the place to go. They have lots of different activities like wall running and dodgeball and activities suitable for all ages plus a section dedicated just for women.
World’s tallest fountain
Many do not know that Jeddah is home to the tallest fountain in the world! The King Fahad fountain, Shooting sea water up to 300 meters high, is best viewed from the southern Corniche areas.
Al Shallal theme park
With an impressive artificial lake at its center, a planetarium, ice skating rink, boat rides, lots of rides for kids of different ages (and adults too) a day at Shallal theme park is highly recommend fun time for the whole family.
Al Tayibat Museum
The Tayyebat Museum for civilizations is an amazing museum which is built in Hejazi heritage village. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of the culture, architecture, traditional clothing and lifestyle of each region of Saudi Arabia.
Traditional Saudi clothing at Tayyibat civilizations museum in Jeddah
Red Sea Mall
Undoubtedly the best mall in Jeddah and located just minutes away from the new corniche area, Red Sea mall offers a variety of activities for kids, a vast selection of restaurants, and of course great shopping!
Where to stay on Jeddah Corniche:
For families traveling with kids the new North Corniche is definitely the best family friendly area to stay in Jeddah. The Sofitel Jeddah Corniche is an elegant, family friendly five star hotel located right next to the waterfront and the new Jeddah Corniche. This is an ideal spot to be based because you can walk to the children’s playgrounds, beaches and parks from the hotel in a few minutes without having to worry about the traffic and parking hassles. At the Sofitel Jeddah Corniche, you can watch the sun setting from your room and dine in the many different restaurants they offer.
Sofitel Jeddah Corniche sunset view from room.
Sofitel Jeddah Corniche outside view
What I love about the Sofitel is how family friendly it is. Especially for me when I travel alone, having a kids club service is a MUST. Being able to drop off kids for a couple of hours to play at the Kids Club while I can catch up with friends over a cup of coffee, go to the gym, relax at spa or have a nice dinner at the restaurant- and all in the same place- this is really a deal-breaker for me. The Sofitel Penguins Kids Club is free of charge for in house guests and 42 sar per child otherwise. Kids ages 0-4 must be accompanied by a caretaker but 4- 12 years olds may be dropped off and the staff will attend to them.
What makes the Sofitel a great option for families traveling with kids is the 3 minute walk to playgrounds and a safe swimming beach with life guards on duty, and just a 5 min drive to the Red Sea mall. The hotel also offers a relaxing spa and a fitness center both available also for ladies!
To book the Sofitel Jeddah Corniche you can contact them by phone: (+966)(12)6139000
Online Reservations:Sofitel Jeddah Corniche
Interested in exploring Saudi Arabia further? Head to the Explore Arabia page for more destination in Saudi Arabia!
Find more Things to do in Jeddah here
There is a brand new highway which will connect Saudi Arabia and Oman by road. Once it’s open, the road from Saudi to Oman will cut driving time by half. The border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Oman has not opened yet, so in the meanwhile those planning to drive from Riyadh to Oman must drive through UAE. A road trip from Riyadh to Oman is certainly doable and worth the trip regardless of the longer drive time.
Now that women can drive in Saudi Arabia the possibilities for women to explore and travel more freely are open! A friend of mine recently drove herself (and her 3 kids!) alone from Riyadh to Muscat in Oman. She might have very well been the first lady ever to make this journey alone, but that I suppose we will never know for sure. What is certain is that Erica is a very brave lady and I’m really happy to share her Saudi road trip story with you.
I hope it will inspire other women to take on the roads and you’ll learn practical information about taking a car out of Saudi Arabia as a female driver. The drive from Riyadh to Muscat took her a total of 16 hours with one stop at Abu Dhabi overnight.
Erica’s tips for the road from Saudi to Oman
Road trip Riyadh- Muscat by Erica Zentner
I sms’d my father in the early hours of the morning. “Am I doing the right thing?” Following a goodbye meal with friends I had begun to question whether driving from Riyadh to Muscat alone with three quite young kids was going to be as mundane as I had previously thought. I ran through the risks I had considered and mitigated against;
Risk 1 – not being able to get through the border with a car in my husband’s name – I was now in possession of a letter form Muroor (Traffic department) allowing me to drive the car abroad and an Istimarah (vehicle ownership document) which listed me as either a driver or a co-owner of the vehicle, we didn’t at this point know which, nor was it material to us (picture and more on this process below).
Risk 2 – There is some sort of emergency and I’m in the desert alone with the kids – I mused this could happen to anyone, male or female, in any case I was to travel with a special power of attorney in English and Arabic in which was specifically listed, crossing borders with the children and taking medical decisions in the absence of the father. I added to that the points raised by my friends
Risk 3 getting run off the road by a male angry with the change in status quo and
Risk 4 running out of petrol or having a blow out.
I resolved to travel under the cover of night in a cap and masculine sunglasses, carry petrol and a tire jack. Now sleepy I received a final message from my father; ‘Do what your heart tells you.’
road from Saudi to Oman and drive time
A few days later at 3:30 a.m. I’m on the eastern ring road, with surprisingly chirpy children in the back carrying neither jack nor spare petrol (I guess my fear was tempered by the checks I did on the car at the garage) and mildly amused that I hadn’t in my planning realized that wearing a cap and sunglasses in the middle of night was a completely impractical idea. I am at this point, to anyone who looks into the car, clearly a woman, and excuse me if I reach the punch line too early – no one is batting an eyelid.
The sat nav directs us onto the Al Kharj Road, following which we bypass kharj stopping for petrol. From here it’s straight on until morning! Anyone who undertakes this drive should know that it’s quite important to fill up at most of the opportunities after Kharj.
I realize I have made my second error in planning as at this time in the morning the coffee shops are not yet open. Oh well, no matter, I can survive the journey on the three bags of snacks mandatory for any Saudi road trip. Second caution to those who are going to do the drive: know your body- it’s a long drive if you know you get fatigued then do share the driving with someone. My children are being delightful (the three of them doing this simultaneously makes this something of an auspicious day).
We are alternating singing children’s songs and pop songs with long bouts of silence looking out of the window. There are some fairly beautiful sights to see, the sun rising over the low foot hills of the desert, the large freight railway that runs parallel with the road for some way, the dairies and farms of Almarai which come one after another for miles seem simultaneously puzzling (for a vegan anyways) and awe inspiring (humans are incredible at organizing difficult things), the only other traffic on the road apart from occasional other private vehicles are the Almarai distribution trucks who drove more safely than many trucks I have seen in Europe.
There is plenty of time to think on this drive, I have been told by other expats who have driven it that it’s just sand the whole way – I wonder to myself whether they noticed the beauty in the sometimes gradual sometimes dramatic changes in the color of the sandy landscape. Later on there are many many camels, mostly chocolate brown ones, I see Qatari plated cars herding them alongside the roadside at one point we have to stop the car to let them cross. My kids love it. They are very visible from a long way away so weren’t really a hazard but I did notice sand drifts on the other side of the road and tractors pushing them back.
A little way before the border we make our last petrol stop there is a relatively clean ladies toilet at this penultimate petrol station.
Then we arrive at the border. It is not an exaggeration to say that the border officials are delighted to see us, at customs and immigration they all comment and some congratulate on the fact that I am driving alone. We cross into the UAE without a single hiccup where we find officials are similarly delighted especially the female customs officer who does our screening in the ladies section.
A side note: far from the capital cities of either nation some officials seemed to be more comfortable speaking in Arabic, do learn some of the useful words (passport, insurance, drivers license and the numbers etc.) It goes a long way and I find myself wondering a lot whether we would be as accepting in our home countries of people who arrived to stay for some time and limited themselves to learning the words required to order food only.
The road from Gweifat to Abu Dhabi is well serviced with petrol stations, there are some hotels on this road if you find yourself tired after the long drive through the desert. We broke up our drive in Abu Dhabi at just shy of 900km and 9,5 hours from our starting point. If you make it this far I suggest rest a night and then carry on driving until Oman, which is another adventure altogether! We crossed to Oman at the Mazyad border post, but Khat am Al Shiklah is better to cross at except if you want to head for Salalah.
The entire trip took me two days, 9.5 hours the first day and 6 hours the second (we had a slow border crossing and then an extra half hour to get to the border we should have crossed at.
DOCUMENTS NEEDED TO TAKE VEHICLE OUT OF SAUDI ARABIA
-Letter allowing me to take the car out of KSA (this is uploaded on the absher system but only available to dependents who apply in person)
-Registration listing me as an authorised driver (this document was incredibly useful at the UAE and Oman side of the border to show I had some official standing with the vehicle)
-Special Power of attorney listing my children and their passport numbers signed by their dad (I didn’t need this but in my experience people are much more willing to act in unclear situations when they have the comfort of a piece of paper to rely on)
-Vehicle insurance card– adding GCC cover for a year before driving is a similar cost to one month at the border.
Process for getting listed on the Vehicle Registration Document
-go to muroor -take an Arabic speaker – car owner to write no objection in Arabic
-pay using the online system government payment system for a replacement card
-hand in old vehicle registration card collect new one
For international authorization – there is a small separate office which deals with this in the same complex, there are forms to be filled out and signed and the authorization is then signed by a senior police officer uploaded onto the system and a letter valid ONLY for six months is given. We did this first and this senior officer told us that we should do the in KSA authorization as well to avoid ambiguity in accident situations.
Erica is a yoga teacher in the Middle East, you can contact her by email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you done an all- female road trip in Saudi Arabia? I would love to hear about it! please send me your road trip stories to email: contact ( at) bluebaya.com
A Guide for expat and Saudi women how to get a Saudi driving license by converting your international license can be found here: Saudi Driving License for Women
For more road trip stories from Saudi Arabia check these out: Road Trips KSA
Great news for women in Saudi Arabia who are under their husbands sponsorship, and previously unable to register online to apply for Saudi driving license. There has been a problem with so called “dependent iqama” holders to apply for the driving license conversion which requires an independent Absher account.
The update is that now the husband (sponsor) can login to the Saudi driving License Portal SDLP www.sdlp.sa/login with his own absher account and then proceed to apply for the foreign license conversion for his wife. The SDLP is in Arabic but below in images are translated step by step guide how to go through this phase.
UPDATE: SDLP site is now available in English!
UPDATE September 2018: According to reports from several dependent women around Saudi Arabia, they have stopped issuing licenses to women on dependent status for the time being. if any official statement arises we will update here !
UPDATE 2019: More driving schools and license conversion centers are opening around the country. Dependents can try to enroll in the courses provided by Driving Schools and through that try to get the Saudi Driver’s license, otherwise it seems the ban on the dependents to convert their licenses is still valid.
The rest of the steps how to get Saudi driving license for dependent iqama holders please follow these steps:
Saudi driving license application for women
**Please note this applies to women registered as their husbands dependents in the Absher system, with valid foreign driving license.
If you are a female expat in Saudi under your employers sponsorship or married to a Saudi then follow these steps: How to convert foreign license to Saudi license and you will be able to convert an existing, valid driving license from any foreign country to the Saudi one by first creaitng your own Absher account. Creating an independent Absher account is still not possible for the dependent iqama holders, but it’s now possible to aapply using your husbands absher.
Converting the license does not mean you need to give up or “surrender” your original, however it is needed to present at the Moroor once you are doing the short driving test.
To find out what you need to get done BEFORE registering at SDLP site you must follow the instructions on this post: Step by Step Guide How Expats Apply For Saudi Driving License
If you need to follow the guide in Arabic it is available here: How Saudi and expat women can convert foreign license to Saudi license
Here are the translated steps how to apply for dependents driving license conversion with husbands Absher account on www.sdlp.sa site:
Leave father and grandfather name blank in case your name does not follow this way.
After registering online and booking appointment at your nearest Moroor office the steps are the same as in this guide: How to Apply for Saudi Driving License. Please read to find out more about the driving test and what to bring with you to the test.
Tip: If your city’s appointments are all booked, check your nearest cities and you can apply in any of them.
According to one expat family they went to Makkah Moroor and the traffic officer conducting the test had been very rude and not spoke English at all during the test, forcing the woman to fail her test since she did not understand his instructions. It might be a good idea to take a Arabic speaker with you to test just in case or demand a English speaking officer. But this is just one officer in one location, all others so far I’ve heard of are more friendly and helpful, such as the ones in Riyadh Rimal branch were when I went in June. read about the experience here: Getting our Saudi driving licenses
Good luck everyone and please leave comments about your experiences to help others apply and any updates you know of!
ستقوم المملكة العربية السعودية برفع الحظر عن قيادة النساء في 24 يونيو 2018 ويجري الآن إصدار رخص القيادة السعودية للنساء. حصلت أول امرأة سعودية على تراخيصها هذا الثلاثاء من مكتب المرور.
وفي يوم الأربعاء، افتتحت المكاتب لجميع النساء اللاتي لديهم مواعيد لتحويل الرخص الأجنبية ومنها الحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. حصلت على رخصة قيادتي صباح يوم الأربعاء وأنا سعيدة للغاية ومتحمسة جداً! بعد استلام رخصتي، راسلني المئات من الناس لطلب النصيحة حول كيفية إكمال هذه العملية والتقديم على رخصة القيادة السعودية.
لقد كتبت كل ما أتذكره، فيما يتعلق بالإجراءات المتبعة في هذا المنشور. إذا ظهرت أي تطورات، فسأضيفها هنا. يرجى قراءة منشور المدونة حول استخدام مقاعد السيارة والتوعية بالسلامة في السيارات من مقالي السابق هنا: الأطفال هم كنوز وليس وسائد هوائية .أرجو أن مدونتي تجيب على الأسئلة التالية: كيف تقوم بتحويل رخصتك الحالية إلى رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ هل يمكن للوافدين الحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية؟ كيفية الحصول على طلب رخصة قيادة سعودية للنساء الوافدات؟
تحويل رخصة أجنبية إلى الرخصة السعودية ممكنة للنساء من أي جنسية تحمل رخصة قيادة سارية المفعول.
لن تضطر إلى “التخلي” أو التنازل عن رخصتك الحالية للحصول على الرخصة السعودية
العملية مشابهة جدا لتلك التي يمر بها الرجال الأجانب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. يمكن لكل من النساء السعوديات اللواتي حصلن على رخصة من بلد أجنبي والمغتربين التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية بهذا الإجراء ذاته. بالنسبة للنساء اللاتي ليس لديهم تراخيص سارية المفعول (أو انتهت صلاحية الترخيص) أو لا يعرفون كيفية القيادة، سوف تحتاج للتسجيل لمدارس تعليم قيادة السيارات بالأول.
أولاً، على المرأة فتح حسابها الخاص في أبشر على هذا الموقع: تسجيل حساب جديد لوزارة الداخلية
يمكنك بدلاً من ذلك الذهاب إلى أجهزة الخدمة الذاتية لأبشر التابعة لوزارة الداخلية التي تقع حول المدينة (في الرياض: رويال مول في الطابق العلوي)
من أجل فتح حسابك الخاص تحتاج إلى إدخال التفاصيل الخاصة بك، رقم الهوية أو الإقامة ورقم هاتفك المحمول الخاص بك.
نصيحة: تأكد من أنه عند إنشاء الحساب، يمكنك استخدام اسم مستخدم طويل بما يكفي ويحتوي على أحرف ورقم حتى يتم قبوله.
على سبيل المثال، لن يقبلوا اسم المستخدم” دعنانقود“ ولكن النظام سيقبل” دعنانقود٢”
لتنشيط حساب أبشر الخاص بك، فإنك تحتاج إلى التحقق من ذلك من خلال الخدمات المصرفية عبر الإنترنت أو الذهاب إلى أجهزة الصراف الآلي للبنوك الخاصة بك والقيام بذلك هناك.
لا تزال هناك تقارير تفيد بأن بعض السيدات الوافدات لم يكن باستطاعتهم على إنشاء حساب في أبشر لنفسهم، إذا كانا لا يزالان تحت رعاية الزوج غير السعودي، يتم سردها باعتبارها” تابعا”
تمكنت النساء المغتربات اللواتي لديهم بطاقات الإقامة تحت أرباب العمل وزوجات السعوديين على إنشاء حسابات أبشر حتى الآن. من الواضح، هذا الأمر ينتظر تغيره وتثبيته في النظام، ونأمل أن تتغير لصالح جميع النساء قريبا.
بمجرد إنشاء حساب أبشر ، ستكون الخطوة التالية هي الانتقال إلى موقع بوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية على الويب: www.sdlp.sa
الموقع في وقت كتابة هذه النشرة متاح فقط باللغة العربية لذا اطلب من صديق يتحدث اللغة العربية مساعدتك في ملء الاستمارات.
في موقع الويب ، ستقوم بإنشاء حساب وتحميل المستندات الخاصة بك. قبل القيام بذلك ، يجب أن يكون لديك بعض الوثائق جاهزة.
المستندات المطلوبة للتقديم الإلكتروني لطلب رخصة القيادة السعودية:
نسخة ممسوحة ضوئيا من هويتك
نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً من رخصة القيادة الخاصة بك سارية المفعول
نسخة ممسوحة ضوئياً لترجمة رخصة القيادة (الأمامية والخلفية)
بمجرد أن يتم تحميل نسخة الترخيص والترجمة ، سيكون بإمكانك حجز موعد في مكتب المرور للقيام باختبار القيادة وبصمات الأصابع. من الممكن حجز الموعد ولم تنتهي من إجراء الفحص الطبي بعد. تبدو المواعيد في الوقت الحالي محجوزة بالكامل لأنها عطلة رمضان وعطلة لموظفي الحكومة
نصيحة: حاول الحجز في جميع مواقع مدينتك ، وجرّب أوقاتًا مختلفة أو حتى في مدينة أخرى! (إذا كنت حقا في عجلة من أمرك)
يجب معالجة دفع قيمة الرخصة من خلال نظام سداد قبل موعدك. التكلفة هي ٤٠٠ ريال سعودي لرخصة مدتها ١٠ سنوات و لرخصة ٥ سنوات ستكون تكلفتها ٢٠٠ ريال سعودي.
كيفية الحصول على تقرير طبي للحصول على رخصة قيادة سعودية: يمكن عمل تقرير طبي في عيادات معينة فقط
– PDFانظر على الرابط الموجود ببوابة رخصة القيادة السعودية وستحصل على ملف
الذي يعطيك أسماء وأرقام هواتف العيادات المحددة في منطقتك التي تقوم بإجراء فحوصات طبية لرخصة القيادة
هناك عيادتان في الرياض ذهبنا إليها أنا وصديقتي وكانت زيارة ناجحة. خلال شهر رمضان ، كان الموظفون غائبين أثناء النهار أو غادروا مبكراً وكان علينا القيام بعدة رحلات للعثور على شخص ما لاستكمال التقارير الطبية
من المهم اختيار الشخص المسموح له بالدخول إلى نظام أبشر ليتمكن من إدخال تقريرك الطبي فمن الأفضل أن تذهب بعد الساعة ٩ مساءً (خلال شهر رمضان). العيادة مفتوحة خلال أيام العمل العادية بدءاً من ١٠ صباحا فصاعدا.
موقع العيادة التي ذهبت إليها لإجراء الفحص الطبي المطلوب لإخراج رخصة القيادة السعودية: مجمع صحة الدرعية الطبي على شارع عبد العزيز البرهان ، الخالدية، الرياض ١٣٧١٣
رقم الهاتف: 0155 486 011
الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:
ماذا يحدث في العيادة الطبية؟ من الضروري أن تكون مستنداتك جاهزة ، ويجب عليك طلب إجراء اختبار طبي يتعلق برخصة القيادة ودفع الرسوم (لقد دفعت حوالي 20 ريال سعودي بتأمين ، بدون تأمين ، 105 ريال سعودي). نصيحة: إذا كنت تكره اختبارات الدم ، فيجب أن يكون لديك شهادة تبين فصيلة الدم ونوعه. وإلا سيقومون بفحص الدم. ستنتظر في العيادة لتكشف عليك الممرضة التي ستقوم بإجراء فحوصات بسيطة للبصر (ارتد نظارات لها إذا كنت تفعل عادة أثناء القيادة). بعد الحصول على الموافقة على الفحص الطبي ، عليك الانتظار حتى يقوم الشخص في المكتب بإدخال التقارير الطبية في النظام. تأكد من عدم الرحيل قبل أن تكون متأكدًا من أنه قد تم إدخاله وتأكدت من ذلك على الجوال باستقبال رسالة قصيرة. سوف يعطونك أيضا شهادة طبية مختومة.
كيفية الحصول على رخصة مترجمة:
ابحث عن خدمة ترجمة معتمدة في مدينتك. في الرياض يقوم هذا المكتب بترجمة جميع اللغات التي تكلف حوالي 100 ريال سعودي ومن الإنجليزية إلى العربية مقابل 40 ريالاً سعودياً
يقع بالقرب من مركز الملز للإسعاف، ٦٤٨٠ شارع الأمير فهد بن إبراهيم آل سعود ، الضباط ، الرياض ١٢٦٢٧
الموقع في الرياض باستخدام خريطة قوقل:
نصيحة: يمكنك إرسال صورة الرخصة الخاصة بك لترجمتها كصورة واتساب ثم استلام الترجمة الجاهزة في اليوم التالي.
بمجرد الانتهاء من جميع هذه الخطوات، يمكنك الذهاب إلى الموعد في محطة شرطة المرور، ذهبت إلى واحدة في منطقة الرمال في الرياض. إنه بعيد جدًا لذا تأكد من أن لديك متسعًا من الوقت للبحث عن الموقع قبل موعدك. سوف تتلقى رسالة نصية من الادارة العامة للمرور حول موعد اخراج رخصة القيادة مع التاريخ والوقت وموقع المكتب أيضا.
مكتب تقديرات المرور في حي الرمال
موقع المكتب على خريطة قوقل:
رخصة قيادة أصلية
بطاقة الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية
نسخ من جميع الوثائق المطلوبة
نظارات إذا كنت بحاجة للقيادة
(أحضرنا صور جوازات السفر فقط في حالة احتياجنا إليها ولكن لم تكن هناك حاجة إليها فإنهم يستخدمون نفس الصورة التي لديهم على النظام)
مدخل مكتب المرور:
في المكتب: قم بتسجيل الدخول عن طريق إعطاء رقم الهوية الخاص بك (الإقامة أو الهوية الوطنية) في مكتب التسجيل. سوف يبحثون عن موعدك ويعطوك رقمًا. عندما يتم الإعلان عن رقمك، ستقترب من المكتب وتقدم هويتك الأصلية ورخصة القيادة الأصلية. (ملاحظة: إنهم لا يقبلون نسخاً فوتوغرافية، يجب أن يكون لديك المستندات الأصلية. كما يجب ملاحظة: أنهم لا يحتفظون برخصتك الأصلية، كما توقع البعض. ستأخذها معك إلى المنزل). سوف يتحققون من جميع المستندات التي لقد تم تحميلها في النظام. لذا من المهم أن تكون المستندات المترجمة معك في حالة طلبها. يتم أخذ البصمة الخاصة بك.
ثم انتقل إلى منطقة انتظار الامتحانات القيادة العملية. هنا، سوف يشرحون لك الدورة وسوف تنتظر دورك
بمجرد اجتياز الامتحان بنجاح، تعود إلى التسجيل ويتم إعطاؤك رقمًا مرة أخرى. بمجرد استدعائك للمكتب، ستقوم بإعطاء بصمة إبهامك مرة أخرى وستوفر المعلومات الأساسية مثل لون شعرك ولون العين وعنوان المنزل (على الأقل قم بتزويد اسم الحي / المنطقة التي تعيش فيها)
لاحظ أن هذه هي المتطلبات الكاملة لتبدل رخصتك في المرور. من الممكن أن يُسمح لك بتخطي بعض هذه الخطوات في المستقبل إذا كنت تحمل رخصة قيادة من بلدان معينة. ومع ذلك، في مركز الاختبار لدينا، لم يعف أحد من أي جزء من هذه العملية. سيبدأن في أخذ البصمات وإدخال تفاصيل الرخصة الخاصة بك في النظام وبعد ذلك سوف تذهب لاختبار القيادة الخاصة بك.
اختبار القيادة. يرجى ملاحظة هذه النصيحة خصيصا لفرع حي الرمال في الرياض. سمعت أن النساء اللواتي استطعن إكمال تحويل رخصة القيادة في مدن أخرى، لم يحتاجوا إلى إجراء اختبار قيادة، لذلك سيعتمد ذلك على الموقع الذي تختاره.
ملاحظة: أنصحك ألا تكون مثلي وأن تفقد نومك في الليل بسبب هذا الاختبار. الاختبار بسيط للغاية وكان الموظفون متعاونين جدًا وداعمين. أثناء اختبار القيادة، يجب عليك اتباع الدورة التدريبية التي تشمل أداء مهارتين: كيفية لف الدوار وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية. يجب أن تحصل على ٧٥٪. السيارة لديها معدات أوتوماتيكية. سيعرضون لك خريطة توضح ما تحتاج إلى القيام به وما يجب القيام به في مسار اختبار القيادة. الدوران على المدارات والشوارع، كيفية لف الدوار، وركن السيارة بالمواقف الموازية (المفضلة لدى الجميع)، ثم في النهاية، إكمال مواقف متوازية (المفضلة للجميع). لا يدخل معلم القيادة السيارة معك، سيتبع سيارتك حتى يتمكن من تقييمك أثناء الاختبار. كان المقيم الذي حصلنا عليه متعاونا للغاية وواصل شرح ما يجب فعله بعد ذلك.
جميع الضباط كانوا في حالة معنوية جيدة، مبتسما، وكان الشخص الذي قام باختبارنا يتمتع بروح مرحة للغاية، وقال مازحا إن واحدة منا اجتازت الاختبار فقط! ولحسن الحظ نحن الاثنين نجحنا في الاختبار وبعد ذلك عدنا إلى المكتب الرئيسي.
الخطوة الخامسة الخطوة الأخيرة هي طباعة رخصة القيادة الفعلية. لذلك ستحصل على رخصة القيادة الجديدة الخاصة بك عندما تنتهي! هذا لم يستغرق ٥ دقائق. إنه أفضل شعور بأن يكون هذا المستند بيدك، إنه أمر غير واقعي!
يجب أن أقول إننا قد انبهرنا حقا بتنظيم الإعداد بالكامل. جميع الموظفين يعرفون بالضبط ما كانوا يفعلونه واتبعوا عملية واضحة. معظم الموظفين يتحدثون الإنجليزية. حاول فريق العمل المساعدة وكانوا ودودين طوال العملية. والمثير للدهشة، أن العديد من النساء لم يتقدمن بطلب الحصول على رخصة القيادة، ولكن الطلب سيصبح بالتأكيد شائعاً بمجرد أن يفهم الناس كيفية التقديم
آمل أن يساعدك هذا الدليل في التقدم بطلب للحصول على رخصة القيادة السعودية. إذا كان الأمر كذلك، يرجى مشاركتها مع أصدقائك من خلال ربطهم بهذه المنشورة، أو بالنقر على زر المشاركة بدلاً من نسخ النص أو التقاط لقطات الشاشة! هذا ليس عدلاً بالنسبة للكتاب الأصليين الذين يقضون العديد من الساعات والأيام في إعداد المنشورات
أرجو أن يقود الجميع بحرص ومتعة!
تحديث ٢٦ يونيو: يتم تحديث نظام أبشر، ويجب حل المشكلة المتعلقة ببطاقات الإقامة المتعلقة بالتابعين التي لم يتمكن من فتح حسابات فردية. الأمر يستدعي حل المشكلة في فترة زمنية قصيرة.
لسوء الحظ فإن الصورة التي يستخدمونها لرخصة القيادة الخاصة بك هي نفسها التي لديك بالفعل على الملف الخاص بك (الإقامة / الهوية) أقول للأسف لأن معظم الناس يكرهون عادة صور الإقامة الخاصة بهم :)
ملحوظة أخرى: ذكر الضابط المسؤول أن رخصة القيادة السعودية فقط هي التي ستقبل كوثيقة رسمية للقيادة للسيدات، لذا أوصي بتحويل رخصتك الدولية، فقط في حال وجودها.
ملاحظة ثالثة: هل لديك رخصة قيادة سعودية وجاهزة لبعض المغامرات؟ إلى أين تتجهي لرحلتك الأولى؟ للحصول على بعض الأفكار: اقرأ مشاركات المدونة المتعددةالموجودة على صفحتي.
Saudi Arabia will be lifting the ban on women driving on the 24th of June 2018 and Saudi driving licenses are now being issued to women. The first Saudi women got their licenses this Tuesday from the Moroor traffic office. On Wednesday the offices opened to public for women with appointments to convert licenses to come and get their Saudi driving licenses. I got mine on Wednesday morning and could not be more happy and excited about this! After receiving my license many people (hundreds, literally) have messaged me online asking for advice how to complete this process and apply for the Saudi driving license. So I’ve written everything I can think of regarding the process in this post. If any developments surface, I’ll be adding them here.
UPDATE for women under their husbands sponsorship how to apply for the Saudi driving license read this post: How dependent iqama holders can get Saudi driving license
Please read about using car seats and safety awareness in cars from my previous article here: Children are treasures not airbags
I hope this post will answer the following questions: How to convert your existing license to a Saudi driving license? Can expats get a Saudi driver’s license? How to get the Saudi driving license application for expat women?
Converting a foreign license to the Saudi license is possible for women of any nationality with a valid driving license. You will not have to “give up” or surrender your existing license to get a Saudi license. The process is very similar to the one that foreign men go through to obtain the Saudi driving license. Both Saudi women who have obtained a license from a foreign country and expats can apply for the Saudi driving license with this same procedure.
There is a process you need to follow in order to convert the foreign license to the Saudi license. For the women who do not have valid licenses (license expired) or don’t know how to drive, you’ll need to enroll to the driving schools first.
First the woman has to open her own Absher account on this site: Ministry of Interior new account registration
Alternatively you can go to one of the MOI Absher kiosks located around town ( in Riyadh Royal Mall upstairs has one)
In order to make your own absher you need to enter your details, ID number or iqama and your own mobile phone number. Note you also need a bank account. Tip: Make sure that when creating the account you use a username that is long enough and contains letters and a number for it to be accepted. For example they will not accept username “letsdrive” but the system will accept “letsdrive2”.
To activate your absher, you need to validate through online banking or go to your banks ATM and do it there, this means you need to have a bank account.
There has still been reports that some expat ladies have not been able to create an absher for themselves if they’re under the sponsorship of a non Saudi husband, ie they are listed as “dependants”. Expat women who have iqamas under employers and wives of Saudi have been able to create absher accounts so far. This apparently is waiting to be fixed in the system and will hopefully be working for all women soon.
UPDATE JULY 19th: DEPENDENT IQAMA HOLDERS CAN NOW ALSO CONVERT THEIR LICENSE FOLLOW THIS GUIDE: Saudi Driving License for expats on dependent iqamas
Once you’ve created the Absher account, the next step is to go to the Saudi Driving License Portal website: Www.sdlp.sa
The site at the time of writing this is available only in Arabic so have an Arabic speaking friend help you fill in the forms.
At SDLP you will create an account and upload your documents. Before doing this you must have some documents ready.
DOCUMENTS NEEDED FOR ONLINE APPLICATION AT SAUDI DRIVING LICENSE PORTAL:
-Scanned copy of Your ID
– Scanned copy of your valid driving license
– Scanned copy of translation of driving license ( both front and back)
Once the license copy and translation have been uploaded, you will be able to book an appointment to Moroor traffic office to do your driving test and fingerprints. It’s possible to book the appointment and not have the medical done yet. The appointments at the moment seem to be quite fully booked as it’s Ramadan and Eid vacation for the government employees. Tip: try to book in all locations of your city , try different times or even in another city! (If you’re really in a hurry 😊)
The license payment has to be processed through SADAD before your appointment. The cost is 400 sar for 10 years license and 5 years license is 200 sar.
HOW TO GET MEDICAL REPORT FOR SAUDI DRIVING LICENSE: Medical report can be done at certain clinics only. See the link from the SDLP site to a PDF file which gives you names and phone numbers of the specific clinics in your area that are doing the medicals for the driving license.
There are two clinics in Riyadh which myself and a friend went to that worked. During Ramadan, the staff was absent during the day or had left early and we had to make several trips to find someone to complete the medicals. To ensure the person who is allowed to access the absher system to enter your medical report there, go in the evening after 9pm (during Ramadan).The clinic is open during normal working days starting form 10 am onward.
Location of clinic I went to for Saudi driver’s license medical check up: Saha Aldiriyah Medical Complex Abdul Aziz Al Burhan, Al Khalidiyah, Riyadh 13713 011 486 3555 https://goo.gl/maps/q5auj4nZz1U2
What happens at the medical clinic? Have your documents ready, ask for driving license medical testing and pay the fee ( I paid about 20 sar with insurance, without it’s 105 sar). Tip: if you hate blood tests then have with you a certificate which states your blood group and type. Otherwise they’ll draw blood to test for them.
At the clinic you’ll wait to see the female nurse who will perform simple eyesight checks (wear glasses for it if you normally do during driving). After receiving approval of medical checkup you’ll have to wait for the person in the office to enter the medicals into the system. Make sure not to leave before you’re certain they entered it and you’ve got the confirmation of the same on your mobile as SMS. They will also give you a stamped medical certificate.
HOW TO GET LICENSE TRANSLATED Search for certified translating service in your city.
EDIT: I have removed my recommendation for the translating service in Riyadh because he raised his pricing, after getting thousands of referrals through me ( disclaimer:I never asked for any referral fee or got any compensation for recommending him) Not cool to overcharge people just because I’m bringing all these customers to him, so I can’t recommend him anymore.
There are plenty of official translators around Olaya street.
Once you’ve done all these steps you’re good to go for the appointment at Moroor. I went to the one at Rimal area in Riyadh. It’s very far so make sure you have plenty of time to search for location ahead of your appointment. You will receive a SMS from MOROOR about your driving license appointment, time and the map.
MOROOR Rimal Location google maps:
Bring with you:<<
-copies of all documents
-Glasses if you need for driving
(we brought passport pics just in case but they were not needed, they use the same pic they have on the system)
Entrance to the Traffic Office< strong>< strong>At the office:<<
ign in by giving your id number (iqama or National ID) at the registration desk. They will look up your appointment and give you a number.
– When your number is called, you will approach the desk and present your original id and original driver’s license. (Note: they do not accept photo copies, you must have the original documents. Also note: they do not keep your original license, as some have speculated. You will take it home with you.) They will verify all of the documents you have uploaded in the system. So do also have your translation with you in case they ask for it. Your thumbprint is taken.
– You then go to the practical driving exam waiting area. Here, they will explain the course to you and you will wait for your turn.
– Once you successfully pass the exam, you return to registration and are again given a number. Once called to the desk, you will give your thumbprint again and provide basic information such as your hair color, eye color, and home address (at minimum provide the name of the neighborhood/area you live in).
Note that these are the full requirements for exchanging your license at muroor. It is possible that you will be allowed to skip some of these steps in the future if you hold a driver’s license from certain countries. However, at our testing center, no one was exempted from any part of this process.
They’ll start with fingerprinting and entering your license details into system. After this you will go to have your driving test.
Driving test. Please note this advice is specifically for the Riyadh Rimal branch. I’ve heard that women who did the conversion in other cities did not have to take a driving exam, so it will depend on the location it seems.
Tip: Don’t be like me and lose your night’s sleep over it. The test is very simple and all the staff was very supportive and helpful.
During the driving test, you will follow the course which includes performing 2 skills: the three point turn and parallel parking. You have to get 75% to pass. The car is with automatic gear.
They will show you the map of what you need to drive and perform on the test track. A circle 8, 3 point turns and then in the end a parallel park (everyone’s favorite). The driving instructor does not enter the car with you, he will follow next to the car to evaluate the test and the one we had was very helpful and kept explaining what to do next.
All of the officers were in good spirits, smiling and the one who did our test had a good sense of humor too, he first joked that only one of us had passed the test! Thankfully we both passed and then proceeded back to the main office.
The last step is printing out the actual license. So you will get your brand new license in your hand when you’re done! This did not take more than 5 minutes. It’s the best feeling to have this document in your hand, I still kind of can’t believe it’s real!
I must say we were really impressed at how well organized the whole setup was. All the staff knew exactly what they were doing and followed clear process. Almost everyone spoke English, they were helpful and friendly throughout the process. Surprisingly not many women were there but it will surely pickup once people understand how the application process works.
I hope this guide helped you in applying for Saudi driving license. If so, please share it with your friends by linking to this post, or by clicking the share buttons instead of copy pasting my text or taking screenshots! This is not fair to the originals writers who spend many hours and days preparing them.
Happy & safe driving everyone!
UPDATE JUNE 26th: The Absher system is being updated and the issue about the dependent iqamas not being able to open an absher should be resolved in a few time.
Unfortunately the image they use for your driving license is the same one you have already on your file (iqama/ID) I say unfortunately because most people usually hate their iqama pics :)
The officer in charge mentioned that only Saudi driver’s license would be accepted as official document for women to drive, so I’d recommend converting your international ones, just in case.
P.P.P.S Got your Saudi driving license and ready for some adventures? Where to head for your first Saudi road trip? Some ideas here: Explore Arabia<<
Mysterious, remote and undiscovered, Madain Saleh is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Arabian Peninsula.
The historic name of Mada’in Saleh is Hegra, or al-Hijr in Arabic. Madain Saleh is located in Al Ula, in the Hijaz region of western Saudi Arabia, some 300 kms north of Medina and 500 kms south-east of its sister city, Petra in Jordan.
In this comprehensive guide you can read in detail about Madain Saleh’s history, learn in depth knowledge about the different types of tombs and fascinating areas that can be found in Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s mysterious desert city.
THE HISTORY OF MADAIN SALEH
Historically, Hegra had a lucrative position in the desert with an underground water supply that permitted agriculture, which in turn made it one of several indispensable stops along the incense trade route from Yemen to the Levant. This strategic location brought a certain wealth to its inhabitants, and with it, a number of passing kingdoms and civilisations since early history. It began in the 3rd millennium BCE with the tribe of Thamud, infamous in Islam for rejecting the calls to worship the one and only God by their prophet Saleh. It is from this very prophet that Hegra’s modern name, Mada’in Saleh which means “Cities” of Saleh, was derived.
The Dedanites and Lihyanites were other tribes who settled in the area in the 6th – 4th centuries BCE, followed by the Nabataeans in the 1st century BCE. The latter made Hegra their second capital city in case their main capital, Petra in today’s Jordan, was threatened by the Romans. Hegra’s golden age thus ensued and for the next century, while the city flourished, its inhabitants carved rock-cut tombs similar in style to those found in Petra.
The Roman threat did finally materialise in 106 CE when the entire Nabataean kingdom and its civilisation, including Hegra, were usurped by the Roman Empire. The city’s decline, however, had already begun when, in 70 CE, King Rabbel II transferred the Nabataean capital from Petra to Bosra in modern day Syria, rather than Hegra. Although Hegra continued to exist for at least another century after the Roman takeover, it later mysteriously disappeared from history, only leaving behind its many magnificent rock-cut tombs as a reminder of a glorious civilisation.
These tombs, coupled with a fun desert adventure and visits to the many other historical sites in nearby al-Ula, make Madain Saleh the most remarkable place to visit in all of Arabia. Its importance has led the UNESCO finally to list it as a World Heritage Site in 2008.
The vast area of Mada’in Saleh (Jan 2011)
MADAIN SALEH OVERVIEW
The Madain Saleh archaeological site covers a vast area. It is entered by car either from the south or from the north next to the Ottoman-period Hijaz Railway station, and both entrances join an unpaved road that loops around the whole site, making a few detours along the way. The ruins of the town of Hegra itself, where the Nabataean inhabitants once lived, is located at the centre of the site, but is currently under excavation in two distinct fenced-off areas.
Otherwise, nearly all of the visible ruins are in the form of rock-cut tombs, 131 in total, carved mostly in the first century CE, but only 86 come with a monumental façade. Though a few are isolated, these tombs were typically carved in clusters around the perimeters of large rock outcrops scattered around the site.
They are divided into seven areas (A to G), plus one additional mountain (Jebel Ithlib) used for religious rituals. In addition, there are more than 100 ancient Nabataean wells spread out across the site, and the dismantled Hijaz Railway Station, the aforementioned late Ottoman-period construction associated with Lawrence of Arabia.
The most famous tomb and iconic symbol for Madain Saleh is the tomb Qasr Al Farid, “the lonely Palace”. Photo: Laura Alho
At first glance, the tombs in Madain Saleh may all appear to be the same, but upon a closer look, the variety in styles and sizes becomes noticeable. The smallest carved façade is tomb N°3 (Jebel al-Mahjar Group), measuring under 3 by 2 metres, while the largest finished façade is Qasr al-Farid (N°110), measuring nearly 22 by 14 metres.
Some of the differences in architectural styles are quite obvious, but others require a sharp eye and some basic understanding of architecture to distinguish between them. With the exception of the signature Nabatean column capitals, Hegra’s funerary architecture exhibits strong borrowings from nearby civilisations, including features from Egyptian, Assyrian, and Hellenistic styles, and anyone who has visited Petra in Jordan would immediately recognise the similarities in architecture.
The signature Nabataean capital on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)
There are eight main stylistic categories in Hegra:
#1 Madain Saleh Simple burial chamber:
This type of tomb is a simple burial chamber devoid of any ornamentation. It was used by poorer inhabitants of Hegra who could not afford more lavish tombs. There are over 40 such tombs in Hegra.
Simple Burial Chamber, Tomb N°106, as-Saneh Group (Jan 2011)
#2 Madain Saleh Single Row of Merlons:
This style is the simplest of the monumental façades in Hegra. It consists primarily of a single row of merlons at the top of the façade, but some additional decorative features may be used in some cases. These may be in the form of two large pilasters to support the row of merlons, a pediment and pilasters to frame the entrance, or statues above the doorway to honour a deity. Twelve tombs in Hegra are attributed to this style.
Single Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°37 (Lion Tomb), al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)
#3 Madain Saleh Arched tomb:
Only one tomb in Hegra follows this style, Tomb N°92. It is a small façade consisting of a single arch over the doorway resting on two pilasters and topped by three urns.
The Arched Style, Tomb N°92, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)
Arched style tomb in Madain Saleh. Photo: Laura Alho
#4 Madain Saleh Double Row of Merlons style:
This style consists of a double row of merlons at the top of the façade. Other features, such as pilasters, or face sculptures are added in some cases. In total, 14 tombs in Hegra follow this style.
Double Row of Merlons Style, Tomb N°75, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)
#5 Madain Saleh Half-Merlons style:
Eight tombs were carved in this rather simple style. It consists of two large half-merlons arranged symmetrically at the top of the façade, resting over an Egyptian-style cornice. No pilasters or other entablature is used, but in some cases, the entrance may be framed. The half-merlons at the top create a five-step design that is the signature feature of most Nabataean tombs. Some speculate that the five steps – never more, never less – represent the five major Nabatean deities, including Dúshara.
Half Merlon Style, Tomb N°10, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)
#6 Madain Saleh Proto-Hegra 1 Style:
This is the first of three styles that are the trademark of grand tomb façades in Hegra and is the most widely used. It is crowned by two large symmetric half-merlons surmounted on an Egyptian style cornice and an architrave resting on two large pilasters, often with Nabataean capitals. The doorway may at times be framed by an aedicule consisting of a triangular or arched pediment. In total, 24 façades in Hegra follow this style.
Proto Hegra 1 Style, Tomb N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)
#7 Madain Saleh Proto-Hegra 2 Style:
It is nearly identical to Proto-Hegra 1 style, except for one minor detail. The entablature below the large half-merlons is wider, consisting of an Egyptian-style cornice, an undecorated frieze and an architrave. The frieze is the extra feature in Proto-Hegra 2. Twelve façades in total were carved in this style.
Proto Hegra 2 Style, Tomb N°42, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)
#8 The Hegra (MADAIN SALEH) Style:
This is the ultimate design in Hegra, thus dubbed the Hegra Style. It is similar to the two Proto-Hegra styles, except that it includes a second entablature above the two pilasters flanking the façade. The grandest tombs in Hegra follow this style, including several in Qasr al-Bint Group (e.g. N°21, N°22, and N°44) and Qasr al-Farid (N°110). The latter, though, is unique in that its façade contains four pilasters instead of two. In total, 14 tombs follow this style, though not all of them are particularly large.
The Hegra Style, Tomb N°20, al-Bint Group (Oct 2017)
As many as 38 of the tombs in Hegra contain a dedicatory plaque with carved inscriptions in the Nabataean alphabet, a precursor to Arabic. These inscriptions are legal in nature and often state the date the tomb was completed, the name of its sculptor and the family or person to whom it belonged, and sometimes also describe the punishment or requirement for anyone else who uses the tomb.
THE TOMBS IN MADAIN SALEH
Hegra’s plaques date the tombs to the period between 1 BCE and 75 CE, usually stated as the year of the reign of a specific king. They have shed important light on the life and practices of Nabataeans in general and brought to life the cosmopolitan nature of Hegra’s population, and have thus been tremendously valued by archaeologists, in particular because Petra (in Jordan) by comparison has only one such inscription! Many of the other façades in Hegra contain a space for a plaque but no inscription, which led some archaeologists to believe that wooden tablets with inscriptions may have been inserted in that space.
Nabataean Inscription on Tomb N°93, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)
As-Saneh Tomb group
Upon entering Madain Saleh from the southern entrance, one first encounters a group of tombs known as as-Saneh Group, numbered 102 to 108 and designated as Area G. It consists of only seven tombs across two rock outcrops flanking the unpaved road: the first has a single tomb with a large carved façade, known as Qasr as-Saneh (N°102), which gave the group its name, while the second contains the rest of the tombs in the form of simple unadorned burial chambers.
The façade of Qasr as-Saneh is one of the largest in Hegra, carved in the Hegra style, which consists of two symmetrical half-merlons over an Egyptian-style cornice and an entablature resting on two pilasters with Nabataean capitals. The entrance is framed by a triangular pediment on two pilasters, but lacks any statues or figures, and above it is an inscription dating the tomb to the 17th year of the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, thought to correspond to 8 CE. It also states that it was carved by the mason, Abd’haretat ibn Abd’obodat, for Malkion ibn Hephaestion and his family, whose name suggests a Hellenistic origin (ibn = son of).
Qasr as-Saneh, Tomb N°102 (Jan 2011)
East of as-Saneh Group, just south, south-east of the ancient urban centre of Hegra, Areas C and D are often grouped together. Area C is a single rock outcrop, known as Jebel al-Ahmar, with 19 tombs numbered 112 to 130 around its entire perimeter. Jebel al-Ahmar translates to the Red Mountain named so because of the faint red hues of its rocks. Its proximity to the residential settlement of Hegra meant it was a well-utilised necropolis with nearly all styles of tombs represented, but many badly eroded.
The most remarkable of these tombs are the twin tombs N°112 and N°113, carved on the southern side of the rock outcrop. They are very well preserved, except for the bottom part, which was probably eroded in flash floods over the centuries. Both tombs follow the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but differ slightly in the decoration above the doorway: N°112 on the left has three urns above the triangular pediment, while the slightly smaller Tomb N°113 has an eagle flanked by two urns. Although both façades have a space for a plaque, there is no inscription on either one. Some archaeologists believe a wooden inscription plaque may have been inserted in the space upon completion, but no traces remain.
Tombs N°112 and N°113, Jebel al-Ahmar (Jan 2011)
Qasr al- Farid
Area D is further south and covers a large area with only three isolated tombs, N°109 – N°111. Among them is Qasr al-Farid (the “lone” or “unique” palace, Tomb N°110), Hegra’s most iconic tomb. It is a single tomb carved in its own rock outcrop, hence its name, and measures about 22 by 14 metres, making it the largest (nearly) finished tomb in Mada’in Saleh. The façade is crowned by two symmetrical half-merlons surmounting an Egyptian-style cornice, below which is an entablature resting on four pilasters with Nabataean-style capitals. A triangular pediment, resting on two pilasters and topped by a single griffin statue, frames the entrance, above which is a plaque with a short Nabataean inscription stating that this tomb was carved for bani Lahin ibn Quza (i.e. the family of Lahin, son of Quza).
The style of this tomb is known to archaeologists as the Hegra style, but Qasr al-Farid is again unique in that it is the only one with four large pilasters decorating the façade. The tomb was never actually finished, as seen in the very bottom of the façade, and is thought to have never actually been used as a burial chamber.
Visitors admiring Qasr al-Farid, Tomb N°110 (Oct 2017)
Qasr al Farid, the Lonely Palace of Madain Saleh. Photo: Laura Alho
Al Bint- Group
Al-Bint Group outcrop.
North-east of the urban centre of ancient Hegra lies al-Bint Group, another cluster containing 31 tombs, numbered 17 to 46 and designated as Area B. Twenty-nine of these tombs are carved around a single large hill, while two simple unadorned burial chambers are located in their own tiny detached outcrop. Some of the grandest tombs in Hegra are found in this group, which also has the largest number of Nabataean inscriptions.
The name of the group was derived from tomb N°24, Qasr al-Bint (no relation to its namesake free-standing temple in Petra). It is one of the smallest in the series of grand façades in this group and follows the Proto-Hegra 2 design. The triangular pediment above the doorway is richly decorated and topped by an eagle statue and two urns. The inscription is very legal in nature and, unusually, continues inside the tomb stating that it was commissioned by Abd’Obodat ibn Aribos for himself and his daughter, Wa’ilat, and her descendants. The mention of his daughter (i.e. bint) is likely what earned this tomb its name.
The inscription leaves specific instructions, almost like a will, from Abd’Obodat to his daughter and her offspring, forbidding them from selling or transferring ownership of the tomb, even though it belonged to them in perpetuity. It also states that if Abd’Obodat’s brother, Huru, died in Hegra, that he should be allowed to be buried in this tomb.
This inscription is one of two that mention Hegra in name, written as Hijr, the Arabic equivalent (the other is Tomb N°100). Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat is the mason who carved this tomb in the 44th year of the reign of King Aretas IV, equivalent to 35 CE.
Qasr al-Bint, Tomb N°24 (Oct 2017)
Other remarkable tombs in al-Bint Group include the Doctor’s Tomb (N°44), carved for Kahlan ibn Wa’lan, the doctor, and his descendants, and the Lion Tomb (N°37), a small one with two feline sculptures with curly tails above its doorway (are they lions or leopards?). Tomb N°39 is the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, carved in 1 BCE for Kamkam bint Wa’ilat and her daughter Kulaybat and it has an arched pediment and eagle bas-relief above the entrance.
The Lion Tomb, N°37, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)
Tomb N°39, the oldest dated tomb in Hegra, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)
The Doctor’s Tomb, N°44, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)
Had the civilization at Madain Saleh lasted longer, then al-Bint Group would have boasted the largest tomb in the city, appropriately nicknamed the Unfinished Tomb (No°46). It would have measured 28 metres in height, but only part of the top step down motif (two half merlons) was completed, which clearly illustrates that Nabataeans carved their tombs from top to bottom, and is only visible from a distance. An inscription near ground level, just below the unfinished façade, states that this space had been acquired by Rabibel, a Nabataean governor, proving that a process of acquisition was necessary before a tomb was created for a particular person or family.
The Unfinished Tomb N°46 towering above Tomb N°17, al-Bint Group (Jan 2011)
Jebel Ithlib (The Nabatean Holy Mountain)
East of al-Bint Group lies Jebel Ithlib with its most unusual rock formations. For the Nabataean inhabitants of Hegra in the 1st century CE, it was the centre of much of their sacred religious rituals. On its northern side is a rock-cut assembly hall, known as al-Diwan, carved next to the sacred Siq, a natural crevice in the rock used for religious processions, similar but much smaller in scale than the Siq in Petra. Along the walls of the Siq are several carved cult niches for statues of deities, and at the other end of the Siq lies the Sanctuary, a natural basin with the remains of a Nabataean temple used for religious ceremonies and a water canal that channelled water into a cistern.
A small number of other religious sites have been discovered around Jebel Ithlib, including steles, altars, assembly halls and Greek and Nabataean inscriptions, but much more is thought to lie buried in the sand waiting to be discovered. For those with time and energy, a short hike up the slopes surrounding the basin offers a rewarding view over the whole of Mada’in Saleh.
Jebel Ithlib (Jan 2011)
The Diwan and the Siq (Oct 2017)
Carved niche on the wall of the Siq (Oct 2017)
Jebel al Mahjar ( Quarry Mountain)
West of al-Diwan and just north of the ancient urban centre of Hegra is another cluster of tombs known as Jebel al-Mahjar (Quarry Mountain), designated as Group A. Fourteen tombs are attributed to this group, numbered 1-14, and spread across three rock outcrops. An ancient well is also located in the vicinity of this mountain, and the top of its main rock outcrop has the remains of a Nabataean sacred high place. This group also boasts the tomb with the smallest façade in Hegra, N°3, measuring only 3 metres in height.
Only a handful of the tombs in Jebel al-Mahjar come with inscriptions. One of the more interesting ones is N°9, known as the Taymanite’s Tomb, which has as many as 53 burial niches, more than any other tomb and is one of three tombs in Hegra with two inscriptions, one on the façade and the other inside. The façade is moderate in size and was carved in the signature Hegra style, but is devoid of any sculptural or floral ornamentation. It is raised well above ground level and comes with a small platform in front of the entrance, plus a couple of exterior burial niches as well.
The façade inscription states that the tomb was carved in the 13th year of the reign of King Aretas IV (5 CE) for Hawshab ibn Nafi, a Taymanite (i.e. from the city of Tayma) and his extended family, many of whom are named. It also warns of severe punishment for anyone else who attempts to use, buy or sell the tomb. The interior inscription is shorter but marks the exact niches where the bodies of Hawshab and his two sons, Abdalga and Habbu, were placed.
The Taymanite’s Tomb, N°9 in Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)
The eastern rock outcrop of Jebel Khraymat contains three tombs. One on the northern side and two adjacent ones on the western side, numbered 12, 13 and 14, respectively, but only Tomb N°12 contains an inscription. Written in the Nabataean language, it states that the tomb belonged to Shubayt ibn Aliyu, the Jew, his wife Amira and their children, and that it was carved in the 3rd year of the reign of King Malichus II, equivalent to 43 CE. This inscription is interesting because it demonstrates that Hegra was a pluralistic society with prominent Jews, along with Greek or Hellinistic families as some other tomb inscriptions have indicated.
Tombs N°13 and N°14, Jebel al-Mahjar (Jan 2011)
West of the urban centre of Hegra is the most extensive group of tombs in the archaeological site, known as Jebel Khraymat. It contains 53 tombs, numbered 48-101 and is split into Areas E and F. Tomb N°64 is known as the Centurion’s Tomb. The geographic location, prone to winds and flash floods, has caused severe erosion in many of the tombs in this area, and N°64 was no exception.
It was designed in the Proto-Hegra 1 style, but much of the lower façade was completely destroyed. The inscription above the doorway has survived with some damage and is very legal in nature specifying ownership and fine for unauthorised use. It also states that this tomb was carved by the mason, Aftah, for the Centurion, Sa’dallah ibn Zabda, and his extended family and warns that the tomb is protected by the gods Dúshara and Manat. The existence of the title Centurion shows clear Roman influence on Hegra’s military regime. Unfortunately, the tomb’s exact date of completion is damaged, but occurred under the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, who ruled from 9BC to 40 CE.
The Centurion’s Tomb, N°64, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)
Nearby is another fairly damaged façade, Tomb N°66, known as the Prefect’s Tomb. However, its inscription has survived well and states that it was carved by the mason, Aftah ibn Abd’Obodat, for Matiyu, son of Euphronius the Prefect, and his extended family, whose title and name suggest a military profession and possible Hellenistic origin. The tomb is dated to the 48th year of the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, which is equivalent to 40 CE.
The Prefect’s Tomb, N°66, Jebel Khraymat (Jan 2011)
Jebel Khraymat’s crown jewel, however, is Tomb N°100, the largest in this group and its most richly decorated. Although it was carved in the signature Hegra Style, a few additional features distinguish it from the rest. It is the only façade with carvings in the attic space between the Egyptian-style cornice and the entablature below, consisting of four decorative Nabataean column capitals. The aedicular frame around the doorway is also richly decorated with a row of carved rosettes below its pediment and two griffin statues flanking it.
The left hand statue is the only one in Hegra that has astonishingly retained its head, avoiding the decapitation that befell all other statues in Hegra in the post-pagan period. The inscription dates it to the 24th year of the reign of King Malichus II (64 CE) and states that it belongs to the family of Tarsu ibn Taym.
Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)
The Griffin with its head, Tomb N°100, Jebel Khraymat (Oct 2017)
THE MADAIN SALEH RAILWAY STATION
To complete the tour of the site, one must visit the Madain Saleh railway station. It was one of numerous stops along the defunct Hijaz Railway, which was laid out in 1900 under the Ottoman Empire to link Medina with Damascus and ultimately Constantinople, thus significantly cutting pilgrims’ travel time during the important Haj season.
Plans had been made to extend it all the way to Mecca, but the strategically important railway was blown up by T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies during WWI in an effort to weaken Ottoman control over the Hijaz region (western Arabia). With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by colonial powers following the war, the railway was never repaired and its tracks and stations remain a relic of a bygone era. Here in Mada’in Saleh, the red-tiled station and adjacent buildings, including a fortress, are one of the attractions of the visit with the station now turned into a museum exhibiting the old locomotive cars.
The Ottoman Fortress with Jebel Ithlib in the background (Oct 2017)
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:
- Routes d’Arabie, archéologie et histoire du Royaume d’arabie saoudite (published by Somogy and Louvre)
- The Nabataean Tomb Inscriptions of Mada’in Salih, by John F. Healey (Oxford University Press)
- Discover more amazing places in Saudi Arabia: Explore KSA
- Al Ula Royal Commission
This is a guest post by @zauravoyages, a traveler and writer hailing from Saudi Arabia with a passion for architecture, history and world heritage. All images @copyright zauracvoyages unless otherwise mentioned. Follow him on Instagram here: zauracvoyages
IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR VISITS TO MADAIN SALEH STARTING DECEMBER 15TH 2017 : Madain Saleh, Jebel Hekmah and Khuraybah sites have been closed by the Royal commission of Al Ula for development and archeological research project until further notice. Despite the temporary closure of these sites, Al Ula is a beautiful place to visit full of rich history and otherworldly landscapes. Stay tuned for more posts about Al Ula!
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I’ve been looking for a place to recycle waste in Riyadh for a long time. Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get from readers are “where to recycle clothes, old appliances, glass, metal, batteries etc”.
I must admit, one of the most shocking things for me in transitioning to life from Finland to Saudi Arabia was the lack of recycling practices. Coming from a Scandinavian country, where we recycle almost everything (by law!) I felt like a criminal throwing glass jars and metal cans into the trash bin along with all the other rubbish. Recycling becomes a part of life when you are used to it from an early age, and recycling doesn’t really take that much of an extra effort. So the people who are already used to the system and mindset or materials being reused for other purposes feel guilt when they have to throw away everything in the same bin.
The problem that many people face in Riyadh has been where to take all these glass, plastic, paper and metal products for recycling? Where to donate all this old clothing to? How about old furniture and appliances? I was most shocked to find out that even batteries are regularly thrown in the same garbage dump.
I was so happy to hear about a recycling place in Riyadh where we can take all this problematic and toxic waste and everything can be dropped off in one place. Recycle center map location at the end of this post!
The use of plastic in Saudi Arabia is extremely worrisome. Whenever I go out to the beautiful desert and other amazing places that can be found in Saudi Arabia, I see what kind of detrimental effect humans and their obsession for plastic bags, water bottles and plastic cutlery does to nature.
Recycling in Saudi has always been close to my heart and I’ve written about it previously in this article: Recycling the Saudi Values and this list of Ten Ways to recycle in KSA
Thumamah desert fence January 2018. Photo: Laura Alho
Trash collected from Farasan Island beach April 2017. Photo: Laura Alho
One of my pet peeves is going to the supermarket, pharmacy or a baqala (small convenience store), where every single small thing you buy will be placed in one plastic bag. Why? Why is there a need to put a tiny box of medicine for example, into a plastic bag? When I can just put it in my pocket, or handbag or carry it in my hand!
The use of plastic bags in Saudi Arabia is totally out of control.
The country is drowning in plastic.
Habala village September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho
Sadly, going to the desert nearby Riyadh often means having to mingle with a bunch of left behind picnics, plastic bags and bottles. Same goes for the public beaches around Jeddah and Gizan, and the valleys, national parks and the beautiful forests in Asir. Pretty much anything within a 50 km radius from a city is going to look like a garbage yard due to those very same plastic bags we are forced to use everyday, and which people with complete disregard to nature throw onto the ground.
Sometimes large trash cans are provided in some areas, but they’re not emptied at all, or not often enough. Weather conditions and animals cause the trash to fly out of the garbage cans out into the nature. Other animals will come and spread trash around further. The large yellow trash cans we can see in many places have no lids, so all the birds and cats can just jump in and take the trash outside and it spreads around, even if humans tried to do the right thing and dispose of their waste in them.
Plastic bags bags should be BANNED in Saudi Arabia, like they already have in several places around the world. The plastic bags can be replaced by cloth bags, paper bags, or reusable bags.
Hidden Canyon in Riyadh September 2017. Photo: Laura Alho
An example of the plastic madness from everyday life in Riyadh: When you go to a grocery store the have baggers who are actually TRAINED TO WASTE PLASTIC. I know a lot of people reading this from outside KSA will not believe anything so absurd could be the norm in the year 2018 but it’s true. Yes, the bagger is instructed to use a mass load of bags for a just a couple of grocery items. Go to any grocery chain in Saudi Arabia and you’ll find the same problem, the baggers never fill the bags up, unless the customer specifically asks and insists otherwise. This has got to change!!!
For example if the customer buys a bottle of milk, a shampoo, a loaf of bread and some bananas, instead of using ONE single bag to pack all of them, these would be placed in five bags, double one for the bananas.
Every single time I go to the grocery store I face the same issue that I have to go and instruct the bagger to fill the bags up and stop wasting so much plastic. They give me weird looks but I still do it, because it’s really the least I can do if I don’t have a reusable bag with me. Sometimes they won’t understand and that’s when I just take the bags and start filling them up myself, I’ve also taught this to my children and they will advise and help the baggers each time. It’s definitely not the norm to do this and most people seem to have no idea why I wouldn’t want all those plastic bags.
An even better option would be to always remember to have your own reusable shopping bag for packing groceries. Although I’ve noticed that the baggers will not know how to use the reusable bags, unless instructed. They first try to place the items in the plastic bags then place all those inside the reusable bag! You can’t make these things up!
Everyone can start making small changes life, DAILY. Everyone can do it. REFUSE to take that plastic bag. Get a reusable bag for groceries. Tell the bagger to use less plastic. Refuse that straw, you don’t really need it. Take your glass, batteries and metal waste to recycle unit. Most people have drivers, give the recyclable items to the driver once a week and he takes them. No extra effort needed. When taking laundry out, refuse all the extra metal hangers and plastic wraps.
When you’re at the park, don’t litter. Call people out for littering. Honestly this really does help.
Pick up trash left by other people, be an example.
Show an example to your kids by teaching them how to recycle and pick up after themselves from a very early age. Insist that the kids school begin teaching recycling and respecting nature as part of the curriculum. There are hundreds of ways every single person reading this can help.
Are YOU doing something?
To be fair there are many environmental awareness campaigns in Saudi Arabia, more and more each year. So there definitely has been a positive change from what I’ve seen in the 10 years time I’ve been in Saudi Arabia. Things which have the most dire impact on the nature, such as the use of plastic bags and water bottles needs regulations and laws set to be effective.
Plastic bags in Saudi Arabia’s stores should either be
A) banned altogether and alternatives taken into use or
B) customers have to pay for their bags and this will greatly reduce the amount being used.
My main reason for this post was originally to share the location of the center where you can recycle in Riyadh that I found out about recently. As usual when speaking about matters close to my heart, I got carried away about how the environment is not being protected enough in Saudi. I do this because I genuinely care and I want things to change. It’s something I’m passionate about and can talk about on and on. Without these things being addressed and talked about, things will not change. This is my second home country and my children are half Saudi, I want them to be able to live in a clean safe environment in the future and for future generations to be able to enjoy Saudi Arabia’s nature the same way we can now.
Location of Recycle Center in Riyadh
I was so excited to find this recycling place in Riyadh where they will accept multiple things at one location. Instead of having to go around the town to multiple different locations to try to recycle waste and in the process spend several hours stuck in traffic, there is one place in the city center that we can now take it all to.
They can also come to your house to fetch larger items such as furniture and old appliances. So this is fantastic news indeed! It’s not the same as we have in Finland but this is absolutely better than nothing and a great start!
What to do: Drive to the location and have your items already separated in bags or boxes. Plastic bottles, glass, metal, clothing, batteries, all separately. Just hand over your waste to the staff and that’s it. Or alternatively you can use the existing recycle bins. There’s containers for plastic, paper, clothes, and one for shoes and they give these to charity.
Here is the location on google maps of the center for recycle in Riyadh:
It’s open daily from 9 am to 11pm. Fridays after Jumah prayer.
Recycling place in Riyadh.
If you know of a similar place to recycle in Jeddah, Khobar, Abha, Dammam, Qassim and any city on KSA, please leave the info in the comments to help others to find these locations.
Please also leave in the comments social media handles for Environmental awareness campaigns, charities that accept donated clothing and any other related information that will benefit everyone.
Recycle in Riyadh
Some of you may already know that I’ve been making Saudi souvenirs as wall calendars for several years now, five consecutive years in fact! I love compiling and designing the calendars using imagery from my travels around Saudi Arabia, despite it being a huge hassle every year to produce and print them.
The hardest part is choosing ONLY 12 beautiful places in Saudi Arabia (from hundreds of options) and then from those 12 locations, having to select just one or two images to showcase the location in the best possible way. It takes me about three months to finish the entire calendar design because I want the result to be perfect. I try to include something from each region of KSA and showcase the surprising diversity in landscape, culture and colors of Saudi Arabia.
The calendars make the ideal Saudi souvenirs to take back home to show the beauty of Saudi Arabia in a compact and affordable package. They would also make great gifts to visiting foreign friends. For more Saudi inspired gifts check out my Instagram: Inspired by Arabia
For this years calendar cover design I chose to feature al Qatt al Asiri, the traditional wall paintings of Asir region. These wall murals are done entirely by the women of Asir who have mastered this art form for centuries.
I was thrilled to hear that Qatt al Asiri was selected as intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2018 so the choice was perfect to celebrate this recognition! More al Qatt alasiri art can be found inside the calendar.
Other Saudi Arabia UNESCO sites (already listed or tentative) featured in this calendar: At Turaif district, Madain Saleh, Al Balad, Dhee Ayn village, Rijal Alma’a village and Hejaz railway.
So where can you get one of these wall calendars?
I’ve selected some of the best places in Riyadh, Khobar and Jeddah that you definitely should pay a visit to, even if you don’t get a calendar or other Saudi souvenirs :)
Haya Tours office
Salwa is a wealth of information and visiting her office at Alia plaza you can book tours and grab a calendar as a souvenir!
Draft Store Centria mall second floor
This shop is addictive, each time I go there I find new cool things and gift ideas. You will be compelled to grab something every time you visit! Magic Kingdom wall calendars can be found there too as well as many other items you could take home as Saudi souvenirs and gifts from the region. Find them on instagram: @draftthoughts
Open all day 10am -11pm (no break in between 👍🏻)
The Blossom Tree Bustan Village compound
Lovely concept store inside Bustan compound. Accessories and home decor, Saudi souvenir ideas. They stock the Inspired by Arabia canvas at Blossom tree.
A must visit place when in Jeddah- they select the best home bakeries, local designers and producers so you are guaranteed for a treat. Have coffee and shop for the perfect gifts in a beautiful instagram-worthy environment! They also host events and concerts at Crate- stay up to date on instagram: @crateksa
The go-to place for Saudi souvenirs in Eastern Province. Magic Kingdom wall calendars, Saudi doors pillows, phone covers from the Inspired by Arabia brand are available there too.
For more souvenir ideas from Saudi Arabia check out Susie’s post: Souvenirs from Saudi
Lulu publisher (U.S.A & Canada)
Lulu is a print on demand site and they will produce and ship the calendar to you worldwide, shop online here: Magic Kingdom Wall Calendar 2018
Special thank you to calendar sponsor al Nakhla residential compound! Al Nakhla compound won the title of Best Luxury Residential compound in Saudi Arabia 2017, and once you visit this compound you will no doubt see why! It’s like stepping into a luxury holiday resort, except that people actually live there!
A very family oriented compound, with daycare, kids playgrounds, plenty of different pools ( 23 pools!), safe places for kids to ride bikes, skate and play. I’ve tried their open air buffet at the Majdool restaurant by the gorgeous pool. I’d highly recommended to try it out as an alternative to the five star hotel buffets for a more relaxed atmosphere.
Al Nakhla’s recreation office is well known for hosting some of the best events in Riyadh, and they allow visitors to attend! The best way to stay up to date with al Nakhla events is to follow their social media channels: Instagram and Facebook page. Visit their website for more compound info: Al Nakhla Residential Resort
The Janadriyah festival in Riyadh is an annually held cultural heritage festival of Saudi Arabia THIS GUIDE HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR 2018 / 2019 schedules and visiting days for men and families.
The biggest cultural event of Saudi Arabia, the Janadriyah Cultural heritage festival is just around the corner! In this Blue Abaya guide you will find everything you need to know to attend the most important national festival for culture and heritage of Saudi Arabia.
In this Janadriyah festival guide you’ll find Janadriyah visiting hours, dates for family and single days, maps, location, directions, more festival guides, tips for parents and more.
For more Janadriyah updates, like & follow Blue Abaya on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
First of all, what exactly is the Janadriyah (Arabic: مهرجان الجنادرية) Heritage Festival?
An annually held, cultural heritage and folk festival of Saudi-Arabia organized by the Saudi National Guard since 1985.
The Janadriyah village was built specifically to host this festival. This is the largest festival of its kind in the Gulf, attracting millions of visitors from all over the region each year. The festival was cancelled in 2015 due to the passing of King Abdullah. During Janadriyah of the previous year 2017, over 3 million people from all over Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries visited the festival.
Al Janadriyah village is divided into sections according to the provinces of Saudi Arabia. Each area, or pavilion as they are referred to as, showcases the unique culture, architecture, foods, dances, traditional dress and craftsmanship of that region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
33rd Janadriyah Festival will be held in the Al Janadriyah village on the outskirts of Riyadh starting on December 20th 2018
Entrance to Janadriyah Village is completely FREE of charge and everyone is welcome!
SCHEDULE and VISIT DAYS for 2018/2019 Janadriyah Festival as follows:
OPENING CEREMONY: December 20th 2018
MEN ONLY: Thursday 20th to Monday 24th December
FAMILIES AND WOMEN : Tuesday 25th December 2018 to 9th January 2019
UPDATE December 23rd 2018: everyone can visit the festival daily no more single and family days
Janadriyah Festival Guide
Images from previous Janadriyah festivals check these posts: Why I love Janadriyah Festival and Janadriyah 2011
What can be found at the Janadriyah Village?
Al Janadriyah Village is a huge area, covering over 1.5 sq km of land. It’s is divided into sections according to the different Provinces of Saudi Arabia such as: Jizan (Gazan), Asir, Riyadh, Hail, Tabuk, Eastern Province, Makkah, Medinah, Taif, Al Baha, Qassim, and Najran. Each Province area has buildings which are replicas of the architectural style typical to said region.
Each year there’s also visiting country at the festival and in 2018 Guest country is Indonesia. Indonesia will have their own cultural pavilion at Janadriyah.
In addition to the province areas, Janadriyah showcases also the largest governmental organizations such as National Guard Health affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Saudi Ports Authority, Saudi Tourism and Heritage and many others. Additionally various social projects, non profit organizations, private companies and charity foundations are present.
A Camel race track which hosts camel races during the first three days is also a part of the Janadriyah village.
Several marketplaces, art exhibitions, food stalls, stages for traditional dance performances and commercial pavilions are also present.
When can I visit? Can I go with my husband/family/single male friends?
Dates and timings as follows: The festival grand opening is by invite only on 20th December was announced by King Salman as a special Royal Decree, you can watch it on live Tv from the KSA tv.
Opening hours: from 11am to 11 pm everyday except Fridays from 2 pm to midnight
Family days are when single women (either on their own or with their male family members) and married men with their families are allowed to enter.
Note that sometimes single males might be able to enter on family days accompanied with a tour group, by sticking with the group strictly at all times. The religious police are on the look-out for single males and all single males will be escorted out of the festival if found unaccompanied by family members. The Haia are very strict in particular with the Saudi youth, however expats might get some leeway in this matter.
Where is Janadriyah village located? How do I get there, is there a map of the area, or GPS co-ordinates?
The Janadriyah Village is located on Janadriyah Rd, opposite the Salwa Garden Village North of Riyadh, approximately 40 km from the city center. Further along the same road are the King Abdul Aziz Race track and Thumamah National Park. Three roads from Riyadh lead to Janadriyah. Check the Google map to see which one is closest to you and for driving directions. It takes about 30- 45 minutes from Riyadh city center to reach Janadriyah depending on the traffic. There’s no public transport available to the festival apart from taxis, they should all know the Janadriyah location.
GPS co-ordinates: 24.958592, 46.794462
Location Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/184ur