My beautiful home country Finland. I often dream of those cool and breezy summer evenings in Finland. Sitting on the porch listening to seagulls and watching the water and skies turn pink, I am in no hurry to go anywhere. The air is fresh and there is no breeze, the sea is calm. I will go for a midnight swim and then return into the embrace of the warm sauna.

We spent the past summer in Finland again, I would not miss it for the world! Summer is absolutely the best time of year in Finland in my opinion. Since I moved to Saudi I’ve made sure to spend as much time as possible in my home country every summer. The past three summers my husband has also joined and he really loves it too!

I love the midsummer’s midnight sunsets and the soothing sound of rain falling on the cottage roof. I miss eating blueberries, raspberries and strawberries straight from the bushes outside the summer house and making a salad from what grows in the garden. The therapeutic sounds of the waves softly splashing on the rocks next to the cottage and the early morning bird orchestra are just music to my ears!

I hope all these experiences have an everlasting effect on my baby daughter and she will always feel at home in Finland and surrounded by nature. She surely enjoyed her time there to the max. Our days went by swimming, running and playing in the grass and with the dog, searching for treasures like ladybugs, seashells, or flowers, watching different kinds of birds, going to sauna, eating delicious healthy foods and playing with her little sweet cousins.

I can say she’s a true Finn because my daughter absolutely LOVED swimming in the cold (+18c) water and would even cry when taken out! She even learned to use a vihta (my father made especially a baby sized one) and how to throw loyly in the sauna.

What I miss the most about the summer in Finland is being able to spend 90% of the days outdoors. In contrast here in Saudi I fee like I’m spending 90% of my days indoors. It’s simply too hot for me to venture out right now, I’m too pregnant to tolerate the heat! So I’m really looking forward to the weather cooling down and being able to go for daily walks with the stroller in the neighborhood parks.

In the meanwhile I try to remember those quiet summer days by browsing through my pics, it makes me feel relaxed and happy to go through all those memories. Here are a few pics I wanted to share from my lovely country Finland!

Midsummer festival is the highlight of the summer for many Finns. Bonfires are a part of the celebrations.

My dad prepared some “rosvopaisti” for the midsummer celebrations. Fresh herbs and rhubarb from our garden.

It’s lamb that’s wrapped in foil and we dig it under a burning fire, then cover it up again for many hours.

When it’s done the meat is so tender and delicious it’s soft like butter.

The midsummer bonfire is lit at midnight.
The swan is the Finnish national bird.

The children fell asleep in the boat and here they are napping on the island.

A baby seagull we found which had a broken leg. We tried to feed it and find a safe place for it to stay, but the odds of it surviving were low.

Chives grow wild everywhere in this area.

Seagull feather in a pond.

The kids feeding carrots to the horses, the breed is Finnhorse, they are very strong and used for farm work.
The scenery at many farms has remained unchanged for many decades.

A natural beach on an island we went to by boat.

All kids like to eat sand!

Tiny seashells.

A ladybug on the go.

My husband’s artistic side.

Net fishing at Baltic sea.

Saudi women are born to drive!

Finns used to give birth in saunas. This is an antique birthing stool from our sauna.

My sisters house will be built here.

Ramadan greetings to dad back in Saudi!

A typical Finnish farmhouse.

An old iron works factory next to a river called Fiskars.

Bright summer colors.

I love the pink clouds!

A meadow of flowers and a very traditional Finnish house.


The Kalajoki sand dunes are endless!

Our dog supervising the children picking blueberries.

Wild strawberry catch.
Enchanted forest.
Not many berries made it to the buckets.

Blue skies!

On the road again.

A beach in Northern Finland.

Lonely seashell.

Ready for take off.
An old wheel cart.

A castle from the middle-ages.

Resident crow at the castle.

Splashes of color.

Until next year..

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  • noonaSeptember 2, 2012 - 2:17 am

    Amazing photos! Made me a bit homesick too.. The aussie winter has been too long for me, like a never ending Finnish September.. :/ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 2, 2012 - 2:49 am


    Such a beautiful place! Why did you leave? I mean, Saudi has it’s beauty, but Finland appears to be living and not just existing.

    You should go back. Leave the sand for the gardens and trees.

    Maa Shaa Allaah beauuuutiful pictures.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:22 pm

      Thanks, the Finnish summer is very short unfortunately, this beauty lasts for only a few months..And that IS what I go back for :)
      Not saying the other seasons are ugly or anything..just not as nice.ReplyCancel

  • PetraSeptember 2, 2012 - 5:06 am

    Oh the fotos are so beautiful I almost cried! I didn’t go this summer to Finland and I miss it so much. Finnish nature is amazing, best therapy for stress. My husband also loves Finland and especially wandering in the forests and seaside. How old is your daughter? Do you speak finnish for her? My daughter is 14 months old. In my opinion finnish people are used to different kinds of weathers, we go jogging even if it is raining or snowing. Turkish people go panic when the temperture gets too low or differs from the normal. Usually people don’t have enough warm clothes in the winter-time. Have a nice weekend!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:24 pm

      Petra-thank you!She is almost a year and half now and I only speak Finnish to her. She has started to speak some Finnish words now, but not Arabic or english(yet).

      Yes Finns are a little bit crazy like that!ReplyCancel

  • sessiSeptember 2, 2012 - 8:10 am

    Beautiful pictures! As always :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:33 pm

      thanks Sessi!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 2, 2012 - 5:27 am

    So love all the pictures u’ve got…the scenery is so calming even just by looking at the pics…:) Umm MansourReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:32 pm

      Thank you Umm Mansour!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 2, 2012 - 7:18 am

    Wonderful pictures, you really know the best parts of the finnish summer :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:32 pm

      Thanks, there are so many more though :)ReplyCancel

  • swedemomSeptember 2, 2012 - 7:56 am

    Summer in Scandinavia cannot be beat. . . unless it rains!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:33 pm

      Swedemom-I don’t even mind the rain (if it’s not like a week in a row) because it’s so rare here :)ReplyCancel

  • mizyénaSeptember 2, 2012 - 8:47 am

    Oi miten ihania kuvia!!!! Teillä on ollut todella kaunis ja ikimuistoinen kesäloma kotisuomessa. Me ei olla pariin vuoteen käyty Suomessa eikä mitään suunnitelmia mennäkkään. Mutta muistoja onneksi voi haalia ja vanhoja kuvia katsella. Kiitos näistä kuvista ♥ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:42 pm

      Kiitos mizyena! Oli kylla taas ikimuistoinen kesa, ihanaa laatu aikaa perheen kanssa.ReplyCancel

  • Kalamuija ja lappilifestyleSeptember 2, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Ihania kuvia:) Pitaakin katsoa blogiasi tarkemmin:)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:43 pm

      Kiitos! Kavin jo vastavierailulla :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 2, 2012 - 10:22 am

    Stunning pictures!!!! I am from Holland, I am sure you know it, just beneath Denmark, and I miss nature too…

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:43 pm

      Thanks Simone, Holland is also a very beautiful country!ReplyCancel

  • TifyffeSeptember 2, 2012 - 1:44 pm

    Hello, Laylah, it’s good to have you back(i have been checking back and forth to see if there is a new post on your blog). Finland is really beautiful.Also, congrats on your pregnancy, may Allah make it smooth for you.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:45 pm

      Hi there Tifyffe and thank you :) I’ve been really absent minded lately with this pregnancy brain so hence the lack of posting as well as this little toddler who keeps me occupied!ReplyCancel

  • JeanetteSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:49 am

    Beautiful pictures! I can see why you miss it so!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:44 pm

      Hi Jeannette and thanks!ReplyCancel

  • emmaSeptember 2, 2012 - 2:50 pm

    Fabulous pictures!! I can feel the moments from them! :) Your blog is a great one, I enjoy so much of reading your posts every time! Keep on writing! Congratulations on your new pregnancy, by the way! <3ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:45 pm

      Hi emma thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoy the blog :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 2, 2012 - 8:13 pm

    Love the pictures! I wonder what camera you are using?

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:46 pm

      Hi Maria,thanks, I use Nikon D90!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:34 pm

    Kiitos Zella, on meilla hieno kotimaa josta saa kylla olla ylpea :)ReplyCancel

  • HopeSeptember 2, 2012 - 10:59 pm

    WOWOW The Finnish Ministry of Tourism should hire you! thanks for sharing such a beautiful part of the world.. and also for sharing such happy precious moments! They really did brighten my day and spread good energy all over … Hopefully well visit Finland someday in the near future… and if we do .. i really want THat Bonfire LAMB :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 2, 2012 - 11:49 pm

      Hope thanks,what a great idea :)Oh you are always more than welcome and guess what that is the only kind of lamb I can say I LOVE!ReplyCancel

  • epusphaSeptember 3, 2012 - 4:09 am

    Assalamualaikum Laylah,
    This is the first time I visit your blog. My friend recommended it as “a must visit blog” yesterday. And Yes, she is right, your blog is really interesting.
    The pictures here are sooooo beautiful. Hope I can go there someday.
    FYI, i am an Indonesian (hope you know where it is. LOL)

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:15 pm

      Wa aleikum salaam,thank you for leaving a comment! I hope I can visit Indonesia one day :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 3, 2012 - 8:01 am

    Such beautiful pictures! Mashallah, what a great photographer! Your description of Findland is wonderful and artistic! I think it is amazing that you are taking your daughter there so that she can appreciate it. I hope one day to visit now!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:16 pm

      Thanks so much, I appreciate the feedback! hope you get to visit Finland soon.ReplyCancel

  • AsmaaSeptember 3, 2012 - 11:09 am

    asalamu alaikum layla,

    Beautiful pictures mashaAllah and may Allah bless you and your family, i had no idea finland was soooooo stunning!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:16 pm

      salaam Asmaa, thank you!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 4, 2012 - 3:43 pm

    You take magnificient photos!!! I love reading your blog, thanks for sharing. Finland looks a lot like Canada. I would miss my home country too if I were in a foreign country, so I understand how you feel (well almost!). Congrats on being pregnant again (I am too!!). Francesca from Ottawa, CanadaReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:17 pm

      Francesca, thank you and congrats on the pregnancy!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 5, 2012 - 11:03 am

    Simply fabulous Layla you are a great ambassador for your country.

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:18 pm

      Thank you Ann that is nice to hear :)ReplyCancel

  • ShaziaSeptember 5, 2012 - 2:21 pm

    what beauty mashaAllah! your kids are indeed lucky, having the best of both countries. And ALL the pictures you have taken are amazing, esp. the one of the castle from the middle ages.
    Congrats on your pregnancy btw. May Allah bless you and your soon-to-increase family. :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 6, 2012 - 7:19 pm

      Shazia thanks, I hope they can enjoy the best of both countries for all their lives inshallah!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 5, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    I really like the country side… its relaxing and romantic in a way with the cottages and all. I would love to go to a place like this. I was thinking Scotland but the weather does not seem to get good there lol. Finland looks like another great idea….ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 9:38 pm

      Scotland is amazing too but nothing beats Finland countryside ;)ReplyCancel

  • Sandra-DXBSeptember 6, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    Beautiful pictures! It’s always nice to escape the Middle East during summer!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 9:38 pm

      Thanks Sandra!ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1September 7, 2012 - 1:35 am

    As usual you have excellent photographs. Hope you enjoyed your vacation. Finland is quite a beauty place.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 9:39 pm

      Thanks bigstick we sure did :)ReplyCancel

  • JeanSeptember 8, 2012 - 1:27 am

    Tell us more about the old practice of giving birth in…a sauna? why..because it’s warm/relaxing?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 9:43 pm

      The sauna was considered a “sacred” place, it’s a relaxing and calm place, it’s clean, easy to wash afterwards..Warm of course but like I mentioned before in another post, the saunas used to have really high ceilings and that makes the lower part where people wash themselves very comfortable, not hot like up where you take in the steam.. These are just guesses though :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 8, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    great pictures. gotta visit Finland some day. in summer of course. oh by the way is it the finns or the danes who carry their wives on their backs during a particular festival? the wives are carried upside down with their heads dangling close to ground while their legs are scissored in front of their husbands necks. saw a picture of that along time ago. thought that was great and in fact attempted it once or twice with mine.
    from muktar in nigeriaReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 9:46 pm

      thank you for commenting muktar! Yes it is us Finns who do this, it’s called “eukonkanto” (carrying the wife)and is like you described it but they RUN fast and it’s actually a world championship race which we take very seriously lolReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 8, 2012 - 10:35 pm

    Hi Silhouette, thanks for stopping by!
    Yes I do get some sort of cultural shock every time I go either way. So when I leave Saudi I sometimes feel apprehensive of removing the abaya haha
    but coming back it’s easier in a way, I’m sure I’m not the only woman who feels more comfortable putting it on at the airport bcz of too many stares. But then at home it feels annoying to leave the house with it for some while and then you get used to it again.

  • Umm GamarSeptember 9, 2012 - 8:26 am

    Mashallah Laylah, your baby hv grown! My little Moon shall inshallah be 1 year next month but it seems like just yesterday she came into our lives! Finland’s beautiful n definitely on my travel list!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 12, 2012 - 10:08 pm

    Love the pictures.. and the bbq looks to die for. :)ReplyCancel

  • JessicaSeptember 20, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    How beautiful!! I’ve always wanted to go to Finland and even more so nowReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 8:39 am

    Ihanat kesakuvat! Voi kun tuli kaipuu Suomen kesaan…Loysin bloggisi tanaan expatwoman forumin kautta. Asun talla hetkella naapurimaassa- UAE. Tosi paljon mielenkiintoisia kirjoituksia- kiitos! Harrastan itse myos valokuvausta. Onko hankalaa kulkea kameran kanssa siella? Otatko salaa ihmisista kuvia vai pyydatko luvan?

    Mainitsin enkku miehelleni lauseesi “I am of course not a princess, rather I was nicknamed “Finnish princess” by my husband.”
    Hanen humoristinen vastaus siihen oli etta:”pfft… she can’t be proper Finnish… she’d have punched him for that… surely? Hit him with a Hackman (pan)?” Tama nyt oli sitten viittaus minun suomalaiseen jaarapaa feministi olemukseen. Kai han on yrittanyt pitaa minua prinsessana mutta luovutti ja osti minulle mukin jossa lukee “Queen of f****** everything”

    Mukavaa syksynjatkoa! Onneksi saat pikkuhiljaa viilenevat.

  • AnttiOctober 11, 2012 - 4:31 pm

    Lovely photos ! I am teaching in Saudi, electrical engineering technology, in Jazan, since January of this year. I had a chance to get back to Finland for a few days on my way back from the Ramadan break when I went back to Canada. My father is in Turku. I was born in Ylihärmä, and grew up living in Canada for the last half-century (or more !) What a pleasure to feel the cool, light evenings in Finland – so different from the humid 35 c temperatures in Jazan. I will have to read more of your blog – it sure is an interesting journey.ReplyCancel

  • Mayssa BekriDecember 1, 2012 - 1:36 pm

    Wow you made me really wanna go there! Gosh
    Don’t you wanna just go back and live there?ReplyCancel

  • drtaherJune 20, 2013 - 9:44 pm

    Dear Layla,

    I think you have a great hand at photography too. I am amazed at your multiple talents! A writer, a humorist, a nurse, and now, a photographer too. Finland excites me now. I must add it to my wish list of places to see before I die. My favourite clicks were those of your kid trying to swim, the B & W photos of the feather and the old castle, and finally, the photo of the landscape where your sister is to make her house. Lovely snaps.



  • […] The beauty of Finland’s nature is truly at its best during summers, when we have the luxury to enjoy almost 24h of sunlight in some regions. The famous ‘Midnight Sun’ creates spectacular sunsets all summer long. You can see those and more photos from our previous summer vacations in Finland here! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This time of year also beautiful sunsets and clouds can be spotted. Reminds me of weather on a perfect Finnish summer day but in Finland we would be lucky to have this kind of weather more than a few days in a year! […]ReplyCancel

Your Ultimate Guide to visiting the Edge of the World outside Riyadh! Find out all you need to know about the amazing Edge of the World on your own with the help of this guide. Best times to visit, how to get there, opening times, where to hike, safety tips, driving directions and GPS co-ordinates are all listed in this guide.

One of the most popular desert treks from Riyadh is the Edge of the World along the Tuwaiq Escarpment. Definitely worth a visit and a perfect day trip because of the spectacular scenery and an unforgettable experience so close to Riyadh. The Tuwaiq escarpment that runs about 700km through central Saudi-Arabia is a scenic plateau with plenty of beautiful viewing spots. What makes Edge of the World special is this part of the escarpment has long edges that reach outward from the plateau and the view from them looks “endless”, in other words only a flat plain can be seen in the horizon as far as the eye can reach.

You can visit Edge of the World (EOTW) on your own by the help of this FREE downloadable guide ebook. 
If you’d like to go there with a hiking guide we can help you with that as well. Please contact us at contact (at) to help arrange a private tour to the Edge of the World.
edge of the world

Tuwaiq escarpment

edge of the world

View down from Edge of the World Riyadh Saudi Arabia

edge of the world

The location is about 90km outside of Riyadh and it takes about 1,5 hours to reach. The Edge of the World should not be attempted to reach by other than a 4×4 vehicle as the last length of the trip is very rocky and there’s loose gravel and some soft sand. Some people have managed to get there by regular cars without getting stuck but it’s a big risk to take. The safest bet is to go in a convoy of several cars and make sure all the cars have a full tank and a shovel, tow strap and spare tires and/or tire repair kits.

edge of the world

Never stop in the soft sand!

edge of the world

The best season for visiting would be the fall and winter months when skies are clear and the temperatures are warm or cool. Edge of the World can get extremely hot in the summer months because there is no shade there whatsoever. If you want the site all to yourself the best would be to visit on a weekday. During the years this site has become increasingly popular among expats and winter weekend afternoons might even have a small crowd on site.

edge of the world

When taking the trip, you should leave early enough to prepare a minimum of two hours for driving, to have at least two hours at the site and a good two hours for the way back during daylight hours. The desert track can be very tricky to drive in the dark and it’s easy to get lost. Eventually all tracks lead out of the acacia valley back to the gate. It should be noted that the rangers close this gate at 6 p.m so if you don’t make that time you are stuck in the acacia valley for the night.

edge of the world
 At the site there will be a lot of climbing and walking to do to reach the actual edge, remember to take enough water with you and sun screen plus a hat.
edge of the world

This is the end of the desert track where the cars will be parked and the walk starts either up to the cliff toward the edge or down to the plains.edge of the world

Keep in mind the whole site is in natural state and there will be no fences or warning signs anywhere, so caution needs to be practiced anywhere near the cliff ledges as there might be loose rocks and danger of falling from rock slides.The danger of falling here is real, a respiratory therapist Laurie K. Roland (may her soul rest in peace) fell to her death at the Edge of The World. Bringing small children to this site is risky and parents should be extremely vigilant in watching them. Wear good hiking shoes or sneakers, no Crocs or sandals!

edge of the world

Even though just climbing up the cliff from the car park is sufficient enough to enjoy the breath-taking scenery, it’s worth walking all the way to the end of the cliff where one can really experience the feeling of being on “the edge of the world”. From the cliff continue walking right for a few hundred meters. Next there’s a steep climb down and then a narrow path that leads to the last rock cliff with the spectacular views. The walk will take about 15 minutes to half hour one way depending on your abilities.

edge of the world

You will see lots of sparrows and eagles flying around the escarpment and many birds have nests in the walls.

edge of the world

Keep a look out for fossils too, the escarpment is rich in fossils because it used to be the bottom of the ocean some 50 million years ago! Looking down into the valley you will see dried up rivers twirling into the distance, after heavy rains they will become real rivers because the water rushes down from the escarpment into the plains. Some areas on the plains become very green in the spring time.

The climb down starts from the car park area, here you will see an opening like a window in the escarpment and by walking further there will be a small path on the right side which leads all the way down to the plain. This is a very strenuous walk and you need to take lots of water to make this trip. Here is the start of the path down to the valley:

edge of the world

The rock window at Edge of the world

edge of the world
edge of the world
 On the way you can see camels, goat herders, and find many people setting up camps under the acacia trees in the Acacia valley. If you are planning to stay the night this would be the ideal location because the valley is full of soft sand.
edge of the world


From Riyadh take the road 535 (King Khaled Rd.) north heading towards Salbouk. After approximately 30 km you will reach an intersection and turn left to route 5766 heading towards Jubayla. Set the odometer at zero here. Continue straight passing through a few small towns. Eventually the road becomes route 5762 leading to Sadus. From this road you will turn off to the desert track on the left at location N24 57 21.2 E46 13 41.6, approximately 30 km from the intersection. There are no sign posts here, it’s just a dirt track that seems to go nowhere but this is where you start your off-road part. There is a blue sign in Arabic about 50 meters from the road.

Now continue on this dirt track straight and you will soon see a fence on the left, continue beside it now slightly the track turning to the right. This track leads you to a dam and a gate next to a small building where the rangers are posted. Pass the gate and turn right. Now you are in Acacia valley. From here you will drive along the wadi for a good 20kms and the terrain will eventually become more rocky in the end until you reach the edge of the world location. The track has some forks in it, try to keep to the right but don’t enter into the small valleys, they are dead ends.

GPS coordinates for the Edge of the World end location N24 56 41.4 E45 59 32.1


For more detailed guide to Edge of the World grab the free ebook! Download it here; Edge of the World Guide 

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  • NoorAugust 22, 2012 - 7:13 am

    Wow this is pretty amazing. How was your EId I was wondering if you were in Riyadh last night or not.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 22, 2012 - 9:50 am

      It was ok, quite busy, and yes I was here :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 22, 2012 - 6:08 am

    is this a repeat post cos from memory you did a post on the same place before? lol maybe I’m just going nuts!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 22, 2012 - 9:49 am

      No, but I posted some pics from the site before and posted this in the desert treks tab as well!ReplyCancel

  • KatriAugust 22, 2012 - 12:47 pm

    That looks absolutely gorgeous! I have dreamed of Middle East for years now and you’re really feeding my travel fever. :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:07 pm

      Thanks Katri! there re so many amazing places around here, you should definitely visit!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 22, 2012 - 11:22 am

    That has to be the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen! Absolutely, incredibly spectacular. My, my, the world is a beautiful place. Francesca from Ottawa, CanadaReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:08 pm

      Hi Franscesca and I agree it's really spectacular out there!ReplyCancel

  • SoileAugust 22, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    Ah, one of the definite highlights during my stay in Saudi. Even though it was in ther middle of the summer and the heat was killing us. Great pics too!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:06 pm

      Soile did you guys camp out there too? Maybe we can do that someday inshallah :)ReplyCancel

  • KarimaAugust 22, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    Wow great photos! Eid Mubarak from your newest follower :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 7:58 pm

      Thanks for following, Eid Mubarak!ReplyCancel

      • OzyMarch 31, 2016 - 5:38 pm

        Hi. Layla please join my party on 22nd. I wish we can meet someday. I really love what you do and I loved your articles

        Mustafa OzReplyCancel

  • Lady CarrotAugust 22, 2012 - 9:04 pm

    Amazing photos….mashAllah :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:05 pm

      Thank you! They are from several different visits :)ReplyCancel

  • Billy J. LewisAugust 23, 2012 - 6:34 am

    Great post. My wife Claudia and I visited EOTW yesterday with a small caravan of friends from various embassies. We climbed down into the caves to rest in the shade after hiking around to the different peaks. We ended up having a great picnic in the valley afterwards too! Thanks for posting the GPS coordinates we hope to take visiting friends there in the future…ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:05 pm

      Billy I'm glad you found it and enjoyed the site!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousSeptember 1, 2012 - 6:09 am

      Hey Billy did u find the way open? I tried to go to EOTW one month ago with a group of friends but we found the access closed, some people there told us that something happened there (too many westeners partying , camping an so on) and they decided to close the way to it. Is it now open and reachable?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 24, 2012 - 11:26 am

    Love your blog! In the US we have few sources of information about daily life in Saudi. Your blog has given me a much more positive view of the country and its people. I have sent the link to my friends too.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 8:04 pm

      Thank you for the encouraging words and that makes me so happy to hear I've managed to give you a more positive impression of Saudi and the Saudi people. Even though I'm critical of certain things relating to Saudi culture at times, this doesn't mean I view everything as negative here. One of my goals for this blog has always been to give a more realistic and positive image of SaudiReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 25, 2012 - 7:59 pm

    thank you sya!ReplyCancel

  • tasneemAugust 27, 2012 - 11:19 pm

    lovely pics there setting up a Muslim westerner Shash by London Ghazi why don’t u join? I’m English born in Saudi Arabia. n go to Arab school so I speak 2 fact im a teenagerReplyCancel

  • ZaraAugust 30, 2012 - 7:31 pm

    great photos. i wish i was there!!ReplyCancel

  • Archiaston MusammaSeptember 24, 2012 - 2:30 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • Sarfraz AbbasiOctober 10, 2012 - 3:34 pm

    This is about the 10th time i have come to this post since i found it. Im kinda obsessed to capture this with my camera. unfortunately, and lets just say mistakenly i didnt buy a 4 x 4. I was really happy with my sedan, until i saw this post.

    now im trying to get my suv friends to get to this place.should be blast to visit this. will show you the pics if and when i visit it. thanks for a great post and im sure your directions will really come in handy. been checking that spot on the google maps and you are right, keeping to the right side is acacia valley is a great tip.

    have a good dayReplyCancel

  • Ali AnwarOctober 12, 2012 - 5:43 pm

    Made the trip today and this has to be one of the most spectacular views on the planet. Your directions were spot on :) Great write upReplyCancel

  • Romana SimmonsFebruary 6, 2013 - 10:05 am

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away free. I love seeing website that understands the value of providing a quality resource for free.

  • AnonymousFebruary 13, 2013 - 3:14 am

    would you know who the western nurse was who fell?ReplyCancel

    • CarlDecember 13, 2013 - 8:49 am

      Laurie K Roland, it was a serious tragedy and proves that it’s a very real danger of being out there, the edge of the cliff has alot of loose stones and people that are out there with sandals on, are putting themselves at risk.ReplyCancel

      • Garry ParsonsNovember 5, 2016 - 9:48 am

        Laurie K wasn’t a nurse ….she was a respiratory therapist from Stratford General Hospital, Stratford Ontario Canada . We were best of friends and worked together here at the hospital for sometime. She died there December 18, 1997. I still miss her and that crazy laugh!! But she certainly would want me to correct that nursing error… right Carl !! The strange thing is I was just thinking about here tonight on my night shift and found this website kind of by accident.ReplyCancel

    • Garry ParsonsNovember 5, 2016 - 9:58 am

      My name is Garry Parsons and I was a good friend of the respiratory therapist that fell on December 18, 1997. and being a respiratory therapist she would want me to make that correction for her !!!
      We work together here in Ontario Canada at Stratford General Hospital when she left to go to King Fahad National Guard hospital in The summer of 1997. She actually called me a couple of days before she fell and we were going to make arrangements for her to be picked up at Toronto airport about a week later. I still have some unanswered questions about the accident. I just sent a note to Carl who answered you also , I’m working the night shift tonight for the ICU and for some reason I looked up the edge of the world for Saudi Arabia and was thinking about her actually when I came across your note. Fact is sometime stranger than fiction !! Many thanks for your post and your curiosity Anonymous.
      With kindness , GarryReplyCancel

  • Shiraz KhanOctober 10, 2013 - 10:44 am

    Hey there :)

    Thanks for sharing info. & stills for such great place
    We will be travellin tonight to the EOW, hope it’s still open n reachable. We’ve planned to leave at 2 am so that can enjoy dawn view at this spectacular place n take sum snaps, Fingers crossd.
    Hope we reach there safe n sound. Will share the pics if we make it up…


    • JoelNovember 2, 2013 - 1:35 pm

      Hi there. Would just like to know if you were able to go to this place. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • HaikalNovember 1, 2013 - 6:57 pm

    This looks amazing… do you know of any tour operators that can help arrange an overnight camping trip to the Edge of the World?ReplyCancel

    • JoelNovember 2, 2013 - 1:38 pm

      I really want to go there. I hope there are organized group tours for this.ReplyCancel

  • omar jamalNovember 3, 2013 - 7:51 pm

    is their phone signalReplyCancel

    • Shrijith JMay 15, 2014 - 8:08 pm

      GPS in mobile would work right ?ReplyCancel

  • Sony FugabanNovember 4, 2013 - 8:56 pm

    Can’t wait to go to this place…ReplyCancel

  • […] 8. Edge of the World One of the most spectacular views in Saudi-Arabia can be experienced from the Edge of the World which is part of the 800km long Jebel Tuwaiq Escarpment. When looking to the horizon from the edge it appears as if the plains continue endlessly. For the location and directions how to visit this magical place, go to Blue Abaya’s Guide to Edge of the World. […]ReplyCancel

  • Bilal Ahmed ShaikhApril 4, 2014 - 5:56 am

    I went till the gate than confused, I headed straight and found lot of military excercises but no edge of the worldReplyCancel

  • Bilal ShaikhApril 18, 2014 - 2:23 am

    We r planning to visit this week in a group, last time i reached the dam but could not find location while travelling ahead of dam foubd military campsReplyCancel

  • Faisal abdulrahmanJuly 15, 2014 - 11:19 am

    Am from Sadous the village near by am conducting major research about the area if u have any information or photo ju help is appreciatedReplyCancel

  • Best Of Blue Abaya 2012December 7, 2014 - 6:39 am

    […] Check out the popular desert trek guide to Edge of the World here. […]ReplyCancel

  • Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in Riyadh Desert » Blue AbayaJanuary 26, 2015 - 12:35 am

    […] city limit so interesting. What kind of places can you find out there? Escarpments like “the Edge of the World” to seemingly never-ending sand dunes in different hues of orange, red, gold and yellow and […]ReplyCancel

  • ahmadMarch 20, 2015 - 10:12 pm

    does it require professionals to climb or climbing is not that hard?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 22, 2015 - 11:26 pm

      hi Ahmad!
      there is no climbing involved if you take the normal route. If you begin from the bottom of the valley upwards it’s very strenuous climb but you don’t need any professional equipment for it.ReplyCancel

  • TrentonMarch 25, 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Hi Blueabaya,

    We are planning to visit the Edge of the Mountain and the team is composed of boys and girls, will that be a problem? Will the girls be needing to wear abaya during the trip to EOTW? Thank you very Much!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 1, 2015 - 5:51 pm

      Hi there, it shouldn’t be a problem if they are related or on a tour group, if the group is mixed of singles. or then a single woman or man could be “chaperoned” by a married couple. Always better to be on the safe side and remember the laws of the land :)ReplyCancel

  • JamielahApril 11, 2015 - 8:56 pm

    Hi, did you know any private tours company that can arrange this for me?
    I am a single expat living in the Eastern Region and would love to venture out to the hidden track of KSA. ThanksReplyCancel

  • […] of gold-toned rocks jutting out of the desert floor, which you can climb. Layla has produced a guide to this stunning region on her blog, and is well worth seeking out for more […]ReplyCancel

  • ShanlungAugust 3, 2015 - 12:11 pm

    You reported very nicely on Edge of the World with lots of beautiful photos.

    I have been there about 9 years ago, in a very different kind of Riyadh, where the Kingdom Tower was the most northern part of the city.

    My report of my trip to Edge of the World at that time

  • TEN AMAZING PLACES TO VISIT IN SAUDI-ARABIA | Best Vacation Spots infoAugust 3, 2015 - 5:36 pm

    […] 8. Edge of the World One of the most spectacular views in Saudi-Arabia can be experienced from the Edge of the World which is part of the 800km long Jebel Tuwaiq Escarpment. When looking to the horizon from the edge it appears as if the plains continue endlessly. For the location and directions how to visit this magical place, go to Blue Abaya’s Guide to Edge of the World. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] During these two months she was in KSA,  we did the following to desert trips: Raghbah tower, Edge of the World, Maraat, Shagraa, Red Sand Dunes, Lake Kharrarah, Rawdhat Khuraim and Riyadh River (Wadi Hanifa)! […]ReplyCancel

  • Sara AnwarNovember 16, 2015 - 4:03 pm

    I also want to go there. I am having suburban 2011 will it climb or notReplyCancel

  • HibaAllah ZitouniDecember 5, 2015 - 11:55 am

    I’d love to visit but have a 6 month old son… What’s the 4×4 journey like to get there? Are there any parts that are not so treacherous but still visually amazing? Or is this a total no go!ReplyCancel

  • harbiSeptember 27, 2016 - 2:51 am

    hey there , am in riyadh and if there is any group thinking of going for day or over nights tours , plz let me know

    am living alone in riyadhReplyCancel

  • JunnieDecember 21, 2017 - 5:48 pm

    Would like to ask can we go edge of the world during weekday?ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaDecember 26, 2017 - 1:36 am

      Yes we can take you on a weekday, please message me contact @ for more info!ReplyCancel

  • Colin GJanuary 8, 2018 - 1:56 pm

    I am interested if overnight camping in the Acacia Valley is allowed/encouraged/advisable?ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 8, 2018 - 9:03 pm

      I recommend you download the edge of the world ebook where I’ve added detailed advice about this.ReplyCancel

  • RayJanuary 15, 2019 - 4:32 pm

    I went to the edge of the world in 2002, there were no gates, and very few people when we went. We used a hand drawn map as a guide against the real map. I remember the instructions to turn left off the road included a helpful “look for pile of tires” indicator. I also remember driving all the way up to the site was a weary journey of soft/hard sand. It was a great trip all in all, and the pictures I captured are still some of my favorite of the Kingdom that I got in my 6 month stay.ReplyCancel

  • AfjalulMarch 15, 2019 - 5:05 pm

    Tnx a lot. I am new here at riyahd. So this informartion makes me esey.ReplyCancel

Many people have been asking me for the recipe of “pulla” or the delicious Finnish cinnamon rolls I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog.  The word pulla basically refers to any kind of sweet pastry made from this particular dough which makes the most moist and delicious cinnamon rolls you’ve ever tasted. Pulla and especially korvapuusti, the cinnamon rolls made from it are very popular in Finland. Pulla could be called the ‘ultimate coffee bread’ because Finns always serve some variation of pulla pastries with their coffee. Read about the quirky traditional way of drinking Finnish Coffee and eating your pulla in this post: Saudi Dude’s Guide To Finnish Coffee Drinking Ceremony.Korvapuustit-Finnish cinnamon rolls recipe

Korvapuustit, the Finnish cinnamon rolls, translates to “ear buns” because of their appearance which resembles an ear. When folding the buns one pinches the dough in the same manner as when giving a child a korvapuusti, meaning pinching their ear if they were naughty.

What makes the Finnish cinnamon rolls special is the delicious, fluffy dough which is made into milk, using fresh yeast and lots of ground cardamon giving it a unique taste and appearance.  The filling is rich in taste but less messy and not overly sweet like the american version of cinnamon rolls (think Cinnabon). The dough is rolled, cut and moulded in a specific way before baking to complete the typical look of a korvapuusti. You can even make a “cake” with the cinnamon rolls called “Boston Cake”, which is basically cinnamon rolls loaded into a baking tray. Finnish cinnamon roll cake "Boston Cake"

There are many variations to the recipe out there and over the years I’ve made some small adoptions I found makes the rolls as fluffy and moist as possible!  I always make the dough into milk because I think it makes the result more moist, but they are delicious if made with water as well. If available, I will use fresh yeast to make them. If anyone knows where to get it in Saudi please do let me know!

Another important factor is the cardamon. It has to be roughly ground, so that small black parts can be seen and of course free of any residue from the pods. Yet another spice I haven’t been able to find in Saudi-Arabia, they only seem to have finely ground cardamon which looks like a powder. After trying and testing, I can say this won’t work well in the pulla. After a few failed attempts of crushing the cardamon seeds myself and sifting the pods out, I continue to bring my cardamom from Finland. This is what it looks like:

When making the dough the temperature of the liquid has to be carefully measured for best results. I always use a thermometer to check. For fresh yeast it needs to be a bit warmer than your hand temperature, +38c and for dry active yeast +42c for the yeast to “awaken”. This way the dough will raise the best. The pulla is actually raised on two separate occasions before baking! If the liquid was too hot the yeast will die and the dough will become like a heavy rock. If the milk was too cold it will take many hours if not until the next day to properly raise. The dough should double in size before you start baking. Make sure all the ingredients are room temperature too!

So here are the ingredients for approx 25-30 korvapuusti depending on what size you cut them. (PRINTABLE RECIPE AT THE END OF THIS POST)


5 dl milk
50g fresh yeast or 15g active dry yeast
2 dl sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp roughly ground cardamon
150g unsalted butter or baking margarine
12-15 dl flour

for the filling
100-200g butter or margarine

brown sugar (white works fine too)
optionally cardamon

If you prefer to use the american measurements (cups instead desilitres) then Noor over at Ya Salam cooking has made pulla several times and she converted the recipe for you, find it here!


Start with warming up the milk in a bowl in the microwave. Make sure the temperature is right for the type of yeast you’re using, then dissolve the yeast into the milk until the liquid is clear of clumps. Add the sugar, salt, cardamon and egg and mix well with hand whisk.
Next start adding the flour by first whisking in about 5-6 dl in to make the dough airy. Then mix in 5-6 dl more into the dough by hand. Knead well. Now add the melted butter and continue kneading. Lastly add just enough flour to make the dough come off from the bowl, but not too much, otherwise it will make dry buns that won’t raise well. It should be soft and easy to handle.

Leave it to raise covered in a warm, draft-free place. I use the top of the oven or inside the microwave is good too because there’s no draft. The dough should double in size in about half hour to an hour if the yeast has had optimal conditions. To speed up the raising time you can put the oven on very low heat (30-50c)and place the bowl there or place a cup of hot water inside the microwave.

When the dough has doubled in size take it out and start kneading it again thoroughly. Divide it into two sections. Take one and start rolling it out into a thin layer. Next spread a layer of soft butter all over the dough. Then sprinkle some sugar, again using your own taste of how much you want to add. I sprinkle generously! Next sprinkle plenty of cinnamon on top to cover the rest of the filling and for cardamon lovers you can sprinkle a little bit additional cardamon too.

Start rolling the dough from the top toward you trying to make the roll as tight as possible and leave the seam on the bottom.
Now cut the roll into pieces with a knife into shapes like this:

Then take each piece and press your index finger in the middle so that the “ears” of the roll pop out. Then press gently on the ears so that the top stays closed.

Place them on a baking tray on a baking sheet to raise in a warm draft-free place while you do the next batch. When the korvapuusti’s have risen to about double their size use the beaten egg to swipe them and decorate with pearl sugar. If you don’t have pearl sugar you could use large-grained sugar. Bake in 200C for about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown from top.

Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee or cold milk! The rolls are delicious even the next day, just pop in the microwave for 10 seconds (if you have any left at that point)!

Finnish Cinnamon rolls

here is the printable recipe:


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  • ربة منزلAugust 14, 2012 - 11:30 pm

    This looks really good. mmmmm
    I don’t have a kitchen scale at home. Can you add the volume to the weight measurements?


    • LaylahAugust 15, 2012 - 1:16 pm

      You don’t need a scale just convert the (dl) deciliters to cups!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 15, 2012 - 3:40 am

    what form of measuring are u using…dl??ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 15, 2012 - 1:18 pm

      1 dl is 100 ml. We use these in many european countries, rather than cups.. It’s a more logical system :)
      You can easily convert the milliliters or dl to amount in cups online.ReplyCancel

  • Karen KingAugust 15, 2012 - 11:44 am

    Instead of buying pulla from the finnish ladies in town, i might try my own this fall. But pulla made from older finnish women in fitchburg is just perfect, so I’m torn as to what to do!

    Sending you love from the Finnish-American city of Fitchburg,

    • LaylahAugust 15, 2012 - 1:19 pm

      Hi Karen!Yes you should definitely try your own, nothing beats the aroma that fills your home after you’ve made these!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 15, 2012 - 1:20 pm

    karimakene-yes that smell is amazing!ReplyCancel

  • karimakeneAugust 15, 2012 - 12:49 pm

    awwwwwww i love them and i remember when we was small and our mom baked them … this smell when she just took them out from owen mmmm yummie with cold milk !ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 15, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    Thank you very much for the recipe. Always when I saw a picture of it in your blog, I wanted to try it. So now I will do. It is very similar to a recipe my mother here in germany use to make.
    I enjoy reading your blog and I hope you keep on :)


    • LaylahAugust 17, 2012 - 12:21 am

      thanks, hope that you like them!ReplyCancel

  • FarooqAugust 15, 2012 - 3:07 pm

    yum yum. I knew I shudnt have read that post while I was fasting hehe. when can we hope to taste a sample of your pulla?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 17, 2012 - 12:22 am

      Farooq-maybe I should start a Finnish home bakery lolReplyCancel

    • FarooqAugust 18, 2012 - 12:37 pm

      I’d have a repeat customer card. Love baked goodies lolReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 16, 2012 - 12:26 am

    yesssssss! thank you!! i’ve waited for this, inshAllah i’ll serve these for Eid!
    you made my day sister!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 17, 2012 - 12:22 am

      you’re welcome, hope that they are a hit!ReplyCancel

  • KaroliinaAugust 16, 2012 - 5:50 am

    Morning! I have a small blog award for you in my blog :)ReplyCancel

  • NoorAugust 16, 2012 - 11:11 pm

    Now you know I will have to try these :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 17, 2012 - 12:21 am

      Noor please do let me know how you liked them and feel free to share the recipe on your blog if you like them!ReplyCancel

  • Sandra-DXBAugust 17, 2012 - 6:52 am

    Thanks for the recipe! Will def. try it!
    For the yeast, maybe you can try some local bakeries (French bakeries if there are any). I know that in Dubai, I can get some in Paul ( or Le Pain Quotidien ( but it doesn’t look like they have branches in KSA.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 21, 2012 - 9:59 pm

      I will try that Sandra, thanks!ReplyCancel

  • SufraAugust 17, 2012 - 12:23 pm

    Hi Laylah,

    When I was living in Riyadh I saw fresh yeast for sale in the Carrefour in Granada. Maybe try there?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 21, 2012 - 9:58 pm

      Thanks Sufra for the tip!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 21, 2012 - 6:08 am

    Hi Layla,

    Celebration of the Eid in Odense Denmark: the celebrating people stabs and shoot a man. When the ambulance and police arrives, the celebrating starts throwing stones at the rescueteam. The glass of the ambulance is broken. Afterward 60 – 70 men armed with bats and sticks continues the celebration at the hospital. They demand to see the man, so they can kill him and demolish the waiting room. The staff hides and calls the police. The men hit the police. During the attack another policeman takes his gun and says he will shoot, if they don´t stop immediately (he doesn´t) The party finally stops.

    What do you think of this?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 21, 2012 - 10:01 pm

      Well I don’t know what to say to this! Sounds awful, I am wondering what was going on and where these people came from?ReplyCancel

  • HopeAugust 21, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    My fav dessert in all of RIyadh :-) but u gotta have them with the Finnish coffee … plus the large grained sugar is a must, gives them a nice sweet crunch.. good luck finding something similar in RIyadh lolReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 27, 2012 - 1:12 am

      ohh yes the sugar is a must, you can always crush sugar cubes to make something similar! When will you bake some ;)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 23, 2012 - 10:32 am

    Hi layla!
    I love your blog, i have this dream of visiting saudi arabia for years but as a single female for now this is not allowed… Hopefully someday! About the lovely recipe, i cant seem to find conversions from dl into solid measurement like grams. You used dl for sugar and flour. Do you know how much they are in grams? Im ok with the liquid conversion.
    Take care and tanks forReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 27, 2012 - 1:08 am

      hi there and thanks for the comment! I don’t know exactly how much they would weigh in grams, but one dl is 100 mls which I would assume is 100g in liquid. Does this make sense?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 23, 2012 - 2:43 pm

    I made them! Sooo delicious! In grams, in case anyone wonders, it would take about 200g of sugar and 700g of flour for that recipe. I used fresh yeast which made them so soft!. It made 40 buns!!! I ll half the recipe next time as its far too much for a single person! ;)

    • LaylahAugust 27, 2012 - 1:10 am

      I am so glad you liked them so much!! and thanks for the tip on the grams. Now that I think of it, I usually use a 1 kg (1000g) pack of flour for these.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 26, 2012 - 9:00 pm

    thank you for sharing, I made them today for my friends and all are gone :-)!
    For sure not the last time I baked them, already shared the receipe.
    I follow your blog since short time, congratulations on this great work!
    Regards from Germany,

    • LaylahAugust 27, 2012 - 1:11 am

      Hi Malina! Did you find pearl sugar also? You can crush sugar cubes and try substitute it!ReplyCancel

  • Madame KissankulmaAugust 28, 2012 - 4:19 pm

    My children just love them as I did when I was a kid and my mum baked them. This is defenately one of the finnish things you miss when you live abroad. Thanks for your great blog!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 9, 2012 - 7:18 pm

    Ensinnäkin suuret kiitokset aivan mahtavasta blogistasi!
    Toiseksi vinkki korvareihin: kokeile joskus laittaa voin, sokerin ja kanelin lisäksi omenahilloa puustin väliin, toimii mainiosti!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahNovember 9, 2012 - 8:41 pm

      Kiitos kommentista ja vinkista taytyypa kokeilla ensi kerralla :)ReplyCancel

  • Korvapuustit | Ya Salam CookingJune 10, 2014 - 3:10 pm

    […] took the recipe that Layla gave me and had to convert the recipe into my American system so I could understand it […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This is sweet coffee bread which Finns always have with their coffee. You must take one! They are sort of like the Cinnabons you eat in Saudi, but about hundred times better. Consider yourself a lucky man to be able to experience this culinary masterpiece. Secret Recipe can be found here. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Something we all look forward to every summer is devouring some Finnish delights. Our favourites are mom’s blueberry pies, Karelian pies, rye bread, fresh berries (forest strawberries, blueberries, raspberries all grow in the wild at the summer house), fresh fish from our own nets, baby potatoes, salad from the garden and of course ice cream! This summer I made Finnish sweet cardamon bread ‘pulla’ and cinnamon rolls with my nieces. Recipe for this delicious treat can be found here! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] These reminds me of the Finnish pulla! […]ReplyCancel

  • Christine Anderson KnowlesOctober 4, 2014 - 11:37 pm

    It would be helpful and greatly appreciated if you would include a link to print the recipe.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 8, 2014 - 5:48 pm

      Christine, thanks for the suggestion!That didn’t even come to my mind, and I’m not sure how to do it but will definetly try to :) I already disabled the right click on this particular post, hope you are now at least able to copy paste the text!ReplyCancel

  • mick malthouseMay 29, 2015 - 6:51 am

    greetings from tasmania…….google figbat oswald and see if you can work it out.ReplyCancel

So you’re a lucky Saudi dude and you find yourself visiting Finland for the first time. You think Finland is full of polar bears, Angry Birds and drunks. That is only partly true. There’s also lots of reindeer.

A Finnish family has invited you to their house for some coffee and you get the chance to see there’s a lot more to Finland than you thought and most importantly participate in the sacred coffee drinking ceremony.

You might have heard rumors how serious the Finns are when it comes to coffee. This tiny Nordic country tops the world’s coffee consumption charts. They call themselves the Coffee King’s but with pretty good credentials. Finns consume about 12kg or 608 litres of coffee per capita annually. That’s about 1,6 litres per day!

This might raise your suspicions. Why do they need so much coffee? Is there some chemical missing in their brains which needs to be substituted by caffeine? Do they ever sleep? Are their guts made out of steel?

No need to worry, they are actually quite normal. Finns just simply love their coffee and once you’ve tasted it you’ll understand why. Keep in mind when the Finns talk about cups of coffee they mean mugs, as in about 2-3 dl, not those tiny baby cups you’re used to drinking from back home!By following this simple guide you will not only survive the Finnish coffee drinking ceremony but avoid getting arrested and impress your hosts too!

It is a good idea to bring a small souvenir from Saudi-Arabia with you. The Finnish family will value it highly and show off the gift to everyone in their family and neighborhood for the next 27 years or so. The item will be placed on the top of the bookshelf  “this is what a real Saudi-Arab brought us!

On arrival you will greet the entire family (this means women too) the Finnish way which means by shaking hands. Resist your urge to kiss everyone repeatedly on the cheeks. Especially the womenfolk to avoid any stabbings. Finnish men don’t like Arab dudes near their women at all. However not shaking the women’s hands would be seen as a serious insult.

You need to practice your handshaking skills because Finns are experts at telling what kind of person you are from that brief moment. This will be the only time you will come into this close contact with your hosts. The perfected handshake will also cast away the last suspicions your hosts have of you as an Arab dude. A firm but short handshake is best. Look the other person in the eye briefly but don’t stare. Don’t shake for too long, or do anything with the other hand like hugging, this might be taken the wrong way. Practice letting the hand droop next to your body. Make sure you don’t give them the “dead fish” hand either.

Say “terve” while shaking hands. That is sufficient enough.

When you enter the house remember to remove your shoes at the door, walking in with them will be seen as uncivilized. Wear white tennis socks with your sandals and be sure to pull them high up your leg, this is seen as stylish.  In the house you will be shown a place to sit around the coffee table. Please don’t sit on the carpets or floors.

At the table you will be asked if you want coffee. Of course you do! You CANNOT refuse. Coffee will be served from cups that look like this:

The make is ARABIA. As much as you would like them to be, the cups were not especially made for your visit. All Finns own coffee cups made by a company called Arabia Finland since 1873 to serve their guests coffee in. They just vary in color and design. Finns are a bit boring but hang on to their traditions.

The cup will come with a spoon and plate, which have significant importance in the ceremony you will learn later on. On the table you will see sugar cubes and two jugs, one will have milk and one cream in it. There will be a variety of cookies and maybe some candy on offer too. If you’re extremely lucky you might have a chance to taste the “salmiakki” candy, well at least Finns like to call it candy. It’s basically salty licorice, which has more ammonium in it than dynamite. If you can manage to eat one without exploding or puking you will become a hero in the hosts eyes.
If you don’t want to take the risk of permanently damaging your taste buds ask before putting anything black in your mouth.

Be warned that your hosts might be sneaky and serve you salmiakki hidden inside other sweets! Finnish people love to do practical jokes.

Your host will now pour the coffee in your cup and ask if you need space for the milk? The way you take your coffee will send a message about you to your hosts. For Finns having it straight up black is what real men do. Putting lots of cream and at least six cubes of sugar in the cup will have them thinking the opposite. You want to impress, so say no need for milk space. The host will pour it full. Note the Finnish coffee is very dark in color. Don’t worry they are not serving you oil. They know you bathe in it, but don’t prefer to drink it.

If your host is female she will most likely smile at you. Do not hand her your mobile number written on the napkin. Se is not flirting with you, just being polite. It is normal in Finland for women to smile at men without any hidden agendas.

During all this time not many words have been said. This is nothing out of the ordinary, the hosts are not scared of you. It’s just not common for Finns to engage in small talk. They most likely will ask you about what you think of Finland and how you like the weather. To amuse the hosts you can say you’re freezing (which you probably are anyways) and comment on how beautiful the nature is. (to find out what exactly Finns do when the temperature is -90c outside click here)

You might be asked how many camels you own. Even if you don’t personally own any, you could say you have a few and they will believe you because it’s assumed all Arabs own at least one camel. The hosts might ask how many camels their daughter is worth. Note that this is a joke and they are not offering their daughter for marriage. Be polite and say at least one hundred camels.

Don’t start babbling too much. It will make the Finns uncomfortable, because they are not drunk yet (in most cases) and are not up to talking lots of English.

With the coffee you will be served “pulla”. It comes in various forms but most likely looks like something this:

Could also be like this if your host has a very twisted sense of humor:
poika pulla

This is sweet coffee bread which Finns always have with their coffee. You must take one! They are sort of like the Cinnabons you eat in Saudi, but about hundred times better. Consider yourself a lucky man to be able to experience this culinary masterpiece. Secret Recipe can be found here.

Now for the actual coffee drinking ceremony. The following is the hardcore traditional way of drinking the coffee. Your hosts will be ecstatic to see you do this.

Begin with taking the cup off the plate and pouring some coffee on it until the bottom is covered. Now take the pulla and break it into small pieces, then place them inside the cup to soak up the rest of the coffee. Then take a sugar cube and place it between your lips. Sip the coffee slowly from the plate while firmly holding the cube between your lips, making sure to make a nice guzzling sound. The louder the better.

Then take the spoon and stir the pieces of pulla around, making sure to make a clinking sound. If you still have the cube stuck between your lips take another dose of the coffee from the plate. Try to avoid drooling.When the cube has dissolved eat the pulla from the cup with the spoon. Do all this in complete silence, taking your time while glancing out of the window every once in a while.

Your hosts will be beaming with pleasure of your cultural knowledge. They will be dying to know how the coffee and pulla tastes. Say everything is excellent and ask for more.

It would be advisable to drink at least three cups, but four would be impressive. When the host is pouring more, offer your cup to him on the plate. Take another pulla. Don’t linger too long, Finns don’t like guests staying for many hours.

When the time comes to leave your host will let you know by standing up and clearing his throat, maybe mentioning the ice hockey game is about to start on TV. This is your cue to leave, not join him on the couch. Thank them for the excellent coffee. Your hosts will be concerned if you enjoyed your time or not. Ensure them it was fantastic and make your way to the door. If the Finnish man pats your back as you leave, this is a sign of success!

You have passed the Finnish coffee drinking ceremony with flying colors!

What if you’re a Finnish dude and you find yourself invited for coffee in the land of the sand?? Survival Guide here: The Finnish Dude’s Ultimate Guide To Coffee Drinking In Saudi-Arabia

Did you like this post? Then you will love this one: The Saudi Son-in-Law’s Finnish Sauna Traditions Survival Guide

Check out this post to see how the Finnish husband compares to a Saudi husband (according to a Finnish woman)

Not sure what this blog is all about and who the heck writes this stuff? Click here to find out.

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  • NoorJuly 21, 2012 - 12:39 am

    I am a big coffee person myself and this has to be the first time I heard that the Finnish like it this much, very interesting and funny post :)

    Much of what you said is like how we are in the South where I am from. GOTTA take your shoes off we were asked if we were raised in a barn if we did not lol. Black coffee=real man for us too. Same with the hand shake thing I always shake firm and look in the eyes bc I was always told you can tell everything about a person from the shake.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:32 pm

      Noor it sounds like there’s so much in common to where you’re from and Finnish culture :) I like your raised in the barn comparison, something we would say too lolReplyCancel

    • NoorJuly 23, 2012 - 11:50 pm

      Yea I swear so many of the things you post are just like the South.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarJuly 21, 2012 - 1:42 am

    Ramadan Kareem Laylah!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:32 pm

      Ramadan Kareem to you too!ReplyCancel

  • ShimshimJuly 21, 2012 - 2:53 am

    As ever Laylah, you writing is excellent and you spin such a great story. As well as laughing and grinning, I have learnt about the Finns coffee rituals which I was in complete ignorance before. Thank you! You make me want to go and visit Finland and Saudi because of your tales – one day!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:33 pm

      SHimshim, thanks for the comment! I hope you get to visit either or both someday!ReplyCancel

  • dragonladyJuly 21, 2012 - 6:51 am

    lol. Its always interesting to read about these little cultural differences that exist! Hope you are having a great holiday break and that your husband has impressed many a Finn with his excellent coffee drinking knowledge!!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:37 pm

      drgonlady-thanks! He is master of Finnish coffee drinking ceremony by now :)ReplyCancel

  • JennyJuly 21, 2012 - 4:34 am

    I thought this was a delightful post; I laughed out loud a couple times. I’ve got to ask about something though- I don’t know what to make of the slurping coffee with a sugar cube between lips. Is that a joke making fun of an eccentric peculiarity of one of your relatives or could this really be a common practice? It seems outlandish to me, and I’m thinking it must be a joke.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:36 pm

      Hi Jenny, it’s not a joke but it is “a bit” of an exaggeration ;)
      Some ppl do drink coffee with the cube between the lips and even from the plate! But it’s not common, I don’t honestly know of anyone who routinely uses the plate vs the cup, but this is what they say was done back in the day. I find it really funny, and have no clue how that started :)ReplyCancel

      • OnervaDecember 5, 2014 - 5:25 am

        Hi Laylah and thanks for the excellent fun post!
        I personally have never seen anyone drink their coffee from the plate, I thought that was how they did it a hundred years ago. LOL! :-) But I guess some people still do it. Also pulla is usually eaten separately. :-)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 7, 2012 - 1:49 pm

      THANK YOU so much for posting this explanation and history of the Finnish coffee drinking! And the link you posted was awesome too, I am going to attach that pic on the original post :) on the link it says that some people thought drinking the coffee straight from the cup was too fancy lol Finns are so careful of not being seen as too posh or proud people.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousAugust 7, 2012 - 12:18 pm

      Hah haa! Not laughed as much in ages. Big shock if theres only fine sugar?

      Well, mushing the pulla is one thing – its done by “older folk” as by tradition there was “back in the day” very bad teeth, and the pulla wasn’t necessarily fresh. Nowadays you do seem slightly… erm… country folk if you do that. Dipping the pulla also might incinuate to the hostess she is serving old pulla. Then again, old pulla, or the braided version ‘pullapitko’ is fried in the oven and served as crackers ‘korppu’ in some households, and that is quite OK to dip in.

      What comes to drinking from the ‘tassi’, you need to check if the saucer is bowl-shaped or not, it does not quite work on totally straight plates. What this tradition stems from, is twofold. Its not all that peculiar if you remember that all these antics were created by common country folk trying to emulate the rich city folks. They wouldn’t buy a coffee cup AND a saucer just to waste a good saucer by not using it… In the “olden days” when you made coffee from beans or something else ground up and called coffee, you first fried the beans, ground them and boiled them in a pot. This causes coffee to gather “soot” in the bottom, so pouring the scalding hot coffee from the pot you then pour the coffee from the cup to your plate to make it cool as well as keep the soot in the cup. After a few rounds you can then collect the soot to make another brew – coffee was an imported luxury – how many times do you boil the grounds? Its not dust-like as in Arabic coffee.

      And the slurping with the sugar… Now we must remember the bad or nonexisting teeth – there is a saying that an old lady has her “coffee tooth aching” probability was it was the only tooth she had. Sugar being a luxury and in olden days sugar being rock-hard piece cut with ‘sugar scissors’ or secateurs from a big pillar, you would place it between your gums (or the tooth that was left) and then try slurping (as it is scalding hot) through trying to save the precious piece of sugar to last the three cups or for the next day.

      And no, its not a joke, old habit, but you can see it in films even – 1938 “Tulitikkuja lainaamassa” has a very nice scene of a coffee moment

    • AnonymousAugust 7, 2012 - 2:58 pm

      A warning one should add, that if you end up going to a fishing trip (in winter, in lappland) and are getting coffee done in a pot over an open fire – of course a dash of salt is put in to sweeten the bitterness (believe it or not), and the coffee is “cleared” from the billowing coffee grounds, with fish scales or a whole skin. Now after having coffee served like that, slurping it off a plate is quite civilized indeed.ReplyCancel

    • JalmarJanuary 19, 2015 - 3:40 pm

      As a Finn, I wanted to add some context to this. Drinking coffee with a sugar between your lips is something the old people do mostly. The habit derives from the years after the second world war when sugar was scarce. You could drink even two cups with just one sugar between your lips, if you were fast enough. That’s also the same reason the (old) people drink from their plates, it cools down faster so you can drink it faster.ReplyCancel

  • ربة منزلJuly 21, 2012 - 7:13 am

    This is, by far, the most enjoyable post I read on your blog. I cannot imagine sipping coffee from a plate with a sugar cube between my lips.. I hope there is a youtube video for this. I cannot wait to try it tomorrow at breakfast..
    I was also surprised to learn that Finns take their shoes off at the door. I thought this was an Asian tradition.
    Thanks Laylah for a great post and Ramadan Mubarak.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:55 pm

      Ramadan Kareem and thanks! I can’t wait to hear back from your breakfast experiment :)ReplyCancel

  • swedemomJuly 21, 2012 - 11:24 am

    So I lived in Sweden for 5 1/2 years and they claimed THEY were the biggest coffee consumers in the world. So who would win? Sweden or Finland??ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 21, 2012 - 12:57 pm

      Swedemom-hahah those sneaky Swedes! They also claim they invented sauna. At least according to worldwide coffee consumption statistics, year after year it’s been the Finns who are at the number one slot :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 21, 2012 - 8:26 pm

    Very nicely described!
    I recently found your very entertaining (as well as informative) blog and got addicted :)


    • LaylahJuly 22, 2012 - 1:01 pm

      Hi Eveliina thanks and welcome to the blog!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 22, 2012 - 12:44 am

    Layla you are just too funny. I’d love to read an interview of your husband and hear his perspective of this very different culture into which he has married.


    • LaylahJuly 22, 2012 - 1:02 pm

      Annie he might do it but who would interview him? I’m biased :)ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousJuly 23, 2012 - 2:06 pm

      Hmmm . . . how about Susi of Susi’s Big Adventure or Americanbedu? I think Susi is in Jeddah but AB is in the US for medical reasons. I’d love to read it as I have not read much about Saudi Men’s experience of being married to westerners.

      Maybe you could interview Susi’s husband? He is Saudi.


    • Om Lujain©July 24, 2012 - 8:57 am

      Me? :PReplyCancel

    • AlejandraJuly 31, 2012 - 1:27 am

      I love that idea I think it would be awesome! Especially since Susie’s DH lived in the US a gazillion years, yours had more culture shock lolReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 1, 2012 - 9:26 pm

      Why not! I doubt he would agree face to face husband lived half his life in the U.S.ReplyCancel

  • Asmaa @ Bake It...July 22, 2012 - 4:13 pm

    Great post & very entertaining!ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©July 24, 2012 - 8:57 am

    Loved this post! In my family it was a MUST to remove your shoes at the door… now in most homes here.. everyone walks in with their shoes.. I used to think it was weird.. and would ALWAYS remove my shoes.. but alas… I am catching the Saudi bug! I still don’t get it though.. why oh why would it be OK to track in all the nastiness from outside to ones home? :s

    As for the Finish coffee experience.. I am delighted to say I tried it at your place.. but did not have too much as I was BF’ing back then! Next time I am over.. I will be sure to have a few mugs! :DReplyCancel

  • IldiJuly 24, 2012 - 8:05 pm

    Great post Laylah! I became more and more courious to your culture! Btw, when will you share famous cinnamon cake’s recipe?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 1, 2012 - 9:27 pm

      I will have to translate the recipe soon, I know I promised to share it!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 24, 2012 - 7:20 pm

    Great Post…must add Finland to my list of places to visit.ReplyCancel

  • johanna_dxbJuly 30, 2012 - 10:56 am

    love it!!! many years ago I was working for a sugar company in Finland as a summer trainee and part of my job was to do a market research about new sugar cubes and intervew people by phone how they like it and whether they place the cubes between their lips etc.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 1, 2012 - 9:28 pm

      johanna that is pretty funny, do tell did many still have the habit of putting the cube between the lips?ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 31, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    MashaAllah Layla, so funny!! I live in Finland and I can totally relate! Keep up the good work sister.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 22, 2013 - 10:47 pm

    I am Scandinavian descent in the US, and I just found your story by chance. It is hysterically funny, and totally accurate! We laughed out loud. When I visit my relatives in Scandinavia, it’s a lot like this for me. You have a great sense of humor and such a great eye for cultural details, sugar cube and all. Keep writing, and keep posting! You make us want to visit Saudi Arabia and drink coffee!ReplyCancel

  • FayezJuly 24, 2013 - 9:27 am

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and just came across this older post through Twitter. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to Helsinki from Riyadh next week and these tips might actually help!ReplyCancel

  • EleanaOctober 11, 2013 - 8:29 am

    You are Soooo Funny!!! I came across your blog yesterday while recuperating from a gallbladder removal. I have been holding my belly laughing at your posts. The way you write your post are very interesting to the readers and I love the humor in it. I am learning about Finland and Saudi Arabia from avery positive perspective. Keep it up, Girl!!!
    BTW Did you ever share the pulla recipe in your blog?ReplyCancel

  • Best Of Blue Abaya 2012 | Blue AbayaFebruary 26, 2014 - 3:19 am

    […] Saudi Dude’s Guide To Finnish Coffee Drinking Ceremony. Learn the crazy coffee drinking ritual of Finns, complete with guide how not to get stabbed while greeting a Finnish man. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] The term ‘pulla’ basically refers to any kind of sweet pastry made from this particular dough. Pulla and especially the cinnamon rolls made from it are very popular in Finland. Pulla could be called the ‘coffee bread’ because Finns nearly always serve cinnamon buns with their coffee. Read about the Finnish Coffee Drinking Ceremony and how to survive it without choking on your pulla here. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] No need to get concerned, they are not dried cockroaches. They are in fact dates that taste very good despite the suspicious appearance. Be polite and taste at least one with your right hand. Note that there will be a seed inside. Do not spit in on the floor but discretely place it in a napkin handed to you. Be warned that you might be served something that resembles rotten grapes but they are actually half ripe dates and you should eat both sides. You will be served more and more coffee by the son who circulates the room with the coffee pot. Be polite and have at least three rounds. If your hands are starting to get shaky and you feel sudden light-headedness your coffee has not been spiked by your hosts. You most likely had enough of the strong coffee. To stop the son from pouring the coffee place your left hand on top of the cup. Remember to profusely thank your Saudi hosts. They will be genuinely glad to have had you as their guest.  Congratulations you have survived the Saudi gahwa ceremony! What if you’re Saudi dude visiting Finland for the first time? If you thought the Saudi s have weird coffee drinking habits, then you aint’ seen nothing yet! proceed to the Saudi Dudes Survival Guide to Finnish Coffee Drinking Ceremony.  […]ReplyCancel

You might have heard how employees in Saudi Arabian workplaces get different pay for the exact same job based on their passport alone. Western passport holders might earn ten times more than their just as qualified Asian country passport holder colleagues for the same amount of work. How does this effect the working environment, with such huge differences in wages between employees?

In a previous post I wrote about the workplace bullying problem in Saudi-Arabia. It was mentioned how the salary disparity between different nationalities is at least partly to blame for this unfortunate phenomenon. Read that post hereSaudi Hospitals, Bureaucracy and Bullying. 

The wage system in Saudi-Arabia is completely based on the color of the employee’s passport. This goes for all companies hiring foreign staff. My experience is from the nursing field so I will talk more about that specifically.

In most countries the nursing salaries are seen as too low compared to the education level and the actual job responsibilities and duties. The salaries will however usually increase as the nurse gets more experience and training over the years. In Saudi-Arabia on the other hand the staff nurse with only two years working experience and the one with 30 years experience plus additional training to earn the same. There are no age or experience benefits and specializing in a field will only slightly increase the salary.

saudi salary racism passport colors

The only determining factor for the salary is the passport with which the employee is applying for the job. In fact, not even nationality matters.
Take for example an Indian national who worked in Great Britain and obtained a British passport and dual nationality. He will naturally apply to work in Saudi with the British passport because of the much fatter pay check.
Some Asians (particularly Filipinos) knowing this, travel to Canada just to get the passport. According to them, it’s the easiest country to obtain a passport from in just a few years. The expats then relocate to the Middle East, applying for the job as Canadians, this way multiplying their earnings.

To illustrate the gross salary disparity, I drew up a totally fictional salary table of nurses working in Saudi-Arabia. This table is in no way based on any official documents whatsoever and is completely made-up. I honestly don’t even have the specific amounts in my knowledge. I have however during the years come to hear people talking about their salary and other’s salaries and even seen some payslips that had been left lying around in the staff room accidentally (or purposely?) to have a very generalized idea about it. There’s plenty of info available online too.
Salaries of course vary from one hospital to another and there is a difference between private hospitals and government owned, with the latter paying higher salaries.

Passport                                  Basic salary per month Saudi riyals
Indian                                      2500
Filipino                                    3500
South African                          7000
Malaysian                                8000
Arabs (Lebanon, Jordan etc)   10000
Saudi                                      11000
European (British,German, Nordic)16000
American (Canada,Australia)  18000

So basically the lowest paid are the Asian passport holders and highest salary goes to U.S. and Canadian passport holders. This system is said to be based on the standard of living in the home country of the employees. In other words, what the money will buy the employee back home and the cost of living and the value of money in each country. It’s also said to be based on the quality of the education that western vs. Asian nurses have.

For example a Filipino earns so much in the Kingdom she’s able not only to live a very comfortable life there but also support her extended family back home and maybe even purchase a house and a car. The money the Filipino nurse earns in Saudi, although MUCH less compared to what their western colleagues are earning, will in comparison get them more back in their home countries.
On the other hand the American nurse, although she earns more than in the U.S, does not get a significant pay raise. Many are able to travel and save some money, maybe pay off loans but there is no way they could support other family members and make large purchases at the same time.

According to online sources, the starting salary for Indian nurses in their home country is 2300 rupees a month which is about 41 U.S dollars (150SAR). The maximum salary with all benefits would be around 5000 rupees, or 90 dollars. The estimated earnings of an Indian nurse in Saudi-Arabia, around 2500 to 4000 SAR is around 1000-2000 U.S dollars at the current exchange rate. That would add up to roughly 58,000 rupees. That’s a staggering difference to what they earn back home.

Filipino nurses earn approximately 5000P a month back home in the Philippines, which is about 450 SAR (120 U.S dollars). A news article from 2009 states Pinoy nurses salaries in government hospitals will be raised from 2550 to 3500SAR. If they earned the estimated 3500SAR a month in Saudi-Arabia that would be roughly 39,000P. That’s almost ten times more than what they would earn in the Philippines.

Compare this to the European nurse. Say she earns about 2400 euros at home minus taxes, leaving her with about 1600 euros a month. That’s roughly 7500 Saudi riyals, or if counted from the salary before tax cuts, 11,000. In Saudi her salary will increase about 30% from this. If the European were to get a comparative pay raise to the Asians, her salary would end up being something around  26,000 euros or 120,000SAR a month!

By doing some more maths (which I suck at btw) I discovered that the Filipino who first went to Canada to get the passport, actually literally becomes a millionaire (but only in the Philippines) by just working a few years in the Kingdom!

Another interesting aspect is how the Saudi nationals themselves get lower pay than westerners. This is very strange and seems unfair to me. Why don’t they value their own citizens more? Do they think Saudi employees are not as efficient or highly trained as the western nurses and thus don’t deserve as much pay? I have to admit I heard many nurses complaining about the laziness or lack of training of the Saudi nurses.

Even though I understand partly why they thought up this kind of system in the first place and it does have some sort of rationale behind it, it still causes a lot of tension in the workplace. At the end of the day it IS unfair to pay one employee ten times more in Saudi riyals for the same job, just because of their nationality. The difference in salary causes tension and conflicts in the working environment and can potentially cause one nationality to hold grudges and feel jealousy toward another.

So is there a solution to this salary racism? Could all employees be paid the same salary regardless of their passport color? If the wages went down significantly how would Saudi companies be able to attract western employees anymore? If employees from poorer countries started earning the same salaries as westerners in Saudi do, what would happen? An overwhelming influx of Asian employees? How about raising the Saudi’s salaries in order to motivate them more? Would making the salaries more equal make the working environments more tolerable places for all nationalities to work harmoniously in?

If these salaries are based on the cost of living back home and education levels then why do some employees get paid according to their newly obtained passports? What about a Saudi or Asian employee who trained in the west? Or a western nurse that got their education from a third world country? This system seems to have so many loopholes and other negative aspects to it that I think at least some sort of reform could certainly do good for the Saudi workplaces.

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  • NoorJuly 15, 2012 - 8:21 pm

    Great Post Laylah I know I hate it bc my husband is a Saudi yet has a American degree that seems to hold no value since hes still a Saudi at the end of the day. People doing his same job or less that hold an American degree make more. I was even offered a job bc I am an American and I do not even hold a degree in that field making almost double what he does. Its not fair at all. I think the main person getting paid should be the Saudi if they are going to have any system at all.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:39 pm

      Noor I agree it’s sometimes completely absurd and really is not based on who is the most qualified person for the job!
      Saudis should get more other benefits such as housing and schooling and transport (especially for females) allowances!
      Compare to all those benefits the foreign workers get, free accommodations, transport, tickets home and back..ReplyCancel

      • williamApril 26, 2016 - 6:14 pm

        How can you attract people from western countries if you offer a salary who is wonderfull for asian but ridiculous for them? think about it since the cost of the life is completely different and sometime the gap is 10 time different.ReplyCancel

  • Asmaa @ Bake It...July 15, 2012 - 10:30 pm

    Salam alaikum

    Interesting post mashAllah
    Noor told me about your blogReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:39 pm

      Salaam Asmaa welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Susie of ArabiaJuly 16, 2012 - 12:28 am

    My husband is Saudi and attained his PhD in Reading and ESL from the USA while on the Saudi scholarship. So in other words, KSA paid for my husband’s education. But here’s the kicker. When he returned to KSA to try to find a job in his field (this was in 1991) which was teaching English as a Second Language, he could not get a job here! Why? Because at that time, they only wanted native speakers of English. This makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever, does it? And now, there are such poor English speakers with bad accents teaching English here that the students cannot even understand the teachers. My husband’s English is perfect, yet they wouldn’t hire him back then. Some things are just so screwed up here…ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:43 pm

      Susie-that is totally screwed up! it still happens though! And funny how they are not even that specific of the nationality of the so called native speaker. For example, I was offered a job as an english teacher (I have no experience or training whatsoever) to teach at a girls school in Riyadh, for about the same pay as I get from nursing..Because I have an american accent and I’m fluent, so they are hiring people JUST for the accent. I declined because I thought it was ridiculous!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousJuly 17, 2012 - 8:31 pm

      I was shocked to find among the university(!) teachers (the American and Australian passport holders) people whose previous experience was related to whatever but not teaching. One of them was spell-checking the word “writer” because she was not sure about the suffix -er or -or)) The other was persistently saying “arrive to” and confusing singular and plural. Of course, it does a lot of harm because what can be more dangerous than ignorant educators?ReplyCancel

  • DianneJuly 16, 2012 - 3:27 am

    Hi Layla!

    Nice post! I enjoyed reading it. I saw some of the links you have at the end of the article and I actually go and read news on those sites. lol

    Anyway, I’m just wondering where did you get the conclusion that Filipino nurses become “millionaires” after a couple of years in KSA? Because I highly doubt they become one back there. Most of their salaries go to their families to help pay the bills or help a couple of siblings finish college (which is very expensive btw). So in short, they hardly save money for themselves. Their families’ living improve there though, but in exchange for them leaving their families.

    Keep writing interesting posts Layla. :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:52 pm

      Dianne-I meant they become millionaires in the sense that they earns millions counted in local currency :) NOT that they can live lives of millionaires! But sure they and their families do get better life from the earnings of those relatives who relocated to Saudi.ReplyCancel

    • DianneJuly 18, 2012 - 4:34 am

      Yeah, this is kind of sad you know. If only they get to keep the money for themselves so they could invest the money into something (some do). But for them, I guess it’s ok that they don’t get to live like millionaires from what they earn…however their consolation for that it they get to provide for their families.

      You should try and interview a couple of them (not just nurses). Almost all of the news coming from KSA to PH is negative, unfortunately. I suggest you try and show both sides of their situations (good and bad). I could provide you some links regarding about the unfortunate events that Filipinos experience there. I’ll try and find some positives too. Just let me know if you’re interested.

      Take care Layla! :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 16, 2012 - 2:33 am

    I agree, a very good post.

    I also agree that the salary disparities could and does cause conflicts and that reform is needed. I’m not sure if there’s any magic bullet to this issue. It’s a sticky one.

    I guess we’d have to look at how other countries are able to fair with regards to salaries based on education and skills no matter what one’s nationality or color of passport. But here in America, we suffer from racism on another level.

    The white male (may or may not have a degree or experience) still gets paid more than the black male (having a degree), white females (having a degree) and all others following. How that math is done, I have no Idea. It boggles the mind.

    Maybe they’ll all figure it out one day.

    Out of curiosity, how is it in Finland? What’s the pay scale for foreign workers? Are there any differences in pay based on job?


    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:48 pm

      We have some similarity in Finland to what you are describing, but the salary differences are nothing compared to the Saudi scale!
      The minimum wages are the same for every nationality, but you will find many foreigners (e.g Russians,Estonians,some of African origins) doing the lowest paid jobs and not so many Finns doing those jobs anymore. For example bus drivers, cleaners and so on.ReplyCancel

  • ربة منزلJuly 16, 2012 - 5:24 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:48 pm

      ? why was it removed?ReplyCancel

    • ربة منزلJuly 18, 2012 - 7:59 am

      Did not feel that the comment belongs to this discussion :)
      Also, I have to learn more about the topic to be able to discuss it. However, I do remember someone telling me that the salary gap according to nationality or race is a common thing in companies. It is taught in school business and a friend told me today that it is called: Race/Ethnic wage gap.ReplyCancel

  • AliceJuly 16, 2012 - 8:54 am

    same salary differences based on passports exist in the UAE. My husband’s cousin was a doctor and his salary was considerably less than of his western passport holders colleagues who actually graduated from the very same university as him! This Emirati doctor felt unappreciated and thought of migrating to Canada where his salary was higher than in the UAE.
    My husband is negotiating salary with a Dubai company and they say the salary he’s asking is too high (for an Emirati), at the same time they pay much more to British citizens at the same position. Some say Emiratis are “cheap labor” in their own country comparing to western passport holders. Such discrimination seems unfair especially to well educated, skilled Emirati specialists.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 9:54 pm

      Alice-It’s really unfair, and they should try to encourage the Emiratis/Saudis more. What they do now is almost humiliating, I mean they studied in same uni, that’s just ridiculous. Companies should look beyond the passports and look at the actual CV’s!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 16, 2012 - 3:16 pm

    If foriegners could live permenently in Saudi, and eventually become citizens, there would not be this problem, and there wouldn’t be such apparant racial/national differnces in people in terms of the services they recieve from the goverment/employees.ReplyCancel

  • Otto BreknerJuly 16, 2012 - 7:10 pm

    My 2 cents. I believe there are several factors to take into account, in no particular order:

    1. Should make sense economically – to provide the service without increasing the cost beyond the point they afford to support. They can afford to pay Asian nurses an attractive salary compared with the one from their own countries, but if they apply the same model to Americans they wouldn’t afford to deliver the service;
    2. To give a proper signal – they want Western nurses, but they are not that desperate – they can get a good nurses for less the price of Westerners;
    3. The salary should be motivating enough to make the move. This is applicable especially for Westerners;
    4. There is chauvinist thinking among some of Saudis, judging people as good or bad based on their nationality. I don’t think this reason prevail, but it works there, in the background;
    5. The lavish lifestyle of Saudis, which is visible all over the place. They are going to pay in a way which is allowing them to show their lavishness, but in the same time avoid being taken as desperate;
    6. The preference to work by procedure: working by evaluating the nationalities it is understandable. Judging the skills and making decisions – and the decisions for money are centralized in the hands of few people – this doesn’t fit the style.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 17, 2012 - 4:06 am

    Thats the same here in Dubai, my husband gets lower sallary than European doing the same activity (hes local). Because they have the best university so your diploma will be much stronger and the cost of live there so expensive. Unable to pay 16000 to a filipino, the expenses in their country is low compared to american or european standartReplyCancel

    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 10:04 pm

      Yes but what if the local went to the same school and has that exact same diploma and say more experience? He still gets less which is totally unfair!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 17, 2012 - 1:37 pm

    Don’t forget that Saudis have a retirement pension at 60 years old, while the foreigners haven’t.
    In public hospitals the salary of the Saudi doctors is upper (20%/25%) to the salary of the European doctors.


    • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 10:06 pm

      Nassima-I have not heard of the European or American drs being paid less for same position as local physicians, they have the same system with doctors..ReplyCancel

  • LaylahJuly 17, 2012 - 10:02 pm

    Hi there, yes what I meant with the millionaire thing is just that they would become such in their own currency, not that the person would actually be able to live the life of one..but certainly they would be better off, if we think that the average salary is 5000 a month, by which a person can live a decent lifestyle, then 1,5 million is a lot of money.
    Secondly, I stated that specifically those Filipinos who are getting paid by the Canadian passport become millionaires (they earn 200,000P a month so in a year 2,4 million pesos!)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 18, 2012 - 12:10 am

    I sent a private message to you.


  • pineappleJuly 18, 2012 - 1:17 am

    Good article :)

    But I have to say that the laws in Canada have changed and it is no longer as easy to get citizenship here. They have started cracking down on people coming to get one then going. If you stay out of Canada for so many years, now your citizenship can be stripped. They will give you a warning first, and you have six months to return to Canada for a set time or you will lose it. A bunch of nuns and some priests have lost theirs. I think where the first. The problem with many people is that they have not been paying taxes so when then are asked to return they have huge fines to pay. Also many people who just come for the passport do not realize what is really involved in becoming Canadian. Many have unrealistic expectations of what its like to live here and how easy it is to get here. Even marrying a Canadian now does not guarantee a way into Canada depending on where they are from. This is dew to a government crack down on the lack of a better word “green card” marriages. Though this has also effected many people who are honestly married.ReplyCancel

  • Bourne69July 19, 2012 - 7:29 am

    This Article is soo true layla .. thanks for highlighting it .. Westerners & Europeans are the highest paid people in this country whereas an Asian doing the same job for longer hours doesn’t really count .ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 19, 2012 - 11:55 pm

    Nice post laylah…The sad thing though is American/European nurses who get high salary are not even doing the “dirty” work coz most of them are in administrative post and the one who are on the front line are those who are less paid. No offense to other nationalities, but Filipinos are hardworking nurses so it is just NOT FAIR why there is salary racism in KSA.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 21, 2012 - 10:21 am

    You are right, for example in, a public hospital, the foreign cardiologists, who have lower salaries than Saudis, are the only ones to be on call during nights and isn’t fair.


  • ••❤MingMing❤••July 22, 2012 - 9:42 am

    Very interesting post!
    At the end of the day everyone is paid more in the Kingdom than in their own countries so what’s the point? I do not see no racism here. Indian rupee’s value is not as great as euro or dollar that is why the Kingdom pay them more (but less than to Americans- very reasonable)in comparison so they can afford much more than if they were working in India. This system is actually very smart. why does everyone have to become a millionaire? Personally I would be happy to earn 50% more that I’m earning right now. I wouldn’t care if my American friend earns more because at the end of the day I earn much more than in my very own country, I can save and spend the money in my very own country. Gosh ppl are so hungry for money! If its so unbearable in the Kindom there is always a solution: going back to homeland ;)


  • jessiJuly 22, 2012 - 8:11 pm

    Salam laylah, I’m an American Muslim who is marrying an American living in ridyah… Could you give me any advice living there yourself and ways to make friends there.. I’m very nervous and excitedReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 29, 2012 - 7:32 am

    to be honest its mostly right . I’m a green passport holder i studied in AUS . and for whole 4 years of working i still get bad salary . i bet if i was married to one of my AUS friends and got the nationality . i would be in a different story and a way pleasant chapter .But things is done by faith and it have been written long time before i have born .

    maybe i might get my hands on a great girl who will love me for who im and i will get her pleasant and she might change my whole life . who know !!?


    just pray for me !! no one knows i might have what i want Finally .ReplyCancel

  • GillianAugust 24, 2012 - 12:15 pm

    I'm very glad I found your blog. Thanks for the sensible critique. I and my friends were just preparing to do a little analysis about this. I'm very glad to see such good information being shared freely out there.

  • PerogyoSeptember 11, 2012 - 12:09 pm

    Thanks for this, very interesting. I see some similarities to Japan.

    I found this blog when someone set up a Twitter account to spam me links to here. The spamming is weird but I’m happy to have found you! I love to hear stories of foreign wives all over the world, we seem to have many issues in common. Nice to know that you are a working mom too, there are so few of us in my part of the world! Kudos!ReplyCancel

  • Jane MoraiSeptember 11, 2012 - 3:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your views on this topic. I have done some traveling to the middle east and while i’ve never had any communication with those who work in the medical field I have seen the different attitudes towards various races and pay. I’m really glad to hear you speak out about this and share your perspective.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 3, 2012 - 5:38 am

    This is a good post and you have presented it very well. I am from the IT sector and an Indian national. In the US, there would not be any difference between the hourly rates that an Indian or an American would earn. If at all there is, it would be very marginal and based on the fact that the Indian is on an H1 and so would settle for slightly lesser (but not greatly lesser). You feel respectedReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 19, 2012 - 2:04 am

    The truth is, American nursing education is unequaled globally. They spend millions upon the system for research and innovation. Not to mention that education cost is higher in the USA than anywhere else in the world, so those nurses better make the most money cause they have more to pay off and account for back home *student loans*.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 27, 2012 - 11:09 am

    I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore to come to Canada for citizenship. I am Canadian and it will take my American husband with two masters degrees six years to get full citizenship when all is said and done. Plus, if he gets his citizenship and takes off, they’ll rescind it.

    Also, I’m not sure it would be worth it to leave Canada as a nurse anymore if you’re only making 18000 SAR a month. There is a major shortage of nurses here so there are sometimes signing and renewal bonuses, provincial loan repayment programs, and starting next year, federal loan forgiveness for those who work in rural communities. The projected starting wage for nurses fresh out of school in Canada is about $50,000 – $60,000 CAD (189022 – 226826 SAR) a year in most provinces and goes up to $80,000 with experience. If you’re willing to work in a northern territory, the starting wage out of school is about $81,000 (306215 SAR) and goes up to $121,000 with experience. Northern provinces will also include signing, monthly, northern, and annual bonuses/allowances – you’d get an extra $33,600 in bonuses during your first year with more every subsequent year!ReplyCancel

  • HasanDecember 13, 2012 - 3:06 pm


    I am an Australian citizen with a South Asian background. I’ve done my Masters in Civil Engineering from New South Wales University in Sydney. I also have few years work experience in Australia. Can I expect a higher salary in Dubai than most South Asians.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 11, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Great post! I worked at KFSH in Riyadh ten years ago and saw the pay scales. Canadians do not get the same salary as Americans. Americans are at the top, then green-card Americans, and then Canadians. I’m Canadian, by the way.ReplyCancel

    • KPOctober 10, 2013 - 10:12 pm

      U r not right….ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 18, 2013 - 11:58 am

    Unfortunately prices have crept up so badly lately in KSA, that even a European with 16,000 SAR ( for example) can send nothing home!

    Thus I think it is rather contradictory: if 16,000 SAR could allow for a decent life say in the EU, there is no way that you can live and spend in KSA and from that amount send something like 5,000 SAR to your home country and consider it still represents a decent life in Europe.

    An average family of (4) would need to lead a rather conservative life in KSA to spend 10,000 SAR, excluding any specialised schooling for their children.

    And then, not all companies give that much for schooling, which has also flown off the scale.


    • AnonymousFebruary 8, 2013 - 11:49 pm

      Shocked to hear that Australians earn more than British. Did you know that British Nurses are highly sought after in Australia once they have completed their British training.

      The high pay reflects the high quality of training, it has nothing at all to do with either colour of skin or passport.ReplyCancel

  • Shuja UddinFebruary 26, 2013 - 10:33 am

    Pays Should be based on the Experience and Qualification…
    Not like racists…
    I have seen Americans and Canadians, who would have been kicked out of Job in my Country are getting more than those who are better qualified but from Asian States…
    Its Sad such Racism in KSA.
    ( I have been in Saudia for 32 years-Since Birth)ReplyCancel

  • BF_4_President2010April 29, 2013 - 11:41 am

    The salary you mentioned about Filipino nurses is not correct. Based on the Department of Budget and Management website of the Philippine government, the salary of a government-employed Nurse as of July 2009 are the following:

    Nurse I (SG 11) – P14198 – P16335
    Nurse II (SG 15) – P18282 – P21064
    Nurse III (SG 17) – P20819 – P23955
    Nurse IV (SG 19) – 23703 – P27251
    Nurse V (SG 20) – P25295 – P29070
    Nurse VI (SG 22) – P28134 – P32278
    Nurse VII (SG 24) – P31334 – P35890

    Please, if you will write a blog, make sure that the information are correct or you have research it well.

  • Mohannad192May 11, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    Yes there is difference in pay rates according to nationality and some times race its a matter of demand and supply and all the do-and-da related.. this is understandable and can be rationalized in way as you said.

    but what puzzles me is; if you’re paying an american nurse 10 times the a Indian nurse with the same Job qualification, what is the added value ? blue eyes !


  • suraiyaSeptember 20, 2013 - 12:35 pm

    Hello Laylah!
    What you have written is so true! My father has been working in saudi for the past 30 years as a medical doctor (general practitioner) and he gets much less pay than most Saudi and American doctors and nurses.
    We are from India. It’s really very sad to see the huge amount of disparity.
    Have been reading your blog for quite a while now and i also follow you on fb. But this is the first time i am writing to you. Your articles are pretty interesting and your writing is crisp and entertaining.

    I was wondering if you have any knowledge about employment of doctors in the kingdom from USA?
    I have an American female friend in Chicago who is a medical doctor. She has been working there for several years…..but now she would like to work in the kingdom. Do you have any idea how do doctors from USA apply for jobs in the kingdom?

    Since i am an Indian…..I know that Saudi Medical teams go to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to interview and select doctors.
    But i don’t think Saudi medical selection teams go to USA.

    Please if you have any American doctor friends or acquaintances, would you be kind enough to let me know the procedure to apply for medical jobs from USA, so that i can forward it to her? I will be most obliged.

    Thanking you,
    an avid reader of your blog

    • KPOctober 10, 2013 - 10:10 pm

      Aramco Team interviews doctors everywhere in Europe and North America. My wife is a doctor and Aramco matched his After-Tax Income. We might fly to KSA in a few months.ReplyCancel

    • AlisonDecember 1, 2013 - 5:34 pm

      Hi I’m currently working in King Faisal as an RN in the MICU, give me contact info via email and I will put you in contact with our personnel department.ReplyCancel

  • salimDecember 23, 2013 - 3:34 pm

    Salary of Indian nurses are not correct . It is in govt start from 20000 (almost 1500SAR ) reach to 60 K INR . after 6th pay commision salary are increase by 6 times in 2012 . MBBS Doctors salary start from 60K (4000 SAR ) now .Soeducated Indian lost interest in Saudi Jobs . Saudi Govt have to increase salary to attarct educated Indians .ReplyCancel

  • […] about the salary racism , which is one of the causes behind the workplace bullying […]ReplyCancel

  • AddJuly 16, 2014 - 4:38 pm


    You seem to overestimate the ease of getting Canadian Citizenship. There is a very stringent set of requirements before you can even qualify to apply. From the right skilled sector, to education, experience, police records and language proficiency exams. Provided you qualify to apply, on the average it takes 3.5 years to get the approval to emigrate. Then, it would be another 4 years of residency before they qualify for the citizenship exam, which they need to pass.

    Just thought you’d ought to know :)ReplyCancel

  • Muhammad Sultan ShahidAugust 13, 2014 - 8:26 am

    i think its because of currency rates… 1 SAR = .27 USD where as 1 SAR = 16 indian rupees.ReplyCancel

  • sheikJanuary 10, 2015 - 3:24 am

    it is really annoying tat for Ppl from different countries are paid different for same job. I heard Asians are paid worse than others.. is it happening in doctor field also. world knows tat Indian doctors are best across the world but less paid than others…ReplyCancel

  • SaeedMarch 24, 2015 - 4:14 am

    Slam everyone!
    wallah i was just watching a video on youtube and sub7an allah i ended up in here lol. Sadly, i believe that most of what i have read so far in here is nothing but the truth! Starting from how come someone gets paid based on the passport he or she is carrying till the point that a saudi guy who went abroad, got a degree on ESL and when he came back looking for a jo. He went zero handed!!! Wallah i feel how painful and unjust that is! We need to change a lot the creepy nonsense policies which have been blindly followed by so many “decision making ppl”! We’re sick of thise outdated old guys wallah! And i’m sorry for those nonsaudi employees but even us the sons of this country we are not given much attention! And plz do not remind me of the scholarships the government is giving and still have! We need to work from the inside out not the way around!!! I happen to be one if those who returned empty handed bc i did not like what i was studying and sadly no ine gave a shit! Bottom line al7mdu lellah i did not give. I’m doing a BS in ME and am very excited and motivated But after what? 6 year time has just flushed away! I hope when i’m done and ready to join the big companies they won’t say that “oh, masha allah you have maintained a high GPA and ur English is just fine but if you were 5 yrs younger,and they give me the what-a-pitty-face” :) lets hope that senario will never happen to me ya rabb.

    Just felt to drop thOse few lines guys.

    A special thank you for our sis for such a great blog.


  • PankajApril 15, 2015 - 10:08 pm


    Thanks for this information. I was not aware that salary can be decided based upon Passport!!
    Can any one tell the salary range in Information technology sector?



  • LaylaJuly 10, 2015 - 12:07 pm

    thank you for the comment Jamila and best of luck in your plans!ReplyCancel

  • MAHAKALIJuly 28, 2015 - 8:34 am

    I will tell you something. It is irrational to implement equal payment in GCC for all nationalities. That is pure discrimination against locals.

    For instant Saudi system is based on the standard of living in the home country of the employees. In other words, what the money will buy the employee back home and the cost of living and the value of money in each country. It’s also based on the quality of the education.

    A Pilipino nurse in the Philippines gets an average salary of 200 USD back home.

    In Saudi a Pilipino standard salary roughly around 1000 USD. That is 5 times more than her salary back home.

    Now let’s talk about buying a property in Saudi comparing to buying a property in the Philippines.

    In Manila for instant buying a luxurious apartment in a central area would cost around 20,000 USD. We are talking here about a luxurious fully furnished apartment with all facilities. Buying the same luxury apartment in any place in Saudi would cost around 250,000 USD.

    So basically if we talk about equality that means a nurse coming from the Philippines would be able to afford buying 4 luxurious apartments back home in 3 years having an average salary of 2500 USD as a Saudi nurse while a Saudi Nurse has to work for 9 years with the same salary to get ONE apartment in Saudi Arabia.

    Is that what you call equality and is that really a solution for discrimination?!

    No but I believe the minimum wage for people coming from Asian countries has to increase.

    Second, the fact why private sectors prefer foreigners over locals for a simple reason.
    It is much cheaper to hire an expat than a local and it has nothing to do with expertise nor technical knowledge.
    A lot of our young generation are well educated and the saudi government did a great job sending hundred thousands of them for scholarships.

    To hire a local, a private sector has to pay 9% each month to GOSI plus it has to pay locals end of service and medical insurance.
    The ministry of labor as well requested all Saudis to be paid more than foreigners so a lot of companies in the private sector refrain to hire Saudis instead they totally manipulated the system by signing Saudis for minimum wages in the company to stay home instead of offering them a full time job with the company and the reason behind that is to get visas and Iqamas for cheaper expats which leads to more profits for the greedy companies.ReplyCancel

  • @MAHAKALIJulyDecember 27, 2015 - 1:39 am

    Don’t you see that you’re contradicting yourself? You say that equal payment is not a good idea and then you’re saying the ministry are hiring foreigners because they’re given cheaper salary? I, as Saudi Arabian I demand equal minimum wages for locals and non-locals. Only in that way, Saudis are going to be able to find jobs in private sectors. Think about it for a while, giving equal minimum wages is going to benefit us on the long run.ReplyCancel

  • KokishiAugust 6, 2016 - 1:13 pm

    I think it is based on performance/efficiency too.
    There are some mentality traits that do not allow the Indians or Filipinos to do the job as efficiently as the Americans or Europeans do. Even in Europe you see the differences: the Greeks/Italians or Spanish are not as efficient and organized as the Germans or Dutch. In Asia – the Japanese vs the Chinese.

    Of course everyone can obtain a degree in the West or the passport – but you cannot buy the way of thinking. I see it even with black people in the USA who though born and growing up in the States, attending the same schools as others – still have certain way of doing things their own way. Unfortunately, the employers do not reward that way.ReplyCancel

  • ArunAugust 9, 2016 - 2:35 pm

    Absolutely disgraceful and demeaning as well!!
    We Indians simply do not know how to REACT,is all !
    Our Ministers and Politicians keep falling over themselves to please these silly,stupid Arabs all the time.
    Discrimmination at the Work Place especially, is most unhealthy to say the least whatever be the rationale advanced for paying higher wages to a White Man or Woman !!

    They should raise these issues with the concerned authorities and demand action.Instead of diplomatic ettiquette and niceties all the time.In this they should take a leaf from the Isrealis.Try fooling around with any of their nationals.ReplyCancel

  • ArunAugust 9, 2016 - 2:43 pm

    Don’t even think about re-locating to medieval Saudi.They don’t ride camels these days at least not the fat sheikhs and their umpteen children perhaps, but there’s hardly any change in their Mindset unfortunately.The KSA can be summed up as one of the bigger surviving Anachronisms today.And thanks to the West
    for keeping them that way..ReplyCancel

  • JeanJanuary 13, 2019 - 12:40 am

    How true is this discrimination based on a person’s passport in Saudi Arabia at this time? This article was written over 6 years ago.

    I would agree that Saudis educated overseas and returning, should be given priority in hiring process if they meet the advertised qualifications.ReplyCancel

    • LauraJanuary 13, 2019 - 12:26 pm

      Same system in place at hospitals at least. there is a Saudization drive where they must hire a certain % of Saudis in order to not be fined. If they don’t reach the target goals of Saudi staff then the company will be fined. So this is really good in theory, in practice, it doesn’t always work that the Saudi employee is skilled / motivated enough for that position, and said staff member becomes a sort of “compulsory Saudi staff” just for the numbers. But this is getting slowly better with more and more people returning and opportunities are being offered.ReplyCancel

  • QuebecRNAugust 7, 2019 - 7:21 pm

    There are reasons why western RNs earn bigger than those Asian and even Saudi nationals. Western nurses like in Canada earn bigger back in their own country than those Asians and Saudi nationals in their respective home countries. For example my biweekly salary is 3,600 to 4,500 Canadian dollars (10,125.61 SR to 12,658.08 SR) including night diff, ICU premiums and weekend diff. that’s only 2 weeks pay. I am earning 7,000 to 9,000 per month (Gross)including occasional OT ( that’s 25,310 SR per month). Just think of it, if the Saudi hospitals will give us 10,000SR/ month that would be 3,555 Canadian dollars in a month ) that’s a very big joke for Canadians.
    Even if Saudi hospitals Like King Faizal and National Guard offers 15,000SR to 20,000SR to western nurses the truth is it won’t still match the money we get back home. While their Asian, and Saudi counterparts see those amount as very big and unfair but they fail to realize that it’s nothing compare to what western earn back home.
    We only feel the value of money because 1. We don’t have the mandatory deductions like (tax, insurance, etc.) 2. Apartment is FREE 3. Transportation is FREE and 4 Adventure and experience the Arab culture… Those are the only reasons why western moves in Saudi.. On the other hand Asians like Malaysians and South Africans , Indians etc move in Saudi Arabia because of money!, They earn less than what the Saudi offers them.ReplyCancel

  • Filipina nurseDecember 9, 2019 - 2:22 pm

    Facts are we are not paid equally. And in my case, here in the hospital to where I’m working at, favor always goes to Saudis (always late, multiple sick leave, absences, not working at all, and they are not taking their job seriously). But the admin doesnt care because they are SAUDIS. While us, working tirelessly and taking the consequences when a Saudi suddenly did not show up on her duty. There’s a lot going on here actually, including the freedom deprivation, women oppression, ban of religion, racial discrimination, and this place lack of interest in arts, entertainment, sports, history, and tourism. One thing is for sure though, I’m done working here. I’m not going back to this rotten administration. Adios amigos!ReplyCancel

  • hannaSeptember 27, 2020 - 10:30 pm

    I’m new to Saudi (arrived late 2019) and have found your blog truly helpful for traveling tips. thanks for that! I met some nurses and heard about the salary issue, felt unbelievable, and now I read your article for more details.

    I also felt it’s unbelievable to find that Saudis are extremely not environmental-friendly, and also found your blog covering that too! :)ReplyCancel

  • MoFebruary 15, 2022 - 12:57 pm

    Lifestyle in each country is different than the other, I think they treat the wages with the what the employee can earn in his origin country.ReplyCancel

I did some interviews for a couple of magazines which focus on what life in Saudi Arabia is like from my personal point of view, as a Finnish expatriate nurse. I think these interviews will be beneficial in answering questions of readers who are new to Saudi Arabia and/or new to Blue Abaya blog. The below interview talks about life in Saudi Arabia from a woman’s perspective, foreigners and Saudi women alike, and is something I highly recommend as reading for anyone planning on moving to Saudi Arabia.

One of these interviews I did with Naima Rashid, read it here: “A Bonny Blithe Blue”. Here’s an excerpt from the interview on Jeddah Blog:


The blue of ‘Blue Abbaya’ is a shade apart, merging a spirit of deep inner freedom and an infectiously positive attitude. Jeddah Blog chats with Laylah of Blue Abbaya, investigating the meaning of her blue, and generally, a lot of this and that.

I just loved how Naima described my blog and she really has a way with words, she’s an excellent writer and her questions were very interesting too!
“The blue abbaya is both a symbol and an attitude for Laylah’s blog. It’s a posture of being respectful to local traditions while setting oneself apart from the crowd through personal taste.”
“Reading her blog, one traverses two regions equally mysterious to many – Finland and Saudi Arabia, and her blog pierces the mystery of both lands to offer us a window into both cultures through the eyes of somebody who embodies them both to some extent.”
“Scandinavian ice and deserts of Arabia are physical reliefs, but like all environment, they become landscapes of the mind at some point. In ‘Blue Abbaya’, blue is the colour of the Finnish sky, and the abbaya is a cultural norm of Saudi Arabia. In its name and its nature, the blog is defined by the richly opposed but co-existing worlds that the author is part of, and the best and worst of which peppers her real and virtual space.”
Socotra island

The below is my interview with Anna Sierant from the Polish women’s magazine OnaOnaOna (SheSheShe in polish) about what life is like in Saudi Arabia as a woman.

How did it happen that you came to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? 

After I graduated I knew I wanted to go work abroad and Saudi-Arabia has always fascinated me as a country, I wanted to know more about it and find out for myself what it’s really like there. Of course I heard of all the benefits expats receive there so it was not hard to make the decision.


Can you describe an ordinary day of Saudi woman?

Actually, I can’t! Mainly because it’s like asking, what is the ordinary day of a Polish or Finnish woman like? It all depends on the person. Saudi women are just like us, some work, others are stay at home mothers. They have very similar lives to us. The main differences are they aren’t allowed to drive so they must arrange transport by taxis, relatives or their own drivers.

Saudi women spend much more time with their close family (meaning their parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles) than we western women do. They see these relatives weekly, which to me is something really amazing but also a foreign concept. Another difference is many of them have hired help in the house so this enables them to have more time to spend with family and friends.


Do Saudi woman think that they are treated worse than men are? For example, do they want to have the possibility to driver a car, to work without a mahram’s permission? Or it depends of womans’ education, origin? 

Again this depends on the woman. Some are very actively trying to change these things, demanding to have equal rights as citizens. One such amazing woman (among many others) is Manal Al-Sherif who is not only campaigning for women to be allowed to drive, but for women to have the same rights as men. Rights which religion gave them long ago but only recently humans (men) have taken it away from them. On the other hand there are women who are genuinely happy with the way things are now, they see it as a privilege to be “taken care of and protected” by the men of their family/society. It really all depends on the woman and how liberal or conservative her family is.


I recommend you read this Blue Abaya post: Takalamy; A conversation with young Saudi females, you will be very (positively) surprised.


I’ve read that a Saudi woman must have mahram’s permission if she wants to work, study, go abroad? Is it true, how does it look? Must he sign some papers?

Yes the mahram, also called a male guardian is the one who ultimately gives legal permission for a woman to work, travel abroad, study and marry. This comes from culture, not religion. Yes he has to sign some papers of approval.


What shocked you the most in male-female relations in Saudi Arabia? Are Arabian marriages always dominated by a man, the head of the family?

I guess initially what shocked me was how men would not talk to me directly or look me into the eyes. My culture tells me to react to this by taking it as an offence and sees diverting the gaze as a disrespectful act. But when I learned more about Islam, I understood that in fact those men were trying to be very respectful toward me by lowering their gazes. Islam advises men to do that when talking to women they don’t know or are unrelated to, so that she does not become embarrassed or feel awkward. For a person that’s not used to that sort of thing, of course it makes us feel awkward at first. I still sometimes miss the “normal” straightforward western interaction between men and women at the workplace which I’m used to.

I would say many Saudi families are actually dominated by the women, behind the scenes.


What would you change if you could to make women’s life in Saudi Arabia easier?

I would abolish the mahrem system (need for male guardian permission for everything) because I see it as the number one cause of difficulty, taking advantage of and harm to women in this country. Most women are not lucky to have an understanding, flexible and fair guardian, who agrees to everything she wants. Even adult women need a guardian, she may have given birth to her guardian! Women are not children, but fully capable human beings, just like their male counterparts. And naturally, allow women to drive would be on my top priority list.


In the opinion of the West KSA is like a prison for women. Isn’t it a stereotype? Could you point out the benefits of being a woman in Saudi Arabia? Something that they can do, have, something that a typical American, European woman could envy them?

It’s a terrible, untrue and unfair stereotype. What I can say is Saudi women have in general more spare time than western counterparts because the domestic help is cheap and easy to find here. So generally speaking they have more free time at their hands. Also they have very close family relations and help always available from family members. Those are things that money cannot buy. In general Saudi women rarely have to worry about financial issues. Most other practical  “everyday” issues, like going to government offices, banks, post offices, paying bills, dealing with paperwork etc the men of the family will take care of all that for her.


For me personally as an expat woman in the Kingdom, I feel lucky to be able to travel and explore Saudi Arabia which is closed off from the rest of the world. Working here has many benefits, long vacations, tax free salary, free housing, and other benefits which make it easy to travel throughout the year. I have traveled alone as a woman around Saudi Arabia without ever having any problems. I realize this is something extremely rare, but it can be done.


What do you find the hardest thing of being a woman in the Kingdom?

Not being able to drive because it limits my movement so much and I hate being so dependent on my husband and having to nag him to drive me somewhere. Luckily we now live in an area (Diplomatic Quarters) where I can walk to the store, parks, spa, gym and restaurants and so on so it has eased my life tremendously.


What is like to come to Arabia and see the ocean of women dressed in black abayas (do you really wear a blue abaya? I’ve read on Polish Umm Latifa’s blog that it was forbidden or “not right”)  How the Saudis react when they see a woman in non-covered face? Do some Saudi women show their faces or it happens very rarely?

When I first arrived I must admit that it was a little bit of a shocker. But you get used to it and start seeing the little differences and details and everything starts looking more colorful instead of just black and white.

I have several blue abayas, mostly I wear them to special occasions because they’re so beautiful and I want to preserve them. I never had any issues with wearing blue abayas in Riyadh and I’ve been wearing them since 2009. It’s definitely very rare though. On occasions I have seen other colored abayas in Riyadh but they are much more common in the relaxed Jeddah or Khobar. There’s no rule or law which says black is the only option, as long as you’re covered and modest it’s fine.

In Riyadh most Saudi women wear niqab, (face veil). There are many more Saudi women nowadays who wear head scarf only compared to when I first came. Foreigners are not obligated to cover their hair, but it’s a good idea to carry a scarf with you anyways. Again, Jeddah and Khobar will see more uncovered faces and sometimes Saudi women there don’t even cover their hair.


Did KSA surprised you positively of negatively? What were you most scared of before you’ve came to Arabia?

I would say definitely positively! The people have been incredibly welcoming. There’s been amazing places to discover and explore that I never even dreamed of, and literally hundreds more places which expats like me currently residing in KSA are lucky to access. I didn’t think the desert could be so interesting and beautiful either!

I was at first most scared of wearing the abaya incorrectly, of too much skin showing. I was scared I’d accidentally offend someone by doing something “culturally wrong” in public and I was worried about not being able to communicate with patients. I learned Arabic at work so that was easy fear to overcome.


Most of non-Arabic people consider Saudi women as passive persons, without any rights, that they can’t fight for these rights. Isn’t it just another stereotype?


I think it is, unfortunately. There are so many active women out there but we just don’t hear about them! Why? Because what the western media likes to tell us (and what sells stories) is about abused, oppressed, veiled, helpless Saudi women. So of course that’s the image most people will have. I am trying to change that wrong perception through my blog.


Is the situation of women in Saudi Arabia changing for better? Or is it still worse and worse? What about the mahram system – does the society want to abolish it? Do they think „my mahram knows better what’s good for me” or, like Rajaa Alsanea, the author of „Girls of Riyadh” they say: „we must change some cases”. 


It’s much better but change happens slowly. King Abdullah is very supportive of women’s rights and he recently granted them the right to vote and participate in Shoura Council. He has done numerous other changes you might not have heard of as well. They might sound like small things, such as allowing women to work as cashiers in grocery stores and lingerie shops, but it does have a huge impact on Saudi society as a whole. Women are becoming more visible and a part of the public life, which will eventually give them more and more rights.


What people think of this system of women needing a legal guardian “mahrem” for everything varies a lot. Some people are against mahram system, some think it should be changed or eased a little, others think it’s fine as it is (mainly religious hardliners).

How do young people meet in Arabia? By parents, the Internet? Or by giving an unknown woman the phone number in the malls?

If you mean how do young people meet the opposite sex (other than through their parents for marriage purposes), then I would say online, social media, at malls and through friends, and yes in the most desperate rare cases, by randomly giving out phone numbers! I wrote a tongue in cheek post about it here: Saudi Dating Scene

What do you miss the most in Saudi Arabia?
Do you miss your homeland?

Of course I miss my homeland Finland a lot, especially my family. Funny thing is I actually see them more often and more at a time since I moved here, because when I go visit them in Finland they will all travel to the same city at the same time, which is otherwise rare. My family members have visited us here in KSA many times and they like it. You can read posts about my mom in Saudi Arabia here.

What I miss the most from life in Finland: I miss the sea, the fresh air, that things are so organized and well-managed. And my dog.


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  • ربة منزلJune 23, 2012 - 11:05 pm

    Great interview and Excellent questions. I wish it was longer. I would really like to know about how easy or hard was it to learn the in-law family customs and the Arabian way of hospitality and your first experience cooking Arabic/Saudi food. It took me a while to get used to my in-laws traditions even though my husband and I are from the same country- KSA- but from different areas.

    • LaylahJune 24, 2012 - 8:48 pm

      Thanks! I'm still learning! I don't cook many Saudi foods yet but haven't heard any complaints lolReplyCancel

  • GeoffJune 24, 2012 - 6:26 am

    Beautiful Picture!ReplyCancel

  • {Life of Dee}June 24, 2012 - 7:14 am

    Thank you for sharing…I'm single and IF you know some other single man who has similar character (and physics) as your husband please contact me hehe … :DReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 24, 2012 - 8:50 pm

      lol unfortunately his brother is married and if the younger one would take a foreign wife I'm not sure they could handle that anymore haha ;)ReplyCancel

  • KatJune 24, 2012 - 6:21 pm

    I read both interviews. The Jeddah one features a huge contradiction: "Expats should not live in their own little expat bubbles where they never meet Saudis. Yay! My life is great now cause I live in the Diplomatic Quarters." That was such a facepalm moment for me, although I adore your blog.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 24, 2012 - 8:51 pm

      Kat-I don’t see any contradiction. I have many Saudi neighbors in DQ and most the kids my daughter plays with in the parks there are actually Saudis.ReplyCancel

  • SirehJune 25, 2012 - 12:08 am

    Hi Laylah, good interview. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read this —> I would say many Saudi families are actually dominated by the women, behind the scenes. Lol. I guess it is common everywhere, even here in my country (Asia). How about in Finland?

    Enjoy your summer holiday and don’t leave us here for too long.

  • AliceJune 25, 2012 - 5:31 am

    Very nice interviews,thanks for sharing!

    Have a great time in Finland!ReplyCancel

  • Angela DondiJune 26, 2012 - 3:54 pm

    Really nice interview indeed.

    Angela Dondi

  • AnonymousJune 28, 2012 - 6:59 pm

    “I would abolish the mahram system…”

    So you would allow fathers to marry their daughters, mothers to marry their sons, brothers to marry sisters, nephews to marry thier aunts and grandmothers, neices to marry their uncles and grandfathers, etc?

    I guess you’ve gotten my point.

    One can not abolish a system which was legislated by Allaah. Any thought is disbelief and any attempt to do so will be met with His Punishment.

    Many people have intelligence, but few have understanding. That is a gift from Allaah for those whom He loves.

    Hadith: When Allaah loves someone, He grants himm understanding of the Deen.

    What I do agree with is that there is a need for education. Muslims (men and women) need to be educated about the rights and responsibilites of being a guaudian (according to the Sunnah of the Prophet).ReplyCancel

  • Coolred38June 29, 2012 - 3:46 am

    Anonymous (the one above me)…is there an overwhelming desire for fathers to marry their daughters or mothers to marry their sons in muslim countries that only the mahrem system is keeping this from happening? I like how people always point out the most extreme potential of what might happen (as if this could happen)…like homophobes pointing out that allowing gays to marry will cause people to want to marry their dogs or something…are there a lot of people right now wanting to marry their dogs and only laws are preventing them? (is there even a law for that?). The mahrem system is supposed to be a caretaker role…just to guide the younger person (not necessarily a female) towards good things and away from bad things, like a mentor. It was never meant to be a parent/child relationship in which the one “guided” is reduced to being a child for her (always a her) entire life. Passed from father to husband to son (so to speak) and never able to be her own mahrem, so to speak.

    Many have intelligence but few have understanding? This is true but in this context you are indicating that Laylah is the one who may have intelligence but you are the one with the understanding…wow…such ego.ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarJune 30, 2012 - 3:12 am

      Definition of mahrem-an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual intercourse would be considered incestuous, a punishable taboo.
      A woman’s male mahrams fall into four categories (three categories in the strict-sense definition that does not count one’s spouse). Note that mahrams for a man can be derived in a similar manner.
      Permanent or blood mahrams with whom one is mahram by a blood relationship:father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather, great-grandmother and so on;
      brother, sister;
      son, grandson, great-grandson, daughter, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter;
      uncle, aunt, great-uncle, great-aunt, and so on;
      nephew, niece, grandnephew, grandniece, great-grandnephew, great-grandniece and so on;
      In-law mahrams with whom one becomes mahram by marrying someone:
      father-in-law, mother-in-law;
      son-in-law, daughter-in-law,
      stepfather (mother’s husband) if their marriage is consummated, stepmother (father’s wife) if their marriage is consummated;
      stepson (husband’s son) if their marriage is consummated, stepdaughter (wife’s daughter) if their marriage is consummated;
      “milk-suckling mahrams” with whom one becomes mahram because of being nursed by the same woman(nursing child below 2 years of age). When a woman acts as a wetnurse, that is she breast feeds an infant that is not her own child for a certain amount of time under certain conditions,she becomes the child’s rada mother and everything concerning blood mahrams applies here, like rada father/mother, rada sister/brother, rada aunt/uncle and so on. In English these can be referred to as milk brother, milk-mother, and so on.
      For a man, mahram women include his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, grandaunt, niece, grandniece, his father’s wife, his wife’s daughter (step-daughter), his mother-in-law, his rada mother and any other rada relatives that correspond to the above mentioned blood relatives. As the Prophet said, “What is forbidden by reason of kinship is forbidden by reason of suckling.” (Al-Bukhari)

      However, I do agree with Laylah that this permission-based system is extreme and I wish to see it reformed. Why should an adult women have to seek permission to own/travel/study/visit mosques/etc unlike the time of the Prophet where women are their own persons. Saudi has taken this mahrem system way out of its intended purpose.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJune 30, 2012 - 12:09 am

    @Coolred38 thanks for your comment, because it caused me to realize that I need to clarify my statement, so to answer your question “…is there an overwhekming desire for fathers to marry their daughters…” The answer, I hope and pray not. I hope we don’t any fathers like the German father who held his daughter captive for years while fathering several children with her. O Allaah save us! We (Muslims) pray for the good of our fathers and mothers.

    Laylah is the one that was being interviewed, the author and a Muslim. My questioning her was based one her knowledge of what a “mahram” is.

    Mahram: A person related to you by blood, marriage or fostering (suckling) that you’re forbidden to marry; either permenently (father, mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings,etc) or temporary (sister in law or brother in law). In the case of “gaurdianship,” all muharaam are guardians to their female relative they are forbidden to marry, whether permenently or temporarly.

    As for a woman or female or for anyone for that matter to be their own “mahram” well, I’m scratching my head on that one, as it doesn’t make any sense. But for the sake of a response, who would want to marry themselves, besides Dennis Rodman? LOL!

    Anyway, I’ll pass on the homophobes and people marrying their dogs (eeewww), that’s not the topic.

    @Laylah, sorry for taking up your post. I was looked forward to your response. Hppy vacation. :DReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 2, 2012 - 8:28 pm

    i don’t think the mahrem system this blog talks about has anyting to do with sibling/mahrem marriages, it talks about the need for a male to sign and give ADULT females the right to work,live, leave and exist in saudi alone :-) apparently muslims around the world seem to be capable of using the mahrem system to distuinguish who to marry and not to marry without the added necessity of wanting to control adult women… so yes a mahrem has a definition of what anonymous quoted but int his context it doesn’t mean that. i would have no problem having my BIL as my mahrem , i DO not want to marry him but i have terrible issues having him decide how i should live my life, especially since i consider myself more smarter, capabale,intelligent and wordly wise than him .ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 4, 2012 - 7:50 am

    @Anon above Your brother guessing ure a female is NOT a mahram, the same with a male who has a sister in-law. In some arab cultures the entire family mixes and u find brother and sister in laws mingling closely with non mahram family members which is no where accepted in Islam fyi.

  • AnonymousJuly 4, 2012 - 10:24 pm

    With all due respect. I wish that when you come up with these ideas to post topics that surround issues related to Islaam, that you do research about it. You’re aware that much of the Saudi culture is based (correct or incorrect interpretation) on an Islamic principle. Many people are posting comments based on their knowledge or lack thereof. Please be mindful that this is due to your lack of giving the correct interpretation and or information.

    Laylah know that you’ll be held accountable for what you say and do. Just as well as you blog, the angels blog. This jsut a reminder from one Muslim to another.

    You may choose to post this or keep it to yourself, because I only care that Allaah knows and that it is written that I advised you.

    Assalaamu alaikumReplyCancel

    • AnonymousJuly 6, 2012 - 10:12 am

      Maa sha Allaah I see you’ve chosen to publish this admonition. Allaahu Akbar!. I pray that it was done with the BEST of intentions.ReplyCancel

  • kobieta czytajacaSeptember 2, 2012 - 7:36 pm

    Great interviews ;) Thank you for answering the questions :)ReplyCancel

  • […] further information about the Blue Abaya blog please read this post: Blue Abaya Interview and Blue Abaya’s start here […]ReplyCancel

  • IKBALJanuary 22, 2020 - 3:28 am

    I am reading this article at 2020 and now lot of changes came here in Saudi Arabia. Women driving allowed, Mahram system also changed and also i think abaya also not compulsory nowadays. Ladies are working in all fields. I am very happy to see all of this.ReplyCancel

Many expats and locals find themselves “stuck” in Saudi for the summer with nothing to do, fearing death caused by boredom. Not everyone is lucky enough to escape the Saudi heat. With the schools now closed, children and youth get very bored! This causes frustration in parents, what to do?
There ARE other options than shopping people!

Here is a quick list of suggested activities for the summer mainly for families and women:

15 things to do in riyadh


Horseback riding
Dirab Golf course and recreation center
Al Aghar Equestrian club Diplomatic quarters both have lessons available for children and women

Equestrian Club inside Diplomatic Quarters has outdoor swimming pool for ladies and children
Al Manahil also in DQ  has indoor pool
Diplomatic Quarters Sports Club has large outdoor pool complete with slides and a wave pool ladies/men’s days alternate (membership required)
Water Splash waterpark exit 9 Eastern Ring rd.
Dirab Golf course outdoor pool (membership required)

For a complete list of pools in Riyadh go here.

Rent an istiraha with pool
There are countless istirahas (rest house) spotted around the outskirts of Riyadh. One of the bigger ones is Yamamah Resort. You can also find many theme parks on the Thumamah rd, most of which have the possibility to rent a private isteraha/chalet with a pool.

Nofa safari park

it might be getting hot but the safari can still be fun in the morning or afternoons Details in this post; Nofa safari park in Riyadh. 

Try Family Bowling
Intercontinental Hotel
Alkhozama Bowling Center
Universal Bowling Center

Spend the day relaxing at a women’s center
Al Multaka
Al Manahil

Visit Dinosaur world
Inside Al Othaim Mall, on the third floor. Also in this mall there’s a large indoor amusement park with 5D movie theatre on the 4th floor.

Cool off Ice Skating

Ice skating rinks I’m aware of: Royal Mall (also for females), Othaim Mall exit 15, Hayat Mall, ChinaMart Mall upstairs (can be reserved for private functions as well) read more here: Ice skating in the desert

Play Paint Ball
Riyadh’s only paintball operator allows only men on site but they can be booked for private functions and women can play too

Visit King Abdulaziz Historical Center & surroundings
Visit the National Museum, Murabba Palace, the historical buildings, Public Library, King Abdulaziz mosque and Memorial Hall and browse the surrounding beautiful parks complete with fountains and picnic areas. Nearby also the water tower with a viewing platform and a small amusement park located next to it. Check out Blue Abaya’s Guide to the National Museum here.

Diplomatic Quarter
Despite the heat the parks in DQ are much cooler because they all have lots of greenery and shade, fountains and many are situated on the edge of the wadi so they catch the breeze. You will forget you’re in Riyadh! Guide to Diplomatic Quarter parks here. 

My Gym
Inside the Panorama Mall Women’s section, has activities for kids and moms this summer.

Visit the “Riyadh Corniche”
Newly developed Wadi Namar, 2km long lake complete with promenade and picnic spots off exit 20.

Any other suggestions? Feel free to send us links to events etc that you know of this summer! Don’t forget to subscribe to updates via email with the form below.

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  • AnonymousJune 5, 2012 - 6:14 pm

    is that you on the photo?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 5, 2012 - 10:45 pm

      That’s my friend..ReplyCancel

  • Mariam (Saudi | Philippines)June 6, 2012 - 6:14 pm

    two other wonderful things you can do in Riyadh:
    a family can have some great family time at a restaurant
    and form an Islamic study circle where they, along with some friends, can exchange some Islamic knowledge

    whoever seeks Islamic knowledge (tries to learn more about the true religion Islam) God (Allah) makes it easier for him/her to enter Heaven/Jannah through guiding them to doing more good deeds with a good intention.

    Allah knows best.

    can I ask you, blue abaya blogger: are you Muslim? what is your name? if you’re Muslim, did you change your first name?ReplyCancel

  • imenbouyahyaJune 6, 2012 - 9:28 pm

    Hi Layla, I am Imen from Tunisia, I’ve read merely all ur posts and felt soooooooo much sorry and even shocked about a lot of things happening there that do not go with our beautiful Islam rules!! That’s unfortunately due to the false traditions and misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religion! I can’t see why women are treted as second place citizens! Nonetheless, I know so many young saudi ladies and men who are really starting a new era in KSA, very talented and skilled and who understand very well what their society need..I am so happy when seeing the hard work they are doing..Inshallah KSA woul be better ya Allah!
    I also admired your writing and describing style! Mash’Allah ;) you made me relive every moment with you or your heros! you drew an exact picture with your fair opinion and I do appreciate this..even when you disagree with some behaviours I like how you try to understand why? and How did this happen!
    I congratulate you for this successful blog and keep it up!
    way to go! warm greetings from Tunisia :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 7, 2012 - 1:00 am

      imenbouyahya nice to hear from you and thanks for the comment!
      I can see the new era slowly starting as well..hopefully sooner than later!ReplyCancel

  • ladyfiJune 9, 2012 - 9:17 am

    The horseback riding looks fun!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 18, 2012 - 7:07 am

    Hello ,is there anything for children during ramadan,exept summer camps?ReplyCancel

  • […]  13. 15 THINGS TO DO IN RIYADH IN THE SUMMER […]ReplyCancel

  • om LameesMay 9, 2015 - 3:59 am

    As Salamo Alaikum, i want to know where can i get UCMAS course done for my kids in Riyadh????ReplyCancel

  • Mustafa HasaniJune 12, 2015 - 3:50 pm

    Dear All..
    Can anyone advice, which is the best place for swimming and activities for my kids (Girls) in summer vacation.
    Am staying in riyadh,, i dont know much about riyadh.
    Waiting here to get positive links to share with my kids

  • Suji VijayaJanuary 24, 2016 - 6:20 pm


  • essraaApril 28, 2016 - 9:22 am

    Can you help me find an activity centre/summer camp in Riyadh for my 7 year old son with Autism spectrum disorderReplyCancel

  • AidaJuly 4, 2019 - 11:25 pm

    You might also like to visit Edge of the world, ninety kilometres from Riyadh.
    You can visit this place all around the year, but it’s a one day trip. So it is advisable to start your journey at morning and return until evening.
    What makes the place beautiful is the spikes coming out of the plateau which makes them look endless from the corner spot.ReplyCancel

A colleague I used to work with recently asked me, don’t I miss work at the hospital? My first reaction was yes in a way I do miss it. I miss the patients mostly. I miss interaction with them and the opportunity of meeting so many different Saudis from all levels of society and learning about the culture and customs. Especially I miss having the Bedouin people as patients and seeing those smiles on the faces of pediatric patients.
Read more about quirky bedouin patients here:bedouins-as-patients
Why I love working with Saudi patients here: thank-you-my-dear-saudi-patients
Learn about the amazing Saudi hospitality I experienced with patients here: saudi-hospitality

Read about the salary racism , which is one of the causes behind the workplace bullying problem.


Patient care was always the best part of the job. Naturally I miss some co-workers as well. Many, many awesome people from all over the world I was lucky to meet along the way. I made some great friends and found many like-minded people during the years. I miss the social aspect of work and of course the extra money, who wouldn’t!

What I don’t miss in particular however is the bureaucratic nature of the hospital. Everything is just so DIFFICULT. Things don’t work anything near to how they do in the west although the hospitals claim to be run by the American model. This is 100% a Saudi model complete with a mix of discrimination against sex and nationality, pecking orders, red tape, complicated policies, gross incompetence, random unfairness, cosmetic campaigns, some unprofessional management and so forth.

I don’t miss that one bit. If I could just interact with the patients and not have to deal with the rest of the load, I would be running back. But in the end I think, is it worth the stress and hassle? At the moment I feel it isn’t but I might change my mind in the future, who knows.

Let me give you an example of making simple things complex. Say I have a patient complaining of headache on night shift. I assess her pain and want to give her a mild pain reliever. What I would do in Finland:  Go check her computer file for any allergies, previous medications, current medications and illnesses, then proceed to medicine cabinet, open it with the keys I have to get the pain relief of my choice based on my education, knowledge and experience and then go give it to her and document it. Taking about 3 minutes in total.

For comparison lets look at how this simple procedure in Saudi-Arabia turns into something so complex and frustrating it will have you pulling your hair out in no time. Same scenario, patient with headache. I go check her file in the automated medicine dispensing system called PYXIS and find she doesn’t have a pain killer on her list of approved medicines. Then I go to her paper files to double check if there’s any written orders by the physician for a Tylenol (also known as paracetamol, the only drug a physician in a Saudi hospital will write as telephone order) that has been missed by previous nurse. No luck.

Next I have to page the correct doctor. I need to check which team my patient is under and find out who is the on call doctor. If I’m lucky I find it relatively quickly but it might be under a service i’m not familiar with and I will have to do a computer search. I page the number and wait for a reply. If I’m lucky he might actually call back within minutes. According to policy I have to wait 10 minutes. The time goes by and I call again, no reply. Another 10 minutes and finally a reply, the doctor was busy (in some cases, he was sleeping).

Next I have to explain to the doctor the whole history and current condition of this patient just to get this simple medication that anyone can purchase by the truckload at any Saudi pharmacy no questions asked. He finally gives the telephone order and I write it down in the file. Another nurse has to come sign it with me as a witness. The order is STAT meaning the pharmacy should prioritize and activate it right away.

Next I have to fax the order to the pharmacy. The pharmacy staff may or may not be helpful. Usually the latter. I wait for a while next to the machine tapping my fingers on it and then decide to log in to check if the pharmacy has activated the medicine in the machine yet (nothing comes out of this machine without it being on the patients list, not even hand cream). Naturally sometimes nurses take the same drug out under other patients files but this is not the correct way to do it.

Meanwhile the patient has rang the call bell every three minutes. Because I didn’t have time to go to their room and none of the Asian colleagues sitting nearby gossiping in their own language are offering help to resolve the issue, the angry relatives have now ventured out of the room to the hallway demanding for pain relief. I have a reassuring conversation trying to explain the procedure to the shouting male relative and they may or may not calm down and go back to the room.

After waiting another 10 minutes I call the pharmacy and in the most polite way possible (knowing the night shift person is usually in the worst of moods) remind him of the missing STAT order. He goes nuts on me and slams the phone on my ear. I take a deep breath and go back to the machine. Someone is using it so I have to wait until they finish. The relative is breathing down my back looking at me like I’m the most incompetent, lazy nurse in the world.

Finally I get the medicine out and can go give it to the poor patient who has had to wait in the worst case scenario for over an hour for this basic medicine. For nurses the priority is always the patient and their well-being and not being able to help because of these silly limitations imposed on the nurses is very annoying.

The nurses in Saudi hospitals are treated as incompetent, unreliable and uneducated staff. Mere maids sometimes. At least this is how the western nurses often feel about it because they are used to something very different. The lack of independence in the nursing field is the single most maddening and frustrating factor for most western nurses here. It comes up in every aspect of a nurses work in Saudi, not just giving medications, but everything. A nurse has to have doctors orders to give water to the patient after surgery, sometimes to change her position or get her out of bed, or even for applying skin moisturizer (no joke people!) Sometimes it feels as if our whole education was a just waste of time.

So as we were chatting with this colleague she told me how things are still the exact same on the ward. The same problems still exist despite a cosmetic attempt to correct some issues. Such as the bullying. This is not only a problem specific to the ward I worked on, but this particular organization as a whole and in fact the entire Saudi-Arabia wherever there are mixes of nationalities.

The reasons behind the bullying problem are complex but ultimately it has to do with human nature and psychology. Regardless of our backgrounds, religion or nationalities, humans will start acting in certain ways and displaying negative behaviors if placed under certain circumstances. When one nationality is paid 10x less for the same job than another just based on their passport color, problems will arise. When the majority of the staff are of the lower paid nationalities and there are only a small minority of personnel getting the significantly fatter paycheck, more problems arise. If management is under-educated and lacks skills to deal with workplace violence, more issues arise. If the organization and system favors bullies and allows them to easily climb the ladder to higher positions, obviously the problems worsen. And when there are no set rules or policies against bullying, the problem not only persists, but gets worse by time.
This is the sad equation in many Saudi work places, particularly hospitals where people work under extremely stressful circumstances.

The typical Saudi way of doing things at the workplace is having things appear as if something is being done, but in reality it was just for show. Posters, campaigns and workshops against bullying can be issued to make it seem as if the problem has been dealt with. Behind the scenes however if a victim of bullying steps out, or someone exposes the problem or dares talk about it, he or she will in fact be facing denial or brushing off of the issue from most of the management. In other words problems are best swept under the carpet and the people who speak out better silenced.

Now this is typical for most workplaces around the world, bullying will always be a problem and management usually won’t know how to or want to deal with it. In Saudi-Arabia the issues however become more severe and the victims more vulnerable. For one the staff is mostly a mix of expats, all or most far from the support of their families, working in a land with strange culture and customs, perhaps suffering from culture shock. They work under pressure to perform and sometimes using a foreign language. The mix of nationalities can be rewarding in many ways but it can also back fire if there’s a significant imbalance and one nationality feels spite for another because of the differences in treatment and salaries.

I could go on about this problem but I will leave that to another post.

So after talking to my colleague and thinking it over, I don’t miss the hospital and the problems that lie within it but I DO miss the patients!


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  • Kuwaitin kaunotarMay 22, 2012 - 3:17 am

    Irtisanouduin omasta tyostani ja eilen oli viimeinen tyopaiva koululla! Osa tuosta kertomuksestasi on kuin suoraan meidan koulun ilmapiirista – kiusaamisen osalta. Oli aivan kasittamatonta kuinka opettajat kiusaavat toisiaan ja OPPILAITA. En sitten jaksanut edes vuottakaan tuossa paikassa. Toisaalta harmittaa, koska oppilaita tulee ikava, mutta toisaalta ajattelen ettei mun tartte kestaa sitaReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 12:56 am

      kuwaitin kaunotar-valitettavan yleista siis tuo kiusaaminen. Onko siella sama homma etta passin mukaan menee palkanmaksut?ReplyCancel

    • Kuwaitin kaunotarJune 3, 2012 - 5:07 pm

      Ei passi tietaakseni palkkaa muokkaa. Tuo koulun toiminta oli muuten aivan alytonReplyCancel

  • AngelMay 22, 2012 - 6:41 am

    This does not surprise me at all, so glad I didn’t decide to work as a nurse in Saudi. But you know I get the same treatment here, the bullying, the main reason why I quit nursing in the first place after 3 years of nursing with only one year to go I couldn’t take it anymore, I was emotional breakdowns because of the way i was being treated by some of the staff, mainly because of my hijab and being an Australian revert. I had one lady who was in charge of the students after 3 years of nursing plus working as an AIN where I never had a problem with my work, tell me I don’t have enough empathy to be a nurse and I should think of changing my majors cause my patients deserve someone better to take care of them. And then i found some of the students I know who wear hijab recieved similar treatment from staff and some of the saudi students I study with told me some of the stuff they were told. Makes me so angry. I knew I was a good nurse, it may have taken me a little longer toReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 12:59 am

      Sorry to hear that Angel! It’s so unfortunately common within the profession, bullying that is. Believe it or not they also used the hijab as excuse for bullying of all places, in Saudi!!ReplyCancel

    • yam2020May 31, 2012 - 8:46 am

      Hope u r doing fine. I am very curious to know your update. Have you moved to Saudi? both ways wish you all the best.ReplyCancel

    • yam2020May 31, 2012 - 8:50 am

      Assuming that you have moved to Prince Nurah University, I am very curious to know ur update and ur reflection on our Saudi Culture.
      All the best.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 22, 2012 - 11:49 am

    some nurse earn ten times more? that is outrageous! why in the world? is the education they get that bad or just racism? no wonder the workplace is so badly effected with horizontal violence.after reading this I wonder why the nurses even stay I mean the money cant be that good!I know a teacher she used to work in dammam and left because she was bullied out of there and told me how the teachers are such bullies especially the saudis bully the pakis and asians is this true?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 1:01 am

      yes it goes according to passport, not even nationality as such, since many filipinos go to Canada first to obtain the passport, then come here to get the 10x more salaries.
      The comment above in Finnish also addresses the problem of bullying by teachers in the region!ReplyCancel

  • GeoffMay 22, 2012 - 3:45 pm

    As the holder of a blue passport, I’ve had all sorts of issues with trying to rectify the pay discrepancy in my own head… I will however say that I only received about a 40% pay increase to come to Saudi. Many of my lower paid colleagues have received double or triple their home country wages…it might not make the system perfect, but it does help me justify it…a little.

    On the Tylenol issue though, I’ve worked in 3 US hospitals as a hospital based paramedic and neither us or the nurses can give anything other than ice chips without a written order. Now I never stray farther than the ER or ICU so maybe they can on the floor’s, but not to my knowledge. I once had a man walk/stumble into the ER waiting room with a severe allergic reaction, bordering on anaphalactic shock. (His face was the size of a basketball). I used the emergency trauma code to pull epinephrine out of the pyxis and administered it sub-Q while a tech helped me get him on 02 and the monitor. I then started an IV and finally got the Doctors attention. Thought I’d get a pat on the back…instead I got told that practicing medicine without a license is illegal…had to do a lot of paperwork for that “stunt”ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 1:13 am

      Geoff-you’re right, the issue is not as simple as it seems..

      I am honestly shocked that nurses are not trusted in the U.S to give a simple tylenol. I mean in Finland I can even give a tylenol #3 without dr orders, if I see it necessary. For stronger narcotics I need another nurse witness and those medicines are closely controlled.
      You would think that leads to lot of abuse and medication errors, but it’s not the case.

      Man that is just not right at all..I recommend you go work in Scandinavian countries next to be respected as professional and a colleague, not servant of doctors!ReplyCancel

  • JoHannaMay 22, 2012 - 2:56 pm

    Your blog entry is so interesting again, Laylah.
    Yes, the nursing field can be so stressful in any country. Your story brings back memories for me here in the US when right after my nursing school I started to work in a mid-sized hospital in Dallas. Stress and the heavy patient load were the biggest burdens at that time for me.
    However many of those issues that you mentioned are also here. Plus: nurse-to-patient ratio, mandatory overtime, how to keep boundaries between nurses and patients etc. American nursing organizations are trying to make improvements and they have been able to bring up these issues to the daylight however the nursing is so imperfect field because often times nurses don’t have autonomy. We are required to please others.

    I remember one time when I worked at the hospital and my peer nurse during that shift was a nursing school faculty member. According to her there are many many females who end up becoming nurses because in one point of their lives they had been abused by somebody and that’s why they can put up with so much in their working environment. And if you think about it, how would someone in her right mind become a nurse?
    And yet, what could be better than nursing! ;)

    But at least here it is easy to do some job hopping. You can expand your horizons because nurses are still so much in demand on the job market. I’ve been lucky to experience with other areas of nursing: schools, nursing homes and a bit of home health. Even though right now I’m not working that much and yet my heart is yearning to go back.

    Wow, the pay discrimination sounds awful if it is that obvious.
    So I imagine the American educated nurses make the big bucks over there, right? Good recruiting agencies…
    Sori tuli vähän pitkä… Terkut taas täältä nyt jo melko kuumasta Teksasista! :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 1:07 am

      JoHanna-thanks for the comment, very interesting to read!
      what do you mean by nurse patient ratio, it is too high there?
      I heard that some of these issues were in the U.S too, but never thought they would be treated with so much suspicion and mistrust as the nurses here are. I guess I was wrong! Funny how the american nurses complain so much then! They should come to Finland to work for a while and then experience the Saudi way and the complete shock of how different things can be.

      Yes the highest pay are american and australian next comes europe..well not all european countries are even the same! I will write a post on it because it seems to interest ppl so much!ReplyCancel

    • JoHannaMay 25, 2012 - 3:18 am

      Well, especially night shift nurses may have 8-9 patients to take care of, during the day the number may be around 5-6. It’s a lot if you have to give many IV piggy bags, meds, change IV sites, communicate with docs, family, do stupid run around tasks e.g. ice chips for the patients and the list goes on and on… And then do not forget the endless documentation, don’t even get me started with that.
      I guess in Finland being a nurse is so different because ther you don’t need to worry about the possible law suits. Here it is “if it wasn’t documented, it wasn’t done!”ReplyCancel

  • NoorMay 22, 2012 - 11:39 pm

    OH man my dh hates it at KFSh just like you said they say its American but its 100% Saudi and a lot of BS he has been under so much stress since being there the past 4 years.ReplyCancel

  • NoorMay 22, 2012 - 11:40 pm

    btw do you not have a blog button I wanted to add one to my blog love listReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 24, 2012 - 1:13 am

      Noor I am clueless to blog buttons and such lol how do I get one? I wish I had the tweet and FB buttons ut they don’t show up :(ReplyCancel

  • TalalMay 26, 2012 - 9:08 pm

    It is a shame that you’re talking about what some consider the best hospital in Riyadh, how about KSMC (alshemisy) where I work , things will soon get worse in KFSH as it having some management from ministry of health now.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 12, 2012 - 1:17 pm

      It is a shame really!ReplyCancel

  • flawlessvelvetJune 3, 2012 - 4:15 pm

    My aunt has worked at KFSH for over 20 years and the stories of abuse and bullying she has received over the years are maddening even though she’s Saudi. It’s a toxic work environment .ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJune 12, 2012 - 1:17 pm

      flawlessvelvet-Oh gosh, sorry to hear that! Is she a nurse?ReplyCancel

  • PearlJune 11, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    Do doctors get bullied as well?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahJune 12, 2012 - 1:16 pm

    Pearl-They do, but in different ways. You know how the residents get “teased” and taunted by the higher ranking md’s, something like this I guess goes on all over the world. I’ve noticed female residents have to be extremely tough to be able to tolerate the pressure and sometimes arrogance coming from their male colleagues.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 17, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    I wasn’t really surprised when i read this. I’m Saudi and i expect these kind of things to happen in anything that is run by the government (that’s not to say the private sector is any better). Corruption, bureaucracy, putting people in positions even though they’re not qualified for them are things i don’t expect to disappear at all. Now that you’ve mentioned how hospitals are run, ( i can tell by the picture that you work in THE TOP hospital in the country) things don’t look so good, i’m a medical student and i don’t plan to stay here after graduation, i don’t have the capacity to deal with these sort of things.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 5, 2012 - 3:11 am

    Reminds me all too well of my experiences as a nurse in KSA! Just came across your blog while surfing the internet, have really enjoyed reading it. Please continue posting. And warmest congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy…ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 5, 2012 - 6:44 am

    I am American RN working here in Saudi. I’ve been in Critical Care for my entire career. I work in a fairly large ICU here with a 24h Intensivist so getting orders in a timely manner isn’t too difficult. Dealing with the pharmacy and other departments is very frustrating and time consuming. Coming from the US,I can tell you that in no way,shape or form are things being done the American way…I have never worked in a more inefficient place in my life!
    As far as pay…yes Americans are paid the most here, but I gotta tell you I made almost double what I make here back in USA….(I’m here for personal reasons ;)..)
    I love our Nursing Director…but I’m not too impressed by the nurse manager.
    The nurse to patient ratio here is 1:1…piece of cake…
    The work schedule here is awful..shifting from nights to days and no consistency…WE do not do this in USA….you’re either a day nurse or a night nurse with most places being self scheduling.
    As far as respect…I have earned my respect from the doctors here and collaborate with them on the patient’s care. I really don’t give them a choice…lol
    Also in the US we have standing orders for Critical Care patients regarding pain meds, electrolyte replacement, cardiac rhythm changes etc..
    I am Muslim and I do wear and in the US. No one ever said anything about it back home…besides..I dare them to…Here of course its not even an issue. I do love the patients here…human beings are the same all over the planet…:)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahNovember 5, 2012 - 12:57 pm

      Thank you for sharing your views and experiences!ReplyCancel

  • Saudi Salary Racism | Blue AbayaJanuary 17, 2014 - 12:55 am

    […] In a previous post I wrote about the workplace bullying problem in Saudi-Arabia. It was mentioned how the salary disparity between different nationalities is at least partly to blame for this unfortunate phenomenon. Read that post here. […]ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 18, 2014 - 4:37 pm

    Hi colleagues,
    I am looking for anaesthetic nurse job and expecting soon offer.
    Curious to know how different is to work as an anaesthetic nurse in Saudi from UK? This is specific area and I have never came across to such a blog.
    I would greatly appreciate some comments.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaOctober 19, 2014 - 2:27 pm

      I will ask my Finnish friend, an anesthesia nurse working in a large government hospital in KSA for many years, to leave you a comment here ;)ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 19, 2014 - 11:02 pm

    Thank you Layla,
    You are very kind person.
    I would be very grateful if she give me some insight what to expect. In UK the anaesthetic nurse can prepare some drugs if the anaesthetist is happy but usually do not apply drugs without direct supervision. We rarely run for the scrub nurses apart for small cases.
    I read something about an outbreak of MERS this spring. Is that under control? It is quite scary with 30% mortality.
    I came across to that but all posts were from April and May.ReplyCancel

    • SoileOctober 20, 2014 - 3:13 pm

      Actually I’m a scrub nurse, so can’t really answer your questions. In my hospital we only have anaesthesia techs, and they are mostly locals and a few Filipinos. Another hospital I know has nurse anaesthetists, so they again work very independently. A friend of Layla and I worked as anaesthetic nurse at yet another hospital, so I’ll ask her to comment too.

      Most anesthetic nurses from Finland come here as recovery room nurses, as they are too overqualified to work as techs here, as they work very independently in Finland.

      There were some MERS cases during the spring, but didn’t affect my personal or work life in any other way, except we had much less operations than normally.ReplyCancel

      • LaylaOctober 20, 2014 - 3:43 pm

        thanks for replying Soile. Yes, i’m confusing the terms now. you’re right the Finnish anesthesia nurses are actually in the recovery rooms mostly.

        In general it can be said for sure that the responsibilities of all nurses are much less here.ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 20, 2014 - 11:19 pm

    Thank you very much for your comments. It will be really helpful to know when it comes to interview.
    I have experience as a scrub nurse but mostly in plastics and some ENT and paediatrics. Are the scrub nurses there doing all kind of surgeries or they are separated according the specialities? I could apply as a scrub as well but in the last 5 years I have been doing mostly anaesthetics. Here in UK there are mostly anaesthetic practitioners but they are not independent. They study two years and can work only in theatres.ReplyCancel

    • HeidiOctober 21, 2014 - 1:26 pm

      Hi Snow!
      Hi Layla and Soile! (I miss you guys terribly!)

      Snow. I´m a Finnish anaesthesia and recovery nurse that worked in Saudi for 3 years. If you have the opportunity to go, GO! It´s hard work, it´s frustrating like you wouldn´t believe but it´s very rewarding! I made some real good friends over there, friends for life!

      Are you currently working as an anaesthetic practitioner or as a nurse? As previous discussions already mentioned, different hospitals have different ways. The hospital where i used to work (National Guard) didn´t have anaesthesia nurses. They only employed anaesthesia technicians. The anaesthesia technicians prepared drugs and assisted in intubation etc but only under the supervision of an anaesthesia doctor. I could have applied for working as an anaesthesia technician but would have had a massive salary drop compared to what i was earning in recovery as a recovery nurse.

      It might be something for you to look in to but generally a technician is earning a lot less than a nurse. So if you have nursing qualifications i would strongly suggest going for a nursing job. I worked 2 years in recovery and then transferred to angio for one year. So find out if they employ anaesthesia nurses or not :)

      All the best of luck with applying! If you do go, keep in touch with Layla :) She knows everything and anything there is to know about Saudi and living there <3ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 21, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    Thank you Heidi,

    I just started researching the opportunity for going in Saudi and in a very short notice I was asked to go for an interview. I could not make it and they said that I would have had a position as an anaesthetic nurse. Since I don’t know how their job is organized I decided to do more research. In UK I work more as a technician rather than a nurse. We do not apply drugs in theatre without supervision and is very similar to what I read about the nursing responsibility in Saudi. May be is better if I apply as a scrub nurse. Are their salaries better than anaesthetic technicians? Lately I do recovery but still not very experienced as a recovery nurse. At the moment I am in Day surgery rotating everywhere.
    I really want to go and have new experiences and make friends.
    Thank you all. You are so kind!ReplyCancel

  • snowOctober 26, 2014 - 11:30 am

    Hi again Layla,
    Thank you for the support from you and your friends.
    I have another question. My nursing is a diploma level and some degree level courses but still not BS of nursing. There are not very clear messages about that. The nursing transcripts are going to be handed to SA nursing board after I am in the country. Does anybody know what are the requirements? I have sent letters to three agencies but still nothing. One US agency told me that they work only with BS nurses.
    I would be grateful if someone answer that question.ReplyCancel

  • Advo Asad Ali RajperDecember 3, 2014 - 2:03 pm

    nice workReplyCancel

  • estherFebruary 23, 2015 - 2:02 pm

    I was enjoyed reading your blog i have a lot of questions regarding saudi environment …some i have figure it out in your blog ^_^ReplyCancel

  • Umm IbrahimDecember 24, 2015 - 8:12 am

    asalaamu alaikum…Honestly…as an RN here in the USA and in a BIG, well known urban hospital a lot of what you relate we deal with here…unless a patient has a PRN order for tylenol which is available to use you have to page the intern or resident or fellow or attending on call (depends on the shift and service) and await a response and await the order to be put in and then you call Pharmacy and tell them…hey MD put an order for Tylenol prn in, can you review it and OK it and let me get it from the Medication machine. It can take around 15min or more even for a simple tylenol. Everything requires orders…yes even sips post-op! Everything requires an MDs orders, very few things are ordered as RN Protocol…even things like removing a foley…get the order…OK to remove.

    Just sayin’…ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaDecember 25, 2015 - 6:57 pm

      Yes the KSA hospital system and organization is based on the American system, so it will face the same challenges and bureaucracy..Pretty strange that they would want to copy one of the world’s most “notorious” health care systems which is very well known worldwide to have so many problems in it. And then bring that already flawed system into KSA, which is still essentially a third world country, which is full of corruption and other issues when it comes to work morals.. I won’t even go there :DReplyCancel

We often hear people say the word “can’t” when talking about Saudi women.
I’m always very happy to say oh yes they CAN.

Climb Mount Everest that is!

A campaign called “A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest” headed by Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, one of the founders of the Zahra Breast Cancer Organization, follows the journey of 10 Saudi women to the base camp of Mt. Everest.

The group of women participating in the cause have all been affected by breast cancer in their lives.
This campaign aims not only to spread breast cancer awareness but to educate Saudi women on the importance of physical activity in the prevention of breast cancer.
From their site:

“Through this attempt, and numerous side events that are happening in conjunction, the campaign will educate the public on the causes and effects of breast cancer and unite the women of Saudi Arabia in a momentous event. Together, the campaign organizers want to demonstrate the strength and determination of Saudi women and prove that through a united front that a difference can be made. The campaign invites women from all backgrounds to walk 15 minutes daily whether at home, at work or at school between 7-21st of May, 2012 in solidarity with the climbers and to demonstrate their commitment to each other and to good health.

The relationship between physical activity and breast cancer has been extensively studied, with over 60 studies published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Most studies indicate that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women.

A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest campaign hopes to inspire women to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle in order to prevent breast cancer.”

Princess Reema also organized the 10KSA Guinness World Record breaking human pink ribbon formation in Riyadh 2015.

Princess Reema was also one of the organizers of the Guinness World Record breaking formation of the largest human pink ribbon chain in Jeddah. Read about this event on Susie’s blog here:

More pictures and updates on their Facebook Group: A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest

Photo from Facebook page

Way to go Saudi ladies!!!

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  • pınarMay 16, 2012 - 9:54 pm

    hi lovely lady.ı hope u r doıng great. ı jst come through ur blog short whıle ago and ı got addıcted to ıt .ı m followıng ıt everyday.and ı really admire a turkısh lady who gonna move to rıyadh ın a month tıme. ur blog helped me alot about my new lıfe there .thnx alot for all ur shares .and would love to know ıf u ve a facebook account.because ı thnk my mınd got mıxed wth u and susıa ofReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 21, 2012 - 10:37 pm

      Hi pinar and thanks for the kind words! Susie and I are both admins of the FB group called Susie of Arabia, hope to see you there :)ReplyCancel

  • GeoffMay 18, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    How cool!ReplyCancel

  • ربة منزلMay 21, 2012 - 2:12 am

    Mashallah! Must have been a hard trip to the top. I am glad they reached it safely.
    However, in defense of our men, I do not know it they broke a Guinness World record before or if they will do it this year. But they have always done many things to support charitable causes, environmental causes, and social causes. The newspapers usually don't recognize what Saudi men do. Their focusReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 21, 2012 - 10:41 pm

      Yes I'm sure it was!
      I mentioned the men because people always have this unfair impression that Saudi men are the ones who achieve stuff, to point out that it's the women who exceeded them this time around! So there's really nothing to correct here :)
      P.S I found that a Saudi man broke Guinness world record of eating scorpions lolReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 21, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    I don't know that is a good question..ReplyCancel

  • KiraJune 4, 2012 - 6:50 am

    I came across your blog through the 2012 weblog awards. In reading back a few posts, I was very surprised to find this one!! I just returned from Nepal and part of my trip included the EBC trek. We saw this group frequently along the trail, but never found out where they were from or the purpose of the trip. How amazing to happen upon the answer in your blog!


Many expats find themselves worrying about their arrival to the Kingdom. The first flight into Saudi-Arabia and the initial shock experienced at the airports can be eased a bit by this simple guide!

When boarding the plane at the country of origin, the passenger should have his/her entry visa at hand. The dates on the visa are in Arabic letters and they’ve used the Hijri calendar. Sometimes the airport personnel will not be familiar with either Arabic letters or Hijri calendar. To avoid frustration among yourself and other passengers, it’s a good idea to find out beforehand where the dates are located and what it correlates to in the Gregorian calendar.

Remember not to check in any of the forbidden items.

Check the customs regulations for import here

A complete list of prohibited items here

The list seems very strict but with common sense and making sure you don’t have anything offensive (who would bring firearms to Saudi anyways) you will be fine.
Most importantly and what the officers on arrival will be searching foreigners for are alcohol and products containing alcohol (watch out for liquor in chocolates and vanilla extract), alcohol manufacturing devices, porn of any kind, (bare in mind the Saudi officer’s idea of porn might be your collection of Entourage DVDs which he might confiscate) pork products, gambling stuff and some religious items.

Contrary to common beliefs, it’s perfectly fine for first time arrivals to bring in a Bible for their private use but it’s not allowed to bring in many copies. They will suspect you are going to start proselytizing. People do bring in small Christmas trees ( which are perceived as a religious item) and other such items but don’t attempt to do it the first time you arrive. All personal medications that fall under the narcotics category should have a doctor’s prescription to go with them.

A strange question I often get: Am I allowed to bring in stuffed animals (as in teddy bears and bunnies) to Saudi-Arabia? Answer pure and simple is: OF COURSE! They are not banned in KSA and I have no clue where the rumor has started that KSA has banned stuffed animals! Stores like Toys R Us are full of them so you might not want to bring other than your child’s favorite ones.

If you’re a diver I would recommend packing your diving equipment all in one bag and easily reachable because most likely this will catch the eye of the customs officers (apparently it looks like alcohol manufacturing equipment to them). It would also be a good idea to pack your CD’s, DVD’s and computer in the same place, these will most likely be searched if you’re a male expat. Any items deemed unsuitable will be confiscated, to be ahem checked out and then of course destroyed by the officers!

Arrival Dress Code
This concerns mainly expat women for whom arrival to the Kingdom for the first time can be very daunting. For the guys modest dress as in long trousers and no sleeveless T-shirts is fine, shorts would not be recommended on arrival, although you can use them once in the country.

Women often worry about the abaya and head scarves. There is actually no need to worry too much about it. There is no problem arriving at the airport international arrivals without abaya as long as the woman is dressed modestly in long sleeved pants or a skirt teamed with a loose fitting shirt and maybe a coat on top if arriving in the winter. I’ve seen plenty of female expats arrive at Riyadh International without abaya and some were even dressed in T-shirts and jeans. Whatever you dress in be prepared to be stared at by men of all nationalities upon arrival, especially if you’re a western female because you stand out and will always attract attention no matter what you wear.

Boarding the plane for the last length of the flight to Saudi always takes a bit longer because they recheck for the entry visas and passports when entering the flight. The staff want to make sure nobody gets on the flight without a valid visa because they will be fined if anyone slips past them. Personally I’ve had problems with my multiple exit re-entry visas at this stage again for the same reasons that personnel are not trained to check the dates.

You might get your first taste of gender segregation and queue jumping culture while boarding the aircraft. If you’re a guy, a Saudi woman most likely will want to change her seat next to a female. No need to get insulted by this, she will just feel more comfortable next to a woman. More rarely it works the other way around. Seat allocation just might take longer until everyone is comfortable.

Don’t fret if you see the pilots praying next to the plane. They’re not praying out of fear the plane will crash, just doing their daily prayers.

On Board
If you’re flying Saudia there will be some extra interesting things going on. Kind of like watching an action movie! There will be seat-shuffling, kids bouncing around seats and hallways during take off and landing, the toilets will most likely be flooded with water form people having performed wudu (washing before prayer) inside the toilets, people praying on hallways blocking the way and other things which the flight attendant should say something about, but they just don’t because it’s Saudi Airlines and anything goes.

None of the flights coming into Saudi serve alcohol or pork. Some of the airlines will have a travel prayer announced before the flight takes off.
At some point the stewardess will give you an entry card which looks like this:

The first time they handed me this I was confused should I fill it in or not. I did and nobody ever asked for it. I insisted giving it to the passport officer as well as the customs officer but they just gave me a blank stare and threw it in the trash. None of my relatives or friends who were given this were ever asked for it either so its purpose remains a mystery. EDIT 2017: They are not handing these out anymore but that might change at anytime.

If you were sitting next to an unveiled Saudi woman on the plane which originated from a western country,  don’t be surprised when she comes back from her toilet trip fully transformed into Saudi gear meaning abaya and niqab. When exiting the plane you will wonder where all the women’s faces suddenly have disappeared!

When the plane lands be prepared for a scene from the Amazing Race:

saudi plane passengers

Many of us have been on planes and seen how strongly the flight attendants (especially on the European airlines) react to people even daring to open their seat belts before the plane has come to complete stop, let alone standing up or God forbid opening the holy overhead compartments! The flight attendants would normally react immediately and prevent the passengers from standing and opening compartments due to safety reasons and regulations. That person might even get arrested for such an offense of aviation rules and regulations.

However, on most Saudi based airlines like Saudia, Flynas and others, they are not that strict. People will try this every time, and it might be that flight attendants are simply too frustrated to try and control the crowds in this regard.

Some people are just Very Important People and have such important things to do, they really DO need to get up the SECOND the plane lands to scramble to get their overhead luggage and be the first ones to stand in the aisles ready to barge out of the plane like it’s the amazing race. You might see the poor flight attendants desperately trying to talk/shout/threaten them to no avail. It’s of utmost importance to be able to be the first one out of the aircraft because this might save the person about 15-30 seconds of their precious time (sarcasm).

Arrival and Passport control
This might be the most daunting part of your trip. When you arrive at the Riyadh King Khaled International (KKIA) airport and make your way downstairs to the passport check lines you will encounter a taste of the Saudi way of doing things. If you’re lucky there will not be long queues as can be seen here:

There will be much confusion at this point. The only people who will seem to have a clue where to go are the Saudis that have all already rushed to their own queue on the far right labelled residents and GCC. The signs seen above stating “first time arrivals” and “arrivals with multiple exit re- entry visa” have no significance whatsoever. Choose any line, preferably the shortest one. If it’s the wrong one they will change you to the correct line. In general people will be directed in the lines according to nationality. As can be seen here:

All Afghanis in one line, Pakistanis in another. Looks like they’ve been waiting for few days. Might even be the case. If you’re a western woman, men at the airport (all nationalities) WILL all stare at you which might be very intimidating for first time arrivals. Better get used to this. Another common sight is to see a line full of Indonesian or Filipino women coming in as maids. They will also be sitting on the floors and be dressed in normal clothing, often looking rather fearful. It’s a sad fact that your nationality determines how long you will wait and also how you will be treated at the airport.

EDIT 2017: There is notable improvement in the arrivals passport control and the immigration officers have clearly been through some training in terms of manners and efficiency. Lines move faster now and are based on first time entry vs a re-entry visas only. Be prepared to be fingerprinted upon arrival.

Saudis naturally get out the fastest. They don’t have visa issues and the process is fast but some use tactics such as jumping the queue in front of all the other lines. If this happens to you despite the hour long wait there’s nothing you can do about it. Second luckiest are westerners. Especially women travelling alone. 90% of the time they will be picked out from the back of the lines by the Saudi officers and showed directly to the front. Men are not that lucky usually.

Sometimes families with small children are picked out the line and allowed to cut in front of everyone, if they’re lucky.

In general the passport dudes are rude, indifferent and NEVER smile. No need for concern though, it seems to be part of their job description and has nothing to do with you. This is also not an indication of how you will be treated by all Saudi people! You will be fingerprinted here as well. EDIT 2017: Significant positive improvement in attitudes of passport control dudes has been noted.

For the females arriving alone you might be asked who your sponsor is or if you have a ride home, let them know you’re going to use an UBER or London Taxi ( or whatever form of transport it is you’re going to use).

Luggage and Customs
Once you’ve managed to pass through to the luggage belts you will be approached by men dressed in green or blue overalls. They are the airport staff who you can hire (but you don’t HAVE to even though they insist) to help to lift your luggage on the cart and push the cart around for 20SAR. The carts only are free of charge. Expect the luggage to arrive a pace befitting the Kingdom, taking their sweeeeet time!

This is a good moment to start adjusting to SMT.

After this you will proceed to the x-ray machines to have your luggage x-rayed for the above mentioned prohibited items. Remember to place all bags, even handbags on the belt.

With bad luck you will get one of the officers that seem to want to open every foreigners luggage with “suspicious” items in them. Your chocolates might contain liqour and they want to check. Most of the time you’ll just breeze through.

If the officer wants to check you don’t panic. Be co-operative and show him everything he wants. He will soon let you move along. I’ve never heard of anything else being confiscated from people I know other  than plastic “money” chips meant for Black Jack, few DVD’s and CD’s. and that’s it. They really don’t care too much about other stuff mentioned on the list such as books or magazines for example.

Once I had about 6 bottles of various juice concentrates packed with me from Finland. Good stuff like unsweetened lingonberry juice (a brain-burstingly sour juice) blueberry, strawberry, cloudberry and other Finnish wild berry juices. Admittedly, it might have looked suspicious.

The officer was convinced I had smuggled in alcohol, shook the bottles and with a beaming face said “AHA! Alcohol! Look, bubbles! Alcohol, too much bubbles!” I laughed and told him to go ahead and taste it (it was the lingonberry bottle so I secretly wished he did). He took me to the back office with the boss, they turned the bottles around for a while, laughed and looked at me like I was a lunatic (maybe they were right) for bringing that stuff in and told me to move along. Got to keep all my goodies though.

After the x-ray you will be out of the luggage area and be met by a row of men, mainly people’s drivers and taxi drivers. It’s best to move on to the exit on the left and get a taxi from the official taxi line outside. A cab to Riyadh city center should not cost you more than 70SAR. A single female can also hire a taxi alone from here without any problems. EDIT: 2017 You can now order a Careem or UBER taxi to come pick you at a certain time, and there’s a London Cab company stand outside. London cab to city will cost around 100-150 sar.

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!

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  • AnonymousMay 15, 2012 - 5:07 am

    ASA LAyla masha allah i have been following yur blog for a while now. It is interesting and funny. I am a nurse and would love to work in riyadh in the future. keep up the good work. when i came for hajj in ksa the wait at airpot was ridiculous.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 9:34 pm

      thanks, I can’t even imagine what the airports become like durng Hajj and the MILLIONS of people coming in just a few days time! How do they even do it without the whole building collapsing.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 10:27 am

    M.K Just drop me an email :)ReplyCancel

  • SeryphMay 15, 2012 - 10:51 am

    Laylah, that was awesome! I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and you always make my day with your posts.

    One quick question though, you said stuffed animals are okay to bring in, but on the customs website, it says no stuffed animals and no objects in the form of humans or animals (which most kids toys are), I’m just a touch confused?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 6:05 pm

      Seryph-thank you!
      I know it’s confusing but really they are not banned I have no clue why they would put it on that list..I found a news article from 2003 saying female dolls and stuffed animals had been banned in Riyadh by muttawa. that might be the source. But I even asked the customs dudes once and they just laughed!
      That list should be updated I see other things in it too that are ridiculous..

      OR option number two, they mean stuffed animals as in the once live, now stuffed kind!ReplyCancel

      • ScottDecember 5, 2016 - 11:12 am


        I have a layover flying Saudi Air. I would like to bring binoculars and a zoom lens camera to my final destination in Dubai. Will I have trouble at immigration?ReplyCancel

    • flawlessvelvetMay 16, 2012 - 12:23 am

      I wouldn’t worry about thatReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 6:24 pm


  • AnonymousMay 15, 2012 - 4:29 pm

    i love your way of writing :) and you’re so hilarious too. interesting article
    by the way , what is SMT?ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 6:06 pm

      SMT +0300= Saudi Man’s Time, approx. 3 hours more than normal time.ReplyCancel

  • DavidMay 15, 2012 - 6:35 pm

    Great post and very accurate … my advice for passport control is keep as far to the right as possible, then go through the GCC-only gate as soon as the GCC nationals have finished. Normally works, but it’s a pretty random process!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 9:25 pm

      David-excellent advice, I should even add that to the original post because that is the best way to try do it!ReplyCancel

  • JoHannaMay 15, 2012 - 9:00 pm

    Heippa Laylah! I don’t know if I would be able to make it to the Magic Kingdom. Sounds so restricted… Though I don’t enjoy coming back to the US from Finland or at times from Mexico when we have to go thru the passport/customs. Long lines, angry people, poker-faced security etc. Though it depends which airport you use.
    I guess “racial profiling” is not a term in the Saudi vocabulary…
    But you know your stuff… good and clever advice whoever needs it.
    Hyvää kevättä sateisesta Teksasista!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 9:31 pm

      JoHanna-Racial profiling..hmm, nope I don’t think so :) at least not the way they do it in the U.S
      kiitos kommentista ja mukavaa kesan odotusta Texasiin, vai joko siella on kesa kunnolla alkanu :)ReplyCancel

  • FarooqMay 15, 2012 - 9:10 pm

    great post laylah, do I notice a pattern here? a blog post that rouses people’s emotions followed by a general one? lol

    The one thing i would like to add is: never ever accept any sealed parcels from anyone who asks u to pass it on to his friend here in saudi. could land u into a lot of trouble if something wrong comes out from the parcel. happens in a lot of cases with people coming from south asia. khashkhash (or poppy seeds) are a very common spice in cooking there but as you can imagine are banned in saudi.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 15, 2012 - 9:33 pm

      Farooq-haha good one! Maybe I’m bipolar :)
      Thanks for the additional advice, POPPY seeds? As in ummm..heroine?
      So if you cook with them you get high or what?ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarMay 15, 2012 - 11:53 pm

      Hi Laylah, great post yet again mashallah :) kashkash is also a common spice in Malaysia.ReplyCancel

    • FarooqMay 16, 2012 - 4:46 am

      not really, its used in very small quantities not enough to get anyone high. Its not heroin. The difference is in when you harvest it. Poppy seeds are harvested when the seed pod has dried up while Opium is harvested when its still green. Not much of a difference I know I guess it still makes a difference in the “high” quotient.

      Not entirely sure what it does to the taste, but any exotic hyderabadi dish requires a small amount of khashkhash. Maybe for that extra zing. lolReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarMay 16, 2012 - 11:28 am

      Actually,poppy seed isn’t uncommon in Western dishes. Poppy seed bread,poppy seed muffin and my fave,poppy seed dressing. Try sprinkling popy seed i your salad dressing, Laylah. It reaoly is high effect hehe.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMay 26, 2012 - 7:53 am

      Umm Gamar-will do! Now that I think of it, I’ve had it many times,just didn’t make the connection to heroin before hahaReplyCancel

  • flawlessvelvetMay 16, 2012 - 12:22 am

    Iv’e been to many airports in my life and iv’e gotta say, I have yet to witness any an airport with a slower getting-your-luggage process than in Ryiadh. It is seriously THE WORST ugh.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 15, 2012 - 11:19 pm

    I so love the SMT..LOL!!! love your humor laylah.ReplyCancel

  • MelissaMay 16, 2012 - 12:44 am

    Interesting! I hate waiting in line, I can’t imagine how long some of those people are forced to wait with people cutting to the front…that’s so sad.ReplyCancel

  • avaMay 16, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    Props on this post, Laylah :)
    Regarding queuing according to nationality, do the officials check the expat’s visa category first before assigning the expat to a line? Im Filipino, to hold a market specialist visa, I was wondering if that would save me from the sad line/queu (a bubble popper/pooper btw) in Dammam. Maybe dressing up extra nice would help? Also, will my packed daisy dukes be perceived as immoral, hence, confiscated? Lols. Sorry if the question seems daft haha but when going to (and i say this with fondness) a parallel universe…girl has to ask ; ) Anyhoo, thanksheaps and cheers!ReplyCancel

  • ASaudi'sGirl?May 17, 2012 - 3:15 am

    ahahahahahaha SMT :):):):):)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 26, 2012 - 7:33 am

    ava-sorry for late reply!From my experiences they never checked my visa category when they directed me to the front of the queue. Just to show the passport or they had already spotted it in my hand.
    I think dressing up nice but modest will help you, inshallah :)Don’t go stand in the line where the maids are!
    Don’t worry the customs officer will not know what they are,if in the unlikely event he would ask, say they are underwear hahaReplyCancel

    • avaMay 28, 2012 - 7:49 am

      Coolbeans, I get the queueing now, I though there was an automatic designation of certain nationalities to a line despite their professions. So I was slightly freaked out by that. Thanks for the reply, Laylah, really appreciate it :) The underwear idea is brilliant!!! Lolz.. And yes, modesty will be my new schtick. Modestly is how we should roll in KSA ;)ReplyCancel

  • chewieJuly 5, 2012 - 8:36 pm

    Your blog is great! Thank you for taking the time to chronicle your experiences.ReplyCancel

  • reetJuly 29, 2012 - 7:35 am

    I agree with previous comment 100%

    Many thanks!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 26, 2012 - 10:43 pm

      thank you reet!ReplyCancel

  • JAugust 6, 2012 - 4:46 am

    Hi there,

    I will be travelling from Mumbai to Cairo in October. There is a layover in Saudi Arabia for 3 hour 40 min. Would I need a visa of any sort?

    Thanks so much for posting this article.


    • LaylahAugust 26, 2012 - 10:42 pm

      No you don't need a visa for such a short time period!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 25, 2012 - 8:48 am

    Thanks for all the valuable info, I have a question:
    Do the custom officers actually turn laptops on and go the hard disk contents?
    same for usb sticks, external drives, etc?

    I'm about to leave for Riyadh for a mid to long term position this coming week (end of Aug '12) and I'm carefully
    going through my suitcase and laptop contents to avoid any hassles.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahAugust 26, 2012 - 10:41 pm

      Hi there John! You asked about the laptops, I've never heard of anyone having to actually turn them on and go through the contents BUT I can't guarantee you this wouldn't happen. And you know Murphy's law..I would just make sure there is no porn (not saying you would have any) because that's what they would be looking for.

      Medicines are fine as long as they aren&#39ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 4, 2012 - 11:24 am

    Also take note that if you are travelling with a baby/infant without her/his own seat, Saudia does not provide the seat belt attachment that is usually been given when travelling with kids. It happened to me more than a few times – both domestic and international – never happened in other flights/country only here.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 15, 2012 - 2:23 pm

      Hi, I always got the infant seat belt on Saudia, but only after asking for it. They don’t take child safety seriously here when it comes to travelling in any sort of transportation it seems..but they DO have them, just ask they should give it to you!ReplyCancel

  • GemmaSeptember 13, 2012 - 11:30 pm


    I love your blog!! I’m a single woman coming to Riyadh in October and was dreading the airport experience. Everyone passes round the horror stories, good to actually hear about what to expect from a seasoned traveller! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 15, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    Hi Gemma! thank you, don’t worry you will be fine, just take along with you an additional dose of patience!ReplyCancel

  • ArunOctober 7, 2012 - 10:15 am

    Hi layla. this is great stuff to read for a first timer like me. I read about the cd’s and dvd’s u were talking about. but what if i get a hard disk with alot of movies (All clean). Will the authorities have a problem with the normal hollywood movies? as they might get confused it with porn?

  • AnonymousOctober 21, 2012 - 8:52 am

    Hi layla! Your blog is very helpful for a would be expat in saudi like me. I just have a question though. Part of my beauty ritual is nightly use of toners and creams. The character of Samantha from Sex and the City movie was denied entry of her anti aging creams and stuff. Mine has the same white small plastic containers. Will this apply to Saudi? Thanks for the response!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 21, 2012 - 1:26 pm

      Hi there! I think that was just a joke on the show :) there is no problem bringing your in beauty products in fact there is a very large market for them in Saudi and you can find all sort of anti aging creams here!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 23, 2012 - 12:20 am

      Im planning to bring tons, like bulk that would last for my 2-yr contract. Will that be fine? =)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 23, 2012 - 9:04 pm

      Why wouldn’t you just buy it from here?ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 24, 2012 - 1:25 am

      I get the products on a local store where they have their own formulas for toners, creams, it’s not branded. Im afraid if i use a new brand my face will break out. =)ReplyCancel

  • AmyOctober 26, 2012 - 6:27 am

    Hi Laylah,

    Thank you for your helpful, well-written blog. I especially enjoy the photos.

    In regard to the assertion that “None of the flights coming into Saudi serve alcohol or pork.”: I traveled to Jeddah summer of 2011 on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, and alcohol was served–with many Saudi men imbibing. Scotch whisky seemed to be the beverage of choice. I abstained–I thought it unwise to show up for my teaching gig half-tipsy. Maybe it’s only the Saudi and GCC flag carriers that don’t serve alcohol on inbound flights to KSA? Or perhaps the policy has changed since my journey.

    Many thanks again for your blog. I really appreciate the glimpse of Saudi life you offer.

    Enjoy your new little one. :-)


    • LaylahNovember 4, 2012 - 9:34 pm

      Hi Amy! Apologies for the ridiculously late reply, but well what can I say, been quite a busy momma!Thanks for the comment and now that you mention it, I recall some Lufthansa flight I was on had alcohol served and I remember wondering how the western men consuming so much alcohol during the flight weren't concerned on where they were flying to!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 10, 2012 - 2:17 pm

    very true… I waited on Riyadh Airport for 12 hours in queue when i came 1st time here..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 10, 2012 - 6:42 pm

    Hi Laylah,Awsome post for grls traveling for the first time.Have few queries though.1)Is it necessary for someone to come and pick up female traveler incase coming for attending conference?2)As you mentioned about the maid line/ to make out that is maids line?3)Is Abaya compulsory to be carried for a female if one doesnt have it.Thanks!!!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahNovember 15, 2012 - 4:23 pm

      It is better that you have someone come and pick you up when you’re arriving for the first time.
      Trust me you will know what is the maid line..first off, they aren’t wearing abayas but something typical to where they coming from, second, there are MANY of them all of same nationality looking bewildered and confused, third, they might have been waiting so long they have started sitting on will know immediately.
      No need for abaya when first arriving to Saudi, you can buy one when here!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 5, 2012 - 11:38 am

    Hello, i will be going to saudi this month and i’ve heard about the prohibited things/items in KSA. Some of my questions have been answered by your blog and comments but i think you missed some? Is any camera phones not allowed also to bring? Will the officials/guards confiscate them? Thanks :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 5, 2012 - 8:37 pm

      Hi there! no worries camera phones are allowed, sold everywhere and used by everyone :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 6, 2012 - 5:14 am


    I’m currently in my final year of PhD -IT and I am intersted to work in Saudi as a lecturer.

    I am a single female. Is there any issues with applying a job in Saudi?



  • AnonymousJanuary 12, 2013 - 8:54 pm

    Tack för den fina informationen. MNY TKS :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 19, 2013 - 9:58 am

    Hi! I will be having my vacation this July. My flight is taif – Riyadh – Manila. I have 10 hrs waiting time before my Riyadh – Manila flight. Can I get out from the airport to explore Riyadh first while waiting for my flight. I have relatives who can fetch me from and to the airport. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 22, 2013 - 8:05 am

    Are pepper pray and tasers allowed.ReplyCancel

  • sahilaDecember 9, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    will they confiscate quran translations & other islamic books in different language?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaDecember 11, 2013 - 2:00 pm

      Surely they wouldn’t do such a thing I see no reason to and Quran and other religious books are available here in all languages you could ever imagine!ReplyCancel

  • Alexa Cassandra PeloniaMarch 31, 2014 - 1:38 pm

    hi Laylah! it’s my first time to work in ksa & im so worried about if i can bring medicines such as an antipyretic, antihistamine,pain reliever, antacids & vitamins? hopefully it will not cause a delay or confiscated.ReplyCancel

  • Alexa Cassandra PeloniaMarch 31, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    hi Laylah! it’s my first time to work in ksa & im so worried about if i can bring medicines such as an antipyretic, antihistamine,pain reliever, antacids & vitamins? hopefully it will not cause a delay or confiscated. hope to read a response from you.thank youReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 1, 2014 - 12:15 am

      Don’t worry, those are all fine, and over the counter medicines here in KSA.ReplyCancel

  • friedaApril 9, 2014 - 11:48 pm

    Hi laylah. I am due to fly into Riyadh for a connecting flight to dammam. I will be there for about 3hours alone. Do you know if there suitable places for a woman to wait and sit?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 11, 2014 - 1:15 pm

      Hi there Frieda! You will be just fine, there are many women at the airport who don’t wear abayas, so any clothing will be fine. Well maybe not a miniskirt and tank top :) there’s a few cafeterias you can sit at they are all mixed gender. Safe travels!ReplyCancel

      • frieda ravatApril 20, 2014 - 1:56 am

        Hi Laylah
        Many thanks for your reply. I am quite worried about travelling alone and getting a connecting flight from Riyadh. Will I be ok to travel with my laptop on the plane? should I take some Saudi currency along with me or can I pay for things using British pound? Thx. FriedaReplyCancel

        • LaylaApril 22, 2014 - 5:24 pm

          Hi Frieda, yes you can take your laptop, but there’s no free wifi there, you can purchase the password from some of the cafeterias there. Not sure about the pounds as currency, sorry!ReplyCancel

  • Lori StillwellMay 1, 2014 - 2:53 pm

    Alexa, it all depends on who screens your luggage (many times they are looking at their phone) I never had any problems with any medicine or vitamins and I brought in quite a bit of it!!! But if you do, you can always buy them in Saudi…they have lots of choices…especially in the pharmaciesReplyCancel

  • LaLani GreenMay 4, 2014 - 4:25 am

    Layla, you summed that entire experience up *perfectly.* :)ReplyCancel

  • BondGirlMay 5, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    Hi, Laylah! I follow your blog and enjoying it. I am bound to Jeddah as a doctor maybe this month. I have learned to many things thru your blog that will sure help me a lot. Thanks and more power. In case new confusion comes up, I know who to ask. ;-)ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 6, 2014 - 5:33 pm

      Hello BondGirl :) Glad the blog was of use to you! Good luck on your journey to the Magic Kingdom! Just curious are you going to KFSH in Jeddah?ReplyCancel

  • Rana RanaJune 17, 2014 - 3:27 am

    Thank you I love the detail I’m visiting family here and sloughs I’m British I’m a Muslim female so I don’t think I will get the special xpat line skipping offered to the more ‘white ‘ looking expats. Will definitley read this agin before I travel next week ReplyCancel

  • Stef NeethlingJune 28, 2014 - 10:11 am

    thanks for all the info i”m on my way there and found it very helpfullReplyCancel

  • Lauren ByrnesJuly 9, 2014 - 12:46 am

    What about laptops. Will the go through it?!ReplyCancel

  • Immigrant WorkerAugust 2, 2014 - 10:36 am

    Good day maam Layla!

    Thank you for the wonderful guide. I will be travelling this month to Dammam. I will bring external Hard disk with me as well as a usb stistick. Will the airport authority be searching thecontents of it? This will be my first time to travel there and work.

    I hope Ill get an answer from a long time traveller likr you.

    oncr again, thank you.ReplyCancel

  • JackieAugust 29, 2014 - 4:30 am

    Hi Ms.Layla,
    Have a good day!.just wanna ask what about injections like glutathion is it safe to bring in saudi..hope u will reply for this matter because one of my friend asking me to bring the injectable and im afraid that it will cause any problem.tnx!ReplyCancel

    • LaylaAugust 30, 2014 - 3:12 am

      Hi there, any injections should be fine as long as you have the prescritopn from your doctor with you. Lots of peopel I know fly with their insulin pens and they just need to have the prescrition with them just in case..hope this helps!ReplyCancel

  • ElieAugust 31, 2014 - 2:40 am

    Can i use Gel for my hair, perfume, my wedding ring, my play station, laptop, and can my wife go in with a niqab, just the abaya?ReplyCancel

  • Ali JafferySeptember 15, 2014 - 12:48 pm

    I have been in KSA for the past 20+ years, but over the last few months new staff has been brought into the immigration department, the airport chaos has is substantially less, staff extremely helpful and courteous. So much so that every time I have personally told them of the positive change, which they accepted very graciously.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Mcdonagh BadreldinOctober 4, 2014 - 8:40 am

    Spoton girl ! im coming back & forth now for 12 years as the wife of a Saudi & I get such a kick when they try to move me out of the Saudi line to the western queue – they have become better at passport check in Dammam – keep up the great work ! ReplyCancel

  • ZuluboyOctober 31, 2014 - 3:21 pm

    Hi Layla
    Your blog is certainly informative. I am have just being offered a job in Riyadh and I am looking forward to it. I have seen other bloggers complaining about entry and exiting being a problem. Is this the case? I like to explore and travel around, will that be a problem? Your feedback will be highly appreciated.ReplyCancel

  • NewbieNovember 11, 2014 - 12:03 pm

    Hi layla. Thank you so much for your very nice blog. I love ur sense of humor. Just want to ask about glutathione injectibles. Is it banned here in d kingdom as i cannot see any store selling it? Can i bring from home like 30 ampules? Is it possible? Thank you!!!! ;)ReplyCancel

  • ellaellaehehNovember 14, 2014 - 5:19 pm

    oh.i am also planning to bring glutathione ampules.but I am skeptical because it may cause delay or problem especially in the immigration.Has anyone brought.glutathione injections in the airport?ReplyCancel

  • Louella RabaraJune 25, 2015 - 6:03 am

    Are batons allowed ro be carried in check in luggage?ReplyCancel

  • Brooklyn Munch BlogAugust 27, 2015 - 8:09 am

    Question for you… how much of this is relelvant to a layover? Single female (American Westerner) flying onward to Dhaka but with stopover in SA (Saudia Air). The tickets seem much cheaper than most, I am okay with little entertainment and no alchohol. I will not be with a man. Do you think this will be a problem? Layover less than 10 hours. Thank you! Very informative entry and interesting blog. I’ll stay tuned.ReplyCancel

  • Corinne CuozzoAugust 27, 2015 - 8:11 am

    Question for you… how much of this applies to layovers? Solo female (American westerner) flying through SA onward to Dhaka. Will be alone on the way to Dhaka, with someone on the way back. Do I need to find a sponsor? Layover less than 10 hours. I’m interested because flight prices seem much cheaper and I am okay with lack of conveniences if there are no problems getting through the layover. Very informative post, thank you!ReplyCancel

  • marco oseaJanuary 20, 2016 - 3:15 am

    hi, can i ask if i should take off my shirt at the KKIA becoz i have a cross tattoo at my back..ReplyCancel

    • Afnan/local Saudi female 23 years oldJanuary 31, 2016 - 9:55 am

      Hello there I’m a local Saudi female 23 years old I’d like to help with any answers
      If you would like to ask about anything I’m going to help you as much
      As I can about rules things you should avoid here

      Add me on Kik Wharyodk. Or on Twitter at


      I hope all of you have great times here and meet with
      Good people ^_^ReplyCancel

      • EmmyAugust 18, 2016 - 10:37 am

        Can an unmarried man carry viagra into KSA?ReplyCancel

  • h japon hadi pranataJanuary 28, 2016 - 5:48 am

    very godReplyCancel

  • Cheska ziaJanuary 28, 2016 - 2:03 pm

    GOOD DAY! just want to ask of i can bring around 15 ampules of glutathione in saudi arabia? Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • carlosFebruary 3, 2016 - 1:14 pm


    I am expecting my wife with my parents on family visa to be arriving here at Jeddah Airport. Do i need to be there as I am the sponsor for them to recieve them?ReplyCancel

  • AlinaqiMay 26, 2016 - 11:56 am

    Hi, I am Indian and current out of Saudi arabia. My family who are still in saudi wants to travel to Singapore, Can they travel out of saudi in my absence?ReplyCancel

  • K-lee ヅ ConradieJune 4, 2016 - 9:07 pm

    I am a female from South Africa hoping to travel to Al Jubail to visit my boyfriend. Would this be possible?ReplyCancel

  • CayleighJune 5, 2016 - 12:10 am

    Thank you! That was a very interesting article!! I am a female from South Africa. My boyfriend has recently moved to Al Jubail. Would it be possible for me to get a visa to visit him even though we are not married and not related?ReplyCancel

  • AmirahOctober 22, 2018 - 2:38 pm

    I will be travelling for Umrah very soon In Sha Allah, i would like to know if i can bring some biltong with or will it be confiscated? Can i also bring toiletries with for personal use in my check in baggage?ReplyCancel

    • LauraOctober 24, 2018 - 9:18 am

      Don’t see any reason why you couldn’t. I don’t know what is a biltong though, sounds like a marine animal to me :DReplyCancel