Why choose Tonga for our honeymoon destination? We love to travel ‘off the beaten path’, meaning to destinations that have not yet been changed by the mass tourism industry. That way you get the most authentic experience from the local culture and the nature remains mostly unspoiled. The Kingdom of Tonga definitely fits this description, it’s not been ruined by mass-tourism and there’s lots of colorful culture, friendly smiling people and uninhabited islands left to explore. It makes for a perfect honeymoon destination for those who value complete privacy, seclusion and are not bothered by a more “rugged romance”, as Tonga has no big five star hotels, just simple beach chalets on some of the world’s most spectacular beaches!

tonga honeymoon blueabaya

Another reason for choosing Tonga was to see the humpback whales that come to this area around a certain time of year to give birth to their calves. Mother humpback whales can be seen nursing their young and frolicking in the shallow waters. Currently Tonga is the only place on earth where it’s allowed to swim and snorkel with whales, if you’re lucky to get that close. Humpback whales can often be seen breaching out from the ocean resulting in HUGE splashes and amazed spectators. The male whales sing beautiful songs which we heard when snorkeling. It was truly magical.

The island we stayed on called Mounu Island was very private, secluded and romantic. It took us well over two days to reach our honeymoon chalet from our home in Riyadh! We had a traditional Tongan chalet with our own private beach. At times we were the only people staying on the island, which is entirely owned by the resort. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves and woke up listening to birds singing on our porch. Our days went by with snorkeling, kayaking, reading books and walking on the beach looking for seashells. One morning a mother and calf humpback whale were breaching right next to our beach.
Here are some pictures from these beautiful Pacific Islands..

Male singer whale..

Whale mom breeching! I was lucky to catch it on camera. After a while the baby and the mother came up at the same time.

View from our Tongan chalet.

Like a post card!

Mom and baby on the go.

Snorkeling on our private beach.

Private beach and honeymoon chalet, paradise :)

Notice the little newborn calf next to the mother? So cute!

We went on a few boat trips to search for the whales for a chance to swim and dive with them. It was incredible how many whales we saw in just a few hours, whales were literally everywhere!! They didn’t seem to mind the boats or humans at all and thankfully all the tour operators were respectful of the animals. I got a chance to snorkel right next to one mother and calf. You don’t realize how big they are until you feel like a tiny ant next to them. Even the fins seem like airplane wings underwater. When the mother whale moved her fin I felt a big gush of water like a whirlpool. These animals are humongous, yet so beautiful and graceful in their movements underwater, it’s like watching a ballet. Truly breathtaking.

The experience of seeing a whale and calf so close by was one of the best moments of my life so far! The below pics are from the same place taken by a snorkeler:
They are such graceful gentle giants
I will never forget the magnificent Tonga and the warm genuinely friendly people, the pristine beaches and clear waters and of course, the wonderful whales!
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  • SoileNovember 3, 2010 - 4:26 pm

    OMG! Amazing pics! I really want to go there! I´m sure you had a truly fantastic holiday :-)ReplyCancel

  • Tara Umm OmarNovember 3, 2010 - 7:18 pm

    Welcome back! The pics are gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 4, 2010 - 5:10 pm

    The place was truly amazing!ReplyCancel

  • jinpatzNovember 4, 2010 - 6:32 pm

    now im starting to miss home [australia].. awesome photos!ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©November 6, 2010 - 1:42 pm

    That looks beautiful masha’allah!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 10, 2010 - 11:33 am

    mashallah, so beautiful !

    how i wish to be there some day ^^

    hope you visit more and more amazing places in the world (:ReplyCancel

  • MeleAugust 3, 2019 - 9:30 pm

    Oh wow ! You went to my little Island for your honeymoon that’s amazing ! Recently moved here to Riyadh, KSA 3 months ago and started reading your blogs. I too am a RN. Love them. Recently read your Jeddah review and my friends and I are planning to visit at the end of the month a. Love these updates! Learning heaps from them .ReplyCancel

This month is international Breast Cancer awareness month and it can be seen in Saudi-Arabia as well.

A National Awareness Campaign to Combat Breast Cancer has been inaugurated in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to coincide with international Breast Cancer Awareness month. The campaign is led by Princess Hessah bint Trad Al-Shaalan, the Honorary President of the Zahra Breast Cancer Association and wife of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, and Princess Rima bint Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

The hospital I work in has also numerous happenings on Breast Cancer awareness. The Saudi patients affected with breast cancer still tend to be very stigmatized by society and unfortunately I feel this sometimes effects the outcome of the patients treatments.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Kingdom and is the number one killer of women in the region. Saudi Arabia continues to work with the global community to fight this disease.

I’ve had several young breast cancer patients in their 30’s, that have been in terminal care. It is very sad and I see a profound sorrow in these women. If their cancer would have been detected earlier, the end results could be different. Breast cancer remains such a big taboo in Saudi that women often feel ashamed or scared to seek treatment until it’s too late.

This month I wanted to get a pink abaya (well not ALL pink because of Muttawa issues) so I had one made last week. It has like a Pink Ribbon-edge on the front where it closes and the whole sleeves are pink too! I have seen in fact many young women donning either pink headscarves, pink decorations or ribbons on abayas and pink handbags this month, and I’m sure it’s not all coincidence so I guess the message is spreading!


Saudi Cancer site: http://www.saudicancer.com/en/

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  • MuslimahOctober 15, 2010 - 7:44 pm

    I really wish to see how does it looks like when dressed :)ReplyCancel

  • SeikkuOctober 16, 2010 - 3:20 am

    You go girl!!!ReplyCancel

  • Proud MuslimahDecember 20, 2010 - 11:01 pm

    I bought a pink abaya thinking it would look adorable for things like this…turns out I just look like a gigantic marshmallow peep :(

    maybe I will dig out my sewing supplies and add some black to it. haha. Then maybe it will take away some of the “peep-ness”ReplyCancel

Yesterday my husband told me the touching story of what he had done for a little stray kitten.
He was leaving work and was greeted by a little black kitten at the parking lot. The kitten started following him and walked behind him all the way to the car. When my husband opened the car door the kitten tried to jump in. My husband then picked it up and tried giving it water from his bottle. The kitten kept crying and wanting to come in the car.
It’s still pretty hot outside and the kitten looked very weak and dehydrated. He then decided to go around the parking lot to see if there was a mother cat anywhere. He drove around and searched but did not find any other cats. It looked like this kitten was abandoned my the mother or then something happened to the rest of his family.
All the while the kitten was sitting in the parking space where my husbands car had been parked. It was just waiting for him there! So he drove back to the kitten which again jumped directly into the car. My husband then decided its best to take it somewhere safe, people drive reckless here and unfortunately many don’t have any care in the world for stray animals and would not even care if they ran it over!

So he took it home to his parents house and gave the little guy a bath, fed it and played with it a little. Since I’m pregnant at the moment my husband decided not to bring the kitten into our house because he feared it having toxoplasmosis or some other diseases. The kitten has found new kitten friends in the garden of his parents house where it has now a safe home and will be fed and get water everyday.

My husband is a good man, it warms my heart! You don’t find men rescuing stray kittens on every corner. I’m very lucky to have such a kind-hearted man!

kitten cute

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  • DentographerOctober 14, 2010 - 3:19 pm

    Congrats on the baby! my daughter is 10 monthes old and she is being followed soon by another in november :DReplyCancel

  • SoileOctober 15, 2010 - 3:49 pm

    Ooooh, your husband is fab! I´m getting goose bumps! Rememeber our talk with the girls at the compound pool, just before I was leaving Saudi? I still feel the same about foreign vs finnish men ;-)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 3, 2010 - 9:27 am

    aahh yes, I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday! Ya I know what you’re talking about :)ReplyCancel

I recently visited Kuwait and was very surprised on how advanced they are compared to neighboring Saudi-Arabia. I had an image in my mind of Kuwait as being a post war-zone developing country. Although these countries share similar demographics, culture and history, they seem to be in different millennia when it comes to civilization and progress.Although being in Kuwait seemed very similar than Saudi-Arabia, it was as if taking a step into the future. Perhaps in another 100 years KSA can catch up with this tiny but efficient and advanced Muslim country.

Kuwait is definitely more advanced in many areas, yet it has managed to preserve its culture and Islamic practices without becoming another Dubai or Bahrain.

In fact Kuwait ranks as the top Arab country in the HDI (Human Development Index). Unlike its “Big Brother”, Kuwait is categorized as a developed country and also has the highest literacy rate of the Arab world.

Here’s some things that work in Kuwait but Saudi lacks altogether or drags way behind in:


Kuwait and Saudi are barren lands surrounded by desert. However Kuwait City pleases the eye with roads enveloped in greenery, well trimmed trees and lawns. Roads and sidewalks not only exist, they are kept immaculate condition and they are clean from trash.

Public parks are everywhere and can be used by everyone. Saudi-Arabia has been catching onto this, but public parks and green scenery especially in Riyadh are very scarce. They have started many projects to improve this in Riyadh but the difference is in Kuwait you will forget you are actually in the middle of the desert.

The Kuwaiti Corniche is lined with parks, endless kilometers of boardwalk, public beaches, restaurants and entertainment areas. I wouldn’t even call the one in Jeddah a Corniche, it’s mostly dirty wasteland. Damman has a slightly more pleasant Corniche but nothing compared to the one in Kuwait.
Gender segregation
In Saudi all public places are segregated which cause a multitude of problems because it’s against normal human nature.
Kuwaitis tend to their everyday business in a non-segregated environment, and all the problems related to harassment of women seen in Saudi are non-existent there. I did not see any men chasing women in cars, gawking and following them like they are prey in shopping malls, shouting or calling names or disturbing women in any way like they do in Saudi-Arabia.
Women are not forced to wear abayas and yet for some reason the young men are able to control themselves. Amazing! Perhaps the Saudi religious police could make a field trip to Kuwait and see how people actually manage to interact in a completely normal way without these constricting and suffocating elements they force on their people.
Tourists are welcome in Kuwait, although the industry is not very advanced there, it surely is better than Saudi. A visa can be obtained from the airport for most nationalities.
For Saudi one will need a sponsor and the visa process is frustrating and long and once in the country lack of organized tourism makes exploring what the country has to offer very difficult.
Sponsor system

Both countries still have it for foreign employees, but Kuwait has plans to abolish it in February.

Empowering women
What it ultimately comes down to in my opinion is the amount of rights these two countries give their women. A country is as strong as its women are.
Women contributing to society is behind Kuwait’s success and advancement.
By allowing women to live with equal human rights in society the country has prospered after the devastating incidents of the Gulf war.

Some recent advancements in women’s rights in Kuwait:
Women can have their own passport without approval from husband which remains only a dream to Saudi women due to the slavery mahrem system.

Women are allowed to vote and in 2009 four were elected to parliament. There are female ministers in Kuwait, but there is one as deputy minister in KSA too.

In both countries education of women is seen as important and they make up 70 % of the university students, yet Kuwait is the one enabling the women to use their knowledge for the benefit of society. The employment rates for women are 42.5% vs 14.5%. Saudi women tend to find jobs mainly as teachers, of other women, so benefiting the society as a whole and being seen working in public is very rare in KSA. In Kuwait, women are visible in public and working in various places in society.

What is the factor that enables Kuwait to take these major steps, yet Saudi always seems to need “baby-steps” for any kind of progress? The answer can’t be just the size differences. Kuwait has transformed itself from a bomb stricken land fill to a flourishing and modern Arab country proud of its heritage.

Saudi-Arabia could definitely take some lessons from its Little Brother!
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  • IAOctober 5, 2010 - 6:59 pm

    HI Laylah, I just finished reading your blog, all in one sitting, and I must ay i am very touched. You have way of making the immpossibilties of living in this city to tolerable and almost sound attractive. I am new to riyadh, 2 weeks and have come here from toronto canada. I am looking for meet like minded individuals in riyadh to make my stay here more rewarding and full of new friendships. What can you suggest about where to start, how to get involved, where to get involved. etc etc.ReplyCancel

  • NadiaOctober 6, 2010 - 9:10 am

    Salam aleikum sister,
    I just wanted to thank you for this interesting post. Based on what you just wrote, I would like to visit Kuwait one day, insha Allah!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 6, 2010 - 10:38 pm

    @ IA

    welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment :))

    i think you have a great attitude and for sure you will enjoy your time here :)
    It depends a little bit of what your interests are, where you could get started.
    have you heard of the Hashing groups? thats a good place to meet new people!
    Could you email me more about yourself like where you work and how old are you etc and I will try to help you the best I can!
    I will also give you the contact details for the hash harriers and some cool canadien people if you wish :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 6, 2010 - 10:41 pm

    aleikum salaam nadia,
    I can definitely recommend a visit to Kuwait!
    it was really such a pleasant surpise! I dont know why I had this image of a bombed worn out city in the middle of the desert :DReplyCancel

  • HamidOctober 7, 2010 - 2:14 pm


    nice post.

    shukran for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • DentographerOctober 11, 2010 - 8:10 pm

    my only point here is comparing kuwait to saudi arabia is like comparing how easily u can build a small town house to a mansion,the size of both countries definitly influenced the pace of its development.

    though i agree with everything u said.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 16, 2010 - 12:27 pm

    Thank you for your comment huh!

    Huhuh-I think you might need to understand first that was a totally sarcastic comment I made regarding the abayas :))

    Can you please provide a link to statistics to back up your statement about rapes because this interests me, is it really so or is this just our media that tends to exaggerate the isuue. thanks!ReplyCancel

  • HuhOctober 16, 2010 - 10:02 am

    “Women are not forced to wear abayas and yet for some reason the young men are able to control themselves. Amazing!”

    Well, I’m sure you are aware that outside the muslim world men are able to control themselves.

    You don’t see men harassing women in shopping malls in western cultures. Except maybe immigrants from muslim countries, who are also strongly over-represented in rape statistics in Finland, Sweden, Norway and probably in all Western European countries.

    This is something that simply cannot be denied.ReplyCancel

  • IntriguedOctober 17, 2010 - 8:51 am

    And what Kuwait can learn from Saudi Arabia is not to leave their country in drove during the summer (including the arm forces), and make it venerable for invading armies. :):)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMarch 17, 2011 - 6:27 pm

    Salam sister,

    about the corniche thing, You clearly haven’t been to Khobar or Dammam. Their corniche is imppresive, even Kuwaitis visit it. Saudi Arabia is not only Riyadh and Hajaz lol. We do exist in Khobar hahah

    Saudi guyReplyCancel

  • faheemDecember 12, 2013 - 6:49 pm

    you should visit Al-Khafji (kuwait border) in saudi . where you will find the best beach in whole Saudi Arabi..where the water is clear not like khobar or dammam where the water is muddy…and unlike jeddah you have waves not dead beach..ReplyCancel

  • Top 10 Travel Destinations From Saudi » Blue AbayaAugust 18, 2014 - 7:57 pm

    […] 8. Kuwait Saudi-Arabia’s tiny little neighbor is greatly under valued as a tourist destination. Only an hour flight away from Riyadh, Kuwait is definitely worth a weekend trip and great for a quick getaway from Saudi. Personally I like the vibe here more than for example Dubai. Read more about Kuwait here. […]ReplyCancel

  • CanadianMarch 13, 2015 - 1:53 am

    I am a teacher. I got two offers… One from a Saudi National School, another from a Kuwaiti International school. saudi school will pay me US$1000 more per month. My daughter is 6. She needs to have some friends.
    Which one should I choose.
    Please advice.

The first three days of the Eid al Fitr following the ending of Ramadan were full of different celebrations around Riyadh. This wasn’t always the case though, a few years ago there wasn’t much happening in KSA during these holidays. Most Saudis used to flock abroad this time of the year so now they have tried to keep people in the country by arranging these events and it’s getting better every year.
I went to the National museum garden where there was traditional singing, dancing and poetry recital shows. The audience there was segregated, men were in the front rows with best views.. Anyways the atmosphere was relaxed and the garden and fountain areas were packed with families having picnics enjoying the light and fountain shows.
The definite highlight was the event at the al Kindy square in the Diplomatic Quarters. The area was beautifully decorated and the event well organized.
The show consisted of traditional singing and dancing from various regions around Saudi. The dancers were great and the audience was really into the show, especially the female audience seemed to particularly like some of the dancers (all male)!! This time they hadn’t segregated all of the audience. Surprisingly only the single males were having the worst seats in their own pen away from the main audience.
Later on the local press wanted to interview us for live tv and we agreed (I was so nervous I can’t remember what I answered to the questions) Then when the event was over we were photographed for some local magazines together with the dancers and even got to hold the swords. They are very heavy btw.
Here are some random pics I took:
fireworks at the football stadium
Najdi singing/dancing group in DQ
the flower festival area
the fountain and light show at national museum
view from water tower looking down to the garden of national museum
a jasmine-haired girl from the Gizan dancers carries the bakhoor
the Gizan dance group reminded me very much of african tribal dances
this dancer from the Riyadh group had some seriously groovy moves, whenever he was on stage the ladies would start screaming!
boys all dressed up in daglah
girls in eid dresses
sword dancing which is called aardh, just the size and style of the swords vary from region to another.
bedouin man playing a rababah while singing poetry

A friend of mine posing with one of the dancers
Can’t wait until next year!

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  • UMM LATIFA w Królestwie SaudówSeptember 20, 2010 - 1:17 pm

    Hello! How did you know he is a mutawwa? for me he looks like a regular guy, that came to see the show (last pictures). Mutawwas usually are with two policemen, and they wear distinctive clothes (black abaya on white thobe). Guys in the pictures look like regular Saudis for me ;).ReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 21, 2010 - 8:38 am

    He was patrolling the area with the policemen, actually three police this time. I took the picture when the event was over while they were watching the people leaving.they dont always have the black “harry potter cape” on top of the thobes!
    also the case in national museum, he didnt have the cape on and had three police with him.ReplyCancel

  • apertureAugust 27, 2011 - 2:30 pm

    Great blog! When an where will be the fireworks display at the end of Ramadan?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 28, 2011 - 6:14 am

    Thanks aperture!
    I updated the events tab so you can see when and where the fireworks will be held :)ReplyCancel

  • […] Here you can find a list of Top Ten Things to do during Eid Al Fitr holidays in Riyadh. Check out these posts for photos from the previous years’ Eid celebrations in […]ReplyCancel

King Abdullah was recently chosen as one of the world’s top 10 most respected leaders by Newsweek. This might come as a surprise to some since his actions do not usually make big headlines internationally. Nevertheless in the past few years he has accomplished a lot for women in Saudi-Arabia and often works behind the scenes to push reform.

In the headlines this week, the King has just appointed the new minister of labor for Saudi-Arabia. The new minister, Adil Fakieh worked previously as the mayor of Jeddah.

Another topic recently in the headlines is the Saudi female cashiers now working at a large grocery chain called Panda. This is great advancement in Saudi terms. Prior to this female cashiers worked exclusively in women only environments hidden from public view.
There are now a few brave women starting work at a Panda in Jeddah. This of course created an uproar of protests from conservative Saudis and some scholars.

Interestingly the Panda chain is owned by Savola group and the new minister Adil Fakieh happens to be the Chairman.

So is this all just coincidence? Most likely King Abdullah is supportive of employing Saudi women and advancing their position in society, hence the appointment of Fakieh. Surely the newly appointed minister will be in favor of employing more women in the Panda grocery stores and later other chains will hopefully follow their example. Panda and Savola group will be protected from the attacks of extremist clerics and sheikhs by Fakieh and he has back-up from the King himself.

The King is known to be in favor of reform, especially when it comes to women’s issues in the country. Earlier this year a photo was released with Abdullah and the Crown Prince posing together with 40 women. This was another quiet statement from Abdullah in relation to relaxing the Kingdoms strict rule on gender mixing.

Last September, the King inaugurated the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), a graduate-level mixed-gender school devoted to advanced scientific research. Shortly after the University was opened a high ranking cleric criticized KAUST deeming the gender mixing a great sin. This led to the cleric getting sacked by the King.

King Abdullah also appointed the first female minister, Nora bint Abdullah al-Fayez as deputy minister of education early last year.
Perhaps he has realized that the saying “a nation is as strong or weak as its women are” really does have truth to it.

The Saudi King is empowering the women of Saudi-Arabia slowly, but surely. He is enabling them to come out of the shadows to participate in taking the Kingdom to more modern times. Change does not happen swiftly in the Kingdom. Things take time to advance even a little bit. Although all these issues might seem trivial and insignificant, in the context of Saudi society they are enormous.

What is one small step for the rest of the world, is one giant leap for the Saudis.

Will King Abdullah be the monarch to lift the ban on women driving??

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  • AnonymousNovember 3, 2012 - 7:53 am

    Your blog is wonderful very informative, thanks for writing, relating to this post I want to tell you last year (2011) they opened Princess University for Women it is a big lap for empowerment of the women in this country, no country can develop without educating women finally they come to knew this. Best Regards.ReplyCancel

  • […] More about King Abdullah’s mission to improve women’s status in the Kingdom: http://blueabaya.com/2010/08/king-abdullah-emissary-of-saudi-women.html […]ReplyCancel

  • Fatwa Madness and Panda SupermarketsDecember 30, 2014 - 3:12 am

    […] my previous post I talked about King Abdullah and how he is trying to move the Kingdom forward to this millenium. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] More on King Abdullah and his mission to improve the status of Saudi women: /king-abdullah-emissary-of-saudi-women.html […]ReplyCancel

The Holy month of Ramadan changes the daily rhythm drastically in Saudi hospitals. Basically the hospital becomes alive at night and quiets down for the day.
Read here how the Saudis usually visit the sick in hospitals. Needless to say the amount of visitors during Ramadan will at least double, especially during the last ten days. Visitors will come late and stay until early morning. They will bring along vast amounts of arabic foods to break the fast with like sambosa, all kinds of tiny pastries, cookies, dates, chocolates..

Large Saudi families come to the hospital to join in Iftar together with the sick family member.  It’s not uncommon to find the family eating on the sheets on the floors! Saudis will generously give the nurses a taste of everything, sometimes offering huge trays full of different sweets or salty snacks.

Another peculiar thing that happens during Ramadan is handing out money to nurses. Patient or relatives might slip money into the nurses pocket or openly offer money anywhere from 10 to 1000 riyals at a time. The gesture usually makes nurses feel somewhat awkward and because of cultural differences might be misinterpreted to be some form of bribing. Nurses are naturally not supposed to accept the money very few will reject. The person offering the money will become very upset if the offer is rejected and they can become pushy and just stuff the pockets with the money! The reason behind this is Saudi families wanting to show their gratitude and appreciation to the nurse.

Only few patients will be observing the Ramadan fast, and they will also abstain from all medications including injections and intravenous drugs during daylight hours. That makes it a bit difficult to accommodate the medication regime to the fasting timetables. Basically it means that the medications normally given around 8-9 am will be given at fast breaking time around 6:30pm. The next dose will be at midnight and finally just before the morning prayer at 4 am.

For some patients it’s fine to fast and it will not make their condition worse. Every once in a while there will be a patient who insists on fasting even if doing so will severely adversely affect their health. The patients don’t want to miss out on the blessings of fasting. Some are diabetic which means their blood sugar levels will be uncontrolled and it might put the patient in risk of coma, or they will refuse insulin injections resulting in sky-high blood sugar levels. Patients with bowel problems might get complications like obstructed bowel, may even need surgery and then there is the odd patient who will even refuse to be operated on.

Toward the end of Ramadan the emergency room usually begins to fill with patients with bowel obstructions. Many are elderly patients needing full time hospital care. Patients suffering from gastrointestinal diseases and disorders, diabetes, metabolic disorders and other diet controlled conditions further crowd the ER beds making it the busiest time of the year in the hospital. Nurses and doctors are often exhausted from the workload this month brings along.

The Muslim nurses will often opt to work night shifts to make fasting easier or alternatively if they wish to work days they can work shorter hours. The total amount of working hours during this month for Muslim nurses and other muslim personnel is also cut down. Generally there will not be any operations other than the most urgent ones.

The patients’ sitters will all usually be fasting and the hospital kitchen provides food for them and the fasting patients in the early morning hours. A three course ‘breakfast meal’ called sohoor will be distributed at 2 am well before the Fajr prayer.

The iftar meal will be distributed to the rooms at 6 pm. Even though a patient is not fasting they will be up all night chatting with relatives, reading Quran or watching Arabic soap operas or the live televised show from the grand mosque in Mecca.

I personally enjoy working during Ramadan, patients and relatives are in good spirits and it’s nice to spend some extra time with them in the rooms having some arabic coffee and sweets. Generally the atmosphere is more laid-back and patients are not complaining as much as usual :)

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  • LaylahAugust 11, 2011 - 2:22 pm

    Thanks for stopping by ND LEving a comment and welcome back again :)ReplyCancel

  • […] I wrote some previous posts about Ramadan in the Kingdom here and one on hospitals and Ramadan here. […]ReplyCancel

  • Salhah HamadJanuary 6, 2015 - 4:17 pm

    Nice post :) try working on Armco medical center in Dhahran, you may enjoy the change :)ReplyCancel

  • […] entire hospital in some positive, some not so positive ways. Read more about it in the post ‘Ramadan in a Saudi Hospital‘ and ‘Ramadan and Overcrowding […]ReplyCancel

Ramadan is a very special month to Muslims all over the world. In case you are not sure what Ramadan means to Muslims and why Muslims fast check out this post: The True Meaning of Ramadan
The crescent moon has been sighted and the fasting has started this morning.

Ramadan in Saudi-Arabia is a very different experience from any other country, even other Arab Muslim countries. Fasting is taken dead seriously and the whole nation accommodates to make fasting easier.Spirits are high, every Muslim supports one another. The whole country changes radically for a month. For some expats it seems to be a nightmarish experience. But again I think it all comes down to attitudes and what one makes of it. I personally think it’s a privilege to be able to experience it.

For expats it might appear something like this:

During Ramadan Saudis turn entirely into nocturnal beings, the daily rhythm reverses itself. Shops will open only in the late afternoon or after sunset and close around 2 am. Riyadh is like a phantom city until sunset arrives.
After the last prayer of the day Isha’a, thousands and thousands of huge SUV’s packed with the entire Saudi family start making their ways to their relatives houses or shopping malls. Slowly they begin crawling into the streets eventually stopping the traffic altogether.
When they finally reach the malls the women will go out looking for Ramadan sales. Everyone will be busy finding nice clothes to wear for Ramadan.
Tailors get packed with women and men having custom-made thobes and jalabiya ready for Eid celebrations.
Restaurants and food courts fill with families and screaming children throughout the night. Everyone including the smallest children will be stuffing themselves before they begin fasting. Some indulge in KFC and McDonald’s mega-meals followed by a box of Cinnabons until they cannot move anymore.
Special night prayers also known as Taraweeh prayers are called out from the thousands of mosques around the city. They can be heard as a discordant symphony throughout the night.

eid celebration lights riyadh saudi
Dental offices will be busy until 3 am with fasting patients that cannot be treated during the daytime.
Finally the streets congest once again with families hurrying home before Fajr prayer, which at this time of year is around 4 am.
After that, nothing. Absolute silence on the streets of Riyadh until it all starts over again the following day.
At home some will stay up until the morning chatting and watching tv, finally falling asleep when the sun comes up.
This was a bit aggravated, generalized version of Ramadan in the Kingdom, that said there are many (although of course not all Saudis and expats) who do spend the Holy Month along the lines of what this post describes.

For an “outsider” the experience may seem somewhat absurd and incomprehensible. First timers are usually either extremely irritated or fascinated.
What irritates non-Muslims is of course that they cannot do anything during the days since everything is closed and when the stores do open they are fully packed. But this is also the time that consuming any kind of fluid or food in public during the daylight hours becomes a horrendous crime.
Non-Muslims drinking publicly might openly be shouted at and at least glared down by angry Muslims. Basically non-Muslims are forced to hide all evidence of consuming.
If the Muttawa spots someone publicly drinking they might be in big trouble for disgracing the Holy month and might even end up in jail.

I personally think this is quite ridiculous and blowing things out of proportion. I don’t mind if someone eats in front of me when I’m fasting! I can always go somewhere else, look away or just not care. After all fasting is about self discipline too. I don’t see why some Muslims will get offended by this. It’s not like the non-Muslims are doing it on purpose to offend anyone although I’m not saying that might rarely occur.
Sure people should be sensitive but this kind of dramatizing and exaggeration is in my view unnecessary. Why does respecting other cultures and religions only seem to work in one direction in Saudi-Arabia? Religious tolerance should work both ways.
For example in the hospital all the staff’s water bottles have to be hidden out of public sight, they are stored behind closed doors or bathrooms where staff has to go to secretly have a sip. Fasting Saudi employees will generally have very flexible working hours, arriving late, leaving early and taking hour long breaks while non-Saudi Muslims will not have all these luxuries and they are expected to be just fine with it.

Anyways Ramadan Mubarak everyone!

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  • AnonymousAugust 11, 2010 - 8:33 am

    Sorry if I sound mean but doing it the way you do it sounds like cheating. You accommodate the day so you sleep when you are fasting to make it easy???? Isn’t fasting supposed to be a sacrifice offered to God to cleanse the soul? If you are sleeping what is the sacrifice? Christians fast probably more days during the year and that is no cause to stop the daily live, they go to work and do everything just like any other day but they are fasting… and they are not telling the world about it. Again, I do not mean to offend anyone, it is just my opinion… you should continue your daily life while fasting, that would be a good sacrifice.ReplyCancel

  • JawwadAugust 11, 2010 - 11:39 pm

    This is certainly a surprise to even Muslims arriving here from another country. Ramadan is indeed a special month. However, as rightly mentioned, it’s more about self descipline than a prohibition on eating/drinking across the society.

    I come from a place where we used to have offices start earlier than normal with reduced working hours to enable people to join their families in time for the evening.

    So, most of this has more to do with local culture than Islam or the concept of fasting in Ramadan.ReplyCancel

  • AliceAugust 12, 2010 - 4:05 pm

    Nice post!

    Foreigners are are not allowed to eat or drink in public places during Ramadan in the UAE as well. I too agree it’s unnecessarily harsh. It’s like punishing those foreigners. It’s kind of humiliating to have to hide with drinking and eating when they are not Muslims and are not supposed to fast.

    People active at night and sleeping during the day- this may happen to some Muslims all around the world. It’s not correct, but if that’s the only way they can do it..ReplyCancel

  • The Burdened MaryAugust 13, 2010 - 7:49 pm

    Remember that fasting in a hot, sunny, desert climate like Saudi is EXTREMELY difficult and hard on the health. People cannot sleep through all the daylight hours, but they might rest during the day because it is extremely hard on the body. Besides: those who work still go to work, and people still spend the daylight hours cooking. I know some people who do it in excess, but other people rest in the hotter hours to make fasting bearable.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 2:17 am

    Please be respectful to my wishes and next time identify yourself!

    You said Saudis “cheat” in fasting when they sleep all day. Sure there are some that do so but many do continue their daily work and fast while not making a big deal about it.And it is really hot so the I guess the ones who do not go to work would rather sleep. I wouldnt call it cheating, but maybe making it easier..

    You also say: “Christians fast probably more days during the year and that is no cause to stop the daily live, they go to work and do everything just like any other day but they are fasting”
    To this I would like you to identify actually which Christians it is that fast like this because I am not aware that any abstain from food and drink for such long periods? And secondly, the ones who do are not numerous. In KSA every single Muslim that is able fasts. Which Christian country does that??
    IF there were a Christian country where fasting would have the same proportions as in Saudi,I am 100% sure this same phenomenon would be happening. After all, we are all humans, regardless of our faith or nationality.
    It’s justhuman nature to try make things easier for oneself isn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 2:26 am

    Hello Jawwad and welcome to my blog!

    Thanks for your comment, from which part of the world are you from?

    In Saudi they adjust the office hours so that staff will usually come to work few hours later and the day will be cut into 6 hours instead of 8. That way Muslims have time to get home to break the fast.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 3:09 am

    @ Alice

    I agree it might seem humiliating for some people, like they’re less important because they are not fasting.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 3:14 am

    @ Burdened Mary

    I feel sorry for all those women who are forced to cook Iftar for their husbands and families. They are sometimes expected to come up with three course meals while fasting for the last hours of the day!
    Fasting is much harder on those women for sure.ReplyCancel

  • Azhar AbdullahAugust 15, 2010 - 6:02 am

    Dear Laylah (and others too)

    In Malaysia, we practise to scold only Muslims who don’t fast and eat in public. As you know, we in Malaysia live within multi-race society consist of Chinese, Indian, Malay (Muslims) and other non-Muslims ethnic…

    So those who are not Muslim, they are permitted to eat, drink and go to the restaurant during daytime, while Muslims are prohibited. If you are a Muslim and caught eating or drinking in public during daytime, you will be caught and get a free tour on the special van used to transfer dead bodies to cemetery…so people will know, “aahh…those are who eat in public..”

    As for Saudi working (and schooling) time during Ramadhan, I found it with pros and conts…good, coz you can spend more time praying and giving yourself to Allah during night time…not so good, coz you encourage people to think Ramadhan as a more relaxing daytime while our Prophet fight his first Jihad in Badr during Ramadhan…

    But technically, I do like the system while I was back there in Medina during the old days…haha…ReplyCancel

  • jinpatzAugust 15, 2010 - 1:48 pm


    i like your blog. it’s very informative and gives me a good insight on what to expect upon arriving to riyadh.

    i am a nurse as well and will be working in KAMC. ;) i am hoping to have a good experience on this very different culture.

    keep on posting.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 18, 2012 - 3:13 am

    This is just another story of muslims saying one thing and doing another. We are told that there is no compulsion in religion but considering this post and that of the person in Malaysia it is just another lie. There is compulsion in this religion even to both non-muslims and those muslims who chose not to practice certain aspects of the religion. Of course recent issues in Saudi tell me even more and it is tainting me greatly on Saudi people and muslims in general.ReplyCancel

  • […] wrote some previous posts about Ramadan in the Kingdom here and one on hospitals and Ramadan […]ReplyCancel

  • […] place. The first post of Ramadan is back from 2010 when the blog began and it’s called ‘Magic Month in the Kingdom‘. A good read for those not familiar with Ramadan or for expats living in Saudi Arabia or […]ReplyCancel

  • Copycat Blogger ExposedSeptember 17, 2014 - 6:49 am

    […] article has a part of it DIRECTLY copied from my post two years earlier titled, surprise surprise “The Magic Month In The Kingdom”. “Her” article was published in Lenasia times: […]ReplyCancel

  • Bible ScholarDecember 7, 2014 - 11:36 pm

    Laws are made for pevention, yes for me to see people drinking and eating in front of me during fasting is ok, but human are not the same, so its for all goodness ,ReplyCancel

  • […] about what kind of changes Ramadan brings along in the ‘Magic Kingdom’ read this post: The Magic Month in the Kingdom. The following article ‘In Search of the True Meaning of Ramadan’ was published in its […]ReplyCancel

birch tree road journey finlandWe’ve just returned to Riyadh after a relaxing summer vacation in Finland. My husband and I spent most of our time at my families summerhouse by the sea in Southern Finland. It’s a wonderful and peaceful place to unwind surrounded by my family and my dear little nieces! So how does a Saudi guy find life in Finland? Here are some of my husband’s experiences from Finnish summer.


I´ve been a bit surprised at how much my husband genuinely enjoys my home country. KSA and Finland are so different weather wise, when it comes to the food, the nature and of course culture and traditions. Despite all the differences my Saudi guy really loves Finland and that just makes me love him more.

What surprised me mostly is how well my husband has adapted to the Finnish custom of spending the summer at our summer places. Most people will move to their summer houses, villas, or cottages for the time of their summer vacation. Life at the summer place differs quite alot from city life but that is exactly why people go there.
Like most Finns, we don’t actually have running water at the summer house. This itself naturally creates some “problems” and inconviniences. We haven’t connected the electricity to our sauna which is from the 19th century in order to keep it as original as possible. The idea is to leave the luxuries of the city behind and to . In short Finns like to keep it nice and simple and feel close to nature. Kind of like bedouins actually!
I asked my husband what are his favorite things about Finland. He replied the presence of water, the vast amount of it surrounding you wherever you go; in the rivers, the lakes (Finland has over 100,00 of them!)and the sea. One activity we enjoy is going out to the sea, either sailing or boating to surrounding islands. He also likes the lush green nature, that is so versatile and very easily accessible.
He loves being able to get so many things to eat by just stepping outside like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peas, salad, potatoes, mushrooms, spring onions, rhubarb, black and red currants, apples, tomatoes..the list is endless and the majority can be found a few steps from the house.
Despite hating the summer heat in Saudi, my husband loves going to sauna. He knows how to chop the trees so they are just right and how to heat the perfect old-fashioned wood sauna. He will actually stay in longer than me sometimes and be the one adding more ‘löyly” (steam)! The only thing he won’t likely do (without peer pressure) is go for a long swim in the +22C seawater, which for us is very warm but for him it’s freezing!
Naturally my husband prefers the summer climate when the weather is not too hot or cold (if we are having a good summer!)This summer was really hot and the record highest temperature ever of 37.6 celcius was set in eastern Finland.
He also likes that everything is so well organised and easily available, that technology is very advanced and at hand everywhere.
One of the only things my husband doesn’t like about Finland (except the cold water) is when we go out people stare at him like he’s an alien. Especially when accompanied by Finnish women Arab and dark skinned men will get some long glares. Outside the capital Helsinki it’s not common to see many foreigners around and some Finns are unfortunately quite wary when it comes to darker skinned people. I’ve noted that the worst gawkers seem to be the Finnish men. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily all racist, but at least very suspicious and possibly a bit jealous that the Finnish woman has chosen a foreign spouse..
In any case we had a fantastic time and can’t wait to go back next year inshallah!
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  • RondellhundenAugust 10, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    Aww, it looks so nice! I would like to go to Finland one day. I have been living in Sweden for almost 30 years and still not been there. It is a shame! :)ReplyCancel

  • SoileAugust 11, 2010 - 6:31 pm

    Beautiful pics!
    I’m glad your husband loves Finland :-)
    Am a bit chocked about those childrens books, knew of some things, but those were just waaaaay too raisist, even in those times, in my opinion!ReplyCancel

  • AliceAugust 12, 2010 - 3:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing the pics and observations! Vacations in Finland- sounds cool! I hope I’ll have a chance to go there one day.
    I come from the Urals in Russia. The climate and nature of that region is similar to that in Finland. Even the people look a bit similar to the Finnish people. I also remember as a child going to the old style wooden hut- something like a sauna. There were big basins with hot water and brooms from tree branches with leafs.

    Great your husband loves Finland. I can’t imagine anyone who would not enjoy the beautiful nature.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 3:17 am

    @ Rondellhunden

    Youare welcome to visit Finland,I recommend doing so during the summer months though! Just take a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki or Turku its very easy:)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 14, 2010 - 3:23 am

    Wow Alice we might be distant relatives then :)
    Finnish language originates from Ural area!ReplyCancel

  • DBMarch 17, 2011 - 8:21 pm


    Saw your entry about your marriage ceremony and had to read all your stories. I am loving them so far. The cultural differences are so interesting.

    I am glad your husband loves Finland and I understand why he would. I am a black woman from the Caribbean living in Helsinki and I love living in Finland(except for the winter). I also understand how great it feels when your spouse loves and adapts to your own culture as my Finnish husband does in the Caribbean. In fact in some ways he is more well adapted to the Caribbean than I am nowadays.

    I have a theory about those very racist children’s reading books etc. I think it comes from ignorance. In the 60’s and earlier there weren’t any black people in Finland. There weren’t really any “other” people in general. Everyone was Finnish. The only information Finnish people got about black and other people was racist information (which was the norm)from the European colonial powers of the time. Hence the racist outlook on “others”.

    As for the stares your husband gets, I have heard that men of colour have problems here. I personally haven’t had any problems except at Vapu when people are so drunk they go crazy. I think men of colour have it harder than women of colour. I think it is this idea that the men are stealing their Finnish women. On the other hand when Finnish men see my husband and I, I think they wonder what he must be experiencing being with a black woman. In the countryside I am even more of an attraction than in Helsinki. At countryside bars many men come up to me to talk or ask for a dance. In Helsinki bars men hardly ever approach me.

    Best wishes.ReplyCancel

  • […] So does a Saudi guy enjoy being in Finland and how does he cope with living in such ‘simple’ conditions at the summer cabin, almost like a Finnish bedouin? It could be described as a parallel universe compared to the dry, harsh deserts and life’s little luxuries in the ‘Magic Kingdom’? Find out here. […]ReplyCancel

I thought it would be interesting to hear from a Saudi male nurse. Nurses in general are not always respected in the society, and sometimes male nurses get an even harder time for their choice of profession. Saudi nurses of both gender are still the minority of the workforce in KSA. Most nurses are recruited from Asian countries, North America, Europe and the surrounding Arab countries. Out of the Saudi nurses there is a higher percentage of males than females than there is in western countries in general. I asked one very inspiring and empathetic Saudi male nurse to be interviewed for my blog and he agreed.
Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed!

What inspired you to become a nurse?
Actually my sister showed me the first sign about nursing. She is also a nurse in childrens cancer centre. After I graduated from high school she mentioned to me about nursing ( I didn’t know anything about nursing at that time ) then I read about it, actually I liked it and then applied to the college and they accepted me.

How does one apply and get accepted to a nursing school in the Kingdom?
It was easy to apply in nursing. It was a new college and my grades were very good. I passed English exam and interview.
Where and how long did you study for? Do you specialize in a certain field during your studies?

At King Saud University nursing college. I studied 5 years the 5th year was internship. 
No they didn’t have specializing, it was generalized about everything (medical- surgical – ICU- psychiatric- gynecology- maternity. pediatrics- emergency and research) 

Did you mix with the female nursing students or doctors during your studies at all?

No, only in the hospital sometimes.

When did you graduate and where do you work now?

I graduated at 2009 and my internship was in King Fahad medical city then I joined King Faisal Specialist Hospital and I work on surgical urology ward.

In western countries nurses are sometimes looked down upon, do you feel that is also the case in KSA?
What kind of response do you get from your patients?

For me no I dont feel that way but some of my friends they feel the same until now.  
About patients many of them are very supportive and they are really proud of us but there is some of them that don’t respect us (I don’t know why).

The unemployment rate for Saudi males is very high, was it easy to get a job as a nurse?

Yes it was very easy for me because of my specialty its very rare in my country and they need Saudi nurses.

How old are you now, and where do you picture yourself in the next 10 years time? What are your career plans?

23 years old. After 10 years actually I don’t consider a position in management but I´d like to improve my knowledge and my practice by working as staff for maximum 2-3 years then I will complete my studying for master and PHD.

Male nurses are not allowed to treat female patients in Saudi-Arabia. Did the school still educate you on female anatomy? Do you know how to deal with emergency situations like assist in labor and delivery if no one else is available to help?

Working with female patients honestly, it embarrassed  me in the beginning but with the time I got used to it. In emergency situations I will do whatever I have to do.

Family opinion is important in all aspects of life in the Kingdom,what was your families reaction to your choice of career?

My family are supportive about anything I choose for me in my life.

Was Islam a factor in choosing your career? 

Of course Islam teaches us to help other people especially if the others really need us.

Would you like to share with us a memorable experience with a patient, something that made you feel you have made a difference in the patients and their families lives?
I liked this question the most.

I remember one patient he was case of bladder cancer and he was shocked and depressed after the news but I tried my best to solve any problem he will be faced with after the surgery and I even went with him inside the OR. It was really interesting to me and to him because he felt that I am helping him and he trusted me. Then I did a presentation about it, it was really nice and I will send the presentation to you inshallah. It was fantastic I felt like a hero and I was very proud of myself for being able to help.

 Jazakallahu khairan may God bless you on your journey!
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  • RondellhundenAugust 1, 2010 - 8:27 am

    Hi, I am a swedish woman who lives in Riyadh. I like your texts so much. I think you write both informative, interesting and fun about Saudiarabia and life here.


    Regards, ESReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 1, 2010 - 5:35 pm

    Hej Rondellhunden!
    Tack för din kommentar och välkömmen till min blog :)

    excuse my rusty Swedish!

    You also started a blog? How long have you been in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

  • RondellhundenAugust 4, 2010 - 12:02 pm

    Hihi, jag var inte säker på att du skulle svara på svenska. :) Tycker att din svenska verkar jättebra. Jag och min familj har bott i Riyadh sedan mars i år och planen är att vara här ett par år. Ångrar inte en sekund att vi flyttade hit och trivs bra. Hur länge har du bott i Saudiarabien?ReplyCancel