Warning! This is a satirical article. Readers who do not understand what satire is are advised to stop reading, now. Reader discretion is advised for individuals suffering from the following syndromes: HOFI (Highly offended about everything Individual) EGNOH (Entitled ignorant with no sense of humor) and CRAP (Cranky Annoyed Person).
Dear Mr. President Trump,
I heard that you’re visiting us here in Saudi Arabia this coming weekend. I must say, great choice for your first visit abroad! I’m confident that great things are about to follow from the Arab American Islamic Summit in Riyadh. I have a feeling it’s going to be huge. Yuge.
Donald, I’m so glad you appreciate Saudi Arabia as a travel destination. That means we actually have something in common! Have you been reading the Blue Abaya blog? I bet that you or your team have been around. If your team googled just about anything related to travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia, you’d get one of my articles on the top Google search.
I know you appreciate people who work hard, I want to tell you that the success of this website and all the social media channels are the result of my 7 years of hard work. Btw, it’s not my style to be braggadocious, but I’ve been taking some notes from you.
Blue Abaya is Saudi Arabia’s first and most well known blog about tourism and travel in the Kingdom. Have a look around and you’ll be amazed at the terrific places I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia. Can you believe I’ve been to all corners of Saudi Arabia? (I’m from Finland originally, btw. If you want to read more about me you’ll find that here.)
Who would’ve thought there could be such tremendous beauty in a land which most of the outside world thinks is full of sand and rocks? We do have a couple of nice rocks too though, such as this one here: We also have mountains, forests and terrific beaches like this one from the Farasan Islands:
Can you tell I could go on and on about places to visit in Saudi Arabia?
But enough about me, let’s talk about you Donald and America. I’ve noticed that a lot of your fellow countrymen, (I suspect they’re mostly your voters) don’t know much about the world outside the U.S.A. and certainly have no clue about what Saudi Arabia is really like. Ok they might know there’s oil. Camels. Some sand. And that women can’t drive. But that’s probably mostly it. So what a terrific opportunity this is to educate your people by visiting Saudi Arabia. Very smart move Donald!
I’ve checked your schedule in Riyadh and was happy to notice you’re visiting the National Museum (I’ve written a short guide to the museum if you need a quick briefing find it here: Guide to Riyadh’s National Museum.) You’ll learn a lot at the amazing museum about the rich history of the Arabian peninsula. The nearby Murabba palace and King Abdulaziz Historical Center are just great too, make sure to check out the traditional Saudi doors there. Wonderful isn’t it?
Donald, I’ve heard you hate reading long memos. So for your convenience, I’ve drafted a quick KSA check list for you.
As a bonus I’ve included what to pack for your Saudi trip so that you’ll absolutely feel like you’re winning!
DONALD’S SAUDI ESSENTIALS (WHAT YOU NEED):
–Baby wipes. I’ve noticed you have a hard time in the heat, well here in Riyadh we’re currently at about + 42c ( about 120 F). So once you step out of the Air-force One, you’ll get this experience of stepping into a convection oven. You know the kind that blows hot air around. With baby-wipes at hand you’ll totally feel like you’re winning. Some other fun stuff that happens in Saudi when summer rolls around find out here.
–self tanning cream. Not sure how often you use this, but let me just mention that we have no self-tanning creams available in Saudi Arabia. You’ll only find whitening creams cuz you know, people are born with perfect tans around here. Imagine if you accidentally used whitening cream! What a disaster that would be.
–swimsuit. (For you, not Melania or Ivanka). There’s a outrageously beautiful pool at the Ritz Carlton where you’ll be visiting. Unfortunately in KSA, women are not allowed to swim in the public hotel pools, not even in burkinis. Sometimes they won’t even allow us to sit near the pool while we watch our children and the men swimming. Can you believe that? Me either.
–hats. This is for Melania and Ivanka. Don’t take headscarves. Wear hats. You know how the western media is obsessed with how women dress. Yes we have that here in Saudi as well. The “fake media” will be doing a piece on what the women in your family will be / will not be wearing. They will obviously not give a crap what you wear since you’re a man, (unless you put your ‘Make America Great Again’ cap on) however, having the gals wear hats will really mess with the fake news reporters heads. I know you enjoy messing with them, so here’s your chance.
When Angela Merkel visited us a few weeks back in Saudi Arabia, her visit was reduced to a headscarf by the fake media. It was reported as “breaking news” by the Independent that she arrived in KSA without a headscarf. I know, it’s terrible. Sad!
Important side note for the fake news reporters!
Headscarves are not required for foreign women in KSA. Only abayas are mandatory for everyone. If you don’t know what an abaya is, have a look here. If you think a foreign head of state not wearing a headscarf will somehow have an impact on the status of Saudi women, you are wrong, Very wrong. Saudi women do not give a camel’s ass about your choices, nor does it affect their lives in any way.
I just realized that’s another thing we have in common Donald, the problems with the terrible fake media. I just happened to stumble upon another Saudi fake news site that has stolen my image. Unfortunately there are no ethics or morals in this area when it comes to reporting and “borrowing” people’s ideas. Just check what I found on Arab News today:Looks familiar right? Just to remind you if you already forgot, this is my photo from Farasan Islands in Saudi Arabia. They just removed my watermark and stole also my post title. I bet even your favorite American “fake media” New York Times aren’t as bad as these guys. This is not the first time either, or the only so called newspaper that does this. Sad!
DONALD HERE IS WHAT YOU DON’T NEED
–driver’s license. None of your family members will need it. I know how much you HATE not being able to drive anymore, now that you’re President and this basic human right was taken away from you. It sucks doesn’t it? Another thing we have in common! So now that you’re quite literally in the shoes of women in Saudi Arabia, you’re in a very unique position to empathize. It might be a great idea to mention in your speech how awful it is not being able to drive yourself! It’s terrible. It’s a disaster.
Side note to your daughter Ivanka: her being all about #womenwhowork and equal right’s for women, Ivanka might be interested in the plight of Saudi women to get their equal rights.
FACT: Women employment levels are very low in KSA because women literally can’t commute to their workplaces. Saudi women are very highly educated (even more so than their male counterparts). Not being able to drive is literally preventing thousands of women from working.
Donald here’s a pro tip for you. Don’t be fooled by the statements “Saudi society is not ready for women driving”, which you will undoubtedly hear during your visit. These are alternative facts. Saudi Society is ready. Bigly. They only need a royal decree to lift the ban. Hint hint.
–walls. Here in KSA we already have lots of walls, they segregate the two genders everywhere in public places. If you go to Starbucks, you’ll see a popup wall that divides people by gender into two lines. You could give some wall building tips to Saudis though, we know how you build the best walls in the world.
Donald I’m happy to inform you that your arrival has been prepared for even more bigly than when Obama was in Riyadh. There are about 57,295 American flags all over Riyadh (compared to 31,748 flags for Obama) and your face next to King Salman’s along with the slogan “Together we prevail” -posters have been set up all over the city.
I can almost guarantee there will be more people effected by your arrival to Riyadh than there were present at your historical inauguration. How awesome is that?
Ever dreamed of surfing in Saudi Arabia? Is it even possible to surf (on the water) in Saudi? It sure is, and if you read on to the end of this post you’ll find “Saudi surfing expert” Mart Howell’s recommendations for the best places to surf in Saudi Arabia and where to get your gear from.
Whether it be on the sea, sand or roads, there is one go- to person I think of whenever I have a question about something surfing-related in Saudi Arabia. A few months back I was looking for the perfect sand-boarding device and thought of asking my friend Mart about his recommendations. We’d already tried the sand boards they sell in some of the camping stores, but they weren’t actually sliding very well. I had an idea to test out a bodyboard on sand dunes, and after discussing with Mart I was convinced it will be the perfect device for kids to go to “pulkkamäki” (downhill sleigh-riding) with. But were to find surfboards in Riyadh? Turns out I managed to find a bodyboard in Riyadh with the help of some friends, and I can confirm it worked! A little bit too well, the board is so slippery it literally flies down a steep dune.
Like so many expatriates that have gone before me, I arrived in Riyadh with fairly negative preconceptions about the environment, people, and prospects for fun in such a closed country. In contrast to most expats, my main concern wasn’t the non-existence of pubs and clubs, segregation of sexes, or fear of terrorism. Rather it was waking up to the reality of being trapped hundreds of miles away from the coast with zero prospects for continuing the life of a surfer.
You see I had spent many of the preceding years pursuing the surf dream in scores of tropical locations, and this was the first time in my life that I would be further than one hour away from a surfable beach. Creeping financial pressures had forced my acceptance of a one-year English teaching contract anywhere in the Kingdom, and now my life was in the hands of a dubious contracting company.
After just six weeks in Riyadh a twist of fate found me onboard a Saudia jet bound for the northern provinces. As the plane descended towards Al Jouf, sweeping views over miles upon miles of golden dunes gave rise to the idea of sliding Arabia. The following morning a close-up inspection revealed a host of gentle and steep dunes, that appeared perfect for boarding, less than 1 kilometre from the university campus.
The question remained how to become a sand surfer in a country without extreme sports shops. A month later, with the help of a Filipino carpenter, an American teacher and I shaped our first sand boards. We had scoured the internet for a suitable board design and sourced all materials from hardware outlets at the edge of the desert. Sand boarding became my form of big wave surfing. There was air from impromptu ramps. There were big drops and turns on steep faces. I waxed. not the top of the board, but the bottom, to go faster. In the most unlikely place, I was able to continue my love of surfing.
Life as a sand boarder imitated my surfer’s lifestyle in so many ways: travelling became partly about finding new, bigger, longer dunes, teaching English was quickly overshadowed by weekend informal boarding lessons for a troupe of Saudi kids who became my proteges, and upon departure a dozen boards and candle wax were left behind for the next generation of sand surfers.
My negative preconceptions had been completely shattered in a year of extraordinary experiences: warm, friendly locals invited me for frequent feasts in their tents at the edge of the desert, young kids embraced the joy of the glide and proved Arabs love surfing too, and unforgettable scenery in mountainous Tabuk province surpassed all expectations. That was over four years ago now, but the overwhelmingly positive experience inspired an eventual return to Saudi. Twenty months ago a direct-hire teaching position was advertised in a small city in the far north-eastern provinces. An inside contact persuaded management to hire me two months later, partly due to previous experience in a rural Saudi location. Hitting the ground felt like a homecoming: prices, products, people, driving all the same. The only difference was the board which accompanied me on the plane. Pre-departure internet research revealed winter storms regularly whip up swells up to three meters high in the Arabian Gulf. Google maps showed the city had both north and south-facing beaches, so if the wind blew hard enough waves seemed inevitable. It was enough to convince me to pack a wide, thick fish-style surfboard along with the smart shirts, ties, and newly purchased shoes.
Two weeks later and the waves of the north-eastern provinces were no longer virgin surf territory. It was a surreal experience paddling out at a beach where seemingly no one had gone before me. The mosque-strewn backdrop and bellowing call to prayer reminded me this was a far from normal surfing experience.
Over the next year I quickly became an expert on how to predict the arrival of waves in a country where no one really surfs. I learnt that around once a week the wind blows hard enough to produce rideable waves in the winter months. Fast forward to today and my six-year old son and I are regulars at a host of different surf spots in NE Saudi. The nearest documented surfers live over the border in Kuwait City and in Dubai, UAE. A year ago I connected with an Australian-based Saudi surfer, Mohammed Kurdi, on Facebook and introduced him to the remarkable waves in his homeland. A few years before he had surfed tiny days inside an Aramco compound in Dammam area, but reflected that the discovery of real surf inside the Kingdom was more exciting than any oil well he’d been involved in finding.
Of course Saudi isn’t a year-round surfing destination. The stifling heat of the summer months, and reduced strength of the breeze, turns the Arabian Gulf into a hot millpond. On the frequent flat days my son and I ride ripstiks, two-wheeled skateboards, which allow us to land surf along the beautiful corniche and other smoother surfaced roads near the grand mosque. Skateboards of any kind aren’t available in the city, and seem rare across the whole country. Like sand and sea surfing, land surfing will find you stand out against the local crowd, but it’s a whole lot more fun than drifting a 4×4 and it keeps you super fit too.
There is little doubt that the availability of these three pursuits has livened up my Saudi life and prolonged my stay to one of semi-permanence. If you want to follow in my footsteps then read the below guide to land, sea, and sand surfing in the Kingdom. It might not be easy to surf here, but rewards are out there if you have enough passion, commitment, and drive to turn a dream into a day-to-day reality.
Best spots: (i) Al Nafud desert, Northern Provinces near Sakakah, you’ll find heaps of perfectly rideable sand dunes. Not that long, but the range of slopes makes this a beginners paradise. (ii) Al Ula, Western Province, has a range of slopes worth exploring with dramatic mountain backdrops (iii) Red Dunes, near Riyadh, are the ideal getaway from the big city. (iv) Haql, Northern Provinces, is an incredibly beautiful area with long sand dunes right on the beach overlooking Egypt (v) Empty Quarter desert, the ultimate sand dunes in the south of Saudi, but you’ll need a reliable guide. Equipment: High quality sand boards are available to buy in Dubai for around US$100. Alternatively, go online and design and make one yourself or get a carpenter to help you. You’ll need wax too, to put on the metallic bottom of the board to reduce friction and allow the board to slide.
Best spots: (i) Ras Tanura area, Eastern Provinces. Look for beaches exposed to frequent winter northerly swells when the Shamal wind blows out of Iraq (ii) Safaniya area, North Eastern Provinces. Look for accessible south-facing beaches between Safaniya and the Kuwait border. These beaches pick up south-easterly swells building between the Emirates and Saudi and offer the biggest waves in the country. (iii) Red Sea has possibilities too. Keep on eye on the weather forecast and head to the beach when the wind is blowing hard for a day or two.
Tide & forecast: (i) Best tide for Eastern Province surfing is high tide, when the waves get a bit bigger and more powerful. Swells rise and fall quickly in the Arabian Gulf, so you have to time your surf well if you want to ride the best waves. On extreme low tides the waves will drop to nothing, but as the tide rolls in waves can appear for a few hours. (ii) For a surf forecast and tide check click on this link https://www.tide- forecast.com/locations/Ras-al- Khafji-Saudi-Arabia/forecasts/ latest/six_day Equipment: High quality surf boards are available to buy in Dubai for around US$600. Alternatively go to Bali and buy a good board for around US$400. To get the most out of the waves in the Kingdom you really need a long board or a thick, wide fish. It rarely gets bigger than chest high, so a 9′ long board will find you catching far more waves than a standard short board.
Best spots: Anywhere where the concrete is smooth, and ideally tilting downwards for a more thrilling ride Equipment: Purchase online or once again head to Dubai to pick up a ripstik, skateboard or long skateboard.
I’ve been blogging about Saudi life for four years now, so please check my blog http://saudi-season. blogspot.co.uk/ which was recently included in Blue Abaya’s Top 20 Blogs in the Kingdom. It includes detailed pages on surfing and teaching in Saudi Arabia, and offers a glimpse into my day to day life too.
Finally, please watch my latest short film,”Saudi Rips“, in which my six year-old son shows off his growing skills on land and in the sea. Through his eyes Saudi rips, an expression of positivity in surf and skate circles, how about through yours? If you’re not getting enough out of your Saudi life then take steps to change it.
Hi everyone, I just wanted to share with you my recent interview which was aired on the ‘MBC in a Week‘ program on January 27th. In case you don’t live in the Middle East or never heard about MBC (Middle Eastern Broadcast Company), it’s the largest TV channel in the region with over 40 million viewers across many countries. So when the reporter Waad Arif contacted me for the interview, I was very excited but also would say even somewhat terrified of the idea of being on TV. Me, on TV? I’m way too shy and introverted for that! But I’m glad I went for it and so grateful that I was featured. I wrote this post to highlight all the things that have been edited out from the final interview and take the chance to explain a bit further about my work. Scroll to the end of the post to watch the video clip!
The introduction and voice over in the interview clip (link attached below in this post) is in Arabic, the presenter Waad Arif (such a lovely young lady!) is explaining about the story of Blue Abaya or ‘Laura of Arabia’, a Finnish woman who came to work in KSA and found “love and happiness there”. First she asks about when and why I came to Saudi Arabia, and about my adventures around the country. Then we talk about how I met my Saudi husband and about life in Riyadh.
I wanted to mention that a lot of things I said in the interview were edited out because there is a time limit they have to adhere to. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain about the parts that were left out, I feel they’re a very important part of my message.
When I saw the interview for the very first time, I was actually a little shocked because the outcome was completely different from what I had expected to see! I’d been doing so much talking on the day of the interview, naturally I expected the parts where we talk were going to be the focus of the clip. It was surprising to see so much of walking around was included, which by no means is a bad thing because the place is so beautiful, just not at all what I had envisioned. I guess the editor had a different kind of interview in mind than I did :)
The interview was filmed in Historical Diriyah, at the courtyard of a heritage house owned by mr Mubarak. A perfect setting for the interview and one of my favorite spots in Riyadh!
Here are some of the edited parts from the interview:
I was asked what are my favorite travel destinations in Saudi Arabia? What I replied- it’s hard to pick one favorite. Many places are amazing, but they are all so different from one another. I explained how right now my top destination might be Tabuk Province, because it has so much diversity within the province. From the majestic mountains and canyons of Wadi Rum, the untouched wild coast, pristine beaches, gorges which open to the Red Sea, natural springs, oasis and lots and lots of history. Another all time favorite area in Saudi Arabia of mine are the Farasan Islands and Jazan Province.
I also mentioned how I’ve visited most of the 15 Provinces of Saudi Arabia, only the North in Al Jouf and Al Baha province in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia remain on my KSA bucket list.
From Riyadh I explained how one of my favorite areas is Historical Diriyah, the very place where we were filming the interview. What made filming in this location extra special was that we got to meet the owner of the beautiful heritage house, Mr. Mubarak. He explained to us about the history of the place and the items inside. Mr Mubarak was impressed about my work and he loved the things I had designed using the doors of his house. One of the pillows with this door design is now decorating the Mubarak house :) I think that’s pretty cool!
Something else that was left out from the interview that I think is important to mention; how and why I started the Blue Abaya blog?
The Blog name Blue Abaya has a symbolic meaning, combining something from my home country Finland ( the color blue in our flag) and something from my new home in Saudi Arabia, the abaya. When I arrived in Riyadh back in 2008, I noticed the lack of any Saudi Arabia based travel blogs/ websites. During that time it was nearly impossible to find out about things to do and places to visit in Riyadh, let alone in the rest of the country. So I wanted to blog about the places I found to help other people find these amazing places too.
Through my blog I also aim to encourage expats to get out and explore their host country, to make the most out of their time here. And I must say that just by looking at my Facebook timeline now vs in 2010 there has been a drastic change in the amount of people who get out to explore Saudi Arabia which is really great to see! Glad to be a part of getting that movement going on.
Which brings me to another left out question: “When did you start traveling in Saudi Arabia?” From the day I arrived I was on the move, out and about exploring the country as a single female. Riyadh was a very different place in 2008 than it is now. I organized a trip to the Red Sands on my third day of being in KSA, even though I had no idea where the dunes were! I had just heard of a place called Red Sands. So what I did is I began researching and trying to find out where it is and how to get there, which of course being female is always an extra challenge. We ended up taking a hospital taxi and found the right place after some searching. With a group of Finnish friends we drove around in quad bikes and had a blast. I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
I want to point out that in the interview we’re discussing Saudi Arabia from the pov travel and tourism related things only. There’s a part where I said “women can do a lot of things here”. Here because the editor chose to cut out the important part of why I started my blog, it needs to be clarified that this is the context in which the remark is taken from. People who live outside of KSA often have no clue about what Saudi Arabia is like, they think of it as being a boring, miserable place to be with nothing to do. So my blog aims to help change some of those misperceptions of KSA as a boring place with nothing to do (especially if you’re female).
There were a few people who jumped to the conclusion that I was in fact talking about women’s rights with the remark, “women can do a lot of things”, these people said that I don’t know or care about the life of average Saudi women at all, and that most Saudi women are in fact “miserable”because their guardians prevent them from doing anything.
I just want to say I’ve met, made friends with and know many Saudi women from all layers of the society, I will always support them in their efforts to gain equal rights. I am and always will be a strong advocate for women’s rights and have written numerous articles on this blog about women’s rights, especially about women driving which is a very important subject to me personally. So to say I’m somehow ignorant about the women’s rights situation or indifferent to the plight some Saudi women face is simply not true. In fact it couldn’t be farther from the truth, I’m always following the situation of women’s rights and supporting their campaigns whenever possible. I’m actually quite vocal about expressing my views, this probably comes from my Finnish roots. My daughter is also Saudi and I will never stop fighting for her equal rights, hopefully someday she will be treated as equally valuable member of society as her bother is.
People need to understand that just because you’re doing one thing, it doesn’t take away or devalue something else.
All in all, I’m really glad I did this interview, despite my initial nervousness and disappointment of so many important things cut out by the editors, which led to these misunderstandings.
Big thanks to the MBC interview crew for making it happen and for such a fun day filming.
After this interview was aired I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from the Saudis (I’m really honored to be acknowledged by Saudi Commission of Tourism and Heritage and Saudi Tourism website). The best kind of feedback one can get is when the Saudi people themselves thank me for showing the true beauty of their country to the world.
Many Saudis have actually been surprised about the places that actually exist in KSA which they found out about from me. That really keeps me motivated and gives me a push to continue the Blue Abaya blog in 2017 to its 7 th year. This year will bring along some big changes to the website, stay tuned!
Below a few images from the Mubarak house and courtyard where we filmed the interview.
Are you an expat wife or a stay at home mom in Saudi Arabia? Followed your husband to the land of sand leaving your own professional career behind? Read the tips below by guest post author Daprize from the All Writing Saudi Blog on how to make the most out of your time as an expat wife in Saudi Arabia. For more tips on how to survive living as a woman in Saudi Arabia check out this post: Western woman in Riyadh? Make the Most Out of it!
Turn Things Around as an Expat Wife in Saudi Arabia
Maybe you were a proficient professional in your field, and you had a well-paying job in your home country, but you left everything behind to join your spouse in Saudi Arabia (SA). Maybe your biological clock was ticking and you just couldn’t imagine losing all your healthy eggs each month when you could as well just join your significant other and start populating Earth as most married couples do. Or maybe it wasn’t about your diminishing ovarian reserve, but it was just because you couldn’t live apart—someone had to sacrifice their career, and that had to be you, the wife. Whatever was the reason, the obvious fact is that you’re here, and you’re facing all the difficulties that professional expat wives face when they come to SA as dependents.
So here you are. The first few months of joining your significant other in SA were coated with honey and sugar glaze, sprinkled with chopped almonds and confetti candy. But now the excitement is over. You’re educated (or highly educated) and unemployed, and all your hopes of landing a job soon are slowly fading away. You find yourself tumbling down the economic ladder and panic creeps in like water gushing through a crack at the bottom of your boat.
What if you’re never able to work in SA? How would you ever climb back to your previous level or status of income? And if you’re really unlucky, your family back home is putting pressure on you. They need petrodollars from SA. What are you doing? Why aren’t you working and supporting the family like you used to do before leaving? Worst of all, some relatives might even make you feel you took the wrong decision by leaving your job to join your dearest one.
If you’re one of those in the medicine, law, administrative, engineering or architecture field, etc., you have a tough call, sister. It is particularly difficult for us to make it as expat women in these fields. But don’t despair. The truth is, there’s always a way out.
No single person has only one skill. You certainly have other skills, and you’ll be better off identifying them to turn things around. What do I mean?
If you’re a doctor, and you can’t land a job as a physician, you can join clinical research. This area is still growing in SA, and with the right skills and mindset, you can easily become an asset for a clinical research unit at a healthcare facility. If you have good writing skills, you can take massive open online courses (free online courses) to polish your writing skills and learn a few statistics then join the medical publishing sector. If you have a master’s degree or higher, you can apply to teach at a medical college. But I’ll be surprised that as a specialist or consultant, you’re unable to find a job. If that’s the case, then you must be searching in the wrong places because several clinics and hospitals are looking for people like you.
If you have a degree in business administration or architecture, and you love to teach, try local schools (international schools, preferably). You could be hired to teach business studies or science subjects.
WARNING: Don’t look for a teaching job if you don’t like teaching kids! I remember starting off as a classroom teacher when I couldn’t find a job in my area of specialty. As someone who was accustomed to mentoring university students in my home country, I was so miserable when I was hired to teach grades 3 and 4 girls at an international school in Jeddah. There was nothing as depressing as having to run around a classroom to make 8-9-year old kids sit down and listen to me teaching in English—a language they really didn’t care about. While the experience may not be same at every school, you wouldn’t want to go down that road if you ‘dislike’ teaching kids.
If you are a graphic designer, try offering your services online. Thank God for the Internet. You have platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr where you can offer your services and work from home. With Fiverr, for example, if your clients are satisfied with your services, you could be listed in their “Featured Gigs” section.
For ladies who are into other professions, there’s certainly something you can do, which I haven’t mentioned here. Let your creativity hop in. The important thing is not to despair and explore your other skills. If some of us could do it, then you can do it, too.
This is a weird way of putting it, but this part is for the future expat wife who is still planning to immigrate under a family visa. Note that your iqama or residence permit would be branded with a beautiful read text in Arabic, which says Not permitted to work. This sentence alone has many implications that I cannot give details in this post.
My advice: if you’re planning to continue your career in SA, prepare your ‘grounds’ well before moving.
If you know anyone in SA, contact them and start asking about job opportunities in your field.
If you don’t have an online presence yet, make sure you do. By this, I mean build a strong profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or Bayt. Network. Network. Network. And choose your contacts wisely.
Join forums. Find out about what’s out there in SA for you. Are women allowed to work in your field? If yes, are jobs in your area of specialty reserved for Saudi women only?
Read blogs—ahem… That’s why you’re reading this, right? But read more. There are so many blogs about Saudi Arabia, written for expats by other expats. You want to make sure you gather as much information before you move.
On a final note, we are all responsible for our career paths. Don’t let the choices you make today become ones that will cause you to regret tomorrow deeply. If you choose (or have chosen) to join your spouse in SA, this shouldn’t become a decision that will ruin you both in the end. Remember the cliché Behind every successful man, there is a…
About the author
Daprize is the screen name of a mum, wife, and at-home entrepreneur who dedicates part of her time writing on All Writing Saudi about strategies to help other expatriates like herself make the best out of life in Saudi Arabia. She speaks English and French fluently and a bit of Arabic and German. As an at-home entrepreneur, she taught herself how to make an income from home, lost 8 Kg in 6 months, and worked part-time with a group of awesome Saudi researchers.
We visited the Jubbah rock art site on our road trip to Jordan from Riyadh. To reach Ha’il by road from Riyadh ( it takes about 5-6 hours drive from Riyadh. There are also domestic flights and bus services to Ha’il. From Ha’il city you need to get to Jubbah which is about 90km further north. Jubbah is a small oasis village located right next to the mountains where the rock art sites are located.
There are several other rock Art sites around the Ha’il province, which is the richest in rock art in all of Saudi Arabia. Other rock art sites can be found in Tayma, Al Ula, Najran, Shuwaymis and one site near Riyadh called the Graffiti Rocks.
It came as a surprise to me how vast the archeological site actually is. There are multiple places around several different cliffs where you can see rock art varying from an estimated 9,000 to 2000 years old. The area used to be a lake in the Neolithic period, which can be seen depicted through the rock art carved into the red and black rock faces. Images of animals such camels, Arabian horses, Oryx, Ibex, lions, leopards, gazelles, ostriches and hunting dogs can be seen.
I find these kind of historical places fascinating and was so pleased to see how excited my 3 and 5 year olds were about the site. We searched together for all kinds of animals and guessed what the images were trying to depict. The kids loved climbing around the rocks (be careful though!) and running around the nearby sand dunes.
I would love to visit there once again with more time on our hands to have a thorough look through this vast area so rich in Arabian Rock Heritage. It’s really a treasure trove in the middle of the Nafud desert! I think is not getting the attention and coverage it deserves. I would highly recommend visiting the site, it can be done on your own.
To Visit on your own, drive from Ha’il on route 65. Once you reach Jubbah turn into the city from any of the side roads. In the city search for the visitor center of the rock art site ( best to ask a local). You must go there for someone to open the gate for you. The entire area is fenced off. Note the visitor center is open Fridays only from 4 pm (after Asr) until around Maghreb prayer. On other days it should be open in the mornings as well.
Last week a Finnish friend and I attended the VIP opening of the iLuminate show in Riyadh. The show itself was spectacular and no doubt worth the trip all the way to the Princess Noura University. The talented performers and genius orchestration of the lights to sync with the music and dance choreography through the computer coded dance suits was thrilling. I can imagine watching iLuminate light show in a NYC theatre (where it originally came from) would be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
However, the fact is, we are in Saudi Arabia, where there are no public theaters. Not even movie theaters. So there’s just no knowledge of an etiquette on how to behave in one. From the way the audience was acting, you would’ve guessed you’re in the circus, or perhaps a football game. It also seems to be the cultural norm to completely disregard any given rules.
The rules were stated many times before and during the show: do not to use mobile phones or flash photography. This show is meant to be watched in the pitch dark for the ultimate experience. Compare to how disturbing it is to have someone flashing bright lights in your eyes when you’re driving in the dark for example. I’d say about 50% of the enjoyment was ruined because of so many people feeling the need to be above those rules.
So since there seems to be a lack of knowledge on so-called theatre etiquette, here’s a guide how to attend a theatre performance in Saudi Arabia. Maybe someone can learn a thing or two? Or maybe not.. If anything I promise you a good laugh! We sure had a great time watching the show around us in the audience, because what else can you do than just laugh at the madness and try to take it with a sense of humor? At least we won’t be able to experience a theatre audience like this anywhere else in the world.
And yes, all these things went down that night in the PNU theatre.
How To Attend A Theatre Show in Saudi Arabia
-First things first-arrival time. Don’t arrive before the starting time. Everyone knows they’re not going to start on time anyway.
-Arrive from anywhere between 15 min to 1,5h late from the starting time.
-When arriving late, make sure to disturb as many people as possible on the way to your seat. The best way is to put your phones flashlight function on and flash that into people’s eyes when walking on the aisle and looking for a seat. Think of yourself as a lighthouse. Swing the light around.
-Don’t sit next to your children in the theatre. This is actually a wildly brilliant idea. When taking seats in the theatre, make sure you place the kids at least three rows in front of you. It’s a very convenient solution for all parents, you can still see them but there’s no other disturbances to you.
-Take an entire picnic along with you. Don’t forget your dallah pot and a huge box of Krispy Creme. The key here is to make everything ruffle, crackle and drop on floors during the performance.
-Pour salsa on the stairway as an ambush for an unsuspecting theatre goer, it makes a good “landmine” prank. Snapchat anyone stepping into or slipping on the mine.
-Under any circumstances, DO NOT turn your mobile off or put the phone in your bag.
-Phones must be in your hand at all times. Ignore that rubbish announcement about mobile phones having to be turned off, and the prohibition of using flash photography or mobiles during the show.
-When holding your phone, remember to switch the screen brightness to maximum to see better.
-Snap chat the entire performance. It doesn’t matter that nothing can actually be seen on the recording, your friends will be so impressed you’re at a theatre they won’t care. And there’s a sound anyways.
-If you’re not on snap chat (hello fossil?) then you must record the entire performance with either Facebook live, instagram live video, or if you’re really just that much behind your times, just a normal video recording will do. Stop the video once in a while to take some pics. The most important thing here is using the flash and keeping screen brightness to a max.
-Bring your portable charger with you to make sure the your phone does not run out of battery in the middle of the performance. What a catastrophe that would be. It’s a smart idea to keep the charger in your back pocket and sit on top of it. If you’re lucky this will cause the charger to overheat and the bench will start smoking. The fire will interrupt the entire performance and you will get some awesome selfies to post to instigraam with the security guards when they try to extinguish the fire. Added bonus you get to snap chat the whole thing and might gain more followers.
-If the lights are suddenly turned on in the middle of the show and you see smoke coming from a seat with security guards gathering at the scene, one holding some burnt object which from afar looks like a roll of dynamite, under no circumstances leave the theatre. Instead, hello, snapchat! Taking a selfie with that going on in the background is a sure-fire way of gaining more followers.
-If the announcer instructs the theatre goers to immediately evacuate the theatre in a calm manner, do not listen to this nonsense. Instead stay where you are- don’t forget snapchat and selfies.
-In the unfortunate case you happen to run out of popcorn during the show, there’s no problem at all to walk up and down the stairs (just remember those flashlights) to fetch some more. Just make sure to keep a steady flow going.
-Bring your newborn baby to the theatre. It’s always just on overall good idea. It’s a well-known fact how much babies enjoy any kind of theaters. Especially genius idea when the show contains ear blasting decibel volumes, bright flashing lights and the show is late in the evening. WHEN your baby starts crying, make sure to stay in your seat.
-Bring your toddlers. Toddlers always make the best theatre guests. They are just so adorable when they run up and down the hallways, climb on parents, siblings, chairs, stairs, floors, chandeliers and other theatre guests. The attention span of a toddler (approximately 6 seconds) is ideal for watching any kind of show which is scheduled to last at least 90 minutes.
-Bring your preschoolers. Preschoolers are at that age where they actually think everything that’s going on the stage is absolutely real, so bringing them in for the iLuminate show which is not recommended to any under 8 year olds by the founders is a superb idea. Especially if you’re looking to scare the living shit out of your kid for some good laughs. If you’re planning to create some lifelong memories (hello childhood trauma) of alien-like scary figures in the pitch darkness beating up some other red-eyed monster looking figure, or better yet a man-eating glow in the dark gigantic snake, then this would be the perfect show to bring them to.
-Instruct your teenagers to scream, yell and bounce around the seats during the performance as if they’re watching a football game. Throwing popcorn around is a plus.
-If you’re a kid, make sure you leave your shoe mark on the seat in front of you, kick it in similar fashion to the airplanes seats. You can also rest your feet on the seat in front of you.
-At least once during the show, walk up and down the aisle for no reason at all.
-During the half time break leave the theatre and return after the show already started again, not forgetting those bright flashlights. Come back to different seats chosen at random.
-When an additional nonsense announcement is made during half time to remind people of how disturbing the bright screens are during the performance, once the lights go off again continue as before.
-If you’re a female security staff member, your best bet is to keep an eye on the western people coming to the theatre, everyone knows they don’t understand arabic or follow rules, especially in theaters. Every time you see a western woman, remind them to either take their seats, stop taking pictures or move from wherever they are standing, it’s wrong anyways. If you see any blonde haired women, it’s recommended to walk to their seats to remind them of the no photos policy in the middle of the show, even if they are not even holding phones in their hands. It’s well-known blondes can be forgetful.
-Check your emails during the show. Something important might have come up and what a better place to read the emails than the theatre.
-Start leaving the show before it’s over. The performers especially will highly value this. Anytime after the first 15 min is fine.
-And finally, leave all your trash behind, preferably thrown on the floors and hallways.
The desert. It’s just rocks and sand right? How can that be beautiful? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me the desert is just such a magical, peaceful and beautiful place. It’s really amazing what kind of beautiful places really awaits just a short drive out of Riyadh. So many different landscapes and vegetation can be found around the desert of Riyadh. From the famous Red Sands, the majestic Tuwaiq escarpment, desert lakes and heritage villages, there’s always something new and exciting to discover outside of the city.
What kind of beautiful places can you find out there? Escarpments overlooking endless plains such as “the Edge of the World“, seemingly never-ending sand dunes in different hues of orange, red and gold. Depending on the time of year the Wadis (valleys) can become like green oasis’s and seasonal lakes form in various areas outside of Riyadh. Savanna-like areas with free roaming camels and acacia trees and even rock carving sites can be found outside of Riyadh. Read about Edge of the World, the most beautiful place in Riyadh, here: Guide to Edge of the World
The most beautiful place in Riyadh desert: Edge of the World. Photo: Laura Alho
Ten Beautiful Places in Riyadh Desert. Riyadh River. Photo: Laura Alho
The best thing about going to the desert is the absolute silence. No cars, humans, traffic or construction noise. Only you, your thoughts and the nature. The beauty of it just so overwhelming!
Here are ten beautiful places in Riyadh awaiting to be discovered.
1. Red Sand Dunes. Easily accessible, just about 20 min drive from Riyadh are the Red sands, a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quad bikes to explore the area around Kharrarah National Park and on the way there you will see more quad bike rental places next to the road. You can rent them for an hour at a time, and women can drive without abaya without any problems. Check this post to find places in Riyadh where women can go abaya-free: Sans abaya in Saudi
2. Acacia Valley. I love to go camping out in the desert, the nights are beautiful, if the moon and stars are visible much better than inside the city. the scenery becomes somehow otherworldly, you might feel you are on a different planet. And the silence of the night is so intense. You can watch the live show broadcasted live from the sky, just lay down and look up to the stars, it seems possible to touch them! A great place for camp-outs is Riyadh’s Acacia Valley on the way to the Edge of the World.
The best time to go for overnight camping is in the cooler months starting from October to March, although spring is also sandstorm season. Read more about Saudi weather seasons here: Four Seasons of the Magic Kingdom.
3.Khurais Shark’s Teeth cemetery. Another interesting activity I enjoy is fossil-hunting. Saudi-Arabia used to be a part of the bottom of the ocean over 50 million years ago! Finding a seashell that’s 100 million years old is just amazing! There is an area around Khurais where you can find sharks teeth, 50 million years old. You might find tiger sharks teeth, which are quite similar to the ones that roam the seas today.
seashell fossil found in Tuwaiq escarpment outside Riyadh
4. Flower Fields of Red Sands. Did you know that the desert is actually full of flowers in the spring time. Flowers even grow on sand dunes believe it or not! You can find one such sand dune area with fields of flowers (during spring) just 20 min drive from the Riyadh city center.
5. The King’s Forest. The desert has surprisingly lush vegetation, especially on a rainy year you will find many flowers and green areas. There are several areas called “Rawdhat” (garden in Arabic) just outside Riyadh which have vegetation year round. One of the largest one’s is called Rawdhat Kuraim, also known as the King’s Forest.
Fun Fact: Riyadh is the plural of rawdhat, meaning gardens in Arabic.
6. Thumamah Park. Inside this park you can rent a traditional Saudi style bedouin tent camp site, visit the King Khalid Wildlife Center, or go flying in a small aircraft over the escarpment. On the golden sand dunes opposite the park you can rent quadbikes and go on camel / horse rides.
7. Desert Lakes. These rainwater lakes form in the valleys of Wadi Hanifa after heavy rains. You can sometimes find lakes in the middle of sand dunes or behind dams. Try Salbouk dam, the lake Akershiya near Shagra, Ha’ir area south of Riyadh and the dam at ad Dilam.
8. Dirab Horse riding. Another favorite activity of mine is horseback riding in the desert. This photo is from Dirab where they have an extensive area you can explore on horseback at the Dirab Golf and country club. There’s also the King Abdulaziz Arabian Horses Center nearby where they hold poplar races and horse shows during the colder months
9. Wadi Hanifa. Everyone has probably heard about the beautiful valley but what many don’t know is it’s actually over 200 km long with hundreds of small side valleys. For the best parts, to Diriyah area, Wadi Namr, or south of Riyadh to the “Riyadh River“,
10. Heritage Villages.
And last but definitely not least, what I love to do outdoors is to explore the numerous different historical mud villages that can be found around Riyadh. Some of my favorites include
This time on Blue Abaya’s Wanderlust in Saudi Arabia series featured are the Farasan Islands, the Crown Jewels of Saudi Arabia’s travel treasures. Farasan is one of the last places on earth where you can explore and discover such a unique natural habitat without another soul in sight.
Located approximately 50km off the coast of the city of Jizan in the Red Sea, the Farasan islands archipelago consists of 176 islands. The islands are formed of elevated coral reefs and fossils, which is why they are mostly flat with shallow shores and scarce vegetation. The mangroves, beaches and underwater world are the true stunners of Farasan Island’s beauty.
This region also contains the Farasan Island Marine Protected Area, established in 1996. The Marine Protected Area covers approximately 3,310 km2 and includes about 128 islands and 18 shoals, including the three largest and only permanently inhabited islands (Farasan al-Kebir, Sajeed and Gumah). Farasan Islands are also home to the endangered Farasan Gazelle and many species of birds use the shores as their nesting grounds.
The Farasan islands and nearby reefs are a divers paradise. A rich marine life and colorful coral reefs remain mostly unaffected by tourism or divers. No diving centers are based on the Island and divers are expected to bring their own gear from the mainland.
Farasan Islands have a rich history. There are many interesting historical places to explore such as an Ottoman fort, historical village, old mosques, pearl merchant’s homes and coral houses. Most of the historical places are located on the main Farasan Island, but the smaller islands accessible with a rented fishing boat have some forts too. It’s highly recommended to bring your own car to the island because taxi services there are limited.
The islands can be reached via a free ferry from the port of Jizan twice daily. Although the islands are becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination, they remain mostly underdeveloped and tourists should not expect to find many facilities there. This might also be the best part, because you can truly experience the feeling of having a whole paradise island with a white sandy beach to yourself. The best part of going to Farasan islands is how untouched and undeveloped it is. This brings a lot of challenges but also blessings in the form of the private islands and isolated feeling.
I’ve been to Farasan Islands three times during the course of 10 years, and always organized everything myself. My last trip there was in April 2017 alone with my two kids aged 4 and 6 at the time. A couple of friends joined us there and had such an a amazing time on that trip, despite a few setbacks with arrangements. The hardest part is probably figuring out transport and how to find services. The island has no taxis and places seem to open and close at whim. Admittedly, it’s not an easy place to visit on your own. Most facilities and items are not available and must be brought from the mainland.
There’s only two hotels and it’s nearly impossible to get in touch with them beforehand. But then again, it’s sort of what makes these islands so special! Example of how things work on Farasan: we were at the largest grocery store of the island and they don’t have a till at the cashier. The payment process happens so that one man takes the items from the cart placing it on a table, another guy taps the prices into a calculator, and a third takes it from the table and bags them back in your shopping trolley.
Unfortunately a lot of rubbish is laying around most of the main islands beaches the more people visit the more it becomes trashed and unpleasant. Please help preserve the nature of Farasan Islands- don’t leave anything behind at the islands except footprints!
Planning to relocate to Saudi Arabia and want to bring your beloved pet with you? Dogs and cats are like family members and often the best solution for them is to relocate to the new home along with their families. You’ll find all the detailed information how to import cats and dogs into Saudi Arabia in this post to ease your worries about bringing your fur legged friends with you.
It’s possible to bring your pet with you to Saudi Arabia by following the process explained in detail below. This guest post by American Hijabi aka Lyndsey Simpson is a great guide how to bring a dog or cat into Saudi Arabia with you. Lyndsey has first hand experience of bringing her own dog along with her from USA to Jeddah this year. You can read her experience of moving to Saudi Arabia with a pet here.
Importing pets into Saudi Arabia can seem like a monumental task. Saudi Arabia allows the import of both cats and dogs, but does not allow the import of parrots/birds or rabbits. While the process is very similar for both species of animal it is important to be mindful that there are some variations.
– ISO Compliant Microchip
– Rabies Vaccination
– This must be administered at-least 30 days but not more than 6 months
– International Health Certificate for Export (issued in exporting country)
– Saudi Arabian Import Permit (issued by the MOA)
– It is important to note that the import permit is valid for 30 days and only for the port/city for which it is issued.
– ISO Compliant Microchip
– Rabies Vaccination
– This must be administered at-least 30 days but not more than 6 months
– Include vaccination information – batch number and manufacture
– DHC2PP Vaccination
– Test Results Confirming No Parasites/Infections
– Letter Issued By Vet
– Should state that the dog is healthy for export and is a guard dog
– International Health Certificate for Export
– Saudi Arabian Import Permit
– Brussels Griffon
– Bulldog / English Bulldog
– Bull Mastiff
– Bull Terrier
– Great Dane / Deutscher
– Japanese Spitz
– Japanese Akita / Akita Inu
– Lancashire Heeler
– Mastiff / Old English Mastiff
– Staffordshire Bull Terrier / Pitbull
– Swedish Vallhund / Swedish Cattle-dog
– All Terrier and Toy Breeds
Note: As of 2016, if the owner is a Saudi National and resides in Riyadh, the owner will be required to apply with aforementioned criteria; additionally a home inspection may be required by the Ministry of Interior through the local police station, as the the owner should reside in a villa or on a farm, apartment facilities will not be accepted. Should the owner chose to sell or re-home the imported canine/dog, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior should be notified. The owner will take full responsibility for the animal – including attacks on people, other animals, or for scarring local residents. Imports from the United States are required to utilized a APHIS 7001, and must have verification endorsements from the Saudi Arabian Embassy and US Department of State.
All dogs entering Saudi Arabia must be listed as a guard dog, regardless of size or breed. It is possible that a Saudi Arabian Import Permit may be obtained for some banned breeds, if the owner is relocating to Saudi for employment and will be exporting the dog, once the employment contract has ended. If the dog is on the banned breeds list, it may be possible to obtain a permit if the dog is listed as a “mixed” breed. If a Saudi Arabian Pet Import certificate is issued by the MOA vet in Dammam, it is only good for Dammam; this is also enforced for other ports of entry including Jeddah and Riyadh.
When applying for the Saudi Arabian Import Permit for both species, the owner will need to submit the microchip information, vaccination information, international health certificate, and a photo of the animal. The Saudi Arabian Import Permit is issued in Saudi Arabia and can be obtained through a third party contact (including employers), or it is possible in some cases to email the MOA vet directly.
When entering Saudi Arabia through any port, a colored copy of the permit will be sufficient to process through customs, if the permit was obtained by email a copy should be waiting at airport upon arrival – if the permit was obtained through a third party, it will be necessary to have someone at the airport with the original. The owner will additionally need to check with their airlines in order to know if there are any additional requirements that may need to be met in order for the pet to fly. Some smaller dogs and cats may be able to fly in the cabin, while others will need to fly as excess baggage.
This relocation can be difficult on both the owners and their pets. In order to ensure that a pet is ready to travel, it is important to get them acquainted with their crates. As pet owners may not crate their pets often, it can be helpful to utilize a positive reinforcement when getting the pet acquainted with a crate; this system can include food reinforcements or affection. When preparing the crate for travel, it is important to waterproof the bottom (puppy pad, newspaper, etc), a non-spill water and food bowl, food, leash, a copy of all documentation, extra quick-release zip ties, and a picture of the pet. All document originals should be with the owner at all times.
Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, it will be important to become familiar with the area. Should the owner live on a compound, there may be more options for walking a dog. Additionally the owner may want to seek out local pet stores in order to identify food sources and possible vets. Veterinary care in Saudi Arabia can be different from other places, it is imperative to ensure that both the owner and pet are comfortable with the vet. Some vets may offer additional services including hygiene care and boarding services.
Life in Saudi Arabia is different from many places and while this is a generalized outline for obtaining the proper documentation and how to import a pet; it is important to still check with the local municipality as the rules are subject to change without notification, and as each port of entry may have their own specifics.
American Hijabi is an American revert blogger born of Native American ancestry; she is married to a Saudi and is currently residing in Jeddah, KSA with her husband and dog. American Hijabi has been blogging since 2013 and focuses on her life in Saudi Arabia, health and beauty, and travels.