Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Don't let the descent fool you. Flying across the Najd desert plateau, one would be forgiven for wondering, why here? The climate is dry, and dust storms can kick up a blinding fit. Closer in, however, and you’ll soon see date palms and shrubs spotting the landscape. The name Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in fact, comes from the Arabic for gardens (rowdah), and lies atop an area where several underground riverbeds converge, resulting in a natural oasis that has long drawn traders and nomads alike.
Perhaps the most useful advice for westerners considering relocation to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be to be prepared. That’s not meant in the way of extra outdoor gear and a first aid kid. Saudi’s got all that…as a matter of fact, you’ll be able to find just about anything your foreign heart desires here, so long as it doesn’t fall under the category of vice. The compounds have the basics covered: hairdressers, gyms, pools and groceries, not to mention an easy-going, friendly atmosphere. Private buses whisk kids to school and back again, and homes tend to be spacious, comfortable, and modern. In cases where you can’t buy it, chances are you can’t bring it anyway, so leave the Jack Daniels and Christmas ornaments behind. Being prepared, rather, means being open-minded and patient. Popular schools and compounds, for instance, can have wait lists that run a couple years out. You’ll want to make sure that you’re on all the right waiting lists as early in the game as possible. Quest Relocations specialists can help you adjust to the unique existence that is life in Saudi Arabia’s capital city.
There’s a time for bejeweled daggers and bangles, and then there’s the rest of life. A primary destination for anyone touching down in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the souk, or market. All sorts of luxury goods, spices and kitsch are ready to be haggled over here, but in reality, expats who relocate to Saudi Arabia’s capital spend far more time roaming the polished, climate-controlled expanses of modern malls than negotiating the winding aisles of a souk.
And when it comes to malls, there’s plenty to pick from. High-end everything is on sale in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (In fact, anyone with understated tastes might have to dig deep, as bling can seem to be perennially in style.) Al Faisaliyah and Mamlaka shopping centers are located downtown, with the latter notably home to an entire ladies-only floor. Malls aren’t just for shopping, though. Wandering the generous spaces of the Hayat or the vast Sahara complex provide a much-needed distraction during the withering summer months. There are restaurants, kiddie playlands, and plenty of parking. Large-scale grocery outlets are also included in the mall deal. Patrons can purchase most of their favorites from back home at stores like Tamimi (which stocks Safeway goods), Carrefour or Hyperpanda. Those looking for home furnishings turn toward the Saco mall, or to the familiar décor found at IKEA. In other words, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s shopping world is full-up, leaving the retail-crazed spoiled for choice.
When it comes to an international education for your child, there are several, top-notch choices in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including British, French, German and American institutions. These international schools are generally located outside of the compounds, with the exception of preschools on some of the larger developments. All are built to serve the best education to the many nationalities populating Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, space is limited, and it is best to make arrangements as soon as you know your international assignment has been approved.
Medical services in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can be top-notch. Expats by and large choose to frequent private medical clinics and hospitals, where everything’s on hand, from routine diagnostics to invasive, radical surgery. The facilities in these hospitals are hygienic, state-of-the-art, and staffed by administrators who are familiar with international claims processing. Most medical personnel at private clinics speak English, as many them also happen to hail from abroad. But of course it all comes with a price tag, so it’s important to make sure you’re covered, insurance-wise, before making that first appointment.
Pharmacies in the capital are typically just around the corner, and sell most of the standards, like painkillers and eye-drops, on an over-the-counter basis. Westerners may be surprised, however, to find that they can walk in and buy antibiotics without a prescription, whereas anti-depressants are so tightly controlled as to be virtually unavailable. Should you have any specific medical concerns, your Quest Relocations consultant can do all the necessary research to ensure that you have everything you need to make your adventure in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a success.
Arabic is the official language in Saudi Arabia, and English is widely spoken.
The official currency is the Saudi Riyals (SR). The exchange rate is set at USD 1 = SR 3.75
National Day: 23rd of September
Eid Al-Fitr Holiday: Celebrates the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. As the Islamic calendar moves on the lunar cycle, the holiday dates change from year-to-year. In the current cycle, Ramadan falls in the summer months.
Eid Al Adha Holiday: Celebrates the "festival of sacrifice" in the Islamic religion. As the Islamic calendar moves on the lunar cycle, the holiday dates change from year-to-year. In the current cycle, and usually falls 2 months and 10 days after Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha falls in the autumn months.
Government Offices typically are open from 6am or 7 am until 2 pm. Private sector establishments vary, but many work on a standard 8am to 5pm Western timeframe. In either case, Friday and Saturday are the weekend holidays.
Greenwich Mean Time + 3 hours (GTM+3).
Important information for expats moving to Saudi
It is not a common practice for tenants to transfer utilities into their name upon signing a rental contract with their landlord, and utility payment is typically the tenant's responsibility. In some cases and when advertised, the landlord or compound may offer to cover certain or all of the utilities or include it within the rent price.
Maid service is more regularly available in Saudi than is typical in Western countries, and usually at a fraction of the cost. Maid service through agencies is available daily, weekly, or on set days per week, depending on the tenant preference.
Renting a car in Saudi is a good short-term solution and for some, may make sense as a long-term solution as well. Some expats sign long-term rental contracts with car hire companies or renewable one-month contracts and use rental cars as their regular form of transportation while in the country. One reason is to avoid the hassles of taking a car loan with a bank or through your employer to purchase a new vehicle.
The weather in Saudi is warm during Spring months, hot during Summer months, and moderate during Fall and Winter. Summer months also have high levels of humidity in the Eastern and Western Regions as is common to Gulf countries. Also, many expats choose to take their annual leave during the summer.
During the rest of the year, Saudi’s climate is temperate and Mediterranean – it still may be warm depending on your country of origin, but it is sunny and generally pleasant. Winter months can get cool in the evening, down to about 1 degrees Celsius.