Tag Archives: saudi arabia expat blog

Blogging on Saudi Arabia: Best of Search Engine Terms

I have always been wondering about the people who are reading this blog. More importantly: in the vast dimension of the internet, how on earth did they come across my blog among so many others? Algorithms provide an interesting angle from which one can look at this question. My analytics page shows me some of the search terms which have been used before the link to this blog has been clicked. I think that’s a great tool. Now that I had a look at the list of the last three years, it is pretty remarkable to see what things go through people’s heads when they are on the internet. Although I am sure I didn’t want to see everything I came across, now that I think about it…

Some terms are just key words, some are specific questions (which I have partially answered in my FAQ section and which I will extend ASAP) and some search queries I found particularly amusing as I scrolled through the list.

So today I thought to share with you some of my favorite search engine terms that my blog has registered. If you happen to find any of your own queries among these, please don’t take it personally! I appreciate every visitor on here and while I can see where my visitors are from, what links they click on my page or what search terms they used to find me, I have absolutely NO IDEA about their identity. So don’t worry about your persona and let’s just embrace my dry German humor and maybe share a grin or two.

“how do saudi men find their women if they get lost in a mall”

Interesting question indeed! I mean, if all women wearing the niqab pretty much look the same, how do they know? How do children find their mothers in the supermarket? How does a man get hold of his wife before she can spend all his money? My guess would be specific abaya designs, handbags or shoes as  recognition marks. Once you know a person well enough, you may be able to tell her apart by the way she moves or the way she wears her hijab on that particular day.

“why riyadh so cold”

Riyadh? Cold? Really? Is there another Riyadh where frying your breakfast egg on the tiles of your porch as it is being caressed by the blaring Saudi sun has never been heard of? I must visit that place next! 🙂 To be fair though, winters in Riyadh can get very chilly in comparison to the spring and summer months.

“i really want to go to saudi arabia”

Do you really though? Do you? 🙂 Well, you came across this blog so you must at least have been thinking about it.

“can u live in saudi arabia if ur handsome”

According to articles online a few years back, an actor from Dubai was told to leave Saudi Arabia which he was visiting for a festival, on the grounds that he was too handsome. While I still suspect that may have been a hoax, I can see how this is becoming a concern for potential visitors. Imagine going through the exhausting process of getting your documents together, obtaining your visa and then being told that you can’t enter because you know…you are simply too gorgeous for this place! What a self-esteem boost! 😀

“people in saudi arabia are sad”

Aren’t we all? Everywhere?

“saudi arabia women not allowed to eat ice cream”

Okay, I know that women not allowed to drive is the number one thing people know about Saudi Arabia but…ice cream? Really? Let’s keep it real for a second… Do not worry, dear wonderful feminine sugar addicts like me! You are free to enjoy the best of Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin Robbins and other brands served and sold in quantities Europeans can only dream of. 🙂

“can i jet ski in the rain”

Fact: It does not rain in Saudi Arabia very often, but when it does, the whole place turns into one large sea. Schools, offices, businesses and traffic shut down.Cars float around like they are nothing but wooden boats. In these rare instances, some people do the best of the situation by getting their jet skis out into the streets.

Got any more questions for me? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Guest Post:24hrs in Riyadh- Female Solo Travel in Saudi Arabia

Yes, you read it correctly. I did actually put the words Saudi Arabia, female and solo travel next to each other and I am just as excited about that possibility to occur as some of my readers may be confused. 🙂

For a blogger or a writer of any sorts, there is nothinng better than getting in touch with his or her readers. Since I started this blog, I have received many  E- Mails from Saudis and internationals, journalists and PhD students, filled with praise for my work or questions regarding my experiences in Saudi and of course some occasional, inevitable criticism.

If any of you are reading this right now: Thank you very much for your time, you are what keeps my work going. I love you all, even my critics!

A couple of months ago, just as I was pacing in front of the lecture hall before my first exam of the semester, I received an E-Mail from Kiera, a lady living in Dhahran who asked me what I would recommend for a short trip to Riyadh. I stood still for a second. Traveling alone in Saudi? As a woman? ALONE?? That was definitely interesting! Women traveling in KSA was nothing new but the ones I knew of did so in groups of at least three in the company of their personal driver.

I immediately forgot about my exam stress as my head started filling with questions. My trip to Jeddah at the end of my stay in the Kingdom ended up not happening so I didn’t really know what to tell her. I admired her decision to take a trip to Riyadh by herself. I wished I would have had the time and the courage to do the same so I did the best I could and told her about things I had done in Riyadh and some of the things I wished I had done, had there been more time and more opportunities.

Today, I am beyond happy to share her story with you! To give you a taste of what awaits you, here’s my favorite quote so far: “People in Riyadh are open-minded but the laws are strict somewhat”.

A Thank You Note to YOU!

Dear readers,

it has been a while since the last time that I have been active on this blog. In fact, I am surprised that even during the months of my return to Germany, there were still one or two occasions on which I had enough words in order to leave them on here for you to read. Each of my returns to this blog has indeed been a pleasure for me. It’s like coming back to something that once has been a piece of myself, and would I not love writing down my impressions so much, I surely would not have said this now.

And yet, despite my absence and this blog being just the remains of my (rather limited) observations, there are still several people visiting it every day. I did not know how many people would come across this when I started publishing my articles. I thought that this website would just be sitting here, discovered only every now and again by the one or the other poor soul. But now here I am, checking the statistics every day and seeing how my words have been read by more than 30.000 people and counting.

Today I thought that it was finally time for me to come back and thank all of you, whether you are new or old readers or whether you are Saudi or not, for being my virtual guests day in day out since the appearance of this blog on the internet.

I did not start writing all of these posts because I wanted to become famous or anything of that sort. I wanted others to read what I had to say about a place so little people have access to. Read, take in the words and maybe even think about them for a moment or two before they went back to watching the news on the same place I was writing about.  The fact that there are so many of you who keep reading, or at least visiting seems to show me that my intentions worked and I am very happy to have you as my readers.

I also want to thank all those of you who don’t just read all of this but  contact me personally. All of the comments and E-Mails I have received over the past year have indeed been a pleasure to read and answer.

Thank you for the praise, the encouragement,  the questions and criticism some of you have shared with me. I did not think that I would ever make it this far, even though in the big picture it is just a tiny step in the whole wide world of possibilities and achievements I have yet to get to.

I hope to keep hearing from you as I am, after various encouragements from my readers, turning all of these notes into a book made of my old and new thoughts, impressions and ideas about living in Saudi Arabia.

I wish I was able to write all of this in Arabic for my Saudi visitors to read as well, but my Arabic course has only covered the very basics so far. 🙂

Well, I might be gone by now but the doors to my thoughts and impressions shall remain open to you at least for a little bit longer.

Ma’a Salama Riyadh: Last Post Maybe

By the time I am writing this I have already left Riyadh and maybe even for good.

There were quite a few things happening but not as much that I could have written about up until now. Things like the last exams or prom and in the end, graduation.

I must say that  despite all of the differences between life in Riyadh and life anywhere else, I miss Saudi Arabia. I miss the call to pray in the morning, the sun that shines all day long and I miss the time I spent in school.

The day I got back to Berlin, we had about 35 degrees Celsius. That was a nice start, especially since it was relatively warm but it was still possible to breathe. But two hours later rain came down and the sky turned dark. That is how it has been here up until now and my friends here still have trouble understanding how I feel cold outside while everyone else seems to be sweating.

I feel like my stay in Riyadh has given me a lot. Maybe I can’t exactly name all of those things but I still feel like I have changed for the better and that somehow I managed to grow as an individual and as an intellectual, especially with the help of my friends. But even if I am mistaken about these things, at least I can say that my time there has given me nine more interesting and enlightening  months in my entire life and has shown me that I am not as anti social as people always thought I was.

I don’t know for sure whether I miss Saudi Arabia as a whole or if I just miss my memories of it. That seems to be something very common in us. We don’t really miss a place or a person or whatever else there is. Sometimes we just long for the memories we have of it but sometimes we don’t and sometimes we actually want to be back.

That stay abroad was quite educational, too. I have been back in Germany for a little more than a week now and I have spotted what I think were 4 Saudi women in the streets. Now that I know what an abaya is and can recognize Arabic words as them actually being Arabic and not Turkish as I used to believe, I noticed that there are quite some people from Saudi Arabia here in Germany. However, they still can be from another Arab place. Who knows.

And with me leaving Saudi Arabia, I guess that this may be my last post. But honestly, I hope that it won’t be and that in the next weeks and months and years to come, I will still come up with ideas for potential posts.

If you are new to the subject of Saudi Arabia and have any questions or suggestions for articles, fell free to share them with me!

And for now, Ma’a Salama,Riyadh!

The Saudi Souvenir Checklist

Every time I go to a new place. and especially when I am fascinated by it, I always try to get something from there that I can keep as a souvenir. But when I am talking about souvenirs, I don’t really mean things like key chains or T- Shirts that say something like “I ❤ KSA”, and if I were to buy something that has “I ❤ KSA” on it, it would probably be some sort of hand made art. like a typography poster or something.

I personally am more into things thar are (more or less) unique for the place where I am. Something that has not been mass produced in a way that I could buy pretty much the same thing in souvenir shops all over the world and the only thing that would differ would be the name of the city or country.

I have this little list of things that I would get for myself before I leave, which as I realized will be very soon. In case you are still thinking about what sort of things you’d like to bring home from here, feel free to be inspired by my ideas.

1. Thobe

2. Arabic coffee pot

3. Traditional Saudi women’s dress (not the standard abaya but the colorful one)

4.  Perfume oil

5. Incense

6. Cardamom

7. Some sort of antique

8. Arabic calligraphy art

9. Rose water

10. Jewelery with my name in Arabic on it

11. Middle Eastern style lamp

To Adapt, or Not to Adapt, That is the Question

Why would the average person move to Saudi Arabia? For many it is all about the luxuries, such as cheap gasoline, luxurious houses and a good salary. But unfortunately, many of those people don’t think about the differences between this country and the country of their origin. In the end, they realize that in order to have a happy life here, one must adapt to the local customs and rules. However, by the time they learn that it is almost too late to change their opinion on the place or sometimes people just chose to be ignorant.

If you are one of those people who think western society is always right and everyone should do as it says with no exception, I suggest you stop reading right here. If you really want to know what will await you once you come to Saudi Arabia and if you are willing to face these challenges, please be my guest and read on.

After again having to listen to western people complain a few hours ago about how terrible they find it to live here with all those “restrictions”, I think I should share a fact that MUST be considered before one decides to move to live here.

So, if you think that you cannot adapt, or if you think that you don’t want or don’t have to live with things like heat, dress codes, social limitations, absence of public transport, pork and alcohol, then DON’T MOVE HERE!!!!!!

Because if you do so, without being able to cope with these things, your life here will be miserable and all you will do is complain about how bad you have it here all day and feel like you wasted a large portion of your precious time, while annoying those who are actually trying to make the best out of their time here, including the locals.

When it comes to living abroad in general, I would say it is all a matter of attitude. You have the choice between being open-minded and ready to explore something new, or you can choose to be ignorant and pretend like you are not a guest in someone else’s country but still “at home” where things go your way. I find this an interesting country. But this is because I told myself that I will make it interesting for me and that I will find things that will make my stay worth the time. So in the end, it is really up to your motivation and interpretation. If you want to have a great time here, you can achieve that!

I really don’t mean to be rude with this post or anything like that. I created this blog to help people have a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and give advice for future expats where I can. So, since this whole adaptation thing seems to be a big deal for most people, I think that it should really be made clear that Saudi Arabia is not like the western society. It is a country with its own culture and its own rules. It is us, the foreigners (including me) that have to get used to the local people and their rules while we are in Saudi Arabia, not the other way around. I am not a patriot and never have been but the foreigners are guests in this country and I think it would only be appropriate to be respectful to the locals. In the end, many of them respect us, too.

And with all that said, I really hope that I was able to help you make an important life decision. As scary as some things may sound about this place, I can say that it is all not as bad as you think, so may your stay be full of new friends, adventures and life lessons! 🙂

Things That You Thought Are Banned in Saudi Arabia But Actually Aren’t

things banned in saudi

Some people think that Saudi Arabia is a place where things go backwards, meaning that people live like they did in ancient times. That may be true for some things which I probably should not be discussing on here but one of the things that contribute to this general opinion are the things that are (supposedly) banned in this country and to which this post is dedicated.

At the very beginning, I also believed that a lot of the things listed would not be available in Riyadh but that was because I have never been there before and I had nobody whom I could have asked in advance. So, once I arrived in Riyadh and spent some time in town, I was positively surprised and everything did not seem as “ancient” as I thought it would.

For those of you who are wondering, here is a list of the things that most people think are banned here, but they actually aren’t. Or at least not literally. For that, I will base myself on this list, which seems to be the most recent one I found and some other things I heard of.

1. Socializing between men and women: Okay, I must admit that THERE ARE LIMITATIONS on that aspect but it is not as terrible as most of you imagine, which is why I put it on the list. It’s not like men and women who are not relatives never communicate and just literally ignore each other. If you do groceries, you may end up talking to a person of opposite gender, especially if you bargain over the price of something. You will also end up communicating with people when you need to ask for directions. It can also happen that your spouse and you (or whomever you are with in this country) go out together with colleagues. In the end, you would certainly not show affection to someone in public like you would do in the west, but that does not mean that you will never ever talk to someone of the opposite gender, who is not related to you during your stay here.

2. Cats and dogs: That is total nonsense! I can imagine that this has been forbidden maybe 5-10 years ago but not now. I got my cat with me into the kingdom without any trouble and I know that there are pet shops in Riyadh that sell animals. True, some or even most Saudis may not be big fans of cats and dogs but that does not mean that they are literally banned here. If you can buy dog and cat food in this place, then the animals will certainly be allowed here.

3. Smartphones: Nonsense again. Smartphones and fancy technology (cameras and other stuff) are all over the place here. People are crazy about the newest technological items. Having an Iphone in this country is absolutely nothing spectacular. Almost everybody has one and they don’t only use it to make calls. Saudis take pictures all the time. Especially women. Riyadh is so far the first place I have seen where you can charge your gadgets in parks, at special stations.

 

4. Women moving around freely: It is true that a woman needs a man’s permission to travel on her own, but as of actually moving from A to B within town, that is not legally forbidden for single women. Surely that depends on your husband’s or any other guardian’s character and whether he personally trusts you or not. However, don’t think that as a woman, and especially as an expat, you are not allowed to go to town on your own. If you want to and your guardian doesn’t mind or maybe even doesn’t care, you may do so. Feel free to read more about that here 

5. Women at work: Same as for #4, women will need the permission of their guardian in order to go to work. However, it is wrong to think that women don’t work here at all. As for what I have seen, women work mostly in shops, schools or in hospitals. The fields may be limited but it is a start. Women here also receive higher education if allowed so by their guardian.  So, I would say that more and more opportunities arise for women to develop and prove themselves intellectually. Some men are even in favor of their wives working, especially when they have big families.

6. Dolls: No need to disappoint your children! In Saudi Arabia, dolls can be found in any store that sells toys. And not only can you find dolls that are dressed modestly, meaning there are dolls in abayas and hijabs, but you can also buy the good old Barbie and other dolls. All no big deal.

7. Books and movies: Yes, movie theaters are forbidden indeed but that does not mean that you don’t get to watch any western movies at all. My TV at home for example, shows all sorts of movies from the west and there is no censorship at all. That may be a little different when you try to download certain types of movies but generally, you can download lots of stuff here. As of for books, you can get a lot of English books here. Just go to a place like Jarir Book Store and you will see what I mean. I have seen books by Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks etc. All available. There are even libraries here, believe it or not. I don’t know whether the books in there are in English, Arabic or both, but I think that libraries are a good start towards encouraging the usage of books, aren’t they?