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Submitted by an expat woman living in Dammam/Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

City: Dammam/Al Khobar
Country: Saudi Arabia
Submitter's Name: Farheen
Nationality: United Kingdom
Arrival Date: 15th Dec 2007
Date Submitted: 6 may, 2008
Expand/ContractCity Description
Dammam, Dhahran and Al Khobar are a pretty much 3-in-1 city...

It is a modern place, with malls and every convenience possible... lots of restaurants and shops.

The weather is very hot in summer, but can be pretty cold sometimes during winter (but not too bad)
Expand/ContractPros and Cons
Locals tend to mind their own business.

The traffic and the way the locals drive is insane... but as a woman in Saudi you by law are not permitted to drive so you will only have to deal with being a passenger in a car driving at insane speeds and changing lanes way too often!

As a woman in Saudi you will never be looked at as equal of a man, but unless you are working in a predominantly male Saudi place it should not matter.

You will have to cover up when outside... i.e. wear an abaya, which is a long black coat worn over your clothes. It is not ideal and many expat women refuse to wear one but then you just stick out like a sore thumb and I do not think one should attract unnecessary attention to oneself in a place like KSA.

You do not have to cover your head or face. If you do choose not to wear the abaya it is wise to dress modestly covering your legs and arms and not showing midriff.

It is a good place for families as the International Schools are plenty and provide a good education.

Saudi is not a good place for gay/lesbians, as Islam is very much against same sex relationships.

KSA is a very safe place. The laws and punishments are very strict but still one should always be careful.

KSA is a dry country... however Bahrain is 1/2hr drive from Dammam so if you want to drink and party that is where you can go.
Expand/ContractImmigration / Visas / Work Permits
sually your employer handles your visas (work & residency). It is wise to register yourself with your embassy in Riyadh when you arrive.
Most Expats are housed within walled and guarded compounds.

Most jobs will provide accommodation so if you are seeking a job in KSA make sure you have accommodation provided... good compounds have all facilities ...pools, gyms, shops. Within the compound you can wear what you like.
Expand/ContractHousehold Help
Some people have help... some do not. It is up to you and your needs. Cost would be cheap, like everything else in Saudi.
Telephone and Mobile connections are good. Depending on where you are calling, rates differ.

TV - satellite TV readily available with over 100 channels... with shows from the UK, US etc.

Post is rubbish - I have been waiting over 2 months for study materials to arrive... most people get their post delivered to work rather than home. But generally it is bad... so stick to email as much as possible.
Expand/ContractLocal Language
You can get by without learning the language. Most people speak and understand English but try and keep it basic when speaking to them... remember English is not their mother tongue.
Expand/ContractUtilities for the Home
Nestle water is available to be delivered to your doorstep.

Gas and Electricity and petrol are dirt cheap. Again these things usually are paid by your employer.
Expand/ContractLocal Employment
Best find work before you come... in fact I doubt you will even get a visa unless you have work.

Women cannot enter the kingdom without work or having a usband or her father sponsor her from within the kingdom.
Expand/ContractMoney and Banks
Local currency is Saudi Riyal.

Most banks have separate sections for women... there are international banks like HSBC etc so not a problem opening an account.

Once again your employer should assist you.
Healthcare is good. If you have health insurance you should have no worries there. Medicines are easily available.
Many International Schools are present in this area. Most schools run buses or compounds have buses to take kids to school.
Cars are cheap but women cannot drive in Saudi so make sure your employer gives you transportation.

You can get taxis but it is not advisable and if you wish to go to Bahrain its about 250 Riyal one way (about US$ 66), for example.
Expand/ContractShopping & Beauty Care
Everything is available in KSA.

All your wants and needs from make-up to clothes.

All the foreign and designer shops are here for you.
Expand/ContractSports and Entertainment
No information supplied.
Dogs are harder to bring into the Kingdom but cats are not a problem.
Ask vets in your local country what the procedure is or you can contact these people: http://www.saudivets.com.
Expand/ContractUseful Resources
Useful book to have is Eastern Province today (available for 20 Riyals at Jarir Bookstore in Saudi).

Saudi Expat group on Yahoo groups is very useful as well. As is Saudi Pets.
Come to KSA with an open mind - it is very different to othercountries.

Editor's note: For more information about Saudi, please visit: Our Expat Women Living in Saudi Arabia page
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