Guide for expatriates moving, living and working in Saudi Arabia, Ryadh City Guide, international Movers, aparthotel, relocation, concierge services to Ryadh, Real Estate, with property search, relocation information, and shopping and services directories

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Saudi Arabia Welcome
The Guide for living and working in Saudi Arabia
A guide, information, advice and useful addresses.

Saudi Arabia Welcome

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Political Status Geographical situation
Economy & statistics


Other sectors
Weights, measures and voltages
Main towns


Working in South Africa
Entry formalities:
Health & medicine


Connections with France
Time differences
Car rental
Hotels & restaurants
Your suitcase
Your car
Schools & schooling
Cost of Living
in Johannesburg :

Useful Addresses

City Ville Guide

18 - Flights
Attention pilgrims : For pilgrims arriving on special or normal flights, during or outside the pilgrimage period ("Umrah") :
- on foreign airlines you can only arrive in Jeddah
- by Saudi Arabian Airlines you can arrive by Dhahran, Jeddah or Medina
You must have all the necessary health certificates with you as well as a return airline ticket which mentions the fact that you are a pilgrim.

Saudi Airlines is classed as the best airline in the Middle East and has second place in the world rating out of 225 companies. It has 109 planes and makes 310 flights a day during the tourist season. Financially the company makes a loss though.

19 -Time differences
Between France and Saudi Arabia the time difference is +2 hours in winter and +1 hour in summer (Arabia is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time).
20 - Telecommunications

To phone Saudi Arabia from France dial : 00 + 966 + the town code + the number
Djeddah : 2
Riyad : 1.
To phone France from Saudi Arabi : 00 33 + the number

Radio/Television :
The television has two main channels.

Press/Newspapers :
- Akhbar El Alam El Islami (weekly) «News of the Muslim World ».
- Arab News (daily).
- Arrajol « The Man », (monthly).
- Asharq al Awsat (daily).
- Al Jazira «The Island » (daily)
- El Nadoua (the only daily paper from Mecca)
21 - Car rental

It is possible to rent a car from agencies at the airports and in the big shopping malls.
An international driving licence is required.
Avis :
Al Khobar : tel 966 03 898 2800
Dammam : 966 03 857 7831
Dharan : airoport : 966 03 891 9488
Jeddah : 966 02 6669 2020, airport : 966 02 685 304
Jubail : 966 03 346 6777, Intercontinental Hotel : 966 03 341 1576
Juffali : 966 03 827 5256
Riyadh : 966 01 476 1300
Yanbu : 966 04 322 7588
All Avis cars are completely equipped, have done less than 15,000 kms and have an average age of 3 months. The vehicles are carefully prepared and checked between each rental using a procedure containing 7 obligatory control points. The cars are rented with a full tank.
Renting from Avis automatically means that the car passengers, renter and/or driver are covered by a third party insurance as well as an insurance covering repatriation and the immobilization of the vehicule in case of an accident.

You can reserve a car :
- from your travel agent
- from the international reservation centre at 0 820 05 05 05
- or from any Avis agency
Avis has an interactive network worldwide, a client can reserve a car instantly from anywhere in the world.

We recommend that you pay your rental using your accredited Avis card or with another credit card accepted by Avis : American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Diners.
Through a simple free membership system, Avis gives identity and/or payment cards, which are a real help for a rapid and efficient service.

REASSURING : No on-line payment, you can pay Avis directly at the agency when you return the car
RAPID : Avis has the quickest car rental reservation service on the web
ECONOMICAL : The cheapest rates on the market are available on the Avis microsite
COMPLETE : You can rent a car anywhere in the world.
The Avis network : 5000 agencies in 172 countries, is now on-line!
EFFICIENT : Find your town (you don't have to fill in the country), enter the date and click on estimate
PRACTICAL : You only have to fill in 4 boxes and you will receive an e-mail confirming the reservation.
You can even rent a vehicle at the last minute just round the corner or ... on the other side of the world.

22 - Your suitcase
Take a wardrobe of light, but very conventional clothing - no short skirts, shorts, exposed shoulders etc.
Women in Arabia have to be veiled and do not accompany their husbands on social occasions.

Women (local and foreign) have to wear the abaya, which is a wide black robe which covers them entirely, whenever they go out of the house.
23 - Information
Week-ends last from Thursday lunchtime until Friday evening.
Public holidays are religious Muslim days, the dates vary each year with the lunar calendar : the beginning of Ramadan, Id ul Fitr, the Islamic New Year, Id ul Adha, the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Shops close during the prayer times.

Alcohol is strictly forbidden.

Supermarkets are open 24 hours a day.

Rules and Regulations :
- you have to leave your passport with your sponsor
- you need a 'travel letter' if you are travelling in the country
(these two rules could ease up in the near future)
- women must wear an abaya (a long black robe which covers them to the floor) whenever they go out, they are not allowed to drive and are not allowed to have a job
- western women can go to Arabia on business but have to follow the conventions and are not allowed to participate in commercial exhibition.
24 - Banks

The Saudian banking sector is powerful, it represents 5% of the GNP, employs 20,000 people and there
are 1,235 agencies.
Monetary policy is the jurisdiction of the SAMA, the Saudi Monetary Agency, who play the role of a central bank and issue payments concerning government contracts
There are 10 commercial banks, three of which are totally Saudian - the National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation and the Rijadh Bank. The other seven , amongst which are the Al Bank al Saudi al Fransi, (the Crédit Agricole-Indosuez), are co-enterprises with foreign banks but with a majority Saudian share.

25 - Schools and Education

There are a lot of schools in the country :
- the French School of Djeddah (up to the secondary 2nd cycle)
- the French School of Al Khobar (up to the secondary 1st cycle) at Dhahran Airport
- the French School of Riyad (up to the secondary 2nd cycle)

The weekly days off are Thursdays and Fridays.
The rate of adult illiteracy is 34%, compared to 2% in France.

There are also big Saudi organizations which are interested in obtaining aid to develope practical training programmes :
- the GOTEVOT, a general organization for technical and professional training
- the general management of institutes and colleges of health science for the Ministry of Health
- the general management for the education of girls (primary and secondary schooling) - it manages training institutes and colleges
- the SCECO, Saudi Consolidated Electric Company
- the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

26 - Guides

It is a good idea to subscribe to a specialized magazine :
Middle East Economic Digest,
Arab Press Services,
Gulf Directory

There are also trade magazines published by the French administration :
« Le Marché du second-oeuvre du bâtiment aux Emirats Arabes Unis et en Arabie Saoudite », edited by CFCE
The notes of the French Trade Commission, Librairie du Commerce International, 10 ave d’Iéna, BP 428-16, 75769 Paris Cedex 16 - Tel (01) Fax (01)
Trade Commission Riyadh : Article on the priority sectors for prospecting French companies

27- Observations

Prohibited :
- The Israelian Sheqel ,
- alchoholic drinks,
- firearms or other weapons,
- drugs (except for prescribed medicines with a prescription),
- foodstuffs which have pork in them
- musical or theatrical shows

Most foodstuffs are not allowed into the country except for fruit, nuts, some sweets, the boxes must be easy to inspect.

For business, as the judicial system is based on the Charia, the Koranic law, contracts have to be made using a local lawyer and fiscal matters have to be dealt with via a local accountant
Agreements which have been signed out of the country are not recognized.

When you are addressing a government Minister, the President of a Chamber of Commerce or other dignitaries, you have to use the title "Your Excellency"
Members of the royal family are addressed as "Your Royal Highness"
A 'sheik' is an elder from a traditional tribe.

The bakchich is a polite welcome gift. It is a commercial instrument or an offering, a sign of sympathy or friendship for the person you are meeting with.

Saudi Arabians are skilful negotiators and big buyers.
They prefer man to man relationships, where the word of honour and trust given are essential.
Contacts are paradoxically warm and formal. There is no question of being 'buddies', formal dress is appreciated, it is risky to ask after the family, and all negotiations start with long discussions on general nothings.

Saudians hate confrontations, one of the bases of their culture is a constant search for consensus.
Decisions are taken after long discussions amid councils and commissions.
It is important, even essential, to understand the hierarchy among the people you are talking to, their family relationship and where they come from. A real underground network which takes lots of time to unravel and needs lots of investigation.

Take time, don't be in a hurry, give the impression that you have plenty of time : this universal way of showing interest is really appreciated in Saudi Arabia.


Until this year international tourism could only take place in the kingdom in one of three ways : religious, business or family visits.
Will Saudi Arabia choose to open to tourism now that there has been an opening in its investment policy? Last April a Tourist Commission was created and the authorities are defining their policies concerning foreign tourism.

Every year over 2 million pilgrims visit this country where Islamic traditions cohabit with a growing western way of life.
Saudi Arabia is the Holy Land of Islam.
The sacred mosque founded by Mohammed is in Mecca. The sanctuary founded by Abraham was already there where the Black Stone, which was given by the Archangel Gabriel, is venerated. It was already a place of pilgrimage long before the birth of the prophet. The communal pilgrimage takes place from the 7th to the 10th May. The town and the near surrounds of the town are forbidden to "unbelievers"under penalty of death.

Saudi Arabia is the kingdom of princes and black gold.
In the cities you will find mosques next to ultra-modern skyscrapers.

Nights are freezing cold and days are burning hot. There are often sand storms which last several days.

In the region of Assir, to the south of Djeddah, there are mountain landscapes where the Saudi Arabians enjoy coming to find a bit of cool air during the summer. Four national parks have been created here.
In the region of Djeddah you will find the charm of the Red Sea, a perfume of the orient hangs over the historical centre of the second biggest town in the country.
There is the Nabatheen site of Medain Saleh - a kind of Saudian Petra - which is situated at 50 kms to the north of Medina.
An then there is the desert, each Thursday night, on the eve of the weekend, the desert around Ryadh lights up with little lights. These are Saudian families who come out to the desert to get back to their roots and share a meal round a campfire


Since the petrol boom, small shops have given way to shopping malls where you can find Japanese, American and European goods.
The Jamjoom City Center is the second biggest shopping mall in the world with 750 shops and 300 offices. The souks and the supermarkets are open until 10 pm.


Most of the art work comes from the Yemenites who for a long time were considered and treated as slaves by the Saudi Arabians.
The jewels, carpets and ceramics are very interesting.

In Riyadh
- Saudi Computer 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Internet World 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Education 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Food 2001 1st-5th April
- Saudi Hotel 2001 1st-5th April
- E-Commerce Saudi Arabia 2001 7th-10th May
- Suadi Print 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Plas 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Chem 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Agriculture 2001 23rd-27th September
- Saudi Build 2001 28th October-1st November

In Jeddah
- International Book Fair 15th-18th May
- One to One - Arabia 28th-31st May
- Saudi Banking & Investment 28th-31st May
- Compu.Net 13th-18th September
- Saudi Arabia's International Trade Fair 8th-12th October
- Lifestyle 8th-12th October
-Middle East Education & Training Exhibition 4th-6th April
- International Book Fair 28th April -7th May
- Food Arabia 26th-28th May
- Hotel-Arabia 26th-30th May
- Propak-Arabia 26th-30th May
- Live for Sound, Vision & Consumer electronics 15th-30th September
- Compu.Net 15th-30th September
- Saudi Building Industries Exhibition 29th Sept-3rd October
- International Trade Fair 14th-18th October


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