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What Do You Want to Know?

Hi Everyone! Let me know what you wonder about our experience here in Saudi Arabia and I will write about it. It would be great if everyone who saw this post writes a comment below telling me what you want to know. We miss all our friends back “home” and would love to share and interact with you this way. We also are new enough to this experience that we still remember vividly what it was like to consider, decide, wait for visas, pack, and take off for this foriegn land.

20 Responses

  1. Hi Karen. This is my first time on your site and have enjoyed looking around. We are looking at moving to Saudi in Feb. I have a few questions
    1. Do the compounds come furnished or do you pay to rent the furniture in them?
    2. We are planning to bring our 2 cats which will mean approx 22 hours of flying. How will we get litter when we get there? I understand there are shuttles and stores but these cats will need to go the second they are let out of their travel bags. Any advice?
    3. Can women golf? Are there courses around Khobar?
    4. How much are short flights to places such as Dubai?

    That is all for now! Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi! I just saw your link to this blog on the Expats in Saudi Arabia Yahoo group. Your post there about what to pack was helpful as I am moving to Khobar from the states soon…my visa was delayed and I just got word that it was approved so I should be on my way any day now. I will be teaching 5th grade Saudi girls there. Always nice to find another source of information and an expat’s point of view! I realize you are married with kids so your experience will be different than mine, a single woman who will be living in an apartment rather than a compound, but still any discussion of female expat life will be helpful in my preparations.

    I’m keeping a blog of my experiences as well:

  3. PurpleLime, Thanks so much for commenting. Keep coming to my blog but another blog you will find very informative about culture and expat experience is American Bedu. Also see Sand Gets in My Eyes. That blogger has left Saudi now but her archives are full of good info and she still updates from time to time.

    Are you teaching in English? Are you teaching all subjects or are you teaching English? have you ever been to an Arab country before?

    I was teaching 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade for the past 4 years. I am curious about your assignment in Saudi.

  4. Hi,
    I really appreciated your email on the expat yahoo group and then to find your blog….great! I have a few questions and I’m sure I will have more as they come to me. Can I take little holiday decorations for our family with me to Riyadh? I want to take some Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations over with me to have in our villa.

    I’m a gift giver so will I be able to find gift bags, tissue, and wrapping paper? I like to give special little giftees to the kid’s classes at school…will that be allowed. They will be attending the American International School.

    We like to bake goodies at home….will I be able to find cupcake paper liners? Should I bring them from home? Should I bring my own muffin tins, cookie sheets, etc?

    We like Bath and Body hand soap and lotions at each of our sinks…..can that be purchased in Riyadh.

    I know these may seem like trivial questions, but they will be special treats to have there and feel more like home if I bring them from here.

    Please let me know what else I should bring that would be “creature comforts”.

    Thanks for your blog….this is great!

  5. Meghan,

    Good luck on your upcoming move. i’ll try ot answer your questions.
    1) On Aramco compounds you can rent until your shipment arrives or continue to rent indefinitly or take cash in lieu of shipping and buy furnature here. I believe the teacher apartment purplelime will bein is furished. So it depends where you are.

    2) I guess you will need to carry a bit of litterin carryon to have available on touchdown. Did I understand your situation?

    3) I believe the only golf course in the area is the one at the Aramco compound in Dhahran. golfers say it is very good and challenging. many women play there. Once you get here you will probably meet peoplel from Aramco and they could invite you to come on the compound to play.

    4) I’m not sure about the price of flights but many neat places are so close by. Check online. People do make short weekend trips to enjoy a change scenery
    Anone else reading the blog know about the price of flights?

  6. HI Leslie, I am not an expert on Riyadh. I live in Dhahran and we’ve been here a grand total of 4 months now. You will really want to check out American Bedu’s blog. She is an American married to a Saudi and living in Riyadh. She is a prolific blogger who has become internationally known. I don’t know if she can take individual questions from you but maybe.

    I will tell you your Christmas decorations may not be welcomed if customs notices them for religious reasons.

    I’m sorry I can’t tell you what will be avaialble in Ridyadh but I am finding baking supplies here including the cupcake liners.
    i would bring your bath and body products that you like. Are you sending a household shipment?

  7. Thanks for checking out my blog 🙂 I’m a regular reader of American Bedu already and check out Sand Gets in My Eyes from time to time as well.

    I’m teaching English, math and science. It’s a bilingual school, so the girls will have half their day with me and the other half with an Arabic teacher learning Arabic and Islamic history (I think). It should be interesting time and I’ll definitely be writing about my work as well as personal life in the blog once I get there. It’s my first time in an Arab country and I’m looking forward to experiencing the culture and traveling through the region as it’ll obviously be much more accessible from there.

  8. I was just packing and thought of a question for you…I know suitcases are searched at the airport upon arrival to Saudi, but how thoroughly? Don’t worry, I’m not smuggling anything in! But everything is packed pretty tightly and I’ll probably have to sit on them to zip them up. If they really take everything out I’m not sure I can get it back in! Thanks!

  9. Purple Lime,

    We flew into Damman airport (King Fahd International Airport) in August and my husband had previously flown in to there and in and out of Bahrain and none of our luggage appeared to have been searched. When you get into the airport after going through immigration (they may take your fingerprints and photo there), you pick up your luggage (there will be folks to help you for a tip), and you take your luggage to customs where it will be put through an Xray machine and then you will go out to the reception area where someone from your school will probably be waiting for you. Our bags got through fine though I did hear that somehow they detected that a traveler had chocloates with liquor in them and they were confiscated. I don’t know how they detected that. Of course they could check anything they decide to. Our trips in and out of Bahrain were equally uneventful. It would be great if some other readers would post if thier experiences differed. Good luck on the packing and travel.

  10. Thanks for the info!

  11. It all depends on who is working that day, what mood they are in, whether the day ends in a “Y” or not… Our stuff got thoroughly, thoroughly searched – I felt violated – and then it happened to me again, the next time I flew into Dammam. [There was of course NOTHING that wasn’t allowed in my luggage – the guy was just being a real jerk! “What is this?” he asked when he picked a book up upside down and started flipping the pages. It is a book. What does it look like? And what kind of pictures do you think you are going to find in a book with a cow on the front of it, anyway?] I won’t fly in and out of Dammam unless there is no other choice or possibility. Not to mention that the “locals” can be fantastically rude – they have no conception of what a “queue” is! I would rather expend the extra effort and time – as well as money – to go in and out of Bahrain.

  12. Thanks BT for adding your comment on your negative experience flying in to Damman airport. I asked around and have heard of some similar experieces, but most say it is much better now.

    PurpleLime – Did you make it in yet? last entry in your blog you’re still not here. Please let us know how your trip in is.

    Any other Damman airport stories to share?

  13. Hi, I was wondering how often you feel compelled to wear an abaya when you go off the compound.


  14. I am curious. I have applied for a few positions in the Training and Development arena and have not heard anything in two weeks. Is this normal timing as I am used to quicker responses here in the United States.

    Thanks for any help or advice.


  15. NW3 regarding wearing abayas. When we first got here we went to Hyper Panda without abayas and felt pretty conspicuous. Of course with three pretty girls we would have gotten attention anyway. We got abayas and wear them to the malls and downtown Khobar. In the summer an advantage was we could wear next to nothing under them and have some relief from the heat. (For that purpose get an abaya that closes in the front or have it sewn closed like we did) Some ladies newer wear abayas in Khobar. They wear a long dress with long sleaves or a long top that covers the hips and long sleaves. Yesterday i went to town with two ladies who did not wear abayas and as i had on long jeans and a big sweat shirt and was traveling by taxi and just running in here and there (and it was cool yesterday morning) I felt OK without the abaya. Many ladies around here said they never wore abayas before 9/11. The abayas let them blend in a bit more and if you had a scarf (which the westerners rarely wear) you can almost dissapear if you need to. My neighbor who never wears an abaya but dresses very conservativley has been here almost 30 years and in that time has been approached by matawa only in Dammam and only 5 times. I’ll post a phot of my girls and I in our “go to town clothes”.

  16. Doug,

    Are you applying at Aramco or with another company? If applying with Aramco try the Aramco expat forum to get the queustion answered and if another company try to Saudi Arabia expat forum. Both are linked on the side of this blog. Good luck.

  17. Hi Karen, Dave, and girls. Your blog is great. It was so good to hear from you. I know you miss the rockies. Talk to you soon.

  18. My husband is thinking about applying for a job in Saudi. I am an Abqaiq Brat of ’92. I’m just wondering what it is like living there now with all the fighting going on? How safe is it to go back?

  19. Hi Karen,

    Very interesting to read your blog. I am a Dutch guy working for SABIC. My family and I will be moving to Al-Khobar in the next weeks. I am trying to find about the things to do in the area and hope you can give some information on this.
    For my two girls I would like to know if there are facilities for horse riding. We do not own a horse and they are not experienced yet so we would need stables which supply horses and riding lessons.
    For my self (and my family) I am looking if there is an off-road group that likes to go out into the desert for trips and camping. I know of such a group in Riyadh (the Riyadh Rovers) but haven’t heard of one in the greater Damman area.

    Thanks, Bas

  20. hello
    please i need to know if there is day cares for babies in Khobar. i may come to travel there with my husband and i have a 1 year girl old. so i need to know if there is good and important day cares there. thanks.

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