Arriving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Read this first, it's important !

Saudi Arabia forbids the importation, sale, or use of alcohol or illicit drugs. The government has and will continue to apply the death penalty to anyone convicted of possession of drugs with intent to distribute. In this conservative Muslim society, visitors must not import into Saudi Arabia any non-Muslim religious materials, pork products, or any material that may be construed as pornographic by Saudi censors. All visa applicants must have a letter of invitation from an employer or Saudi sponsor.

Climate and clothing:

Lightweight clothing is essential for the hot (38oC to 54oC) climate. However, during the winter months in the interior regions (such as in Riyadh), the weather can be quite cool, so warmer clothing is recommended. Riyadh is dry, while Jeddah and Dhahran are humid for most parts of the year. Men and women should dress very conservatively. For women, skirts should be calf to ankle length, sleeves wrist length, and necklines above the collarbone; trousers may attract unwanted attention. Remember, all Muslim women are dressed in "Abya's". This is like a big black cloth bag that they wear over the normal clothes to disguise their "form" No skin is shown at all. They may even wear gloves to hide their hands. You may notice that Muslim women don't wear seat belts, which are law in Kingdom now although you wouldn't know it, because they are convinced that men will be looking at their "form" created by the belt ????? You can't argue with that kind of logic, can you?

The Islamic laws of KSA are enforced my the "Matowa'een", religious police. They are the ones making sure that all Muslims go to prayer, "salaa", when called. They will also enforce the dress codes and conduct of you and me. If they see you with a woman, they may check to see if she is your wife or close relative. I hope she is, for your sake. They will know this as she will be listed in your "Iqama", which is your ID for being in Kingdom. This will tell them who you are, where you work and who your sponsor is. It will also tell them if you are married and there will be a photo of her in it. If the girl you are with is not the girl in your "iqama"....yikes! Even a friend, work mate, whatever, will not be a good reason to be with her. Even just a casual stop in the street chat could be enough for them to check. Just a final note on "iqama's" You must carry this at all times. I can't stress that enough. If you are caught off your living compound without it, you will be arrested as an illegal. Good luck, you'll need it!!

Airport Customs:

Whether you arrive via Jeddah or Riyadh airport, you'll have to get through customs. Personally, I haven't ever come across a customs like it as far as thoroughness goes. But first things first. Once off the plane, you'll be lined up for immigration. These queues can be long, very long. There will be airport police and military guards that may usher you to another line. Westerners will normally be accommodated to shorter lines.

You will see a red line on the floor just before the immigration desk. Do not cross it. At the desk, the immigration official will check your and your families' passports for ID purposes and to make sure that you have a valid entry visa. Also, if this is your first time in Kingdom, you'll have to fill out a landing card. Now, you should have got this on the plane and it should already be filled out. If you haven't done it by the time you are standing at the immigration desk, he won't be happy. He'll send you to the back of the queue to do it. So, top tip, make sure you have filled it in before you get to the immigration desk :o) Assuming that's OK, next is customs.

At the customs desk:

The airport at Riyadh is a little more high tech than the one at Jeddah. Riyadh uses x-ray scanners for your luggage and unless they see something they don't like, you'll normally go straight through. You may get asked if this is your first time in Kingdom, in which case he may look into your luggage anyway just to check that you haven't "accidentally" brought anything in that would be considered anti-muslim.

Jeddah doesn't use scanners. Or rather they do, but only if you are an Arab or a VIP. I have always been ushered away from the scanner and lined up with the rest of the people waiting to have their luggage searched. There are normally long lines of people here to.

Again, he'll ask to see your passport and he'll normally ask if this is your first time in Kingdom. If you say "yes", he'll pay more attention to what he is doing. After all, it's your first time and anyone can make a mistake :o)

Your entire luggage will be searched. he will be looking for anything he considers anti-muslim. This will include, as mentioned above, any drugs. Any drugs. If you have any medicines that he doesn't recognise, he'll want to see some kind of prescription.

Books and magazines

These will be looked at by a censor "expert" who will be wondering about the customs desks. He will flick through them to see if there are any photos that he considers unlawful. If he sees something he will rip it out, or go over it with a magi marker type pen. He may even take it off you all together. It doesn't matter what the magazine is, if it has something he doesn't like, you will lose it. This goes for Technology, computer, hobby or any other magazine or book you can think of.


will be examined to see if they have any religious significance. Whether it does or not, it's his decision. I have known guys to lose Golf trophies as they were considered religious. Again, it doesn't matter what it actually is, just what he thinks it is.

Video, CD and DVD's:

If you have any kind of storage media, beit computer or film, it will more than likely be taken to the Censor office in the airport. In here they have TV's, videos, music players, etc, etc to see or to listen. If you are lucky, they may check it there and then. If not, you'll have to come back in about three day's time and collect it. Bad luck if you are bound for a connection flight to somewhere else. I speak from experience on that and it isn't funny :o(. I have lost CD's and a few mags as I just couldn't get there. They only hold this stuff for 15 days or so and then it is destroyed.

Electronics / Hardware:

Personally, I have never had any trouble with any kind of electronics or computer hardware. I regularly transport computer bits and pieces through customs and have no problems. Same with cameras and portable music players.

Top Tip:

If you are bringing in CD's or Cassettes, get a portable player. If the customs guy is suspicious of your CD or whatever, you can offer to play it for him using the portable player. This is a far better option that the censor office, trust me.

The customs officials will check your luggage and will go through everything. My advice is to just let them get on with it.

Just something to think about. The cleaner and tidier your case, the longer they will spend going through it. Read into that whatever you will :o)

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