Saudi Arabia Customs Regulations
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Saudi Arabia Customs Regulations
Saudi Arabia follows Sharia Law, thus the religion of Islam, as well as the conservative customs of Saudi Arabia shape the dress code and the code of conduct of the land. Religious police, more commonly known as Muttawa (Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice), enforce the Sharia law and are enabled to arrest any man or woman who does not comply with the local customs.
Under new directives in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to declare yourself an athiest. Whether you are traveling to KSA on business or moving there as an expat, please be aware of this new rule.
Illegal and restricted activities in Saudi Arabia
Criticism of the royal family or Islam is strictly prohibited by Saudi authorities and can lead to severe punishment.
Common-law relationships, homosexual relations, adultery, and prostitution are illegal and are subject to severe punishment, including the death penalty. In public, physical contact (eg holding hands) should be avoided. The importation, use, or possession of any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam is also prohibited, such as pornographic materials and weapons. Imported and domestic audiovisual media and reading materials are censored. Religious proselytizing is not permitted. Penalties for the importation, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol, pork, illegal drugs or products containing their ingredients are severe.
Saudi authorities practice zero tolerance and make no distinction with respect to soft or hard drugs, and using or trafficking. Drug offenders are regularly sentenced to death. It is forbidden to photograph official buildings (government, military institutions, etc.) and holy sites. People should not be photographed without their permission.
The crime rate is low. Petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching, occurs, especially in crowded areas and at holy sites or in the streets. To reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim, showing signs of affluence should be avoided and personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents should be secure at all times.
Saudi Arabian local laws and customs
Riyadh is the capital of the Central region of Saudi Arabia, and of the country. It is a deeply conservative city, and in the main Saudis keep themselves to themselves. Invitations to the homes of Saudis in the capital city are rare, and if issued will normally just be to males. Shopping is the main pastime in Riyadh, enjoyed by women and men. Women will normally be fully covered, including veils.
Jeddah is the capital of the Western region (the Hijaz)and is home to Saudis who have settled here over centuries from other parts of the world or been influenced over time by foreign traders – introducing a different, maybe more relaxed sense of living than one might find in other parts of the Kingdom. In Jeddah life starts in the evenings and there is nothing Jeddawis enjoy more than socialising at night around dinner. Invites are normally to people’s homes and are for Mr and Mrs.
The evenings are family time whether that is for business or social events. Many spend their evenings along the Jeddah Corniche, barbecuing or picnicking. It is not uncommon to see women – admittedly in full abayas – but with their trainers, speed walk or jog along the paved walkways of the corniche or on green embankments which separate dual carriageways. However, it is still Saudi Arabia and visitors should be mindful of the culture and customs.
There are some changes afoot in employment in Saudi: there is the issue of Saudisation (replacing foreign labour with Saudi nationals) and also the recruitment of more women. The number of women employed is still on the low side, however the floodgates are open and women are entering the labour force. Whether as sales staff or engineers, women are increasingly visible.
While both cities are distinctly different, they are both equally interesting. It is important for expatriates to familiarise themselves with the customs and laws that govern the land to ensure that they do not offend or unwittingly break any laws. Life is not like it is in the West. Religion and culture ensures, that in relative terms, all women may not enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.
Dress code in Saudi Arabia
Women should observe the strict Saudi dress code and wear conservative and loose-fitting clothes, including a full-length cloak (abaya) and a keep a scarf with them in case they are asked to cover their head by the Hai‟a, commonly known as Muttawa (Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice/Religious Police). Men should not wear shorts in public or go without a shirt. Visitors should always seek guidance concerning acceptable clothing.
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