Living in Riyadh?

(12 Posts)
starrystarrynights Wed 26-Feb-14 14:45:17

DH may be offered a role in Riyadh - he had the final interview in Dubai last week and they appeared very keen.

I understand that Riyadh is the strictest of the Saudi cities but I'm open minded in that I think that these things are what you make of them.

I have a couple of questions:

- British compounds from what I have seen appear to have long waiting lists. DH would be working for an Saudi company who have offered to 'help' with accomodation but not find us the accomodation. 'Help' i think involves putting him up in a hotel for a bit. Should we be looking for more than this?

- DD is 9 and at a good prep in UK, the British International School looks good but I wondering if BIS is difficult to get into, or if it woudl make sense for DD and I to wait in the UK till she completes Year 6 here?

- Do spouses tend to travel out with their husbands or do they follow later?

Any other hints or advice to help us in our decision would be much appreciated please!

Many thanks

BobbyGentry Wed 26-Feb-14 15:01:04

I haven't lived in the Middle East but my uncle did and some friends taught out there so only sketchy thoughts...
First, check allowance so does the packages include U.K and local wage (check tax agreement,) Full internation Medical insurance (including repatriation,) flight allowance (twice yearly,) compound guarded accommodation, driver, education covered in full etc.
Can you and your daughter buy an abaya in the U.K? (Your daughter may only need an hijab outside the compound and school.) Buying these items in th U.K may give you a more fashionable choice and time to choose. Riyadh is strict and the religious police will not allow Christmas or Easter decorations through the airport.
Good luck!

starrystarrynights Wed 26-Feb-14 15:11:29

Thanks for your prompt response Bobby!

Will check the contract - I know that it does not include compound guarded accomodation, rather DH will have a housing allowance to spend as he wishes - feel a bit uncomfortable about this as I've read about other companies being keen to provide UK employees with compound accomodation.

Yes we will need to buy a couple of abaya's before leaving!

Living Wed 26-Feb-14 19:09:51

I don't live in Saudi but a nearby sandpit. My understanding is it's next to impossible to get onto one of those compounds without company backing but I might be out of date / just plain wrong grin try expatwoman.com. I'm not sure whether the Saudi forum gets much traffic but the Dubai forum is very busy and will have posters who know what's up in Riyadh.

pupsiecola Wed 26-Feb-14 19:24:25

Hi there,
I have a friend who lives there with her family (2 DDs 10 and 8) and works I think at that school. She has been there 2 years and is coming back this Summer. I don't think she uses this forum but I could send her your questions and see what she says...

MasterOfTheYoniverse Thu 27-Feb-14 06:07:00

just bumping for you as I know there a few mners in KSA or who lived there for a while, they'll come round, keep bumping!

I'd just like to echo what others have said. It might be intimidating/unsociable living outside an expat compound. The kids will need the company too.

BrennanHasAMangina Thu 27-Feb-14 15:20:13

Definitely, definitely post your queries on Expat Woman. We're just about to move to Dubai and it has been an absolute life-saver for all those tricky logistical queries. The Saudi forum there is brand new so not sure how populated it is yet but I'm sure you'll be able to get some answers smile. Good luck with your decision making.

Waggamamma Fri 28-Feb-14 21:36:21

My friend's dh has just moved to saudi this month (she's supposed to be following with dc in a few months). Her husband was offered help to find accommodation, a driver provided etc. The reality is that he's been left in the an empty apartment block in middle of nowhere, sleeping on someone's sofa and just left there no contact from anyone! it's early days for him yet but no 'help' has materialised ans he's completely isolated in a foreign country where he's not familiar with the culture or bureaucracy.

He has also been declined access to family compound accommodation (which he was promised before went) as he's on a bachelor visa. This is making it really difficult for my friend and her dc to go out there now and it's looking like they will need to live in Bahrain whilst he works in saudi during the week. Make sure you get all these things guaranteed and sorted before either of you go oyt there.

I don't know what line of work your dh is in but my friend's works in the oil industry.

desertmum Sat 01-Mar-14 09:10:15

Hi I ived in Riyadh for two years, my husband is still there. Your husband will go first when his paperwork is sorted, then when he has his iqama (residence permit) he can start to apply for yours and the childrens. You will need to have a health check invovling a blood test and a chest x-ray - I got mine done in Harley Street at a clinic that specialised in this. You have to apply for Saudi residency in your country of birth - not sure this is relevant, but we had to travel back to UK for a week to get mine done). When your paperwork has been completed you will be able to travel.
Re accommodation - it is very hard to get accommodation on the better Western compounds - if you search you can get details and contact numbers and I suggest you start calling them as soon as the job is confirmed. You can then get on the waiting lists. The better ones are Kingdom Compound, Al Hamra (which is connected directly to BISR), Arizona (has a golf course), Cordoba.
Re BISR - my two went there - it wasn't great tbh, but has had another change of head recently so may have improved. They had problems keeping head masters for a while, not sure how things are now, but I have a friend who works there so will ask her and get back to you.
It certainly isnt the easiest place in the world to live, but if you go in with an open mind, knowing the restrictions it is doable. You won't be able to drive, but the compounds do shopping buses that go weekly to various malls or you can hire a full time driver to take you to whereever you want to go, the compounds also have drivers that you can use on an ad hoc basis. You will have to cover up (abbaya) but I nor my daughter ever covered our heads despite her being very blonde. We kept our eyes open for the muttawa and avoided them.
You can get most foods there now.
I worked while there which saved my sanity - if you are a coffee morning type of person you will be fine, but you do need a hobby or interest or job to keep you going as there is very little to do. If you are sporty that is good - the compounds have pools, gyms, basketball courts, golf etc. You can horse ride but it's about an ours drive from Riiyadh.
My kids loved it, I loved my job. My best friends were Lebanese - I learnt an awful lot about tolerance during my time there, and also that I don;t have to put up with idiots,
Hoe this help and I'm not teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. PM me if you want to chat.

teddymummy Sat 01-Mar-14 11:41:02

I also did two years in Riyadh and agree with everything said here. My three children were fine there: one at BISR and two at pre school. It's not an easy place to live but no one stays there long. We paid off our uk mortgage and now live in SE Asia very happily. I worked at the school so pm me if you like.

MOSagain Wed 12-Mar-14 13:11:34

Hi, I lived in Riyadh for 5 1/2 years and moved back to the UK 2 years ago.
Agree with what desertmum has said about the process. With my DH's company, as he was a senior exec the process was easier as we got preferential treatment and it only took about 4 months to get my visa sorted. Others who were employed by the same company had much longer waits, up to 2 years+. Also, it is extremely common for false promises to be made with regards to accommodation/compounds. We know many people who were promised family accommodation within say 6 months but were still waiting 2 years later.

You need to be on a western compound. I know a few people who 'lived out' in privately rented accommodation but it was a lonely existence. The compounds I lived on (particularly the second one) were huge with swimming pools, restaurants etc and the second one had its own school, a branch of the BIS. My children went to do of the BIS in Riyadh and there was a long process/waiting list to get in so make sure you fully research this before you commit.

Riyadh is very strict, much more so than other cities in KSA. I was forever being 'mutawahed' (told off by religious police) for not covering my hair. You will need to wear an abaya and headscarf at all times off compound, you cannot drive and probably will be unable to work. When I was in KSA a number of women were able to secure jobs, ie in schools but that has all been clamped down on and most have lost their jobs due to changes in work permits (iqamas). Obviously no alcohol (no, not even in hotels despite what many think), no pork etc. However, on the plus side, the money is good. A few years there can pay off your mortgage so a lot to consider. Good luck

desertmum Mon 17-Mar-14 18:57:28

Just to add, the issue with spouses working has been overturned - and souses can now work in schools and hospitals. They had to make the change back to ensure schools and nurseries didn't close down due to lack of staff.

I agree re not living out, it is an awful way to live and if you have 'strict' neighbours and they can see into your garden you will not be able to sit out un-covered.

Everyone in KSA brews their own = some people even have stills, but we stuck to wine which was very drinkable. On road trips to Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai we always brought back pork with us, but NEVER EVER alcohol which is the biggest no no.

All the embassies have alcohol so when you arrive get yourself onto the invitation lists - this evening is a huge night at the Irish Embassy for instance. There are balls throughout the year at different embassies as well, The Australian embassy has a good bar, but the British Embassy has the best alcohol (of course),

There are also Carole singing events at a couple of the embassies as well, and a friend of mine went to church at the Irish Embassy - not really sure how that worked though as I never went.

Alcohol is available on the black market - when we were there a bottle of vodka cost about 200gbp - you could order it at the compound shop! But depending on how strict they are feeling this can be sporadic.

One of the compounds has restaurants that allow you to take your home brew with you when you have a meal.

It's an interesting place to live for a while. Have you made a decision yet ? Do update us.

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