I moved to Saudi Arabia from France in 2013. Well, here is a list of the most important things for ladies when coming to Saudi Arabia.
1- Women clothing
Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country when it come to women clothing. Women has to wear very conservative wear in public: An Abaya. An Abaya is a robe-like dress that covers the body except the face, feet and hand. I guess the first thing that comes into your mind if you are a girl is: Should I have an Abaya with me in the airport to wear as soon as we land in Saudi Arabia? The answer is NO, I never wear my abaya in the airport, I pass the passport control with no problem and I never got any comment. Should I wear it in public? Absolutely, YES! You have to wear it outdoor all the time expect if you are living in a compound. It is preferable to have a scarf if you meet the MUTAWWAHS (the religious police), then PUT IT ON! It is always better to avoid any kind of problems or comments. After all, even if we don’t agree with it, we all accept it before coming to Saudi Arabia. Trust me, after a while, you just got used to it and enjoy wearing anything you want under. You just have to see the good side if the things. You can just put your abaya on your pajamas and go outside, nobody will ever notice!
First, if you are a woman, you cannot drive in Saudi. I know it can be hard and I sometimes get so frustrated not being able to just take my car and go somewhere else. But when I am just next to my husband sometimes, and when I see the way people drives here (they drive like crazy!! as almost the only rule I noticed is to arrive to your destination without crushing your car), I get much relieved that I don’t have to get so much stress. If you can afford it, get yourself a personal driver, if not, then you can download special application to order a car to pick at any place you want within minutes. When I first moved to Saudi, I used to take normal taxis, I never had any problem.
3- Prayer time
In the first week in Riyadh, my husband and I were in a mall and suddenly we had to go out of the shop, I didn’t know why! My husband moved here before me, so he was acting normal and I was looking at him wondering what was happening! He told me it was Prayer time, I really thought he was joking. Frankly speaking, this is a thing I did not get used to. But what to do about it? Just download an application on your mobile phone if you are not Muslim and organize your time according to the prayer time! It is not impossible… P.S: You can even stay in the big supermarket like Danube and Hyper Panda.
To know about the prayer times, you can click here. There are many applications that you can install on your smart phone.
It is hot in Summer, like so hot, you cannot live without an air conditioning. You cannot stay under the sun or enjoy. What you need to know is that it can be cold in winter! When I moved to Riyadh, it was in December, I left all my clothes in France! Well, guess what, I wasn’t prepared at all so I got much colder here in Riyadh! I’m not telling you that it’ s colder that France but it could be Riyadh has a hot desert arid climate with big variation in temperature. It varies between 45°C in summer and 11°C in winter. In the spring and autumn, the weather is temperate; Temperatures are around 29°C. The city experience very irregular rainfall but has a good underground water supply that makes it one of the few natural fertile areas in the Kingdom.
To avoid mixing between men and women, there a separate line for queues, one for men and the other for women. In restaurants, a family can sit without being disturb by another in separate “rooms”. That is especially if women have their face cover. Mostly all restaurants now offer those rooms but also an “open area” for those who don’t bother to sit with other people in an area.
In addition to that, you need to know that drinking alcohol is extremely strictly prohibited, and Smoking is generally not allowed for all in closed public areas, and socially not accepted for ladies in open areas.