Saudi Arabia - experiences

secretsam
secretsam Posts: 5,080
edited May 2018 in The cake stop
Does anyone out there have any experience of going to Saudi? May be going there for business and just curious what it's like. Have been to Qatar but know KSA is a whole different picture.

It's just a hill. Get over it.
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  • slowmart
    slowmart Posts: 4,468
    Yep, I stayed at the Ritz for a while, they liked me so much they wouldn’t let me leave. My whores, drugs , alcohol and toys were off limits too and to get out I had to sign over half of all the bribes I had taken over the years to the new chief.

    Oh and my second cousin was persona no grata for a while, the mullahs liked him coz he gave them lots of cash but the yanks took a dislike to him and killed him in a raid in Pakistan.

    Oh and it’s really hot
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  • FishFish
    FishFish Posts: 2,152
    As has been said it is hot! It is a huge country and depends where you go. Riyadh is in the middle - austere, dificult and far away. Driving there or back is a hazard because of apalling driving. There are about 14m residents by far the most of which are non-nationals from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and PI - that affects the average driving. Shopping is good and cheap. Prayer time is observed and as it will be Ramadan in a couple of months you should think about avoiding the place.

    I've enjoyed the times that I've been there apart from Yanbu which is the worst place on earth and some of the lost the plot ex-pats. I found the best way to get in was driving from Bahrein. The hotels look after you well and it does contrast with the Southern Arab states - the Emirates and Oman but ion my opinion is better. I lived in Kuwait for a couple of years.

    If you remember that God lives in Saudi you will get a better notion of the way it works.

    No alcohol.
    ...take your pickelf on your holibobs.... :D

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  • bondurant
    bondurant Posts: 858
    Riyadh is at or near the top of the list of places I would pay not to visit ever again, though in fairness I did enjoy the food.
  • ayjaycee
    ayjaycee Posts: 1,277
    The major cities look impressive nowadays but under all the shiny stuff it's basically a third world crap hole that dislikes foreigners. To put that comment into perspective, I've travelled all over the Middle East for both business and pleasure but the KSA is probably the one country in the region that I never, ever want to see again.
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  • Ben6899
    Ben6899 Posts: 9,686
    No fuck1ng way. I'm open-minded to all sorts and different cultures fascinate me.

    But KSA is medieval - you wouldn't get me there for all the money in the world.
    Ben

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  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,333
    as above

    my approach is: try not to go there, but if absolutely necessary, go in, do what needs doing, leave asap for somewhere less batshit

    you'll find plenty of advice online, believe the worst case
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,080
    Well that all sounds very positive :shock:

    Thanks for the feedback, hopefully only a week out there

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • apreading
    apreading Posts: 4,535
    Very austere, road blocks everywhere, separate channels for women through airports and they arent allowed to drive etc (they have only recently been allowed to cycle and then only in designated areas and only for leisure, not transport!). Legit alcohol almost impossible to find outside of the embassy. Ex-pats often do their own home brew and keep it on their compound and dont sell it - if they stick to that, the authorities generally turn a blind eye to it until they decide to raid a compound and then all sorts of problems arise. Lots of fruit juice in flavours you wouldnt find in many other coutries, very nice.

    VERY hot but its a dry heat - I didnt find it as bad as the cooler but 100% humidity of Bahrain (which was unbearable).

    Rich locals are very pious all week then at weekends drive over the 17 mile bridge to Bahrain, get drunk, visit prostitute(s), crash their car and then leave it there, flying home instead - then act all pious again as though they do not condone or engage in such activity...!

    I was lucky when there - stayed at the British Embassy and the diplomatic pouches brought all sorts of home comforts in. I would not choose to go back other than for essential business and would not stay for long even then, although the brit that we stayed with fell in love with the place while there and has now settled and not coming home - each to their own I guess...
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 39,908
    apreading wrote:
    Very austere, road blocks everywhere, separate channels for women through airports and they arent allowed to drive etc (they have only recently been allowed to cycle and then only in designated areas and only for leisure, not transport!). Legit alcohol almost impossible to find outside of the embassy. Ex-pats often do their own home brew and keep it on their compound and dont sell it - if they stick to that, the authorities generally turn a blind eye to it until they decide to raid a compound and then all sorts of problems arise. Lots of fruit juice in flavours you wouldnt find in many other coutries, very nice.

    VERY hot but its a dry heat - I didnt find it as bad as the cooler but 100% humidity of Bahrain (which was unbearable).

    Rich locals are very pious all week then at weekends drive over the 17 mile bridge to Bahrain, get drunk, visit prostitute(s), crash their car and then leave it there, flying home instead - then act all pious again as though they do not condone or engage in such activity...!

    I was lucky when there - stayed at the British Embassy and the diplomatic pouches brought all sorts of home comforts in. I would not choose to go back other than for essential business and would not stay for long even then, although the brit that we stayed with fell in love with the place while there and has now settled and not coming home - each to their own I guess...

    I thought that had changed and there is now a decree that allows them to drive (with effect from June)?
  • Flâneur
    Flâneur Posts: 3,081
    I've a few visits. 1 was fun but very odd and surreal experience staying with family friends from the days of living in London. Internally very liberal and western, external a different story. For everything.

    The other visits I would visited like Sungod says, get in get out, head down. Not fun and not enjoyable but had to be done
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  • meursault
    meursault Posts: 1,433
    So probably not a good place to host a world cup then?
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  • lostboysaint
    lostboysaint Posts: 4,250
    meursault wrote:
    So probably not a good place to host a world cup then?

    That's why it's in Qatar.
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  • meursault
    meursault Posts: 1,433
    meursault wrote:
    So probably not a good place to host a world cup then?

    That's why it's in Qatar.

    Ah, that's alright then.
    Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.

    Voltaire
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,080
    meursault wrote:
    meursault wrote:
    So probably not a good place to host a world cup then?

    That's why it's in Qatar.

    Ah, that's alright then.

    To be fair, although the WC will be a shock to the system in Qatar, it's a pretty relaxed place on the whole (apart from booze restrictions and homosexuality)

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • ben@31
    ben@31 Posts: 2,327
    apreading wrote:

    Rich locals are very pious all week then at weekends drive over the 17 mile bridge to Bahrain, get drunk, visit prostitute(s), crash their car and then leave it there, flying home instead - then act all pious again as though they do not condone or engage in such activity...!

    That was my impression of Bahrain too.

    I was told by someone that because Bahrain isn't on the mainland, religion doesn't count there.
    So the Saudis go crazy on a weekend. It must be their version of Las Vegas.
    I had an odd experience in a Bahrain night club... there were Arab men but absolute no Arab women, not one. However, rather suspiciously every table was full of "single" Oriental women without any boyfriends.
    Driving around Bahrain, there is big photos of the same Prince or King (?) all over, like on every lamp-post and wall.

    The best Middle East place Ive been to was Abu Dhabi. Maybe because its the most liberal, relaxed and Western.
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  • apreading
    apreading Posts: 4,535
    Yeah - I didnt realise they changed the rule and allowed women to drive since I was there. When I went I think women werent even allowed to sit in the front passenger seat!

    My favourite in the region was Oman - has a pragmatic forward looking and relaxed attitude to outside influences and progress but unlike Abu Dhabi etc they have managed to retain their own culture and individuality at the same time. Many of the glitzy Arab states have wiped out their past and replaced it with shiny newness. The Sultan of Oman loves the British too, in particular the Scots..
  • florerider
    florerider Posts: 1,112
    Sort of place where you need a stiff drink in the evening to get over your day.

    Jeddah's not too bad, Dharan is tough.
  • crumbschief
    crumbschief Posts: 3,399
    I do like the Bazaar and they like to haggle but if your not careful they'll have your hand off.
  • florerider
    florerider Posts: 1,112
    I do like the Bazaar and they like to haggle but if your not careful they'll have your hand off.

    Only if you don't pay for things.
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 71,713
    Reports of gunfire and attacks in Rhiad, so best avoid it mate.
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,080
    Reports of gunfire and attacks in Rhiad, so best avoid it mate.

    :lol: that was the palace guards shooting down a drone. Missile launches from Yemen were a regular as well.

    Actually not as austere as I expected. More robes and Niqabs than Qatar, driving beyond awful but everyone was welcoming and polite. Fewer female staff than I am used to in healthcare, but they were in evidence, including locals.

    A week was enough, though! Would have liked to have gone to Mecca, but Medina was interesting.

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • Ben6899
    Ben6899 Posts: 9,686
    SecretSam wrote:
    Reports of gunfire and attacks in Rhiad, so best avoid it mate.

    :lol: that was the palace guards shooting down a drone. Missile launches from Yemen were a regular as well.

    Actually not as austere as I expected. More robes and Niqabs than Qatar, driving beyond awful but everyone was welcoming and polite. Fewer female staff than I am used to in healthcare, but they were in evidence, including locals.

    A week was enough, though! Would have liked to have gone to Mecca, but Medina was interesting.

    I hope Medina was funky and cold!
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  • Mad_Malx
    Mad_Malx Posts: 4,986
    SecretSam wrote:

    Actually not as austere as I expected. More robes and Niqabs than Qatar, driving beyond awful but everyone was welcoming and polite. Fewer female staff than I am used to in healthcare, but they were in evidence, including locals.

    A week was enough, though! Would have liked to have gone to Mecca, but Medina was interesting.

    Unless you are a believer I don't think Mecca is an option. Thought same was true for Medina.
  • laurentian
    laurentian Posts: 2,354
    Ben6899 wrote:
    SecretSam wrote:
    .

    I hope Medina was funky and cold!

    Genius
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  • ben@31
    ben@31 Posts: 2,327
    apreading wrote:
    My favourite in the region was Oman - has a pragmatic forward looking and relaxed attitude to outside influences and progress but unlike Abu Dhabi etc they have managed to retain their own culture and individuality at the same time. Many of the glitzy Arab states have wiped out their past and replaced it with shiny newness. The Sultan of Oman loves the British too, in particular the Scots..

    To be fair, there was absolute fcuk all in Abu Dhabi before the oil boom in the late 50's or 60's. Most of todays city was just empty desert back then and it's namesake was a failed peal-fishing village with just a handful of houses. In a historical perspective, Abu Dhabi was built overnight. So doesn't have any culture or history.
    Whats interesting about Abu Dhabi is it now has a few million inhabitants but no natural water, all of them are dependant on man-made desalinated water. Quite simply if it wasnt for oil, nobody would live there and the place wouldn't exist.

    AbuDhabi_History_1950.jpg

    1.jpg
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  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 71,713
    apreading wrote:

    My favourite in the region was Oman - has a pragmatic forward looking and relaxed attitude to outside influences and progress but unlike Abu Dhabi etc they have managed to retain their own culture and individuality at the same time. Many of the glitzy Arab states have wiped out their past and replaced it with shiny newness. The Sultan of Oman loves the British too, in particular the Scots..

    Unless the rules have changed, if you’re an immigrant involved in a car accident, by law, it’s your fault, and if you have a reasonably broad music and book collection expect about a third of it to be confiscated and burned (as happened to my parents).

    Can’t say it’s on the top of my list to return, to put it mildly.
  • ayjaycee
    ayjaycee Posts: 1,277
    Rick, Can you confirm where you are talking about. If the KSA than I stand by my earlier opinion that it's nothing but a shiny 3rd world sh1t hole but Oman is a liberal paradise in comparison. The UAE (of which Abu Dhabi is part) is not too bad nowadays (but you do have to be aware of the rules!). All in all, Oman is by far my favourite country in the whole region (and there is some great cycling country as well) but Jordan is a very close second. Before the current civil war, I would also have said the same thing about Syria.
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  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 71,713
    Oman.

    You may say it’s all relative but then crabs is better then syphilis; I don’t want either.
  • itboffin
    itboffin Posts: 20,052
    I'm working 1 with in 4 weeks in Dubai for one of if not the biggest retailer in the GCC, thankfully they have no offices outside of Dubai. We're spending Christmas there this year, but i'm pretty sure the country within a country that is Dubai Marina isnt the norm for anywhere in the middle east including Abu Dhabi
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  • ayjaycee
    ayjaycee Posts: 1,277
    I'm sometimes not sure that Dubai Marina or, indeed, a lot of the rest of Dubai would be even considered the norm for the Planet Wibble! If you have not already done so, give yourself a couple of hours walking the Dhow Wharfs on the Creek in Deira for a view of a much older and simpler life (and some great photo opportunities).
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