Saudi Arabia: Iqama Renewal Reminder Service

Most expatriates in Saudi Arabia are responsible for knowing when their iqama (legal residency) is to expire.  Prior to its expiration it is then either the responsibility of the expatriate to get the iqama renewed or for the employee to provide the iqama to the employer to do the needful.

An expatriate does not want to end up with an expired iqama.  There will be penalties to pay and it makes an expatriate appear irresponsible to allow such an important document to expire.

The Ministry of Interior is trying to make it easier and more streamlined for expatriates to remember to get their iqamas renewed before expiration.  Expatriates can now sign up for free SMS reminders from the Ministry which would be sent to their mobile phone.  This is just one of the new services which the Ministry of Interior is now offering to residents in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia: Perspectives from a Western Female Comedienne


Whitney Cummings is a Western female comedienne who talks about her impression of women in the Middle East.  Her views are direct and to the point.


While this video only shared the impressions of Whitney, it does make me wonder whether humor could be a successful mechanism in orienting Saudi students to the US on culture shock?  Or expatriates to Saudi Arabia on culture shock?  hmmm…I think that could be fun!

Saudi Arabia: Money Matters

When a Saudi man and a foreign wife from the Western world marry and come to Saudi Arabia life is typically very different for the woman.  She now finds herself in a strange land where she is expected to cover when she is out in public and has to rely on a male to get her where she needs to go.  In addition she will likely be part of an extended family with new commitments and obligations.  If there is a wedding, even that of a distant cousin whom she has never met, she’ll be expected to attend wearing a fine gown.  If family comes by to visit she will be expected to prepare an appetizing meal for them.

If she is lucky, she’ll have a driver provided by her husband so she can come and go at will.  If she is lucky she will be able to afford a new ball gown for each wedding she attends since that is the custom in the Kingdom.  Hopefully she will have the services of a housemaid to assist her in preparing a meal for the unexpected guests.

Having money can make a huge difference between happiness and despair in Saudi Arabia and especially so for a foreign wife.  Having the resources to engage her own personal driver will soften the blow of not having the freedom to drive herself when and where she wants to go.

Being able to afford a new gown for each and every wedding will give her a status as one who is loved and cherished by her husband.  She will make her husband and his family proud by dressing in a suitable manner for functions.

With discretionary funds, she and her husband can attend society events, take a weekend trip to Bahrain or Dubai and perhaps feel that she has a degree of control over her new restricted life in the Kingdom.

With money she may not have to share a villa with extended family but instead have her own home which she can furnish to her heart’s desire.  She also has the luxury of privacy and can entertain her own guests with ease.

Many may scoff and will say “money doesn’t matter.”  That is true and they are right.  Yet for many, it will make a difference between a successful marriage in Saudi Arabia or one that ends in divorce.

Saudi Arabia/USA: This Isn’t Saudia Airlines

This past week 19 year old Saudi student, Yazeed Mohammed A. Abunayyan, created quite a ruckus on a Continental airlines flight from Portland to Houston.

The incident started when Abunayyan was unable to sit beside his fellow Saudi traveling companion and had to take another seat.  Towards showing his dissatisfaction at the airline for not accommodating him, he chose to smoke an e-cigarette.  However, when the flight attendant asked him to stop smoking, he refused and became unruly.  At that point he made motions as if he were going to strike out at the flight attendant while making negative comments about women and saying ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is Great).  There are statements made by witnesses on the plane that he also made references to Usama bin Laden.

Abunayyan was restrained by flight crew and the plane returned to Portland where Abunayyan was turned over to agents from the FBI.  He has since appeared in court to hear the charges brought against him.

When I heard about this incident it reminded me of the days when flying Saudia Airlines.  Of course every passenger would have a boarding pass with a seat assignment but once on board it was so common for passengers to get shuffled around.  Saudia airlines wanted to please its passengers ensuring that friends and families were able to sit together.  Additionally Saudia would shuffle seat assignments to prevent unrelated men and women from sitting together.  Whenever I flew by myself I found that I usually ended up with a better seat than the one I had been assigned.

As a young 19 year old student, Abunayyan struck me as a Saudi who has not had much exposure to either the Western culture or a rule based society.  When he could not get his way and sit by his friend, he did what a pampered Saudi youth would do.  He pitched a fit.  However, in this particular case he did not get his way and will have to face the consequences of his actions.

Saudi Arabia/USA: Express Yourself



Ahhhh….if everyone had his problems as a youth growing up in the first world… Wonder what a Saudi rap would say?

Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom of Contradiction

Saudi Arabia wants to be known not only as the country which holds the two holiest mosques in Islam but also as the Kingdom of Humanity.  It wants to be known as the Kingdom of Humanity for the good deeds and good will of its country and people.

Saudi Arabia does do good deeds and particularly for its efforts of separating conjoined twins as a charitable service for families from around the world.  Many of Saudis people are known for both their good will and good deeds.

However at the same time, the Kingdom is also becoming known as a Kingdom of Contradiction.  On one hand the King himself is calling for interfaith dialogues and initiatives yet on the other hand, young Saudi national Hamza Kashgari is fighting for his life because he dared to publicly voice an imaginary conversation and questions he would pose to the Prophet Mohamad (pbuh).

How will anyone take proposed interfaith dialogues or initiatives seriously from Saudi Arabia when multitudes of Saudi citizens, among them known clerics and sheiks, are calling for the death of one of their own?

Is it unrealistic to wonder how many non-Muslims or perhaps even Muslims may be questioning whether Islam is really the religion of peace, tolerance and compassion that it purports to be with such an examplar coming from the very heart of the land of Islam?

I feel like there is a very mixed and contradictory message being sent around the world by what is happening to Hamza Kashgari.

Does the Kingdom want to become known as a Bloodthirsty Kingdom?  A country that wants to take a young man who has not even entered his prime away from a loving family just because he was either brave or foolhardy enough to share thoughts?

Enough of this foolhardiness.  Let Hamza go!!!

Saudi Arabia: Springtime in the Desert

There are now signs of Spring in North Carolina.  The redbud trees have blossomed out with their brilliant pink blossoms.  Daffodils have popped up from the earth.  I’m awakened by the songs of the birds in the morning.  These signs of Spring remind me of Springtime in the desert.  I know…it’s hard to imagine the desert as much more than a large arid mass of land…at first blush.  But if you look a little closer and especially at Spring time you will see much more.

Even the Rub Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, will have signs of Spring.  During the Spring season one may have the good fortune to see the purple iris flower which blooms in the desert!

Of course one can find low rising shrubby vegetation year round in the desert but that is not all.  There are a number of different types of plants which do grow in the desert to include some plants which the beduoins use as herbal medicines or some others which have been used as make-up!

So next time you head out to Thamamah and think all you see are rolling dunes of sand, look again!  You might be surprised.


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