Saudi’s KEEP OUT – Western Only Compounds and I mean WESTERN ONLY


How do you feel about the concept of a Western Only Compound which prohibits Saudis from entering the compound either as a worker, resident or even a guest?  You might think, come on, isn’t that a bit extreme or are you over-exaggerating?  This is in fact true.  There are some compounds in the Kingdom while the land may be owned by a Saudi, the compound may even be under Saudi ownership, no Saudi nationals are allowed to enter the compound either as a visitor, laborer or resident.  The reason that is typically cited in these cases is “security.”  The premise is that compounds and specifically the Western residents were targets and bombed during the early 2000’s.  These attacks were carried out by Saudis and many innocents were killed and injured.  Thereafter it became acceptable to allow compounds where no Saudis are allowed admittance.


I have no objection to Western Only compounds in general.  I may not agree wholeheartedly but believe my mind is open enough to understand that such compounds serve a demand in the Kingdom.  I do think it is unreasonable though to have compounds which prohibit Saudis with no exceptions.  In my view, that screams of discrimination, especially with the compound located in Saudi Arabia and on Saudi soil.  It further encourages isolation between the residents of such compounds and Saudi nationals.  If one is so determined to have no contact with Saudis then why come to the Kingdom in the first place?


I was told that one particular compound has such a policy because the residents are associated with the British and American military and therefore required stringent security procedures.  Yet at the same time this compound will have festivities such as celebrations, concerts, etc., where other nationalities are allowed entre (after undergoing stringent security checks).  Who can say with 100 per cent certainty that the non-Saudis are always upstanding and fully trustworthy citizens?  Or alternatively, why could a Saudi national not be subjected to the same stringent security check and be allowed admission rather than unilaterally be denied admission because of his or her nationality?


I doubt these procedures will change and obviously this is an issue which the Saudi government has agreed with since after all the compounds are on Saudi soil.  Yet, as I guess you can tell by this post and my thoughts, it still rankles me.

73 Responses

  1. Very dangerous
    Same as what happens in Europe for Muslims only schools or Arab communities : the ghetto led to burn Paris and to terrorist plots

  2. Balquis,

    You’re amazing…I had just posted this post when almost immediately received notification of a comment. I thought I had done something wrong in posting but I see it was likely that you were online to my blog at the same time I was uploading it!

    What do you mean by dangerous exactly? Dangerous for the western residents? The feelings of Saudis? Could it lead to pent up anger?

  3. I’m sure you’re also just as strongly opposed to Muslim-only or men-only areas in the country too, because after all, we shouldn’t discriminate.

  4. I am sorry that such separation is now enforced in yet another sphere, but I understand the security issue. Unfortunately, Westerners will find even fewer chances to meet Saudis. They will feel secure in their compounds, and feel no need to restrain themselves with respect to Ramadan or drinking or mixing (men and women).

    I wouldn’t suggest that Westerners be made to live like Saudis, but why shouldn’t they be expected to observe some of the easier customs of the Kingdom?

    When I lived in a predominantly Western compound, we were told that we could not eat or drink during the daylight hours of Ramadan, unless we did so behind closed doors. Through a rumble of grumbles, Westerners had to remain mindful of the greater society outside their walls. Such mindfulness opened doors to communication and cooperation.

  5. Good point Riz and I have to think on that…

  6. Riz,

    Thinking more on your comment, I’m curious, does the muslim-only compound prohibit non-muslims from coming in as vistors, guests or workers? Not all western compounds prohibit having Saudi visitors, guests and workers…but a few like I mentioned in my post do.

  7. I’m married to a Saudi, but I love the open feeling on ‘western’ compounds. They are a ‘haven’ for foreigners to basically, ‘let their hair down’ without upsetting the ‘natives’ in the Kingdom. Basically, they are ‘private clubs.’
    Saudis aren’t allowed in for obvious reasons, and I’m all for that. I believe that it’s not so much of a security issue as it is a social one.

  8. A2S, that is part of what I dislike is stating the rule are enforced due to -security- concerns. You know the old addage, just call a spade a spade rather than word games and illusions.

  9. One of the few advantages of being a spinster, is having breakfast while reading my G-reader feeds That’s why I was quick ?
    Such moves of separation of cultures and genders[ I was reading that Bahrain wants to pass a law according to which, people must see only doctors and nurses of their same sex Maybe you already have something similar there in ksa but we in Oman are free to chose, and if I must see a male doctor, the laws says that a female nurse must be in the room while he is examining me], contribute to build great distances among people and this makes difficult living together, here in Gulf or there in Rome .
    To make it simple : if my Imam tells me in the Friday kutba that the blood of the kafir is legitimate for me, that board is there to reinforce his theory .
    I understand is a security issue, but must be accompanied by a policy of cultural exchanges .

  10. American2Saudi raised an interesting statement…it is truly security or is it a social issue?

  11. See here in Oman, people are not extreme but there is a sort of anti American feeling which is understandable, given the wrong policies that this current awful administration has followed til now
    One night I was on the beach and a girl came to me She was little bit sad and needed someone to talk to
    After some time she asked about me and my roots
    I told her am Italian but she didn’t want to believe me [I look more like an English-American, and dress Arabic, so is difficult to guess where am from ]
    She said “maybe you are American and are afraid to say but I tell you am not against americans”
    I was almost to show her my passport but she said it was ok
    See we have a problem, that board makes it bigger

  12. delhi, I think that it’s both….our social behavior sometimes leads to the need for security. For example, as we lie in our bathing suits by the pool, I think security is an issue. If we are riding bikes in shorts around the compound, I think it’s a security issue. If we are having dinner with our neighbors, it’s a security issue. Things that are considered ‘normal’ in our culture, are offensive in this one. Security needed! : )

  13. I think I’m ready for a break.

  14. It doesn’t feel good to me.
    I already find it irksome at great distance that saudis aren’t allowed on a compound on saudi soil. it already irritated me when I read about it on Susie’s blog. I can only imagine how it must feel when actually living in KSA.

    Strickt security is one thing, completely excluding one nationality while allowing others, ánd on their own soil, feels very wrong to me.
    About the social aspect, if saudis have problems with people cycling in shorts in their own compounds they can stay away, but that would then be a choice.

    And thinking about how everybody seems to be able to interact at, for example, the equestrian centre, it seems there are enough saudis who can interact in a way wich is considered normal in a western context. So I don’t think ”cultural differences” is a valid argument.

    And security, well, I think it’s become a truism to call everything ”security” or ”terrorist threat”. Nice, effective way to keep people from thinking, and stop them from questioning.

    So, Bedu, want a break in Holland? The tulips are starting to bloom: lots of Americans like to visit for that!

  15. What I find disappointing is to meet some really great folks and subsequently receive an invitation for my husband and I to come to dinner. Now they may not have realized that my husband is Saudi. But when I learn where they live I usually have to tell them how kind they are and suggest we meet elsewhere. I realize it is not their fault and they have not enforced the policies but that of the compound management and likely in cohesion or at least with support of the government. However it can be kind of awkward and I try to put them at ease because at least the individuals I am aware of who are living at such compounds are there because their employer mandated that is where they must live.

    I agree with you Aafke. There’s no problem with western-only compounds but many will also at least allow Saudi guests. And yes, the majority of Saudi guests will be pretty westernized to begin with given they are friends and socializing with westerners to the point of agreeing to come to their home.

  16. Expelling [some] Muslims from [parts of] the Jazirat ul-`Arab?

    On a more serious note, by ‘Western only’ does that preclude Western Muslims? Do companies have a policy whereby they distinguish between where Muslims and non-Muslims are ‘allowed’ to settle?

    My cousin told me about the Khobar attacks at the time- despicable.

  17. I’m not sure….but it is not unusual for many of the “western only” compounds to have activities that muslims may find in conflict with their faith. However that being said, I do know of some “western-predominant” compounds which do have some muslim residents. Specifically I am thinking of a compound which I know has a majority of westerners and I know of an Egyptian muslim family which also live on that compound.

    There are also muslim-only compounds and I would be surprised if such compounds would be prohibited to have Saudi or non-muslim guests.

  18. Since “the Kingdom” discriminates in many forms, I have no problem with this form of discrimination. After all it is the Saudi’s “Kingdom”, n’est-ce pas?

  19. Yours is an interesting perspective, Peacefulmuslimah. You are correct in what you say, and you are wise to “…have no problem with…” something you cannot affect anyway.

    However, the broad picture reveals that the issues discussed do, in fact, impact the quality of life on both sides of the wall, and I assume you are located on one of those sides. That means that you may have been inconvenienced, insulted or denied nurturing friendship because of the “Western only” rule.

    What, in your opinion, will be the long term effect of this stricter discrimination in the Kingdom? Are Westerners and Saudis already so polarized that strict separation really is a matter of security?

  20. The amount of socialization between Saudis and Westerners after work is minimal. I”m not saying it does not happen but if you take a poll, so many do not have such opportunities for various reasons. I consider myself among the fortunate few to routinely cross and mix between “East and West” but of course that is predominantly due to my marriage to a Saudi.

  21. A news service with which I am not familiar chose to pick up this post:

  22. Isn’t the partial reason for these bans to avoid the negative western influence on Saudi nationals?

  23. Cairogal,

    I can’t speak with authority but only with speculation….

    Some could be to avoid negative western influence on Saudi nationals.

    Some could be that westerners after working all day with Saudis want an environment similar to “home” where they can be natural and relaxed and not feel ill-at-ease if some western cultures may be contradictory to Saudi cultures and fear of being observed by Saudis.

    Some could be Westerners want to have their lifestyle of choice without being judged or criticized by those not from the same culture.

    And sadly, come could be for the security reasons that these few compounds will state as the reason given for no saudis allowed…ever.

  24. delhi, Really, don’t take it personal against your husband or other Saudis. No Saudi policies are also used to also keep out potential problems of any kind. My Saudi husband hates to go to any Western Compounds because the guards there make him feel like he is being lucky to be granted access….and they hassel him more if he is in his national dress. Sadly, we turn down most invites from any compound friends. Many times Saudis will be granted access if they are dressed western, however, even if it states that no saudis are allowed. I really don’t think we should make such a big deal about this.

  25. Hello Carol!

    Discrimination in SA! Imagine that!

    As to the news service picking up your post, I always love it when they “pick up” someone’s work and then copyright it on their website with “all rights reserved”.

  26. AA-

    To answer Omar’s question, “On a more serious note, by ‘Western only’ does that preclude Western Muslims?”, there *are* compounds that do NOT allow covered Muslim women. Some have a no niqab policy, while others have no-headscarf policy.

    That makes it clear that its NOT about security. Its completely a social issue.

    One of the managers at a Western compound (Najd compound, I think) told us point blank that its about business economics. The western tenants want to recreate their home environment and not be bothered with Muslims, so if they’re not comfortable in the compound in the presence of fellow Muslim tenants, they’ll take their money elsewhere.

    Once my wife’s friend was going to visit her friend in one of these compounds and they would only allow her entry if she took off her headscarf. Amazing!

    So yeah, the whole security excuse is hogwash, IMO. Its all about recreating a social atmosphere free from Saudis (and sometimes Muslims in general).

  27. Marahm —

    I do not live in “the Kingdom” or any other nation that refers to itself as one? I live in Qatar and we do not have these same issues, alhamdulillah.


  28. I’m not sure about the actual policy on our compound but I think its mostly a social issue. We recently had a function and a Saudi woman I know from a craft group had entered some items in a competition. She and her Saudi husband exprssed a desire to attend the function and the committee agreed but with certain conditions: firstly he was to wear a suit and she had to uncover her face. We were a bit distressed but communicated this to her and they (naturally) declined. It was all very embarrassing for us. The argument went something like “we have to deal with Saudis all day at work and the last thing we want after work is more Saudis”. I know that many of the men here have some difficulties at work, but please! Although, to be fair, there were things going on at the function that the average Saudi probably would have been extremely offended by.

    However, the social issue goes both ways. My husband and his expat co-workers were invited to a work function at one of those formal party places. On arrival, the expats were shown into one room and the Saudi employees another. The only time they saw one of their Saudi co-workers was 6 hours later when he popped his head in the door to say it was time to go home!

    The cultural divide is immense and I don’t think that either side is blameless.

  29. Kathryn,

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard about different rooms for Saudi and Western MEN only events. Has anyone else heard of such a thing in the Kingdom?

  30. My spouse and I often times do go to events at Western compounds (the ones that -will- allow Saudi guests) and yes, he is required to wear western dress. My spouse at least does not mind that at all.

    Yes; there may be some activities that take place at western compounds as the residents are able to perform their customs and cultures on their piece of turf (the western compound). From what I have been exposed to at least, the Saudis who have been at such compounds as guests are aware and respect those practices.

    I know one compound advised they do not allow Saudis or muslims on their compounds at all citing that at the clubhouse, alcohol is allowed. Maybe I’m just much more open but rather than have the decision made for them, shouldn’t the Saudi or muslim be able to decide if they are bothered by that and therefore prefer not to be present? It’s not as if they would ever be forced to imbibe.

    And I’ve never heard of a function which separated Saudis and Western men from one another!

  31. I think it’s ridiculous to go to a foreign country, and then want to have nothing to do with it’s inhabitants, culture and food. The very last place you’d get me to go would be the macDonalds! please!
    Oh, yes, most people only go there for the money. but still, I like money very well, and you could get me even to KSA for the right price, but then I’d want to experience the country too.
    And I think it’s bloody insulting to tell a saudi couple (in their own country) they can’t come unless he’s in western clothes and she has to take off her niqab!

    And for pete;’s sake! What can be going on in a western compound that would be unbearable to witness for a saudi? Thinking of what I heard about Saudi’s in Bahrein I think that they could shock the westerners just as well if they like.
    I take it one would invite saudi friends anyway.

    It’s not as if you’d invite the Muttawa to the compound for a couple of beers and pork-pies.

  32. You captured it all Aafke!

  33. Carol: I think you’ve captured it in your 8:45 comment… All of the Above.

    Sometimes it’s cultural, sometimes it’s security, sometimes it’s both.

    I’ve been to hotel beach facilities outside Jeddah that bar anyone in traditional Saudi garb because some of what goes on inside those compounds is simply not acceptable to the average Saudi. Women in bikinis, a snack bar open during daylight hours in Ramadan, ‘mingling’ of non-related people of the opposite sex. Separation spares both Saudis and foreigners from awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes criminal clashes.

    The gate guards don’t bother asking for passports or documentation of religion: they just assume (mostly correctly) that if you’re going there, you should look like you belong there.

    Part of the segregation may indeed be racial. But mostly, I believe, it’s so that foreigners have a chance to breath in the air what’s often a socially oppressive KSA. I see airline flight attendants there who have not made a long-term commitment to living in the KSA. Their jobs bring them there and they’ve a 24-48 hour layover. Should they just stay in their hotels? The Saudis willing to entertain them have other than cultural exchanges in mind.

    A few hours’ break from the narrow conformity the KSA requires of foreigners can be a welcome one. The adage about permitting behavior while ‘avoiding shocking the horses’ applies.

  34. Very well stated, John. Nothing like a breath of fresh air (especially when doing simple innocent things) like going for a walk.

  35. As you’ll be reading soon in an upcoming post, although not compound related, The Kingdom has indeed demonstrated very well that there can be mixing of the cultures and with ease. During this past trip to Maida’n Salah as soon as our group arrived to the town of Al Ula all abayas came off. We were free to go without them the entire trip which included trips to the town and other various sites as well as all around the hotel. There were local Saudis from the area and also from outside of the area. Noone stopped, pointed or stared or made any objections. The Governor of Medina (of which Al Ula falls) passed a decree that no muttawa are allowed into Al Ula or the area around Maida’n Salah.

    As I will keep saying over and over and over again….

    Saudi Arabia — Contrasts and Contradictions! (that would make a good bumper sticker or t-shirt, huh?)

  36. Nothing wrong with “western only” clubs in KSA. It serves to help spread the message that the entire backwards “Saudi system” needs to be overhauled.

  37. It happened again. I posted above about an all-male but segregated Saudi/non-Saudi function at my husband’s office and I sensed a little skepticism from subsequent commenters. Not to drag it out, but it happened again yesterday, in his all-male office. One of the expat staff had an occasion to celebrate and supplied food for morning tea. The Saudi staff appeared, appropriated half the food and took it to another room saying “This is where the expat staff will eat and we will eat in there”. And not to labour the point, but when visiting dignitaries come to the office, which happens a couple of times a year, all the Western expat staff are made to hide in their offices until the visit is over. Far be it for anybody to realise there are other people contributing to the work being done!

    Anyway, I know that there must be many hospitable, welcoming Saudis and it is my misfortune not to have been afforded the opportunity to meet any, but in my husband’s office, there are none at all. When we came we had many aspirations for cultural exchange and hoped to experience as much Saudi culture as we could. Unfortunately, no such opportunities have arisen, and we have been looking for them. The Eastern Province may work differently for all I know, but that has been our experience, and that is what I am able to comment on.

  38. I truly do not know what to say Kathryn but simply express my surprise. What kind of company or organization does your husband work for?

    I sincerely hope that an opportunity will arise where you and your husband can enjoy the cross-cultural experience in a rewarding and positive manner.

  39. Interestingly – some compound owners reserve a villa or two for Saudi relatives who may or may not live there throughout the year.

    There is one such villa at my compound – we have never seen anyone go in or out in the almost three years that I’ve lived here. Whoever it belongs to has three expensive cars parked there – that have also not moved in the past three years. Supposedly he comes in for 2-3 days a year!!!

    At a friends western compound, the owners young saudi male relatives were staying in a town house – no one ever saw them since they were at work all day. But they had noisy parties on weekends that everyone heard. Inevitably, the neighbours complained and they were asked to leave because they were disturbing the peace & the other residents of the compound were also concerned with the #s of arabs/saudis coming in for the parties…

    So, I’d also say it’s more of a social issue. Mine is also not a predominantly western compound but everyone still gets uptight at the sight of a thob – as if it’s a violation of privacy to have a Saudi present.

  40. Riyadh Mom – yes; I am also aware of various compounds which have villas “reserved” for special Saudis and like the example you mentioned, to be used as a weekend party house away from prying eyes and muttawa.

    But then on the other hand there is Selwa compound located on the outskirts of Riyadh which is Saudi owned but prohibits Saudi nationals as residents or guests. Almost…. seems like some Saudis who happen to have obtained a passport from another country will manage to attend some of the functions that take place there.

    The all Western rule does not bother me as much as it did when I originally heard about it. The longer I am here I can better respect that some individuals want to preserve their culture and customs away from curious and maybe misunderstanding eyes.

  41. Living on a compound myself, I would very much like to invite my saudi workmates from time to time, I wish they’d relax the rules a little bit.

    Having said that, I would dread to see bedu glaring at women in bathing suits near the swimming pools should they be allowed in..

  42. sorry to say this but it is not only bedus who glare at women in bathing suits…seems pretty universal!

  43. Hey guys, Hope you are all doing fine wherever you are. I was reading your stories on life in Saudi Arabia and found it very scary to be honest. I guess the western compounds sound like the only reasonable place to live in Saudi Arabia.

    I’ve been offered a job there and am debating whether to go there or not. I thought may be you guys could help me make the decision.

    I’ve lived and studied in the U.S. for a good chunk of my life. I’m extremely liberal; besides doing other non-Saudi things, I drink, smoke, party, go clubbing and have a wonderful girlfriend. Although, I’m a Pakistani Muslim by birth, I do not practice religion that much.

    Given all this, how will the Saudis treat me? Will they allow me to live in a western compound? Will they let my girlfriend come and stay with me? Do you ever get to hang out with women anywhere in the kingdom?

    Please write me back because if life is as suffocated as you describe it to be in Saudi Arabia, I will surely die in a week.

  44. Hi Jay and welcome! From what you have described of your preferred lifestyle you would certainly want a Western compound as your choice of residence. In regards to your girlfriend, if she is not in KSA then she could not travel without an official sponsor; she would not be able to come as an unrelated visitor and stay with you.

    And yes; there are plenty of various “mixers” in the expat community that take place.

  45. Hi Ya’ll. I know I’m really late to add to this, but I found this discussion very interesting. My husband and I are both from Texas and are moving to Saudi next month. We will be living on an American compound…and we are Muslim.
    I know to some it may sound like an oxymoron that we are “western” and Muslim…
    So, in ya’lls’ opinion, would we be considered Westerners? I wear a scarf and all but speak English and am as American as they come. I am starting to wonder what life will be like there, what with all this segregation and such.
    I might add, that my husband’s father is would that change anything?
    I’m starting to worry about how we might be treated………….

  46. One more thing, we aren’t Saudi!!

  47. I guess it will depend which compound you live on…some are very clearly western only and unlikely to have muslim residents even though this is Saudi Arabia! I think though that it will not be an impact wherever you live and I do know many women, to include western muslims, who for them the scarf is as natural as wearing shoes.

    Let me know when you arrive and will be pleased to help make ya’ll welcome!

  48. Oh well, thats what the Gulf gets for pandering to westerners and treating them like kings solely because of the fact that they are white and from the west. What has happened to pride of being Muslim? Also Saudi’s and other Gulf Arabs treat westerners like kings, while the westerners go to Saudi and have no respect for the country, its people, its culture and its religion. Trust me, I have heard what many westerners who live and work in Saudi, earning very good salaries, say about Saudi and Islam and it is not good. Maybe Muslims in all countries need to reevaluate their identity be proud of their religion. It is sad that Muslims from Morocco, Saudi, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia will give more respect to a westerner instead of each other.

  49. ab828,

    Are you there is Saudi now? I am so curious about what your experience has been. So much of what I read suggests that you may be between a rock and a hard place. Seems neither “side” can tolerate or appreciate or tolerate the notion of a free, independent thinking, open minded, flexible, hijab wearing Muslim.

    You would make your fellow westerners uncomfortable as they seem to presume that you are judging their western, “free” behaviors. Your Muslim fellows, at least the Saudi ones who make the laws, seem to feel you need them to regulate your every action.

    There is just judgment and ignorance all around. People like you must have THE hardest time.

  50. […] } Sometimes it is good to write reminders about rules and regulations which if one does not know about them could result in awkward circumstances.  For example, take […]

  51. I am VERY late to this conversation. I just left Saudi after nearly 5 years of living in Riyadh who lived on one of these Western only compounds. Strangely enough, the compound was owned by a very, very prominent Saudi and it was him that set the rules. In fact, any Muslim wanting to move to the compound had to be personally approved by him. I can tell you after 5 years in the country that as Westerners, you NEED to be able to come home and have some semblance of sanity because Saudi Arabia is NOT normal living. Saying that, we had Saudi friends and they even came to our compound – we just could not take them to the poolside, which is perfectly understandable when there are women in bikinis – and funny true story, every Friday afternoon, the National Guard helicopter would fly low over the pool area with all the guards hanging out the side with binoculars and cameras. They were so predictible, you could set the clock by them.
    I don’t think you can really address the discrimination issues of Western only compounds until you look at the fact that, as a woman, I’ve been thrown out of shops for wanting to buy water, screamed at because I did not have my hair covered (which I find a religious thing – not a cultural thing), had my young daughters felt up by Saudi men and generally been treated like a prostitute looking for sex (even though I’ve been happily married for 20 years) by 90% of the Saudi male population – and a large portion of the women. When you are faced with that day in, day out, the Western only compounds begin to seem like an oasis in the desert. Not every Saudi is like that but how do you differentiate? Should you say only nice Saudi’s allowed in? Only Saudi’s that won’t treat your women like prostitutes or come onto your young teenage daughters? If the Saudis won’t the rules changed, maybe they should first look at their behaviour that precipated the rule in the first place.

  52. […] and will abide by the regulations of head cover and appropriate dress.  Some compounds also prohibit residents or guests of residents to appear in public areas of the compound wearing either an abaya […]

  53. Very curious: what about saudis married to westeners? eg. saudi woman married to western man or saudi man married to western woman.

    If they want with their children to live in the compound ( and their children are dual nationals) are they still prohibited?????? because they are a mixed family/partially saudi?

    What are the regulations in this case for western compounds?

  54. Gigi,

    The majority of compounds with the “Westerns Only” rule also prohibits the bi-cultural Saudi/other nationality couple from living on the compound.

    On Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 3:04 AM, American Bedu

  55. Thanks Carol,

    Nevertheless is that also in the case where the wife is still a christian and does not cover? and also in the case where the children are dual citizens?

    It really sounds too restrictive…..

  56. Would it only be possible if the saudi husband/wife became dual nationals themselves?? in order to cross better these barriers….

  57. Saudi Arabia does not recognize dual nationality.

  58. I was the only foreigner (non-laborer) in the All-Saudi compound in which we lived in Riyadh. The rules pertaining to Saudis and Western compounds are very tight. In fact, at many of the Western compounds you are even prohibited from having a Saudi over as a guest. At the few compounds where you can have a Saudi as a guest, the man must wear Western clothes and in some cases, the woman is expected to remove her abaya once on the compound.

    As Sandy said, Saudi does not recognize dual nationality.

    An exception I have seen where Saudis and non-Saudis live on the same compound are those working for either King Faisal Hospital or National Guard Health Affairs.

  59. Personally i did see Saudi man/Foreign wife living in Arizona compound in Riyadh ( which is very western) and also Saudi woman/Foreign Man living in another western compound ( were actually both another saudi man/western woman were living) so never questioned it as I assumed mixed couples were welcome. And that was also a very western compound.

    I only knew the rule that saudi’s in the same compounds were only allowed to visit certain hours during the day- until 5pm or something and no later. So I knew as far as that.

    Sure in all the above cases the saudi guy/ women were dressed very western- not by compound rules only, but they did like it better themselves ( otherwise I guess they would not have chose this lifestyle)

    There are a number of saudis that in their personal life would not wear the thobe/abaya for personal comfort and style, but rather would like it for special occassions only.

  60. I’m very curious how long ago did you see a Saudi man/foreign wife living in Arizona compound? I know this compound well and they’ve been among the most strict. I can only guess that the Saudi personally knew the Prince who owns the compound.

    On Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 5:45 PM, American Bedu

  61. I googled it and there’s a video where they say no Saudis, except the man who owns the place. I also checked the website, it is for executive level expats, so it’s a bit of a caste system as well it seems.
    The website had music playing which I couldn’t turn off, some sort of very American country song about drinking and gambling. It looked like America with palmtrees added. Bizarre!

  62. Just remembered the other compounds- Kingdom and Seder Village.

    Could this rule for mixed couples be acually relaxing?

  63. In my opinion it is the nicest of the Western compounds. It may not be as large as “The Rock” but it is gorgeous…complete with golf course, barn, horseriding, etc. I spent a lot of time on this compound as my best expat friend lived there. Yes; it is exclusive and for expatriates in executive level positions. Villas can start at 250,000 SAR per year (rent) and up.

    On Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 7:04 PM, American Bedu

  64. Well, Kingdom is owned by Prince Alaweed. It is another lovely and upscale compound.

    I’ve been to Seder Village but can’t recall it at the moment from many of the others I’ve been to.

    I’d be surprised if the rules are relaxing since there remains a housing shortage for expats.

    Sandy — can you comment more?

    On Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 7:09 PM, American Bedu

  65. I’m not too sure about other compounds, but Aramco as well as KAUST allow Saudi’s and other nationalities to live within the compound. Anyone residing in the compound can have guests over, and employees (living of compound) along with their family can visit the compound.

  66. @ Carol: The Arizona case was about 8 years ago-certain! 100% – very westernised couple. They rented a lovely huge villa.


    Many Saudi are executives in their jobs, whether men or women and they do not live traditionally at all.

    Also not all expat women married to saudis are only homemakers. Many have very good jobs and are very active beyond the family circle with frequent travel.

    You would be very surprised- actually it would be more odd for such couples to be forced to live outside compounds.

    i think the restriction is not for bi-cultural couples of the above profile..

    It would probably befor bi-cultural couples where the expat wife/husband has assumed a very traditional role, eg. he/she has converted to islam and they only prefer to dress traditionally. These couples would not want to live in a compound in the first place as it would not reflect their vaiue system and nor would they want to pass on this image to their children.

  67. Gigi, I don’t know what you mean with your comment to me. I think you cannot not have read my comment very well, your response is completely off track.
    I did not talk at all about Saudis and what jobs they have. If you read my earlier comments, higher up, you will see that I found it bizarre that Saudi people are not allowed to live on these compounds, or sometimes even to visit, or if they visit that they can’t wear their modern Saudi uniforms.
    You need to become less aggressive in your responses and read properly first.

  68. @Aafke

    It was not meant as a direct response to your comment or to you- it was a general clarification that came to my mind after reading your post. Thus you can remove @ Arfke if you like.

    I do not view it as an aggressive response in the slightest !

  69. @Carol

    It could well be that the rules are relaxing, as these have been my observations over the last 8-9 years.

  70. @Gigi,

    I emailed my friend who lived for about 12 years on Arizona and here is her response/feedback:

    Nope. A Saudi owns it of course and he was married (one of his wives) to an American woman. I believe
    they are either divorced or definitely separated now as she is in the USA.

    There was an American (I think she was an American) married to a Saudi with an American passport living on Arizona for a while but the rent got too high and they moved off….must be at least four years

    A couple of years back the owner rented one of his villas on the compound to a Iraqi couple who are friends of his. My villa was set aside for the son of this couple and his Nordic wife…both dress western at all times and speak English. To live on Arizona ALL residents must dress western, hold western passports and be able to associate openly with the other residents. English is the common language which is used for communication. I was once told that non-western residents were kept to about 10% of the total population. It works and gives the compound a community feel. The only obvious Saudis are members of the office staff who come on i the mornings and leave in the afternoons. Oh, better like dogs as well since there are plenty of them owned by the residents.

  71. @ Carol

    Yes, these saudi/expat couples can be a little rare on compounds, but they are there and do make a small percentage of the compound population.
    All the ones I have met were 1 wife-1 husband young mixed couples in their 30’s most of the time with children ( not polygamous cases) where all the family spoke very good English, they were very religious-tolerant ( wife/husband never forced to convert) and actively lived a western life as a family unit.

    Thus it is not absolute restrictive, but there is a selection that the couples profile fits the compound life ( which anyhow they would have not have applied for if they did not feel comfortable themselves with those principles).

    Regarding Saudi husbands and wives- true- most of them do apply for their expats wives/husbands nationalities.
    This really helps anyhow in the mobility of mixed families worldwide. You dont really want to keep on renewing resident permitts for the wife/husband after a while- it is a hassle. It is better that all family members have both nationalities.

  72. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to visit frequently to Western Compounds but I’m equally glad that while in Saudi I got to live in an “All Saudi” compound.

    On Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 7:04 PM, American Bedu

  73. Discrimination is always a cause of frustration for those discriminated against. But complaining about discrimination as a Saudi seems somewhat duplicitous..

    In one of the few remaining cultures that proactively encourages and seeks to justify the continued segregation of females from men in public (men can go to the family sections, women can not go to the male sections. Women can’t drive or even move freely with out male guardian companionship etc). And as well as large swathes of the country (Makkah and Medinha) that cannot be entered at all unless of a certain faith.

    Ultimately you can’t have it both ways. My hope is the younger generation in Saudi eventually come to agree that greater openness and freedom is the way forward.

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