Saudi Arabia is a beautiful, ancient country which has a long and interesting history. It is broadly regarded as the cultural center of Islam, and it is a place of ancient relics and buildings. It can be a wonderful place to visit, but it’s important that people take steps to keep themselves safe.
How to Prepare for your Journey
There are lots of things that you should take into account when embarking on a visit to Saudi Arabia. It is not like most western countries, and there are many strict laws which could take you by surprise. Foreigners who break the law are liable to be punished just as strictly and quickly as residents. It is much better to ask for permission than to hope for forgiveness in Saudi Arabia.
Always make sure you have your paperwork sorted before going to the country. This will often require a visa – you can read more here – https://www.travelvisapro.com/visa/saudi-arabia
Men and women are kept strictly segregated in Saudi society, and women are considered to be subservient to men. Women should travel with a man if they wish to visit, because there are some laws which dictate that women may not be out and about without being escorted by their husband. The Saudi Arabia religious police, known as the Mutaween have the right to stop foreigners and demand proof that they are married, and they do exercise that right. If you are stopped, then it is a wise move to comply with their requests, and to be polite and peaceful.
Plan ahead and purchase clothing that you intend to wear in Saudi Arabia online, so that when you step off the plane you look inconspicuous. Your clothing should be conservative. Men should not wear gold colors, or anything that is made of silk. Do not wear shorts that come above the knee, sunless you are at the beach. A simple shirt and long shorts are good choices. Keep jewelry to a minimum.
Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to wear an abaya at all times when they are outdoors or in public view. They can wear whatever they wish under the abaya, but that garment must be worn. Saudi Arabia is different to other Muslim countries in that respect, because many Muslim countries give foreign women more leeway with what they wear, but in Saudi Arabia even visitors must abide by their customs.
The weather in Saudi Arabia is fairly consistent year round, except for the beginning and end of the cold season, which sees sandstorms and torrents of rain that can disrupt travel in the more rural parts of the country. It is a good idea to check the weather forecast, and to pack the right attire for the time of year.
Rules to Remember
Do not take photographs unless you have permission from the subject or from the owner of the thing that you would like to photo. Saudi people are quite private, and they may find it distressing to have things photographed. If people become upset then they may contact the police and you will be ordered to put the camera away.
Women who are traveling with their husband should try to follow the local customs. Walk a few feet behind your husband, and remain quiet, with your eyes forward at all times. Do not speak unless spoken to and do not interrupt your husband, especially if he is talking to another man.
These rules may seem unusually strict to someone who has grown up in a western society, but they are the norm in some Muslim cultures and in Saudi Arabia they are enforced strictly for visitors and residents alike so it is very important that they are followed at all times.
Choose your topics of conversation carefully, and avoid controversy. Speaking disrespectfully about Muhammad, Islam and Al-Saud (the ruling family) is considered to be punishable by law. It may be most wise to avoid discussing those topics, to reduce the risk of starting a diplomatic incident.
Those who are visiting Riyadh should avoid Deera Square on a Friday afternoon, as foreigners are not welcome at those times. There are many other things that are beautiful, and that you can go to see at any time. If you are respectful and learn the law of the land then you can enjoy an uneventful and pleasant trip, and learn a lot about the country.