The male kingdom: how to work in Saudi Arabia

The male kingdom: how to work in Saudi Arabia

The relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which had stagnated until recently, are now actively developing. After the October visit of the King of the Saudis to Moscow for cooperation between states in different sectors of the economy, the green light went on.

In addition to such strategic industries as oil and gas and nuclear energy, the prospects for cooperation with the Saudis are opening up for such an industry as, for example, agriculture. Russia can export grain, as well as halal meat and other food products to the kingdom. Tourism (including religious) and the related hotel business are also promising areas of business between the countries.

However, for effective business in any country, it is important to take into account its cultural specifics. Moreover, for Russians, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still an exotic country. I would like to share my own experience of interacting with clients from Saudi Arabia. Our team has been developing digital products for one of the world's largest manufacturers of household appliances and electronics for more than 3 years. In 2017, we began to work with the projects of the brand's branch, which is located in Saudi Arabia.

Sunday as a working day

When dealing with the Saudis, of course, one has to take into account their weekly cycle that is different from that of the Europeans. As in other Muslim countries, in Saudi Arabia Friday is a day off, while Sunday is a working day. Therefore, Russians who communicate with clients from Saudi Arabia actually have to work six days a week. On Sunday, the Saudis become more active already at 7-8 am Moscow time, the time difference affects.

The Saudis' business rhythm of life is also affected by their obligatory namaz (Muslim prayers) 5 times a day - at this time, activity in the kingdom stops for 15-20 minutes, shops and business centers are closed. I would like to note that there is a real religious police in Saudi Arabia. She makes sure that during prayer no one staggers idly, but is precisely at prayer.

It is also important to remember about traditional Islamic festivals and related weekends. During Ramadan, the Muslim fasting holiday that lasts for a month, the Saudis work until about 3:00 pm local time. The fact is that fasting people, as a rule, get up before sunrise (or do not go to bed all night long), since in Ramadan it is allowed to eat and drink only at night.

In this mode, by lunchtime, fasting people, taking into account the Arabian climate, become quite dehydrated, and there is still no sense in working. Around 3:00 pm, the Saudis usually drive home and usually sleep in order to gather with family or friends for Iftar, the first meal after a day of fasting, by sunset.

And in general, during the period of fasting, the Arabs are not ready to make any significant decisions. They postpone all business for later or try to complete it before the start of the holiday. Therefore, coordinating layouts in Ramadan may not be the best idea.

A personal meeting is important for cooperation

Meeting in person is the most important way of business communication in Saudi Arabia in particular, and in the Middle East in general. A few preliminary meetings will be even more effective.

A large, oil-rich Middle Eastern country that borders Yemen, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, Saudi Arabia is the most influential power in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is the "Land of Two Shrines", home of the oldest Islamic cities, and one of the few states with an absolute monarchy.

It is the only one with access to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The kingdom is beautiful, of course, but its traditions of treating women and the use of the death penalty are controversial issues for the whole world. Saudi Arabia also leads the OPEC oil cartel, which has a huge impact on the global oil market. You might be interested in the article 10 largest oil and gas companies in the world.

The Kingdom once entered the civil war in Yemen, supporting the government against Houthi militants. But the help on the side does not exclude the presence of its own problems: the decline in oil prices, internal political differences and attempts to diversify the economy. In the understanding of the West, this country is an anachronism, where the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is an absolute law, and where a woman is forbidden to drive a car. But on the other hand, here are the roots of a great history and culture, to which millions of Muslims flock every year for the pilgrimage of the Hajj and huge oil fields.

Here are 15 surprising facts about the oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

No elections, no parliament, no political parties and no dissent

Absolute monarchy reigns here, there are no national elections, political parties and a representative parliament, there is only a symbolic council body, the Mejlis ash-Shura, or the Consultative Assembly, which does not have the authority to pass laws and enforce them. This open disregard for democratic norms has been going on for decades. Along with the most violent dictatorial countries, Saudi Arabia regularly receives the lowest scores for civil and political freedom from think tanks like Freedom House.

There is no constitution either, although the statute, known as the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia, adopted by royal decree in 1992, obliges the monarch to rule, observing instead of the Constitution the Sharia and the Koran. Criticism and dissent are strictly prohibited: activists are regularly imprisoned and sentenced to severe punishments.

Examples: Abd al-Karim, who demanded a transition to a constitutional monarchy and received 8 years in prison for this, and blogger Raif Badawi, who received 1,000 lashes for calling for freedom of speech.

House of the Holy Islamic Cities

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the most sacred religious sites - Mecca and Medina. The 13-meter high Kaaba is the most sacred site in the Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest mosque in Islam. All Muslims direct their prayers to her. One of the five pillars of Islam requires that every Muslim at least once in his life make a pilgrimage to Mecca, if he has the strength and finances.

An estimated two million people visit Saudi Arabia every year. It is not hard to guess that the abundant congestion of pilgrims in one place can lead to serious problems, such as the stampede in 2015, which killed and injured, according to some sources, more than 2,000 people.

Not enough executioners for all executions

Formerly closed to visitors, Saudi Arabia is now issuing tourist visas, making it a great opportunity to explore this exciting Middle East. Here is a list of reasons to plan a tourist trip to this incredible country.

Spiritual haven for Muslims

Mecca and Medina are the most sacred cities of Islam, visited annually by more than one billion Muslims from around the world.

It is in Mecca that the famous Muslim shrine Kaaba is located - erected in the form of a cube, while in Medina there is the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, who, according to Muslims, is the final messenger of God in a long chain of messengers, including Moses and Jesus. These two cities are inaccessible to non-Muslims.

Other attractions can be visited in Medina, including the first mosque of Islam, Al-Baqi cemetery, Mount Uhud, which was once the site of the battle. Unfortunately, most of Mecca's historic sites have been destroyed over the past few decades. Some were destroyed due to the expansion of the Great Mosque, others were removed due to religious conflicts.

Introducing Pre-Islamic Arabia

There are fascinating pre-Islamic sites in Saudi Arabia, including three recent discoveries that have changed the understanding of history: the site of Al-Mahar in the south, which is estimated to be about 9,000 years old; a human footprint that is 85,000 years old and an inscription of Ramses III found in the north.

Tourists can also discover a series of pre-Islamic rock paintings that span 10,000 years of history, or visit the amazing monumental tombs of Madain Saleh. The sheer size of the tombs and the level of handicraft will amaze everyone who visits it.


The Red Sea offers the best diving experience, warm temperatures and excellent visibility.

Sharks, barracuda, rays, turtles, moray eels and many colorful reef fish and dolphins can be found here. Saudi Arabia has endless beaches on the Red Sea, many of which are unspoiled.

It so happened that historically Saudi Arabia was a closed and conservative Muslim country. But time passes and everything changes. Borders are slowly opening up to visitors. And my husband and I managed to look into this fabulously rich place, see how people live here, what they are fond of and what they value.

Every year Saudi Arabia becomes more and more accessible, and people from different countries get the opportunity to get acquainted with its culture and sights. It still does not favor chilling tourists, but the country's direct participation in issues of the world economy, politics and business forces it to accept visitors who are ready to work for the state and share their experience. Modern universities are being rebuilt in many cities, whole university cities are being created, where modern scientists are invited not only to study science, but also to teach local students. So we got there too.

Visa and border crossing

Visa types

To travel to Saudi Arabia, citizens of Russia and the CIS need to obtain a visa. This country still does not issue tourist visas, but provides an opportunity to issue transit, student, work, business and guest visas to visit relatives. Religious Muslims can obtain group visas for pilgrims doing the Hajj to Mecca. In this case, the tour must be organized by a specialized company accredited in Saudi Arabia.

Visas are not issued directly through the embassy, ​​but through intermediaries who help prepare the documents, check the availability of all the necessary papers and send the request along with the application to the visa department. At the moment, it is most convenient to use the visa application centers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which are located in Moscow or Kiev. When we received visas, we applied to both centers and were generally satisfied. The paperwork proceeded without problems and delays.

The list of required documents depends on the type of visa for which you will apply them. In any case, you will definitely need a passport valid for at least 6 months, color photographs and questionnaires that can be downloaded on the website of companies involved in the preparation of documents and filled out at home.

CA is a believing country, which means that, in their opinion, all visitors also believe in something, because there is no other way! In this regard, the questionnaire contains a mandatory column "religion". It is necessary to indicate at least some religion in it: either your real one, or, being an atheist, you can simply write “Christianity” there. This will make it much easier to obtain a visa and help avoid problems while traveling.

Visa cost

The fee for the examination of documents consists of two values: consular and service fees. The first varies greatly depending on the type of visa: the fee for a commercial visa can reach 970 USD, while state and study visas are issued free of charge, but they require an invitation from the place of study or work.

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