TIPS ON MOVING ABOUT THE KINGDOM
Tips on moving about the kingdom for newbies like me:
NEVER ever forget to wear your ABAYA when moving around the kingdom. Abaya is an outer garment worn by Islam women in some parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. It is worn over street clothes when a woman leaves her home, and is designed to be loose and flowing, hiding the "curves" of the body. Although some Saudi women choose to wear a face veil, expatriate women are not expected to do so.
Always bring with you your Iqama. It is a small green resident booklet that says you are allowed to live or work in Saudi Arabia. It is somewhat similar to a green card in the USA. All expatriate employees with valid work permits are issued one.
Be aware of the prayer times or the Salah. Everything in Saudi is regulated by the 5 daily prayers: fajr (dawn), dhuhr (noon), asr (mid-afternoon), maghrib (sunset), isha'a (nightfall). Non-Muslims aren’t expected to do anything in particular during prayer times, although you shouldn’t watch or pass close in front of anyone who is praying or step on his prayer mat. All shops and offices close during each prayer for a period of at least 20-30 minutes, and the religious police patrol the streets and pack loiterers off to the mosque. However, shopping malls, hospitals and airports do stay open (but with all shops inside the shopping malls closed) and taxis and other public transport continue to run normally.
Do not do anything that would anger or call the attention of the Muttawa- the religious police. They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film).
which leads us to
RESPECT the beliefs and feelings of Muslims. Be culture sensitive. After all, we are but guests in their country. There are RESTRICTIONS on certain items both when coming into and living in the country and it is better to take note of that in order to avoid penalty or punishment.
Forbidden items include alcohol, narcotics, weapons/ammunitions, pork, religious icons and pornography.
The Saudi drug laws are very strict. Anyone convicted of smuggling drugs will face death penalty. The penalty for illegal possession of drugs is 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of SR 10,000. The penalty for illegal use of drugs is 2 years in prison.
If you are found guilty of drinking, possessing, manufacturing or distributing alcohol, the penalty is a fine and jail term, and afterwards, DEPORTATION to the country of origin.
***These are the helpful tips that I could think of for the meantime. I do hope these would deem helpful for newbies like me. In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy the experiences I have in the kingdom--- a place where the sun shines all year long...