Saudi Arabia has been always the interesting type when it comes to Muslim countries with laws we find extremely odd and undemocratic. For the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, death penalties and stoning are still part of the judicial process, males and females are still pretty much segregated, and women are still known in keeping those hands off away from the steering wheel. Here are the shocking truths that first-timers will expect while in Saudi Arabia.
1. Burqa all the way
Women are required to wear abaya, burqa and hijabs no matter what your religion is. So don’t be surprised to see all the women entirely covered while roaming around the public areas of Saudi Arabia. Small girls are exempted but they must start wearing the required clothing after they reach puberty.
2. Shop, stop, pray
Shops close for 30 minutes during salah or prayer times. And that doesn’t only happen once, but five times a day. So you better know the prayer schedules before you go shopping.
3. The death show
Executions happen on public grounds even just outside shopping malls. You can see convicts getting their penalty in different ways – getting shot, hanged, or decapitated. If you’re interested to watch, there’s no need to be shy because you’ll be joined by a huge crowd who are also curious to see the “show”.
4. Alcohol-free or else
Thinking of hitting the bar or club after that tiring work week? Then, you better not waste your time searching for those in Saudi Arabia to quench your thirst with some booze. No market can even help you in having a bottle of cold beer. And if you think you can fly out somewhere and bring back loads of alcohol for stock, you’re definitely jumping into some trouble. The production, possession or consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden in the country. A British man living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years was sentenced to jail and more than 350 lashes for the possession of homemade wine.
5. No dogs around
You won’t see dogs having a walk around the park (or the desert) every morning and getting petted right after. They aren’t popular to be owned as pets as they are believed to be unhygienic. However, you’d still see dogs around which are mainly used as guards, rescuers, or hunters. Nowadays, the image of dogs as non-house pets is changing and many are starting to own other dog breeds such as Great Danes and toy poodles.
6. Women don’t drive
Yes, ladies. If you’re in Saudi Arabia, you’re not allowed to drive alone (unless you’re living in the countryside). Doing so can get you a minimum of 10 lashes when caught. If you want to go somewhere, you won’t be able to go right away unless you have your father, brother, or husband accompany outside. Furthermore, going out with a man who isn’t your relative will get you in trouble, prison, and more lashes. But nowadays, some can hire personal drivers which can still be a problem for the conservatives.
7. Women-only spaces
Women are so special in Saudi Arabia that they need to have their own banks, toilets, offices, and even entrances. Because of the country’s strict regulations in separating the sexes, there are certain establishments, offices, and doors made only for women. The women-only banks have – of course – all-female bankers to serve its all-female customers. Some offices restrict men and women working in the same place especially nowadays that the number of women joining the workforce in the country is growing.
8. No cinemas
If you think about going on a movie night instead of bar night because alcohol is plain banned in Saudi Arabia, it’s sad to let you know that public cinemas don’t exist in the country. There are no cinemas due to the regulations in separating the sexes, again. However, the country announced the construction of a theater hall in Riyadh which would be the first in its history. The committee further added that the activities in the cinema theatre will be committed to the Islamic and traditional values of Saudi Arabia. Nope, no Batman v Superman in KSA.
9. Daily road races
Driving in KSA can be real-life horror for first-timers. It’s like another Fast and Furious movie that you’ll have to deal daily with men – and even underage boys – swerving through a four-lane road with a minimum speed of 150kph. The speed limit is 120kph and you can get a speeding ticket for exceeding the limit but anytime soon you can go back to your “preferred” speed.
Homosexuality is a complicated subject in Saudi Arabia. It may be forbidden and such acts can get you sentenced to imprisonment and lashes, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Homosexuality exists in the country. Furthermore, sex between the same sexes does happen. Rape happens too especially in male-only groups, unfortunately. The segregation or the discouraged communication between the opposite sex is thought to be the cause that gives men and women no choice but to be attracted to the same sex.
When On Earth Magazine is for people who love travel. We provide informative travel guides, tips, ideas and advice regarding places to see, things to do, what to taste, and much more for world travelers seeking their next dream vacation destination.