Introduction to Saudi Arabia

Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Zamil Industrial Investment Co. (Zamil Industrial) is proudly a Saudi company – and like its home country, the company aims to welcome every employee, local or expatriate, into a professional environment.

There are several online resources about Saudi Arabia, and likewise, there are many local and international accounts about living in this country. It would be worth mentioning that just like in any environment, there are those who would find Saudi Arabia in general, and Zamil Industrial in particular, positive and conducive to personal and professional growth.

Living and working in Saudi Arabia is a unique experience and it is rewarding for those individuals who are willing to learn and develop, just as the country is also becoming more dynamic and progressive.

Keeping an open mind and becoming more attuned to others is an important attitude when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

General Information

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines in Makkah and Medinah. With a total land area of 2,149,690 sq km., it is the second-largest Arab state in the world after Algeria.

The country occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, and borders Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, and Yemen to the south. Other than having parts of the country on the two coastlines of the peninsula (the Red Sea to the west and the Arabian Gulf to the east), the most prominent geographical feature of the country is the world’s largest continuous sand desert, the Rub’ Al Khali, or Empty Quarter.

The Arabian Peninsula is at the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe and has been historically significant in the growth of civilization and trade. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia established the modern Saudi state in 1932 following a successful campaign to unify the country. Various estimates peg the country’s control of the world’s oil reserves between 17% and 25%.

As of 2015, there are 13 provinces in Saudi Arabia. The nation’s capital, Riyadh, is an important center of Arab business and culture; Jeddah, the country’s western gateway, is one of the most prominent Red Sea ports; and the Dammam-Dhahran-Khobar metropolitan area, where Zamil Industrial is based, is best known as the headquarters of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest petroleum company.

The country is a member of various international organizations, primarily the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Air travel within Saudi Arabia is growing due to the development of local tourism and business. The country’s railway network is also under major development.

Local time is Greenwich Mean Time plus three hours (GMT+3).

Personal Documentation

It is essential to bring one’s personal documentation everywhere in the Kingdom. Expatriates who are properly employed are issued a residence permit or iqama. This is normally released within one month after arrival. The iqama is essential to open a bank account, secure a driver’s license, secure a lease for an apartment, or even purchase tickets for local travel (bus, train, or plane) and buying a rechargeable prepaid SIM. While waiting for the iqama to be released, an expat will have to rely on temporary identification issued by the company.

Other documentation such as company medical insurance card, driver’s license, automobile registration (istimara), and vehicle insurance are also very important, the last three especially when driving.

Prayer and Daily Life

Prayer is a central part of life in Saudi Arabia. Stores, banks, and restaurants normally close their doors during prayer, and while some may allow people to stay, those customers who are inside are not allowed to go out. Work will also stop temporarily so that Muslim employees can participate in prayer. Non-Muslims are encouraged to respect prayer time by refraining from playing loud music, laughing, or engaging in other activities that may disrupt the solemnity of prayer.

During the month of Ramadan where there are specific observances for Muslims, non-Muslims should be mindful of eating, drinking, or smoking in front of their colleagues during the time of fasting. The company has strict disciplinary action for those who violate this provision.

Living Conditions

Saudi Arabia's main population centers are highly urbanized and have some of the most up-to-date infrastructure. The road network is well-developed, making it very easy to travel within the country, though the population growth and volume of passenger vehicles in some areas make traffic an issue.

Communications are highly developed and it is easy to purchase SIMs for voice and Internet.

Local weather varies from very hot summers to mild winters, by Western standards. Along the eastern coastline, humidity is very high during the summer and fall months and can be quite uncomfortable. During winters, expatriates from tropical or subtropical climates are best advised to have winter clothing and heat their homes.

The company provides accommodation and transportation for most of its employees. Camp accommodation is normally shared, and depending on one’s rank, can be sharing for four or sharing for two. Transportation to the worksite is through company buses or vans, depending on the location. Meals are also served at the camp canteen.

For expatriate professionals, depending on rank, temporary accommodations may be in camp or in a furnished apartment. Managers will be housed in a hotel or residential compound. After two weeks, expatriates are required to check out or else they will bear the cost of the furnished apartment.

Housing allowances are generally 25% of basic salary for those who are eligible. Depending on location assignment, some employees are given a third of their basic salary to meet local property rental rates.

The local property market is growing but is relatively stable compared with other GCC countries. Most apartments are generally bare, with only kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures already installed. A tenant can generally make improvements to the flat, depending on the arrangement with the landlord. Some may choose to live in furnished apartments that already feature modern furniture and amenities.

Apartments may start from as low as SAR 14,000 annually, depending on the neighborhood and the age of the building. For single male employees who would like to share a flat with others, the annual cost for a room starts at around SAR 6,000 annually. Most real estate companies lease flats on a six-month basis, though there are also those with three- or twelve-month leases. In order for an employee to secure a flat, he should present his iqama and a company letter. All arrangements for water and electricity payments should also be made with the landlord.

Expatriate employees may get an advance of up to six months of their housing allowances during their first year of employment and may get up to an entire year on subsequent contracts. This amount is deducted on a monthly basis until the next payment cycle.

Furniture can be purchased in many stores, or an employee may seek the assistance from others by buying their used or excess items. One may also go to the “haraj” or flea markets in Dammam or Khobar and get bargains on furniture, appliances, and other household sundries. Bulk purchases on household items such as laundry detergent are also available in many major stores.

It is advisable to take note of the electrical and safety specifications of the flat and the building. Voltage in the Kingdom can be either 110 or 220. Before purchasing and using any appliances, users should check and match voltages accordingly. A surge protector is highly recommended for computers and other electronic equipment.

Activities during Personal Time

Moderation and modesty are two important qualities to practice while in Saudi Arabia. One must not only be mindful of the regulations but also be sensitive to the needs and preferences of others.

Proper monitoring of expenses and other leisure activities is prudent, especially if one is planning for the family’s stability of finances. One should dress smartly in public to avoid inviting comment from others. When an employee is accompanied by family members or visitors, he should also remind them about conforming to local customs, especially when in public. This is important for maintaining harmony among neighbors and avoiding untoward incidents with civil or religious authorities.

There are various recreational activities such as sports and activity clubs in which company employees are involved, and local schools have their own gatherings for parents and single members of their respective expatriate communities. In choosing an organization outside of the company, it would be wise to be certain of the aims of the group, the personal background of the principal members, and the kind of activities being done.

In keeping with the Islamic religion, KSA practices Internet censorship on sensitive issues. However, accessing many popular information, gaming, and social media sites is not restricted.

While there are some stores that are open past midnight, it would be best to be indoors early unless you are with your family.

Searches of homes are considered illegal in Saudi Arabia if the authorities cannot present written authorization or good reason for such a search. Any citizen or expatriate may resist unlawful search and refuse entry to police or religious authorities.

Family Life and Schooling

Zamil Industrial recognizes that stability in family life is important to employees. The company has a policy for expatriate professionals to bring their families to Saudi Arabia, according to rank and tenure. While personal experiences vary from family to family, many employees have remarked that the pace of life in Saudi Arabia, along with local customs, has allowed family members to become closer to one another and has given many parents a sense of security regarding their children.

There are several schools for specific expatriate communities, operating with the authorization of their respective ministries of education, in the Dammam metropolitan area. Parents may make arrangements for the schooling of their children. They should check with their local government authorities on accredited schools under their educational system before leaving. Embassies of their home countries within Saudi Arabia should also be able to provide assistance.

There are also international schools that are accredited according to standards from the U.S. or the U.K.


Public Transportation

Employees living in camp are provided daily bus service. There are also scheduled trips for shopping downtown after office hours. Taxis are available and the flag-down rate is SAR 5.00, but in general one can bargain with the driver, depending on the distance, for a minimum of SAR 10.00. Other taxis that cover the main routes sometimes have passenger sharing and one will pay a smaller amount. Passengers are warned to be aware of their fellows and take all precautions for their safety.

Public buses are generally available but are not as plentiful or immediate as a means of getting around the city as taxis. For longer distances, bus and train services to and from major urban centers in the Kingdom are available, as are airline flights. SAPTCO allows for online booking of train tickets.

When traveling around the Kingdom, it is advisable to be prepared — including taking note of the addresses, landmarks, and contact details of the people one is going to visit. The traveler should also be in possession of emergency numbers for the company GRO (government relations officer) and his immediate supervisor.

Driving in Saudi Arabia

Employees whose jobs specifically require them to operate light or heavy vehicles shall be subsidized by the company when they apply for drivers’ licenses. All other employees may raise a request to secure a license. Those who have driver’s licenses in their home countries are normally given a routine driving test and a computer test on traffic signs and regulations before being awarded a license. Those who do not have licenses must go through driving school.

Personal and vehicle documentation must always be in the vehicle while one is driving.

Empirical evidence suggests a high incidence of vehicle-related accidents, and while no official statistics are readily available, the Saudi government is pushing efforts toward driver education and road safety. All drivers are warned to observe traffic regulations and to always wear seat belts.

Women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Health Care

The company ensures that top-level medical services are made available through the service provider. On-site clinics are also staffed with qualified medical personnel.

The official guidebook of the service provider lists all nearby hospitals and clinics where the company operates. In case of any emergencies, an employee can go directly to the nearest medical facility.

When involved in an industrial accident, an employee should report to his immediate supervisor and to the Loss Prevention Department representative so that a report can be filed with the government authorities for any treatment covered by the Saudi General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI).

When going for treatment for himself or a family member, an employee should inform the doctor about any allergies to medicines he or the member of his family has.

There are no special vaccinations required for employees upon arriving in the Kingdom, but it would be best to update the following vaccinations for oneself and family members before traveling to Saudi Arabia or soon after arrival.

  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Memps
  • Tetanus-diphtheria

Useful Words and Phrases
Good Morning Sab-aah-al-khair
Good Morning (reply) Sab-aah-al-nur
Good Afternoon/Evening Mas-sa al-Khair
Good Afternoon/Evening (reply) Mas-sa al-nur
Hello (Peace be upon you) As-sa-lam A-lay-kum
Hello (upon you be peace (reply) Wa-lay-kum As-sa-lam
Welcome (also said in departing) Ah-lan Wa-sah-lan
Hello Mar-ha-ba
Good-bye (with peace) Mar sa-la-ma/ Fee am-man-ee-la
Yes Na am/ai-wa
No La
Not Ma/mo/moshe
Please Mini fad- lek
Thank you Shu-Kran
Fine/Well Tay-yib
You're welcome Af-wan
It doesn't matter Maalesh
Departure time Waqt As sa-far
Do you speak English atakalurn Ingleezi?
In the Limousine
I want to go to Ab-ra rooh il-a
Do you understand Fah-him?
Straight (ahead) Al-la tool
Right Ya-mean
Left Ee-sar/sha-mal
Turn Loof
U-Turn (return) Ar-ja
Stop (here) Wa-gaf (hen-na)
Slow down Shwai-ya, shwai-ya
Quickly Be soo-ra
Near Ga-reeb
Before/in front of Ga-dam/a-man
Behind Wa-ra/khulf
Beside jamb
Wait (a little) Sta-na (shwai-ya)
How much Kum?
Street Shar-a
Road (Medina) Ta-reek (Ma-dee-na)
Bridge Koo-bree
Up/on Foke
Down/Below That
Money Floose
Airport Al ma-tar
Consulate Al con-slee-ya (sa-fa-ra)
Bank Bank
Building A-ffra-ra
Company Shar-e-ka
Compound Sa-Kan
Downtown Al ba-lad
Hospital Mus-tash-fa
Hotel Foon-dook
House (villa) Beit/fil-la
International Market Al souq al dough-lit
Market Souq
Mini Market Boo-ka-la
Mosque Mas-jid
Pharmacy Seed-li-ya
Police Station Ma-ha-ta-al-Shur-ta
Post Office Al Ba-reed
Shop Doo-kan/Ma-hal
Stationery store Mak-ta-ba
Other Useful Words and Phrases
Airplane Tie-ya-ra
Alright (okay) Owai-yis
Boss/Manager Moo-dir
Bread khoo-boos
Car Sai-ya-ra
Coffee Qah-wa
Cold Ba-rid
Drive Saw-wak
Fine (reply)
(Lit."Thank God")
Al hamdu-li-llah
Food Akl
Friend Sa-deeq
Gasoline/petrol Ben-zeem
Gift Ha-di-ya
Give me A'ti-nee/Haat
God Willing Insh-allah
Guard Ha-ris
Hot Har
Cold Bared
How are you? Kaif Halek