key facts – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com Expat destinations off the beaten paths Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/wp-content/uploads/logo-2-161x150.png key facts – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com 32 32 68156955 10 Best Online Resources for Expats in Saudi http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/top-10-online-resources-for-expats-in-saudi/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/top-10-online-resources-for-expats-in-saudi/#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 12:39:56 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3803 Despite the Internet being widely available in Saudi Arabia to government agencies, businesses and individuals, I find that there are not enough online resources for expats, especially if you are non-Arabic speakers. You may have more luck on the Arabic web, but as an English

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Despite the Internet being widely available in Saudi Arabia to government agencies, businesses and individuals, I find that there are not enough online resources for expats, especially if you are non-Arabic speakers. You may have more luck on the Arabic web, but as an English speaker, you may find that very little online resources for expats is available.

Looking for opening hours of this or that place? They don’t have a website! or it was last updated in 2001! Want to discover the city and need tips on where to go? The tourism websites are a joke: no up-to-date info, no dates of events, no links to organizing bodies, no contact details. The results is a LOT of frustration and many many missed opportunities to discover Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a rich and varied country, with cultural, natural, and historical assets that go way beyond what you would imagine when first coming here. Yet, many expats end up living here and seeing nothing. I have been here more than 3 years now and I feel like I haven’t seen anything. Not that I didn’t try… but many times I made the trip, booked hotels, drove with the kids for hours only to find out that what we wanted to see was closed in the winter or that it was only open on the weekend or every Tuesday after 5pm…! It took me 2 years to finally visit one of the most famous museum in Jeddah. I know, right, ridiculous!  But don’t laugh, the vast majority of comments on Tripadvisor read something like that: “been living in Jeddah for 30 years and never knew that place existed!” or ” have drove past this place many times, never seen it open, didn’t know what it was!”.

The list below is not exhaustive of course but those 10 online resources for expats have helped me a lot over the years. These are my go-to places when I’m stuck. If you don’t know them already, check them out:

Immigration:

Saudi Ministry of Interior – aka Absher

online resources for expats online resources for expats

https://www.moi.gov.sa/wps/portal/Home/Home

There is no doubt that sooner or later, you’ll need to use this link. All your information is stored on the MoI portal and you can access it all. You will need first to register (there are a few steps to follow, including fingerprinting, but it’s easier than it sounds) then you will be able to complete many procedures online such as ordering visas, renewing your iqama (residence permit), adding children as dependents and much much more.

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs

online resources for expats online reources for expats

http://www.mofa.gov.sa/sites/mofaen

This could also be useful if you plan for instance to invite people in Saudi Arabia under a family visit visa. As you can see if you click on Ministry Services, there are loads of things that this site can help you with.

Visa Services

online resources for expats

Visa Validity Website

https://www.eserve.com.sa/VVSWeb/

Once you live in Saudi, you will need to apply for exit-reentry visas in order to leave the country and you may want to check on the status of your visa. This website is where you check whether your visa has been processed or not and how long it is valid for. Absolutely essential link. Save it somewhere!

Facebook Expat Groups

Of course, there are loads of them and you can simply google them. However, those 2 groups – along with their associated websites or blogs- have proved the most useful to me over the years.

Susie of Arabia Facebook Group

online resources for expats

Susie of Arabia Facebook group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/susieofarabia/

 It currently has over 17K members, all expats or future expats to Saudi Arabia. Many of them seem to be based in Jeddah, but the main cities of Riyadh and Dammam are also discussed regularly. No matter what you are looking for, simply ask in the group and someone is bound to have the answer. It is my number #1 go-to place for any specific questions about a place, opening times…. anything really. What is great about this group is that you get up-to-date answers to your questions.

Jeddah for Kids Blog (+ Facebook group)

online resources for expats

Jeddah for kids blog – Home page

https://jeddahforkids.wordpress.com/

If you have children in Jeddah, then you need to check out this blog. It has been running for many years and the people running it are very thorough in their research of anything kid-related in Jeddah. This means that they have long lists of places to keep the kids busy, schools, kid-friendly activities… Probably the most comprehensive website of the sort. They also have a Facebook group for specific request such as recommendations for a particular school or nursery.

Culture & Tourism

Saudi Tourism Official Website

online resources for expats online resources for expats

http://www.sauditourism.sa/en/Pages/default.aspx

I was happy to realize when I checked the link for this post that they have a brand new website design and layout (BETA version) and I do hope the new site will be more useful than the old one. Unfortunately, as tourism is just emerging in Saudi Arabia as an economic sector in its own right, the online infrastructure is still poor. The good new is that KSA is investing a lot as we speak to develop this sector and we should see some improvements in the near future.

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre (+ Facebook page)

online resources for expats

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre – Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/CulturalExchangeCenter

Located in central Jeddah, the centre is home to Arabic classes, cultural adaptation workshops, even an English language book-swap. They also have movie nights with children’s classics or documentaries on Saudi Arabia. They also organize trips and visits in and around Jeddah. Definitely worth checking them out once you’re settled a bit.

Tour Guides / Groups

Saudi Arabia is a country that has long been closed to tourism and as such it is not easy to explore it on your own. You will need the help of some guide or group to make the most of all the amazing sights this country has to offer. Be warned that those trips for expats don’t come cheap so plan ahead.

online resources for expats

Amazing Tours Website – Home page

http://www.amazingtours.info/

online resources for expats

NomadArabia Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/nomadarabia

Tripadvisor *Things to do in Jeddah* Page

online resources for expats

Tripadvisor Things to do in Jeddah page

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g295419-Activities-Jeddah_Makkah_Province.html

This is a bit of a given but you may very well be surprised to find some interesting place or activity to keep you and your family busy.

News in English

Saudi Gazette (+ Facebook page)

online resources for expats online resources for expats

https://www.facebook.com/SaudiGazette

I have to admit, I’m not the type of person who reads or watches the news seriously. Too much negativity for my taste but I do like to know roughly what’s going on. If you’re like me, then Saudi Gazette is perfect. You’ll get all the news of Saudi Arabia, you’ll hear about big news, official announcements from the King, changes in the law that could affect you as an expat and so on… Oh and they have those really funny cartoons that are usually spot on to describe cultural aspects of Saudi.

 

Like I said, this list is far from exhaustive but it should get you started and help you with many issues. However, if you know others, feel free to add the links in the comments.

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Fun Facts #7 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-7-expat-stories/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-7-expat-stories/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 14:23:34 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3801 There are some things about living abroad that you can never learn from a book or even from checking for facts online.Expat stories are the way to really get to know about expat life. It can take months, years even, to realize how things really

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There are some things about living abroad that you can never learn from a book or even from checking for facts online.Expat stories are the way to really get to know about expat life. It can take months, years even, to realize how things really work and to understand practices that may appear strange to newcomers or foreigners. I always like to select the funniest ones to share with you guys.

Get ready for some giggles and don’t forget: everything is TRUE!

Fun Fact #1: What’s in a name?

If you live in a Muslim country or get to spend time with Muslims, you may well be aware that the name “Mohammed” is probably the most common name given to Muslim baby boys. In Saudi Arabia, you will meet a lot of boys and men named Mohammed (spelling may vary). This leads to a very common practice here in KSA whereby people trying to get the attention of a male stranger (usually at the shop, the restaurant and other public places) will simply call out “Ya Mohammed”. It doesn’t matter that the man in question might be wearing a name tag, he will often be addressed as Mohammed. Listen for it next time you’re in a food court for instance.

expat stories

Ya Mohammed!

Fun Fact #2: The “shop and stock” technique

OK! I admit, there is no such technique. I just made the name up. But the practice is very real! When you shop in Saudi Arabia, you should get into the habit of stocking up whatever goods you really like. Think wartime stockpiling. It so happens that common goods tend to disappear off the shelves without any warning. You buy your favorite brand of strawberry jam every week for months and then suddenly you don’t find it in the shop that week. Neither the following week. Not even in another shop. You keep looking, you keep hoping… but it’s no good. For reasons unknown, the product will no longer be sold in Saudi Arabia! There you go. No more jam (this is true for almost everything) for you! If you’re a creature of habit or a fussy eater/shopper, this is bound to drive you mad.

expat stories

Better safe than hungry

Fun Fact #3: Lost in translation

Yes again! So many expats could tell you stories about translation mistakes. Please people with broken English, please, pretty please keep writing signs!

Here is my latest find. Seen in Balad in one of those narrow alley.

expat stories

Anyone interested?

Fun Fact #4: Good sense

Like many modern countries, Saudi Arabia is a consumer society… maybe even more so than most countries. Saudi people also have ancestral traditions towards food and serving guests and many travelers are accustomed with “Arab hospitality”. The downside of this is the huge food waste that happens on a daily basis. Finally, a large scale solution is now offered to people visiting the food court of all the Arabian Centers malls such as the Al Salaam Mall or the Haifa Mall. You will now be able to leave your untouched food in one of those “Rescue Fridges”. There are usually more than one in each food court, so next time you don’t finish your food, don’t leave it on the table or throw it in the bin. Instead look for one of those and do something good!

expat stories

Picture taken recently in the AlSalaam Mall. Look out for them…

Fun Fact #5: Customer service

via GIPHY

Enough said…

So which one of those do you like best? Have you encountered funny signs or practices during your travels? Share the fun in the comments please…

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Best Restaurants in Jeddah http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/best-restaurants-in-jeddah/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/best-restaurants-in-jeddah/#comments Sat, 15 Apr 2017 14:44:58 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3760 Ok that’s always gonna be a very personal choice but in the 2 years I’ve been here, there are a handful of restaurants that I always long to return to and I want to share those with you. Jeddah is full of restaurants of all

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  • Ok that’s always gonna be a very personal choice but in the 2 years I’ve been here, there are a handful of restaurants that I always long to return to and I want to share those with you. Jeddah is full of restaurants of all kinds, for all tastes, and for every budget and no matter what your favorite food is, you’re sure to find a restaurant for it in Jeddah.  A quick look online will give you hundreds of options and with new restaurants opening up every so often, the choice is almost unlimited.
  • My three favorite places to eat are quite different. I can’t name ONE the best so in no particular order, here are my best restaurants in Jeddah:

    The Palm Garden / Al Nakheel 

    Al Nakheel is a Middle-Eastern type of restaurant located in the North of Jeddah, on the Corniche. It is a really big place and most of the dining areas are outdoors which is one of the reason I love it so much. They have those big traditional outdoor “sofas”, it is comfortable and it feels great to be outdoors rather than in one of those AC-freezing restaurants.

    The food is mainly Middle-Eastern / Mediterranean . The menu is not very big but all their dishes are excellent. You can really see that they use fresh products, everything is made fresh (including their delicious bread). The seafood is excellent and highly recommended. I also love their lasagna: it’s got a nice creamy pasta taste but with a Middle-Eastern twist to it. Surprising but totally delicious. Don’t forget some Moroccan tea at the end.

    This is not a fast food or budget restaurant but neither is it expensive. I would recommend this restaurant for eating out once in a while or if you have guests you want to take out for dinner. There is no need to book ahead (unless it is Eid or another special day of the year), and every time we have been there, we have been pleased with everything from the setting, the food, and the service.

    Side note: There is a small playground for children with slides, trampolines, and bouncy castles (you need to pay for that), as well as prayer rooms (including for ladies).  The bathrooms are clean and well maintained.

    Orient Pearl Restaurant

    Now this is one of the best restaurants in Jeddah and a little hidden gem that I’m sure only a few people know about. Indeed, if we hadn’t been guided there one night by a stranger, we would have never found it. It is not on the road, and the little sign to indicate it’s there is easily missed. You got to go to the Corniche Market (not the big Corniche Center, not the shopping mall) and climb the stairs to the second floor. Don’t be put off by the fact that most shops are closed or that you have to use what looks like maintenance stairs. I can guarantee you won’t regret it. You can ask anyone of the shop/stall keepers for the Indonesian restaurant, THEY know exactly what you mean and will help you find it.

    The restaurant serves all kinds of Asian food, mainly Indonesian style. The servers are friendly and polite and will help you choose among the many delicacies offered on the menu. Everything we have tried so far has been delicious. The products are fresh and cooked perfectly. I highly recommend the seafood in their various presentations. The mixed fried rice is a must, and so is their Tam yam Soup. I don’t usually like soup but this one is irresistible. If you’d like a refreshing drink, order a pitcher of their iced tea, you won’t be disappointed.

    The price range is very reasonable for a once-in-a-while dining or when you fancy eating out with friends or guests.

    best restaurant in Jeddah best restaurant in Jeddah

    Side note: The restaurant is quite large and they often hold (wedding) parties there. There is one screened off sitting area for more privacy and even a separate room to eat in with a large group. The view over the seafront over Al Balad is very nice. The bathrooms are basic but clean.

    best restaurant in Jeddah

    View from the Pearl Orient Restaurant over the main road of Balad. Even more beautiful at night

    Applebees  (Salaam Mall)

    OK this is a little more conventional but still one of the best restaurants in Jeddah. Located in the food court on the top floor of the Salaam Mall (also available in the Red Sea Mall, the Mall of Arabia and others), the Applebees restaurant serves high-end American, Tex-Mex food that is simply amazing.

    I keep going back again and again for the food, the impeccable service and the sheer friendliness of the staff. I highly recommend the salads, the burgers (a world away from fast food burgers) and my all time favorites: the cocktails! Try the banana and mango smoothie; it is to die for… well maybe not but once you try it you’ll crave it! I really like that they easily accept to make small changes to the dishes: you can request a different dressing, more or less spices, a specially made mix of fruit juices… they will accommodate. And with a smile!

    best restaurant in Jeddah best restaurant in Jeddah

    Prices vary depending on your order obviously and it will be more expensive than the other food outlets in the food court but still quite reasonable for a really delicious meal. Mind that ordering steaks and other meat dish will seriously increase the total bill but it’ll be worth it.

    Side note: Ask them about special promotion days and offer. One time, our 2 kids ate free with our adult meal orders. They also have special promotions during some days of the week.

    This list is totally personal and far from exhaustive. Add your favorite place in the comment…

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    The Problem with Jeddah Schools http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/jeddah-schools/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/jeddah-schools/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:10:28 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3737 Jeddah Schools. I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while now. Indeed, it completely baffles me how hard it is to find a children’s school in Jeddah. When we were in Libya just after the revolution in 2012, we were expecting to have

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    Jeddah Schools.

    I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while now. Indeed, it completely baffles me how hard it is to find a children’s school in Jeddah. When we were in Libya just after the revolution in 2012, we were expecting to have troubles finding a decent school for our kids. It turned out it was very easy and we found amazing schools in Misurata and Zawia. When we moved to Jeddah, we never ever imagined it was going to be a nightmare! Not in a million years did we imagine that Jeddah, the 2nd largest city in a huge and rich country like Saudi Arabia, would be giving us any trouble.

    Jeddah Schools

    Super cool school bus in Misurata, Libya

    Schooling young children is proving to be a huge challenge. Not just for me but for every parents I have talked to. Basically, while Jeddah has tons of schools of various kinds (Saudi schools, International schools, religious schools…) it is far from easy to get your kids into them.

    There are so many constraints such as transportation, costs, waiting lists, entry exams, languages, location… Jeddah is a very big city, that spreads over 70 or more Kilometers from north to south. Depending on where you live, you may have to send your children far away to school. Some school offer a school bus for children who live close to the school, but of course you have to pay for that and it is quite expensive. And if you live far, not only will it be (very) expensive, but children will need to be picked up quite early in the morning. My children currently have to wake up at 5am every day so that they can be at school on time to start lessons with their class.

    It’s crazy!

    I can hear you… “why is she sending them so far?” Well, it’s not that simple. Where I live, they are only local private Saudi schools. We tried them last year and it was a disaster. The level was basically 2 years below what my boys were supposed to learn. Out of 5 hours of school, only about 1 hour was dedicated to learning, the rest was for various activities and playing. To give you a concrete example: when my oldest was 5 years old, the program for maths for a WHOLE YEAR was the numbers from 1 to 20. That’s it!!! The level for literacy was not better as he was only supposed to learn the letters of the alphabet. My child himself could feel it was all wrong, and he would come back from school everyday, totally dejected that nothing exciting or challenging had been offered to him. We got them out of there after only one semester and they went back to being home schooled.

    If transportation or the education level is not an issue, then there is often the challenge of meeting the huge financial demands imposed by Jeddah schools. Between registration fees, monthly fees, school material fees, uniform fees (I was asked to pay 500sar for 2 polo T-shirts), educational outings fees and so on… many families are left with a very limited number of options to choose from. Many schools are simply too expensive. I know, I have a good salary but still, the cost of private education in Jeddah is very very high. And in case you’re wondering, government schools in Saudi Arabia are only opened to Saudi children.

    If these are not a problem for you, you’ll still have to work around the waiting lists (up to 2 years for some popular British or American International schools). Some international schools have entry exams and only admit the top children. Some even base their waiting lists on results of such exams. So parents can never really know if or when their kids will be able to get in. That is so hard when you have a 4 or 5 years old. How are they supposed to deal with the pressure or understand what is at stake? Finally, if you are not sending your children to  a Saudi private school, you need to chose a “language school”. Jeddah has got LOADS of possibilities in that regards. If you wish to register your child in an English speaking school, you’ll have loads of options, but it turns out we don’t want an English school as we are headed (as some of you know) to Tunisia next so our children must become fluent in Arabic and/or French. Yep, you gotta add that the list of factors to consider when you choose a school.

    Basically, it’s not a piece a cake. And then when you have finally registered them, be prepared for a very different approach to parent-school communication. They don’t seem to understand that parents must be informed of things that happen. They sometimes also forget to ask for permission for very important things (such as vaccination – true story!). You will need to be very patient with the teachers or you will simply lose your mind.

    A nightmare!

    Insider’s Tip:

    If you’re looking for a school for your kids and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend this blog/Facebook page. It is called Jeddah for Kids and for many years, they have worked very hard to list everything regarding kids and families in Jeddah. This is their list of private and international Jeddah schools on their website: https://jeddahforkids.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/private-schools-in-jeddah/

    For their Facebook page and support group, click the picture below:

    Jeddah schools

    Click to visit their Facebook page

    It is annoying to think that finding a school was easy in Libya. It is unsettling to think that it would be easy for us in Tunisia. You have no idea how many times we talk about moving to Tunisia for the boys. And when I think that next year, the fees will be even more expensive, and that they will rise every year… really makes me think hard. I actually know a few families who have left Saudi Arabia because of the problem of Jeddah schools. And who knows… maybe this is what will push us out too. That or the many other measures that Saudi Arabia is currently implementing against expats.

    Have you had any problems finding a school in Saudi Arabia? What is your solution for schooling children abroad?

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    Fun Facts #6 – Life in Saudi Arabia http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-6-life-in-saudi-arabia/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-6-life-in-saudi-arabia/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 04:00:55 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3630 A lot has been written about Makkah; Islam’s Holiest City, but some things you can only find by yourself. And this is what expat life in Saudi Arabia can give you: true insight into a culture that is not well known. Here is what I have discovered about

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    A lot has been written about Makkah; Islam’s Holiest City, but some things you can only find by yourself. And this is what expat life in Saudi Arabia can give you: true insight into a culture that is not well known. Here is what I have discovered about Makkah:

    #1 – The ClockTower

    The famous building called the ClockTower has been designed with many useful features in mind. The first one is to help people travelling in and around Makkah to easily locate the Kabaa in the Holy Mosque. Indeed, the ClockTower is so tall that it can be seen anywhere within the city of Makkah and even further away, like in Mina for instance. People performing Hajj (the Muslim Pilgrimage to Makkah) will necessarily make a stop at what is known in Arabic as the Jamarat (the Stoning Pillars). There, after casting their stones against the three large pillars, they will take a few minutes to remember God and ask for His blessings and forgiveness. Muslims like to offer supplications in the direction of the Kabaa and at the Jamarat, nothing is easier since the ClockTower can clearly be seen, day and night, just beyond the mountains as can be seen in the picture below:

    life in saudi arabia

    Day or night, the ClockTower (on the top left hand corner in the picture) makes it easy for people to locate the direction of prayer. Picture taken in Mina.

    Another one of its features, that I only recently discovered, is to announce the time of prayers. I have been to Makkah many times since I moved to Saudi almost 2 years ago now, but it’s only a few weeks ago, as I was waiting for the night prayer on the ground floor of the Holy Mosque, that I noticed that the top part of the ClockTower was actually glowing a deep shade of green during the whole time of the Adhaan (call for prayer). It then occurred to me that it was another way to tell people that the time for prayer was getting close. Not sure why this additional feature since the Adhaan is really loud and the traditional way to call Muslims to prayer.

    life in saudi arabia

    The whole ClockTower is illuminated at night.

    #2 – Inside Masjid Al Haraam

    It is walked on by literally millions of feet every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can be sure that when they built the floor of the Holy Mosque, they put some serious though into it. Do you know that there is a cooling system underneath the white marble tiles? Indeed, the white tiles, which also helps to define the limits of the mosque’s ground, are never hot. And that’s saying something in a city where temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius all year long! Since Muslims take off their shoes to enter the mosque, and that circumbulating the Holy Kabaa is done in the scorching sun of Makkah, the cold floor comes as a real blessing. Indoors, they also have AC and huge fans every meters or so. Those can also send a very refreshing spray of cool water in the air. Basically, don’t worry about visiting Makkah, summer or winter, you won’t be bothered by the heat as much as you would imagine.

    life in saudi arabia

    The limit of the mosque’s floor is unmistakable thanks to the white tiles

    The white color also serves another purpose; that of making it easy for pilgrims to know when they are stepping onto the mosque’s floor. It is customary for Muslims to remove their shoes upon entering a mosque. In Makkah, the mosque is both indoors and outdoors, which would be confusing if it were not for the white tiles.

    While it is fairly well known that the floor is kept cool, did you know that the floor is also perfumed? I already knew that the giant cloth covering the Kabaa (called Kiswaa in Arabic) was sprayed with perfume regularly and that this is what people can smell when going close to the Kabaa but it wasn’t until my most recent trip to Makkah just a few weeks ago that I discovered that the floor is also sprayed with that same perfume. I was sitting on my praying mat on the ground floor of the mosque, a few minutes before Sunset prayer, when men arrived and sprayed some perfume just in front of me on the floor. The distinctive smell immediately became obvious and I was very pleased to noticed when I got home that my praying mat had retained some of that fragrance.

    #3 – A New Train for 2017?

    A brand new train line is currently being built to link the two Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The train is actually already operational as we speak (December 2016) but it is not open to the public yet. They have made test runs, and some dignitaries have been allowed to ride the train but it is not quite ready for public use as some stations still need to be completed. What’s the big deal about a train you ask? Well, for one, it is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. It won’t just be a train, but a bullet train that will allow people to travel between Makkah and Madinah in about 90 minutes!!! It’s a 475km journey which currently takes about 5 to 6 hours by car. So yes, a 90 minutes ride will be totally welcome and will make life in Saudi Arabia much easier for a lot of people, as it means that the trip to Madinah could be done in just one day instead of a weekend (big savings on hotel nights and all).

    #4 – No Jokes Please

    I’ve always enjoyed the ‘lost in Translation’ situations and foreign signs are always great fun. I have recently spotted those and while the translation is OK (I assume, as I can’t read the other 2 languages apart from the English) it’s the silliness of the sign itself that made me laugh. I couldn’t help but ask myself why there was a need to put up this sign? And in three languages? Are people so dumb that they don’t know how to use a toilet?

    life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia

    To stay on the same topic (I don’t think I have ever talked about toilets so much and it’s probably the last time), you might be surprised, the first time you use the bathrooms in the malls, to hear a bathroom assistant ask you, in Arabic ” ‘arabi aw kursi?” That means that she is giving you the choice between “kursi“: a toilet cubicle with a toilet seat (western style) or “‘arabi” a sqating toilet, very popular in this part of the world. Now you know…

    #5 – Size Matters

    If you’ve been following this blog, you may know that life in Saudi Arabia and shopping in particular can be somewhat frustrating. Be warned! When you buy shoes in Saudi Arabia, you had better double check the size. No matter that you have been wearing a size 38 or 5 all your life. In Jeddah, you may need a 39 or 40… you never know. Shoe sizes don’t seem to be consistent at all. I have no idea why this is, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that your usual size will fit you. The same goes for clothes. I recently bought 5 house dresses, all the same size… on the label that is, because in reality two are my size, one is larger than I expected and two are way too small for me and have now been given away.

    Another issue is that salespeople tend to be quite lazy. If you ask for a different size, they’d rather try and convince you that what you are holding/looking at is perfect for you, rather than actually move around the shop to get you the size you need. Believe me it’s true. Happened to me a few times. I now have an abaya that is too small for me and that I never wear. And if I had listened to that one guy at the shoe shop, I would now be wearing a size 43 pair of shoes instead of my usual 39!!! Yep the guy handed me a pair of size 43 shoes and when I asked for a size 39, he tried to convince me there was no need, that 43 would be just fine. It’s only when I stood up to leave that he reluctantly moved his a** to go get me a size 39!

    Now I know! I never buy anything without double checking 🙂

    Do you have any funny anecdotes from back home or from your travels? What is the funniest things you have seen recently? Share in the comments so we can all have a good laugh.

     

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    What to Wear in Jeddah http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/what-to-wear-in-jeddah/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/what-to-wear-in-jeddah/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2016 13:54:10 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3577 Everybody knows Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and we have all seen pictures of Saudi women, clothed from head in toes in black, their eyes the only visible part of their body. Jeddah is supposedly a ‘liberal’ city compared to the capital Riyadh,

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    Everybody knows Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and we have all seen pictures of Saudi women, clothed from head in toes in black, their eyes the only visible part of their body. Jeddah is supposedly a ‘liberal’ city compared to the capital Riyadh, but I would take this with a major pinch of salt. Men and women, Muslims and non Muslims still need to adopt a conservative style while in the Kingdom. Nobody expects foreigners to dress like locals, still most expats in Saudi Arabia tend to ‘blend in’ clothe-wise. While officers of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (known as the Hai’a) are much less intrusive in Jeddah than in Riyadh, it is still best to err on the side on conservatism.

    Before we start here is a quick glossary, so you know what we are talking about throughout this article. A big thank you to Nancy Abaya for providing pictures of ladies’ outfits. Nancy Abaya is a well known shop in Jeddah so you can shop there (you can shop online too, they ship worldwide) without any worry, you’ll be spot on!

    This is what men wear in Jeddah. I also recommend you check out this very interesting article on the traditional clothes of men in Saudi Arabia.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Traditional headgear worn by men in Saudi Arabia.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Saudi men of all ages typically wear a white thobe and a head cloth (red or white) to protect them for the scorching sun of Jeddah.

     

    This is what women typically wear in Jeddah: A long black abaya (a loose over-dress), a hijab (head scarf) or shayla (a long gausy kind of headscarf) and a niqab (face veil) which is optional, even for Muslim women.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Most Saudi women wear a black abaya, a headscarf and a face veil.

    wear in Jeddah

    A niqab is a face veil. Only the eyes are visible. Most Muslim Saudi women wear the niqab.

    wear in Jeddah

    The shayla is a kind of head scarf worn by ladies in Saudi Arabia. It is made of a soft, gausy, flowy material and very popular in Jeddah.

    wear in Jeddah

    The abaya is a long dress worn over your clothes. It is typically loose fitting and is meant to cover up women’s body shape. While black is the most popular color, the abaya comes in many different colors and shapes too.

     

    Now that you know what people wear in Jeddah, here are some tips on what YOU can wear in Jeddah:

    Before you travel

    You may need to shop before you arrive in Jeddah. If this is your first trip to Saudi Arabia, you will need to make sure you have some clothes that will be suitable to wear as soon as you leave the plane. You can always stock up once you’re settled but everyone is expected to dress appropriately as soon as they land in Jeddah. Ladies: make sure you buy a black abaya and keep it, along with a headscarf (any color) in your hand luggage. Before the plane lands, you will need to put on the abaya. Non Muslims are not expected to cover their heads but it’s best to have a headscarf at the ready anyway. Men are expected to wear clothes covering their shoulders and going down below the knees.

    Dress code for women

    If you plan to come to Jeddah (for work or to live here) you probably already know that women have to adopt a more Islamic style of clothes but don’t believe everything you read though. What applies to Riyadh doesn’t always apply to Jeddah. What applies to big cities doesn’t always apply in smaller towns, especially in the north of Saudi Arabia.

    In Jeddah, all women are expected to wear a black abaya when they go out. Colors are not forbidden but you’ll soon catch up on the color scheme out there: black, dark grey, maybe dark blue… nothing flashy, nothing that stands out basically. Black abayas can be covered with patterns or have sparkly details (see examples below). Non Muslim women sometimes just slip on the abaya, without closing it properly all the way and that seems to be OK. With regards to head covering, non Muslims are not obligated to wear the hijab, and definitely not the niqab. Muslim women should wear a hijab and the niqab is optional. In terms of colors, anything goes with the headscarf (hijab) and you’ll see all sorts of colors out there, so feel free to splash some colors if you like.

    wear in Jeddah

    A black abaya with some colorful patterns is totally OK in Jeddah.

    wear in Jeddah

    You will also spot some taupe colored abaya every now and then. You need to draw the line at flashy colors though.

    Dress code for men

    OK so men have it quite easy really. They can wear whatever they want as long as it doesn’t show too much flesh. Men should be careful to cover their shoulders, and wear long shorts/trousers that go below the knees. Apart from that, men can choose between Western style or Saudi style. If you wonder why some western expats are wearing the traditional white thobe and covering their heads with a piece of cloth instead of their blue jeans and shirt, wonder no more. It is HOT in Jeddah! When you live in a very hot country like Saudi Arabia, the thobe is probably the most comfortable outfit there is. Try it out one day and you’ll see.

    Dress code for children

    Young children (under the age of 10) are usually free to wear whatever they like. You will see children, boys and girls, at the mall dressed in all kinds of fashion but like in all big cities, people tend to dress up rather than down when going out. Little girls in particular, are quite often seen with “princess” outfits or dresses that would probably seem “too much” somewhere else.

    Inside expat compounds

    It is common knowledge among expats than the rules inside compounds are different and way more relaxed than in the outside world. If you choose to live in an expat compound, you’ll soon understand where the boundaries are. However, it is important to remember that despite the very Western feel of the compound, you are still in Saudi Arabia and while you can certainly do without the abaya and hijab, you may want to avoid sexy clothing or anything that reveals too much skin.

    Don’t forget that you came to Saudi Arabia under the sponsorship of someone (person or business) who is Saudi and any unseeming behavior on your part reflects on them. Saudis are a very proud people and they would not take lightly that someone they are responsible for (who is under their sponsorship) behave in what they an deem inappropriate manner (and I’m not just talking about clothes). If your sponsor is your employer, in the worst case scenario, you could lose your job and consequently, your visa or residence permit would be taken away. Just be mindful of your surroundings, and if you’re unsure, ask another expat in your compound.

    Expats or not, once you step out of compounds, you are expected to be fully dressed according to the Islamic code we discussed above.

    What to wear at work

    If you don’t have to wear a uniform, keep your attire smart, clean and neat at all times. Saudi people take great pride in how they dress and they would tend to trust someone who is equally well dressed while they may look down on someone whose clothes look sloppy. You don’t have to wear designer clothes if you can’t afford them, just make sure that whatever you wear looks new and spotless clean.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Even barefoot in the desert, Saudi men still wear spotless ironed white thobes.

    Dress to chill

    To fight the heat and the humidity, stick to cotton. Any other fabric will be very uncomfortable and may even cause some serious rashes on your skin. Having said that, any place indoors will be fully air-conditioned so if you know you’ll be staying inside you can wear anything you want.

    Dress to impress

    If you ever get invited to someone’s home, you will need to make a real effort. While it may appear to outsiders that Saudi fashion is nonexistent, you’d be surprised to realise that Saudis actually love clothes. Both men and ladies love to shop for clothes, follow fashion from the Gulf and the West, go nuts for designer brands and even high fashion from Paris and New York. So don’t make a fool of yourself, dress to impress: look sharp, don’t be afraid to use vibrant colors, sparkles, high heels, jewelry… you name it. The norm around here is elegance. Women wear very feminine and classy outfits in private, and men also like to dress up.

     

    As a general rule, men and women should dress conservatively while outside and follow the examples of others inside expat compounds. Finally, don’t feel like you have to dress like a Saudi to fit in. The city of Jeddah counts more expats than locals according to a recent survey so Jeddawis are totally used to be around foreigners. Just show respect for the traditions and culture of the city and you’ll be fine.

    If you have any question, just leave a comment below or contact me by email anytime.

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    Libya Jobs – Getting a Health Certificate http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/libya-jobs-health-certificate/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/libya-jobs-health-certificate/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 07:24:52 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2184 Despite the war, the instability and the very real dangers, Libya jobs continue to attract expats from all over the world. Very little can be found on the internet to help those expats prepare a move to Libya. My expat life in Libya may be over but I lived

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    Despite the war, the instability and the very real dangers, Libya jobs continue to attract expats from all over the world. Very little can be found on the internet to help those expats prepare a move to Libya. My expat life in Libya may be over but I lived there and i can tell you what google can’t: getting a Health Certificate is both extremely important and terribly difficult. You ready?

    Essential information for expats to Libya is missing. That is a fact. Before moving to Libya in 2012, i had no idea that i would need a health certificate to be allowed to work in that country. No one ever told me, i never read about it online, specialised Libya jobs websites had nothing to say on the subject. Yet i found out later (almost too late) that without medical clearance your employment contract becomes automatically void, your visas will be cancelled and you will be asked to leave Libya as the earliest possible time. That’s how important it is.

    But how do you get that health certificate? Where do you need to go? How much does it cost? I’ll try my best to answer all those questions but as usual with the administration in Libya nothing is easy or straight forward and information, even on the ground, is hard to find. As for actually getting a health certificate, it’s gonna take some work.

    Important Things to Remember:

    1. only certificates issued in Libya by Libyan authorities are accepted by employers. They may ask you to go and pay for a medical check in your country of origin but they will disregard it and ask you to do it again soon after you arrive in Libya.
    2. Certificates usually expire after 1 year
    3. Prices vary from one city to another but 65 LYD per person per certificate is a good average

     

    Libya Jobs: Getting a Health CERTIFICATE

    So you got a job offer in Libya which you have accepted, you’ve packed up your life in a few suitcases and you’ve finally arrived. This is when you learn (probably for the first time) that you need a health certificate. Well, brace yourself, it’s not gonna be easy, it’s gonna drive you mad but it can be done and you may even be able to laugh about it afterwards. Here is the day by day, place by place, step by step procedure you are likely to have to follow to get that precious document.

    Libya jobs

    Day 1 – Step 1:

    We go to the University Hospital in Zawia, walk back and forth for some time until we find the right office and as soon as we find it, the person in charge tells us that they can’t issue receipt. In any other country, that wouldn’t be a problem but in Libya that’s the end of the world. Therefore we are asked to move straight to step 2 and for that we need to go elsewhere. No no, not another office in the hospital, elsewhere as in take you car and drive.

    Day 1 – Step 2:

    We were asked to go to the Ministry of Health in Zawia, which happens to be quite on the other side of the city and so far from the hospital that we almost arrived too late. At the Ministry of Health we paid for our medical and lab analysis and got a receipt. We are now 120 LYD lighter but that’s it, there is no more we can do here. We are directed to go back to the University Hospital in the city.

    Day 1 – Step 3:

    Back to square 1 in University Hospital we struggle once again to find the right wing of the hospital. There you hand in your passport and in exchange they open a file for you and start the admin process of getting you the right paperwork to get your medical exams done. After that we finally get to the medical part of this whole operation and they take some blood sample. They will keep your passport and issue you with a receipt to get it back once you get the final certificate. I guess this is where things would go badly if you couldn’t get the certificate validated. If your results are positive and you are shown to have HIV, TB or Hep then you will get your passport back but only so that you can exit the country!

    Libya jobs

    Day 2:

    In order to do a series of chest X-rays we went to a different hospital in Zawia. We arrived at 9am only to be told they were done for the day, please come back tomorrow! This is where we learnt that some days are for Libyans only, others for expats. Which days exactly? who knows? No one ever tells you which day to come or at what time. Best thing is to hope you come on the right day and time next time. Ohhh and we’ll need to fork out another 20LYD per person for the X-ray. Didn’t we have to travel all around the city to the Ministry of Health to settle all payments??? Apparently not!

    Libya jobs

    Day 3 – Step 1:

    We went back to the second hospital where we had been the day before arriving at 8am this time. We gave 2 ID pictures and 20LYD each to get yet another file opened in our name. There is no such thing as a centralised bank of information in Libya, so everywhere you go, you need to provide the same documents again and again. We once had to hand out 3 passport copies and sets of pictures in the same place just because it was for different people, whose desk were actually on the same floor and within sight of each other. Anyway after we handed out money and pictures we ….. waited…. for a loooooong time! Finally our turn to do the X-ray came at about 10am. Let’s move to the next step.

    Day 3 – Step 2:

    Oooops can’t do step 2. A signature is needed on our X-ray card and the only person who can sign won’t be in until 12pm. That’s another thing you’ll learn fast, Libyans love signatures and stamps. Just check out our health certificates once they were done with it!

    Libya jobs

    How many stamps and signatures can you count?

    Instead, we went back to the 1st hospital (the University Hospital in Zawia) to collect our file, the one from Day 1 – Step 3 remember? It’s now ready for us and it already has 6 different stamps on it. We need that file for the next day in order to get our last 3 medical checks done, namely general well-being check, eye check and skin check. Don’t ask!

    Libya jobs

    Day 4 – Step 1:

    At this point, if you’re reading this you may wonder how all this can be done during a normal working week because of course you can’t do all that during the weekend. Answer is simple, you’ll need to take time off work, cancel and reschedule lessons and catch up on other work related business later.

    Anyway on Day 4, we went first to the same hospital as day 3 (not the University one, the other one, you keeping up?) to collect our X-Ray card with that signature and the results of the X-ray on it. Not sure which one is actually more important in Libya but i wouldn’t be so sure it’s the results.

    Day 4 – Step 2:

    We then had to drive to yet another hospital, 3rd one we visited in this whole process so far, to have the 3 check ups done. This is where it gets funny. Despite being tired and frustrated by the whole thing, when we left the hospital my husband and i bursted in laughter and couldn’t stop for a long time. Here’s why. Remember it’s Day 4, it’s location 4 or 5 or 6… so you’d be expecting something serious and important to happen. Well not in Libya! For the general well-being and skin check “exams” the doctor didn’t even look at us, she just signed the forms. The doctor was actually already in consultation, we were ushered in the room, and we stood there while she signed, her eyes on her patient the whole time.

    As for the eye check, this is how it happened. We were both asked to step in the exam room at the same time. My husband went first, he was asked to sit on a stool and to read 1 (ONE) letter from the first line, the extra large font line. Please cover your other eye, Sir. Read that letter please. Can you guess which letter that is? Yep the same one, on the same extra large font line. Thank you. Sir. Could you ask your wife to sit? I sit down, cover my right eye and wait. Please read that letter. And yes, i’m sure you guessed this time, i was asked the read the SAME letter my husband had already read twice while i waited next to him. Cover your other eye and read that letter please, said the lady. Are you laughing already? Yes of course, SAME LETTER AGAIN!!! After this very thorough eye exam, we were both awarded 10 out of 10 for both eyes. Thank you very much. Where it get even funnier is that both my husband and i wear glasses without which we can’t see much. Now you see why we couldn’t stop laughing afterwards?

    Anyway can’t stay here all day laughing our heads off in the car, we got some more things to do.

    Day 4 – Step 3:

    We drove quickly (it was getting late and close to the end of office hours) to the other side of town to yet another branch of the Ministry of Health (nope, not the same as before, that would be too simple) to collect our passports. Unfortunately we arrived too late, the only guy who could give us our passports back had already left… without telling anyone apparently if his colleague’s surprise was any indication.

    So???

    Well yes, we waited! It was the weekend, so nothing happened for another 2 days!

    Libya jobs

    Day 5:

    After the weekend we went back to the Ministry of Health after work to collect our passports. We arrived in time, went upstairs to the office but at first they told us “come back at 8am“. We explained that we were teaching and that it would be very hard. “Come back in 3 days then” was the answer. Why? Who knows? The guy was there, our passports were ready, it was office hours, we were there but no: come back in 3 days! Ahhh Libya, if you didn’t exist, we would have to invent you. Anyway we insist, they agree to see us. Oh oh turns out we need 4 ID pictures and 10 LYD each!

    Luckily we have learnt our lessons and we always carried about 20 ID pictures with us at all times, 20 LYD were not hard to find either so we were back in business. A few more forms, a few more signatures, a few more improbable questions to answer and we were done. They gave us our passports back and they had even made us some laminated Immigrant ID Card, which had our medical results at the back of it.

    For the anecdote when i checked my new ID card i was surprised to see that my passport number was written incorrectly, which most likely would make the whole thing invalid if there ever was a problem. But the whole experience had drained us of all our energy and patience so we let it pass. And anyway, remember what i said at the beginning? This whole circus has to be done once a year. Cheers!

    Libya jobs

     

    One last word

    Libya being Libya, this kind of hell rides are only too common at work, at the bank, at the doctor and everywhere else where you need paperwork. Still, i must admit that i miss Libya in many ways. It may sound crazy but Libya is a really nice place to live.

    As for that awful system well believe it or not but there are many occasions where the chaos plays in your favour and you can get away with a lot in Libya. I’m not talking anything illegal, just little things that can make your life simple sometimes. Libya i DO miss you.

    Have you been to Libya? Did you experience something similar in other countries? Where? Leave comments and share your experience with us.

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    Sending money with Western Union from Libya http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/sending-money-with-western-union-from-libya/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/sending-money-with-western-union-from-libya/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:22:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=8 Like everywhere else in the world, if you need to send money abroad Western Union Libya is the way to go. It’s quite simple, it is available almost everywhere and it’s fairly cheap. In Libya however there are some rules and limitations you need to be aware

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    Like everywhere else in the world, if you need to send money abroad Western Union Libya is the way to go. It’s quite simple, it is available almost everywhere and it’s fairly cheap. In Libya however there are some rules and limitations you need to be aware of.

    Where to find Western Union?

    In Zawia and Misurata most high street banks have a Western Union counter. You can use any bank, not just your own (sounds silly but to withdraw money you can only do so at your own bank, in your own branch). Anyway finding a Western Union counter is really easy, and you can usually spot the well known yellow sign from the road, so drive slowly (but not too slow remember it’s Libya they’ll push you out of the way) and that’s done.

    Western Union Libya

    send/receive money with Western Union Libya

    There are 2 separate forms to send or receive money so make sure you tell the agent the one you need. It is a single sheet asking for very basic details, nothing funny:

    • Amount
    • Country of destination
    • Receiver’s first/last names and address
    • Sender’s first and last names and address as well as phone number
    • Date
    • Signature

    That’s all really and the best part is, you can do it in English!!! The form is written in Arabic (on the right) and English (on the left) so it’s a piece of cake even if you don’t speak any Arabic. Since the agents have to deal with Western Union forms, they usually also speaks enough English to get you through. Yeahhhh

    Western union libya

    WU form to send money Arabic/English

    What documents do you need?

    Again fairly simple, especially by Libyan standards, but make sure you have everything though or else they’ll send you away. Have those ready:

    • your passport (which they may check)
    • a photocopy of your passport (which they keep)
    • enough money to cover the transfer (sender)
    • a reference number called MTCN that the sender should have given you (10 digits)

    And again that’s it!

    What are the rules and limitations that apply in Libya?

    There are a few limitations regulating the transfer of money outside of Libya.

    1. All transfers are done in US Dollars, but you can bring Libyan money and they’ll change it in the same time, no worries.
    2. By law, you can only send $5000 (USD) in one year. Once you have reached the limit you have to wait for the beginning of the new year, usually in January although this may vary from one place to another, not sure.
    3. You can only send $1000 (USD) at a time (usually per day).
    4. Allowance are recorded using your passport details (so if you’re lucky enough to have 2, you get double allowance).

    I wish it was that simple to deal with banking. But that’s another story… Western Union is not only simple, it’s also a reliable and extremely fast way to send and receive money while abroad. It’s perfect for expats and stranded travellers.

    What’s your experience with WU? Is it always that easy?

     

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    It’s summer! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/its-summer/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/its-summer/#respond Thu, 03 Apr 2014 10:31:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=14 Ok so if you’ve been following me you know of my obsession about the weather and seasons. I’ve been waiting eagerly, day after day to announce this but i think it’s now time: Summer has arrived in Libya! and i’m so excited about it. Last

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    Ok so if you’ve been following me you know of my obsession about the weather and seasons. I’ve been waiting eagerly, day after day to announce this but i think it’s now time: Summer has arrived in Libya! and i’m so excited about it.
    Last time i posted on my favorite topic it was January, i was getting excited about some nice sunny days. February turned out to be a repeat of January with some warm and cool days. March was possibly the wettest month i have seen here in Libya and could have competed easily with the UK for wettest month of the year… honestly!

    Today is April 3rd and i think we can call it summer by now. Days are HOT not just warm, windows stay open all day and all night, children are sent to school with T-shirts and sandals … AND… we have planned our first trip to the beach of the year for next weekend. That means it’s summer, right?

    weather in Libya
    Sunrise this morning

    I’ve been in Libya for over a year now, so i can draw a pretty accurate picture of the climate and weather in Libya. Let’s me break it down for you it’s easy:

    Winter:

    Winter lasts about 2 months from end of November til about mid/end of January. Winter in Libya means cool to cold days and nights, a lot of rain and wind. In terms of temperatures it never drops terribly low but cold enough to wear a small woolly jacket or windbreaker. I have been wearing summer shoes throughout the winter though. The worse of winter is actually INDOORS as houses here are built for the heat and in cold weather, it gets very cold. Heating systems are inadequate at best and you’ll need extra covers to keep you warm at night.

    Autumn and Spring:

    it’s very hard to pinpoint the exact time they start as they are very short seasons and blend in with summer and winter. I’d say autumn lasts about a month in November and Spring stretches over 2 months in February and March.

    Summer:

    so that leaves 7 months… yes 7 gorgeous months of heat and amazing summer weather. I just love it. Some people complain about the intense heat and all. Its true it can get extremely hot and sometimes it is inconvenient but i just love it. The hotter the better. It seems Libya has the perfect summer weather as we get the heat but without any humidity and along the cost line, there is always a little (sometime really not much) breeze from the sea.

    So here we are (i hope) i’m getting ready for my favourite season. Summer clothes have been unpacked and folded in our wardrobes, children are kitted out with new sandals, the beach bag is packed and ready for our first trip next week… bring it on.

    I know April is treacherous, they call it the Mad Month here because every day the weather is different and you can go from hot to cold in no time but i’m a cup-is-half-full type of person, i’ll just enjoy the hot days and sleep through the cold one.

    weather in Libya
    Have a nice summer everyone!

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    Safety in Libya: reality check! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/safety-in-libya-reality-check/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/safety-in-libya-reality-check/#respond Sun, 23 Feb 2014 15:12:00 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=19 Up until now i haven’t really discussed the security issue in Libya simply because it changes so often it’s very hard to assess the situation. However i have been contacted by many people who asked me the same question: is it safe in Libya? So

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    Up until now i haven’t really discussed the security issue in Libya simply because it changes so often it’s very hard to assess the situation. However i have been contacted by many people who asked me the same question: is it safe in Libya? So let me try to explain what it’s like right now.

    What makes Libya dangerous

    • No army or police force: the ones in place have no real authority or political backup
    • There is no “real” government, only an interim one
    • Post revolution “syndrome” where Pro-Gaddafi groups are still against the Pro-Revolution rebels and haven’t given up on trying to re-install the old regime
    • Gangs or militia trying to rule some areas, increasing the number of armed robberies, kidnapping, carjacking and all. Their presence in some areas have also been the reason for many upheavals of the population and armed fighting
    • An old tradition of family clans and the long-lasting wars between them, which cost the lives of many people in Zawia only a few weeks ago
    • Everyone in Libya owns weapons (yes plural), from hand guns and riffles to anti-aircraft machinery and much more i don’t even know the name of

    On the other hand

    It’is hard to explain but despite all of that you have a sense of safety in Libya. First of all people here truly care for each other and they’ll look after you and your kids too. There is such a strong sense of community that you feel protected. When there is gun fire people barely stop, it’s like they don’t hear it, they keep doing exactly what it is they were doing, like it’s no big deal. And finally you see children, even quite young, walking around in the city, to and back from school all on their own. If Libya was so terribly dangerous, people wouldn’t let their children go about like that. 

    Going about your everyday life

    Despite the knowledge that Libya is a dangerous place to be you have to go about your normal everyday life, only it’s not quite “normal” 
    • you hear gun fire all the time
    • you are always on your guard for anything unusual, which tends to make you jump higher at every little noise
    • You take safety measures to protect yourself and your family
    • You avoid direct confrontation at all times, including at work with the students (they have weapons, if not on them, then close by in the car)
    • As a woman i don’t go out alone after dark and always try to be accompanied by my husband even during the day
    • You don’t drive long distance at night, even locals don’t do it
    • All houses here have security bars on windows, you can see that people plan for the worst

    My experience of danger

    Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) i haven’t had any serious problems so far in Libya but it doesn’t mean it’s not close by. I’ve heard gun fire right outside my classroom a few times, seen some bullets flying over the house in the night, have been advised by security guards on campus to go home quickly after my last class, a teacher friend told me that teachers do receive threats from students, especially during exams and finally a very close friend of ours was held at gun point for a few hours during the armed robbery of his house.
    safety in Libya
    Destroyed buildings are not the only remains of the war


    So what then? is it safe or not?

    When people ask me if it is safe for them to accept a job in Libya or to move here with their family, i find it hard to answer but this is what i usually tell them:
    • Situation in Libya is unstable and ever changing. You need to monitor the situation closely and follow things up on the ground. Western medias can sometimes be biased, it’s always best to ask people
    • If you do make your move, avoid living is isolated areas, prefer city centre or expat compounds if you’re in Tripoli
    • Then take some basic, common sense precautions while you’re here.
    • Finally, have a plan B ready, just in case you need to make a quick exit.
    The best i can summarise the situation in Libya is like you’re living in a field that you know if full of mines, so you must be careful all the time. 
    Since it appears to be one of the main concerns of the people who contact me i’ll write on this topic again from time to time or if anything major happens. You can sign up for our newsletter on the HOME page and you’ll never miss any news. 

    The post Safety in Libya: reality check! appeared first on Diary of a Serial Expat.

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