Safety in Riyadh

Riyadh is more conservative than Jeddah or the Eastern Province. The mutaween (religious police) are numerous in Riyadh and not to be messed with. Women must cover themselves with an abaya(available in shops everywhere in Riyadh) and it's advisable to carry a headscarf as well. Read, understand and follow the guidelines in the Saudi Arabia article to stay out of trouble.

In 2002-2004, Riyadh was the site of terrorist attacks on westerners. In response, Saudi security forces cracked down brutally, and there have been no terrorist attacks in Riyadh since 2004. Security remains very tight though, particularly at housing compounds for foreigners, and police and army units, often heavily armed, are a common sight in the city. But Riyadh is now much safer than 11 years ago. You will probably not be bothered. The people are generally helpful and will be interested in helping you.

Although Riyadh has one of the lowest crime rates in world, standard precautions should be taken. The most significant danger to you is driving. Most drivers originate from areas in developing countries and the Middle East which lack traffic laws, driving schools, or even roads for that matter. It's a 'driving culture' where seat belts, mirrors, lane stripes, turn signals and speed limits are ignored. A four-lane highway can easily transform into a seven-lane 'racetrack'. Don't be shy with your horn.

Cope

Riyadh can be a challenging destination to live and work in. Some tips for easier adaptation:

  • Arrange a car and driver, or at least arrange a regular cabbie. This is easier, safer and quite possibly cheaper than relying on taxis for transport.
  • Organize your day around prayer times, with late lunches (after noon prayers) and very late dinners (after evening prayers).
  • Socializing with the family-oriented Saudis is difficult, so getting in touch with the local expat community will be an easier social life.
  • Try to get out of Riyadh on the weekends, when virtually everything is closed or inaccessible to single males.
  • Respect Islam and abide by the country's strict Islamic laws. There are cases of Westerners arrested, deported and receiving corporal and capital punishment for showing signs of disrespect. Expect no leniency if you are Muslim, South Asian or Southeast Asian. Riyadh is one of the strictest cities in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia - Travel guide

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