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What is it like to live in Riyadh?

What is it like to live in Riyadh?

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is a fast growing city and a thriving business and financial centre. People from around the world are now attracted to relocate to Riyadh, drawn by lucrative, tax-free salaries and a safe, family-friendly lifestyle. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are finding new opportunities in Riyadh’s well-equipped and expanding healthcare sector. Saudi Arabia is well-known as the birthplace of Islam, and for its vast desert and oil fields. The country is undergoing amazing modernisation and development while preserving its culture and heritage.

How is this influencing the lifestyle and culture in cities such as Riyadh?

Culture and Religion

Traditional Saudi Arabian values, shaped by Islamic culture, emphasise respect for elders, strong family bonds, and hospitality towards guests. Islamic customs and practices, such as daily prayers and fasting during Ramadan are widely observed. Working practices make provision for prayer times and work hours are reduced during the holy month of Ramadan. The school and working week is from Sunday to Thursday, with Fridays off. Saturday may also be a working day for some. Islamic festivals, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are marked by gatherings, feasts, and family-oriented activities. Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. It is helpful to learn Arabic but English serves as an informal second language and is widely spoken.

For Muslim expats, living in Saudi Arabia offers the appeal of a lifestyle modelled around Islamic values and easy access to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

Is there a dress code in Riyadh?

In Riyadh, the dress code is generally conservative in respect for the local culture. For both men and women, it is best to wear clothing that covers the shoulders, arms, and legs. The exception is in expat residential compounds, where more relaxed styles, including shorts, are acceptable.

What women wear in Saudi Arabia?

Previously all Saudi women, had to wear an abaya (a loose, all-covering black robe) and a headscarf. However, due to the current government’s emphasis on cultural and social reforms, the way women in Saudi Arabia dress is swiftly changing. As a result, women no longer need to wear an abaya or headscarf as long as they wear something modest. However, for most local women, the abaya and headscarves symbolize proud Arabians and their religion, rather than a mandatory dress constraint. Hence, the vast majority of Saudi women still wear the abaya.

What men wear in Saudi Arabia?

In Saudi Arabia, males wear a full-length loose-fitting garment with long sleeves known as thobe. Local Saudi men avoid wearing black as this is the colour of women’s abayas. Ghutra, a white and red checkered headdress with a double black cord known as an agal, is worn on the head. Men wear a taqiyah beneath the ghutra, a little white cap that prevents the ghutra from slipping away. On the other hand, some Saudi men have begun to adopt western clothing trends and reserve their traditional Saudi attire for cultural and religious occasions.

How is life in Riyadh for women?

In recent years, there have been significant changes to Saudi law, and women can now drive in Saudi Arabia. Expat women are exempt from many restrictions, such as the male guardianship law. They are also no longer required to wear an abaya or cover their heads in public, but should still seek to dress modestly. The Saudi government has been actively encouraging the employment of women in both public and private sectors, and there are many opportunities for female health professionals.

How is the weather and climate?

Daytime temperatures regularly exceed 40°C (104°F) in the summer months, while the nights are relatively cooler but still warm. However, there is air-conditioning almost everywhere to make life comfortable. Winter daytime temperatures range from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F) and temperatures drop to around 10°C (50°F) or lower during the nights. There is very little rain, in the winter months only. Dust and sandstorms can occur during the hotter months.

What is the best way to get around Riyadh?

Until this year, public transport in Riyadh has relied on an urban bus service, with cars and taxis being the most convenient way to get around the city. However, a new metro transport system, with six lines and 84 stations, is set to open in 2024. Low import duties on cars and cheap petrol keep costs down for drivers. Riyadh has an excellent road network, but there can be traffic jams during rush hours and you need to be wary of others who may drive erratically. Road signs are in both Arabic and English. Taxis can’t be hailed in the street but can be easily booked by phone or using taxi apps such as Uber, Careem or Bolt.

Where do expats live in Riyadh?

Most Western expats in Saudi Arabia live in expat compounds provided by their employer. These are secure, gated residential areas with a full range of amenities, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, parks, shops, restaurants, and sometimes even international schools. The lifestyle within expat compounds tends to be more westernised, according to the home countries of those living there. There is high demand for this type of accommodation, pushing up rents, but expat contracts often include accommodation or an allowance for housing.

It is also possible, and may be less expensive, to rent an apartment or villa in residential areas of the city. There are a lot of new developments being built to meet the demand of Riyadh’s growing population.

How does the cost of living in Riyadh compare to other Gulf cities?

Doctors and other health professionals relocating to Saudi Arabia earn a significantly higher salary than in their country of origin, and there is no income tax. Home rents and school fees in Riyadh are usually covered by allowances in employment contracts. Local groceries are reasonably priced but imported goods can be more expensive. The cost of buying and running a car is less expensive than in Europe or America, as is getting help at home with housework or childcare. While the cost of living in Riyadh tends to be higher than other parts of Saudi Arabia, it is still a bit less than comparable cities in Gulf countries. According to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Comparison website, the cost of living in Riyadh including rent is 37.3% lower than in Dubai, 29.6% lower than in Abu Dhabi, and 20.6% lower than in Doha. Expats working in Riyadh can afford a higher standard of living than in their home countries, while also saving for the future. Are you a highly skilled Western-trained doctor interested in relocating to Riyadh? Contact Allocation Assist today to find out about opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s growing healthcare sector.

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