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February 15, 2009

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King Abdullah’s efforts for interfaith dialogues

November 26, 2008

For the first time, since the establishment of Saudi Kingdom in 1932 – we are witnessing a change of stance regarding other faiths – King Abdullah’s current efforts of engaging other religions/faiths in dialogs is laudatory. It is indeed worth mentioning that after a long time we are seeing a vision & there seems to be a light in the tunnel.

On his speech in the UNO the Custodian of TWO Holy Mosques has stressed on the needs of interfaith dialogue for the world’s peace, justice & tolerance – all the 3 being the key Islamic values. King Abdullah further said that religions should not be used as “instruments to cause misery”.

“Human beings were created as equals and partners; either they live together in peace and harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred,” he said in a speech to U.N. General Assembly. Read the rest of this entry »

Riyadh: Desi Restaurants & Semi-Desi Restaurants

November 23, 2008

For sure, Riyadh is a place for Food Lovers – You name it, you’ll get it (provided that it is halal) – The other day I mentioned that I intend to write about my favorite Desi places to eat in Riyadh in American Bedu’s Post, so here you go. There are many desi restaurants almost everywhere in Riyadh – but I would mention only those which have the family dining facilities available.

Lahori Khaabay

It is actually in Hayi al Murraba – but they call it Hayi Al Wazaraat a.k.a Hara – from Khurais Road, take exit of Maather Street, after that skip the traffic light, then take U Turn and take 3rd Right, after 200-300 meters on your right hand side, you’ll find this restaurant. Service at times is very slow and you might tend to get angry – but their Roti is typical Lahori Roti and don’t forget to try their Chicken Chillies and their Lunch Buffet (18 SR per head) – Daily Lunch Buffet with quite a variety of dishes that include Haleem, Nihari, Biryani, Mutton Karahi, Kheer & few other dishes – worth trying.


My first experience wasn’t actually my first experience – as I went their with my colleague who was very well acquainted with Riyadh’s Desi Restaurant – but he actually never tried it – We ordered something from ala carte menu – and it took more than 30 minutes of waiting and still there were no signs of food to arrive – so we left without eating. 2nd time we went there and had good service & more than above average food quality – don’t forget to try their Butter Naan with Chaanp (Lamb Ribs). 2 pax meal shall not cost more than 50-70 SR. On the same road as of Lahori Khaabay, take right from the next traffic light and make a U-Turn and on your right hand side is Toledos.

Hayat Restaurant

By far, I would rate this as the best restaurant I’ve eaten Desi Food in Riyadh – Food quality, Service is excellent. Do try their Chicken Green Masala, Special Nihari, Aalu Qeema, Aalu Gosht, Chicken Biryani & personally I didn’t like their naan/Roti/khubas but as per most of my friends – that is excellent. On the same road from Lahori Khaabay, take right from the traffic light, leave the first U-Turn, on the next U-turn, on junction of Dabbab Street, make a U-Turn and on your right hand side would be Hayat Restaurant. A dinner for 2 should not cost more than 60-80 SR.

Khayyam Restaurant

Coming from King Abdul Aziz Road/Khurais Road/Marriot, take left and then take right from the next traffic light – on the road’s end, make a U-turn and on your right hand side is Khayyam Restaurant – I’ve heard that it used to be the top rated restaurant when hotel management was with original persons – but then the sponsor brought other guys and the standard kept on falling with every passing day – yet I would not rate it that bad – it is actually quite good – Their Reshmi Kebabs are yummy! those from Lahore/Pakistan and are dyeing to eat Pathooras – there you go – this is the only place in my knowledge where you can get the Pathooras in Riyadh – Their Shahi Tukras are not bad either – definitely worth giving a try – an average meal for 2 pax would be around 40-50 SR.

There are a few other restaurants in Hayi Al Wazaraat with family dining facilities including Mehraab Restaurant – They are their best during Ramadan’s Sehri – Their Alu Paratha & plain Paratha is worth giving a try – Caution: In singles section, they do not have any toilets – so it could get risky for you 😉 O yes – there are a few other Desi Restaurant’s in Olaya District and on Tahliya and few others as well – which requires a little more details and shall be posted soon Inshallah.

Comments Welcomed!

Inshallah, Bukra, Massalam (IBM)

November 22, 2008


When I used to live in my company provided residence, I had a few Egyptian colleagues living with me, Once on the weekend, we decided to visit some mall by a Limo, when the driver asked that where do we have to go, one of the Egyptian replied “Geant Mall, Inshallah” – “to Geant Mall, God willing”.

It is a Muslim tradition that whenever you aim or plan anything – we say that Inshallah – (God Willing – with the will of the God) – but recently “Inshallah” has been creep, to the extreme. Atleast in the Arabian countries, it is now attached to the answer for any question, almost every question (past, present or future) shall get an answer but not without Inshallah. “Inshallah” is used for future, technically & religiously – If I say, “I plan to take CISA exams, Inshallah” – It means that “If God willing, I’ll take CISA exams” – but now? Here with Saudis or for that matter any Arab national, considers his conversation incomplete, if he/she doesn’t use this word – What’s your name, for example, might be answered, “Muhammad, Inshallah.” I often wonder about the answer and sometimes out of my curiosity ask ‘You are already Muahmmad or you are going to be Muhammad?’

It has become a public display of piety, fashion, culture leaving the religious part aside (which was a symbol of faith) – but now very rarely you see this word being used to show one’s faith in God. It has become a word that has attached itself to nearly every moment, every question, like the word ‘like’ in English. But it is powerful reference, intended or not.

It has also become a very diplomatic phrase, in most of the cases denial or refusal shall also be replied with only one phrase ‘Inshallah’.

For example, if you go to some Arab (Saudi particularly) in your office and if you get the answer, “Inshallah” – then most of the expatriates considers it a refusal.

Inshallah Bukra, Masslam (I.B.M)

Don’t confuse Saudi/Arabic IBM with the International Business Machines – its  a very commonly used sentence, there are very few days when you won’t come across this sentence – whether early morning, noon, afternoon or almost the closing hours of any office – you just go to any of your department which is being run by the locals (courtesy Saudisation) – and if the person is not willing to respond to you (95% of time), you’ll most probably get this answer “Inshallah Bukra, Massalam” (if God willing, Tomorrow, peace be with you). So, whenever you get this answer, just assume that there are rare chances that your task/request or work (no matter how official/important it is) would get done.

So, as I come to end of today’s blog – I invite your comments and Inshallah would respond to them Bukra, till then Massalam 😉

List of Compounds in Riyadh – Saudi Arabia

November 18, 2008

Following is a list of compounds that are available in Riyadh – Thanks to many of my friends who have helped me in compiling this complicated yet comprehensive list. As always with everything, this list keeps on growing so you keep on visiting. Happy Home Hunting!

  • Al Hamra Compound
    British School
    Tel: 249 0440
  • Al Issa Comound
    Tel: 491 8400 (Mr Walid)
  • Al Jazeera Badar
    Tel: 492 1135 (Milwah Al-Shammry)
  • Al Mohaeya Compound aka Boeing Compound
    Tel # 482 1222 ext # 403, 410, 111, 666
  • Al Nakheel Residence
    Tel # 470 4191
    Contact: Peter Howarth-Lees
    Near Dallah Hospital, Takhassusi Street
  • Al Ola # 7
    Tel # 460 8095, 460 7704
    Olaya Area, Abdullah Hamdan Street,
    Between Thalateen & Tahliah Street
  • Al Romaizon
    Tel # 274 0917, 4880533
    Behind Imam University
  • Al Waha Garden Village
    Tel # 278 8418 ext 1149
    Contact: Rashid Khan
    Exit # 10
  • Al Yamamah Village
    Tel # 401 2550
    Eastern Ring Road, Exit # 16
  • Arab Investment Compound
    Tel # 482 3444 Fax # 482 3131/3169
    Near Diplomatic Quarters
  • Arabian Homes
    Tel # 454 1888
    Contact: Martin Shaw
    King Abdullah Street, Al Mursalat,
  • Arizona
    Tel # 248 4444
  • AsasCo Village
    Tel # 419 9000, 419 0936 ext 423
    Olaya District
  • Creators Real Estate (Small compounds / Individual Villas)
    Tel # 478 6708
    Contact: Mr. Mahmood
  • Cofras Compound
    Tel # 478 7434
    Exit # 30, Dammam Road
  • Cordoba Oasis Village
    Tel # 248 3471
    Near British School
  • Delta # 1 & # 2
    Tel # 488 7611 ext 245
    Opposite King Saud University
  • Dabbab Gardens Compound
    Tel # 463 1596 – 462 2392 – 462 6762 – 465 0513
  • Dabbab Garden Compound
    Tel # 461 1080
  • Dywidag Saudi Arabia Limited
    Tel # 246 4144 Ext 153
    Contact: Mr. Joey
    Near Football Stadium
  • Eid Compoound
    Tel # 248 3366
    Near British School
  • Euro Compound
    Tel # 478 0718 – 478 7381, Mobile- 055 27 28 36
    Near Al Aqariya Building
    Contact: Mr. Nicholas
  • Expat Real Estate
    Tel # 454 0404
    ContacT: Mr. Nasser
  • Fal Compound
    Tel # 248 5847
    Contact: Larry Heitzman
    Exit # 8, Near Arizona
  • Green City Compound
    Tel # 479 8889 ext 411
    Contact: Abdul Karim Al Lahham
    King Abdullah Road, Near Takhassussi / Sheraton
  • Kingdom City
    Tel # 275 0 275
    Conact: Chuck Collins
    Next to Kingdom Hospital, Airport Road
  • Najd Village
    Tel # 248 1040 ext 513
    Contact: Ali Askar
    Near Eid Villas
  • Riyadh Village aka Phillips Ericcson
    Tel # 246 4900
    Near Football Stadium
  • Rabwa Compound
    Tel # 493 1741
    Conact: B Lewis
    Exit # 13, Eastern Ring Road / Khurais Road
  • Ranco Village
    Tel # 492 4411
    Contact: Med Rowlands
  • Roc Compound
    Tel # 241 2800
    Contact: Colin
    Al-Sulai, Exit # 16
  • Sahara Towers
    Tel # 462 5666
  • Saudi British Bank
    Tel # 405 0677
    Behind Al Jazeera Supermarket
  • Summerland Compound
    Tel # 454 9152
    Old Airport Road, Al-Malik Fahad
  • Villas RosasTel: 482 4417
    (Nr Diplomatic Quarter)

Packing List

November 18, 2008

Sorry for keeping you awaited (only if you have been visiting the blog – the stats shows otherwise). The list of things that you need to pack up with you could be infinite but following are a few which you should consider.

Check from the friends in the Kingdom about the medicines that you are using if these are available here or not? You can also check that from the Pharmaceutical company as well if they have distribution to the Saudi Arabia or not – as none of the multinational pharmaceuticals have production facilities in Saudi Arabia (courtesy “Very Liberal” Saudi policy for foreign investment) – most of them have the distribution setups here – so you better check that.

As such there is no need of bringing in the prescription with the medicines if you are bringing any to the Kingdom – except might be required for the Narcotics / Hypnotics – Valium etc.

  • Do NOT bring any food that contains poppy seeds – yes, not only poppy products but even the harmless poppy seeds which we often gets on donuts etc. are forbidden in the Kingdom – People of Asian Sub-continent use poppy seed to spice their meals – they are WARNED that do not even think of bringing Khaskhash to the Kingdom.
  • Bring some extra pair of shoes if you are going to work in Riyadh/Central Province – Shoes here generally are not that good and those which are acceptable are very highly overpriced – except the Clarks but they have very limited variety.
  • Bring in a lots of shirts/trousers/suits to meet your needs (if you do need to wear formal) – otherwise Jeans/T-Shirts would be sufficient if you are working into production environment.
  • Try to avoid bringing Software CD(s) as they might suspect them as movies and you might have to wait at the airport for them to go through the CD(s) one by one – similarly same goes for the movies, try not to bring them with you in DVD covers – if you really want to bring some movies – better idea would be to throw away the covers and bring them loose – the best way to bring movies is to copy them on to an external hard drive and then you should be safe (not 100%).
  • No Alcohol in any form
  • No Drugs – Kingdom has the death penalty for the Drug Traffickers
  • Summers are extremely HOT & winters are Hot in day but bone freezing in nights – so you might consider bringing Sun Glasses with UV Protection.
  • Traffic Radar Detector could be worth considering if you are fond of driving at high speeds so that you can save yourself from “Mukhaalfaas”/Challans/Tickets.
  • If you are a female – try to find an abaya from your local market – otherwise ask someone in kingdom to arrange one for you so that you can wear it when you come out of the airport/plane. Otherwise a shawl that could cover whole of your body (and preferably face) would do the trick (just for the time being).
  • Your Driving License – International Driving License would also be acceptable for the period of 1 to 2 months (only if you are on a visit visa or after getting Iqama (Residential Permit) – Ladies!, you are not, not, not allowed to drive in the Kingdom, hence there would probably be no use of bringing your License.
  • O yes – do bring your attested Degree from foreign ministry of your country, Saudi Cultural Center (if applicable) & Saudi Embassy in your country – you marriage certificate (attested) one – these are the minimum required things that you need to bring with you, in case you want to bring your family here.
  • 12 Passport Size Pictures (white background) – so that you do not have to go around for getting photographed

That’s about it for the time being – would keep on adding things as and when I get some time.

Getting Started….

March 19, 2008

You need to have an Exit Visa to leave the Kingdom – that’s where the fun ends. This exit visa needs to be signed by the sponsor who invited you to the Kingdom. Though there are some exceptions like Business, Tourism or Hajj visa doesn’t require exit permits.  You can not get exit visa without signatures of your employer.  

Lets start the beginning!

Hold! Before we start the fun – before you start thinking about getting in Saudi Kingdom, let’s read a saying by King Abdul Aziz bin Saud

“My Kingdom will survive only insofar as it remains a country difficult to access, where the foreigner will have no other aim, with his task fullfilled, but to get out.”

No wonder why Saudi Arabia (will always be reffered as Saudia) has one of the most restrictive travel policies in the world and you need to have visas in advance in order to enter the Kingdom. Only exception being the nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council. Citizens of Israel are not allowed to enter the Kingdom, Period. Saudis prefer not to grant visa to unaccompanied women, but work-permits (work-visas/aqamas) are common in some fields like nursing, teaching, maids etc.

Usually once you get an employment offer from Saudia, most of the difficult tasks are handeled by your employer and usually they take most of the pain for you. Normally, the Saudis have agents in all part of the world – these agents are paid by the Saudi Employer for facilitating you. For me, this has been the easiest task to get a work-visa of Saudia. Trust me, for me getting a visa of Singapore was much more difficult, much more time & pain staking than getting a work-visa of Saudi Arabia. My agent did a wonderful job. Though I have been a bit lazy on my side, but there was no lack of commitment on agent’s part.

Medical Examination 

You need to have a medical examination by the appointed medical centres of Saudi Embassy in your country/city. For residents of Karachi, Saudi Embassy in Karachi have such medical centre “Taj Medical Centre” on Khayban e Shahbaz, D.H.A. Karachi. It would take roughly around 2 hours to get all the process done. This will include blood tests, urine test, x-rays & physical examination like eye-sight, chest & could be something related to private parts. If you are woman who have conceived before the medical test, make sure that you inform them about your pregnancy so that you could avoid the x-ray test which could turn fetal for your baby in progress. Make sure that before going to the medical centre, you take a lots of liquids so that you don’t have issues while they give you plastic bottle for taking sample of urine, this is what happened with me, I had to take atleast 4-5 glasses of water to get the sample out ;-). There are 2 types of reports, ordinary & urgent. In case of Ordinary/normal you’ll get the report on next working day and in case of urgent, you’ll get report sameday. Yes, charges are little different. But not very different. I opted for the urgent one. Before going to Medical Centre, consult with your agent, he’ll take time for you from medical centre + he’ll give you a form stamped by the agent that you’ll present to medical centre. Make sure that you have atleast 4 passport size photographs with white/off-white background, your passport & your national ID card before you go to Medical Centre.

Yes, once you get a call from your agent, make sure that you have all the necessary documents, a valid passport (valid atleast for next 6 months), CNIC (for Pakistanis), Educational Degrees, work experience certificates (though not required) and your agent would give you the sizes of photographs that you need to provide him with other documents.

Enough for getting started. Wait for the next episode.