40 facts Saudi Arabia bound OFWs need to know

It's always daunting to prepare before heading off to your work abroad, especially to a country like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a rich and deep culture that's very different to Philippine culture and for most OFWs, it's a big culture shock when they land in the dry land of Saudi. OFWguru came up with a list of 40 Need to Know Facts about Saudi Arabia that every Saudi-bound OFW can keep in their back pocket.

1. Islam is Saudi’s official religion

2. Unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia does not have a constitution; the state is instead governed according to Sharia (Islamic Law)

3. The curriculum in Saudi is focused on the study of Islam, since it is their official and only religion.

4. No other religion or form of faith is tolerated or to be practiced inside the Kingdom

5. Men wear white cotton robes called a thob with a colorful kerchief called a ghoutra as their headgear.

6. Women wear a black robe known as an abaya while their heads are covered by a black veil.

7. Men are the only ones allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Women are not allowed to drive or even travel abroad without a male relative’s or spouse’s approval. 

8. Aside from a black veil, women traditionally wear a mask, called a burka or batula, to cover their faces in public. Saudi men wear an Igal, two intertwined black cords that form a ring, on their heads.

9. Any type or form of alcohol is strictly forbidden inside the kingdom

10. There is only one IMAX Theater in Saudi, located in Khobar in the Scitech complex. The first film shot in Saudi Arabia, Wadjadida, was in 2012 with an all Saudi cast. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language film in the 86th Academy Awards and the 2014 Bafta Awards.

11. Saudi singers are the most popular in the Arab World

12. Oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938. Around one-fourth of earth’s petroleum reserves are believed to be found in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has enough oil to hand the entire world population a cup of oil

13. The region’s lone railway line connects Riyadh to the Persian Gulf port of Ad Dammam, by the way of Al Hufof

14. Saudi Arabia currently has the most developed banking sector in the Middle East. The unit of currency is the Saudi Riyal. As of 2015, the average exchange rate of Saudi Riyal is 1:12.13 Philippine Peso and 1:0.27 US Dollar

15. Saudi’s form of government is a Monarchy, with the King serving as both the head of State and Government. The current king is Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

16. In Saudi Arabia, punishments for serious crimes include amputation, beheading, hanging and stoning.

17. Saudi Arabia is split into 13 administrative regions, and these are further divided into 118 governorates.

18. The country has the highest percentage in military expenditure, spending around 10% of their GDP on its military. Saudi military has several branches consisting of the Saudi Arabian Army, or the Royal Saudi Land Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Navy, and the Royal Saudi Air Defense. The other branch is the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a government-independent military force.

19. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud named his captured territories Saudi Arabia after unifying them in 1932

20. Saudi Arabia joined the United Nation and the Arab League in 1945. The Arab League is an organization whose goal is to promote the interests of Arabic-speaking nations

21. Saudi Arabia's area is 2,149,690 sq km. The 2014 population census is 30,770,375 and the Philippine population is 1,267,658

22. Men and women cannot be seen together in public that even in elevators, men and women should not be seen together or else they face interrogations from the Mutaweens, the Islamic Religious Police. Only in hospitals can men mingle with women in public

23. Men are proud to have thick beards and mustaches, these are a symbol of their devotion to their faith and to show that he is pious and religious. The longer and thicker the beard, the more pious he is. 

24. The most common food is the kabsa, a rice dish mixed with raisins, nuts and spices

25. Diesel is much cheaper than water; the price of a liter of diesel is more or less half the price of a liter of water

26. Security guards in banks often don’t carry a gun because punishment is often more violent

27. Even though taxis have meters to measure the taxi fare, one can bargain the fare for a certain distance with the driver

28. Commercial establishments and public places stop activity during times when “salah” is practiced. Salah is Arabic for prayer.

29. It’s not unusual to find someone praying along the road, no matter how unsafe it is

30. In Saudi Arabia, there is no income tax deducted from salary coming from saudi arabia jobs

31. There’s no other taxes like value-aded tax imposed when you buy goods

32. Foreigners must carry their work permit at all times to avoid question and interrogation by police if caught without one

33. In Saudi Arabia, the work week starts on Saturday and ends on Wednesday. Thursdays and Fridays is the official weekend

34. The Hijira Calendar is used instead of the Gregorian Calendar, which means that their present year is 1436 not 2015 like everywhere else.

35. The way of writing is from right to left while we are usually taught in school to write from left to right.

36. Sadik is the Arabic word for friend; however, it is used casually that everyone calls each other Sadik, even if they’ve just met.

37. Even if there are workers from neighboring Arab countries, the workforce in Saudi is primarily composed of Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

38. Pork is strictly forbidden in the Kingdom, no one can sell or eat pork.

39. Saudi Arabia has the most number of luxury vehicles in the world. These are not only sold to the rich, but available for everyone. 

40. Most importantly, religion is a taboo topic. Religion is extremely sacred in Saudi Arabia.