Rest assured that the ground situation is really not that bad, as one would imagine, though one cannot say that it is 100% safe either. True, there was a period, roughly 3 years ago, when all expatriates and westerners in particular were targetted systematically. :-S The situation then was so bad that there was quite an exodus of sorts by expatriates. However, over a period of time, a large number of terrorists have been either killed or arrested by the security personnel.
Most of the western expats prefer to stay in "camps" or "compounds", as they are known here.
Compounds are a colony of villas occupied only by expatriates. After the last attack on western interests in 2003, these compounds have been provided with very heavy security and it is quite difficult for any outsider to enter these highly fortified areas. Cars entering these compounds are thoroughly checked including the boot and the underside and closed circuit cameras keep a watch on every single person entering or leaving. These compounds, which are usually quite away from the downtown, have very tight security including armed policemen guarding the entrances.
luxurious as compared to staying in downtown), though some would say that it is quite like a golden cage.
In addition to the security, these compounds have the added advantage of limited "freedom", particularly for the women, in that they need not wear the abaya or the black robe as long as they are inside the four walls of the compound. Western expatriates staying in these compounds enjoy quite a good lifestyle (rather
Of course, western expatriates have to be alert when going out. Some of the Do's and Don'ts are:
- Avoid going out alone. You attract attention.
- Avoid displaying wealth in public places, particularly supermarkets. This need not necessarily be cash, it could also mean travelling in a flashy, brand-new Lexus. Remember, people keep watching you, whether you realize it or not.
- Avoid going out for jogging / walks outside your compound. If you stay in downtown, try shifting to one of these compounds.
- Try taking different routes to work every day.
It is not the intention of this blog to scare the would-be expatriate about the security condition in Saudi Arabia, but these tips are just to make him cautious. These tips would probably be applicable anywhere else in the world too. The bottom-line is that the probability of being attacked in Saudi Arabia is more or less the same as that of being mugged late night in a New York subway ;) One need not be unduly worried, though use of common sense and alertness is called for.
Finally, do remember that there are western expatriates in Saudi Arabia, some of them working for over a decade.
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