We flew from Manchester via Saudia airlines which was a six hour flight, as you can imagine this was something of a no frills journey and is most definitely dry. You will find watching a film is fairly difficult as scenes are edited or deleted altogether if they contain anything a bit risqué – I gave up on watching a marvel film after 25 minutes as the storyline made no sense whatsoever because so much of the film had been cut out…so the moral of the story is, take a good book.
Ladies, it’s a good idea to take your abaya and hijab on the plane with you and change into these before landing. It’s not compulsory but it is respectful and will help minimise the amount of stress you’re going to have to deal with at the other end. If you don’t have an abaya, at the very least I suggest wearing dark coloured, baggy clothing and absolutely making sure your shoulders and upper arms are covered as well as your hair. It’s just common courtesy after all when in another country to respect their traditions and dresscode. Also, getting off the plane is similar to running full pelt into a brick wall because it is SO. HOT. Bring water, you might take a while to get through customs and you’ll need it.
Once you get through the double doors into the airport building the KAUST representative should be stood on the right hand side under a KAUST sign. If he is – good for you he’ll tell you exactly what to do and get you through quickly. If he isn’t you will wander around very confused for a while before joining the wrong queue…yep, this is what happened to us as our KAUST man was helping another employee through. If it is your first time in the kingdom join the queue on the right. Also tell one of the staff in traditional dress that you are with KAUST and that you should be meeting someone, they are very nice and very helpful and will send someone to find him whilst telling you which queue you should be in. If you are a woman you might get sent to the high-walled women’s only room, where burkha-wearing Saudis have their photos taken by another woman in order to avoid showing their bare face to a strange man. I was sent here even though I had only a hijab (headscarf) on and not a burkha (face covering). Try to not stress if it seems to take forever and the person behind the desk seems to playing on their phone rather than doing any work AT ALL. I struggled with this but at the end of the day they are responsible for letting you into the country so upsetting them is potentially a bad idea. Just smile, try not to collapse from the burning heat, and be patient and polite. You will get there.
Once through the KAUST man appeared and whisked us through the rest of the process – you will have your cases and hand luggage scanned so honestly, don’t try and bring in anything you shouldn’t, it’s not worth it. Then you’re outside, in a KAUST car, and driven to your new home, time to get excited!
The journey will take about an hour, you will be taken to a visitors office where you will be issued with a temporary KAUST pass until your official one is ready and then hopefully on to the housing office and into your new home. Congratulations – you’re here!!
See my post on getting your new house for the next stage in the process.