Saudi Arabia is a huge stretch of land mass between the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. Covering approximately 80% (2,250,000 square kilometers) of the Arabian Peninsula, the country contains massive deserts, mountains, deep valleys, forests, and a wealth of resources. The Arabian Peninsula lies at the crossroads of three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. The local population is approximately 16 million, with an additional 8 million expatriates in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, with an area of about 865,000 square miles, occupies the bulk of the Arabian peninsula. It is roughly one-third the size of the continental United States, and the same size as all of Western Europe.Much of Saudi Arabia is covered with sand. However, the mountains of the south, the plateaus of the north, and the waters of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf provide alternatives to the vast stretches of sand. The country is divided into the Northern Province, Southern Province, Eastern Province, Central Province, and the Western Province. As is noted on the map on the District Information page, Jubail (ISG Jubail School), Dhahran (Dhahran Elementary / Middle School, Dhahran High School, and Dhahran British Grammar School), and Dammam (ISG Dammam) are all located in the Eastern Province. Yanbu International School is located in the Western Province.
Jeddah (Western Province), Riyadh (Central Province), and Dhahran/ Dammam (Eastern Province) are the major population centers of the Kingdom. All three are connected by excellent roads and Saudi Arabian Airline flights. Also, there is a rail service between Dhahran/Dammam and Riyadh.
Residents living in the Eastern Province area have easy access to the Saudi/Bahraini Causeway (a bridge to the island Kingdom of Bahrain) which offers the opportunity for rest and relaxation in a Western style atmosphere.
The climate of most of Saudi Arabia is very hot in the summer, hot in the spring and fall, and moderate during the winter months. Contrary to popular belief, it occasionally rains in Saudi Arabia! The highest annual rainfall of 215.5mm (9 inches) occurs in Khamis Mushayt. Also, in Dhahran/Dammam high humidity is the norm during the hot summer months.
Many cultures co-exist within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia among the Saudi nationals and the expatriate population comprised of various nationalities. As a result, Saudi Arabia is unique in terms of contrasting life styles and cultural anomalies. The constitution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Koran, the Book revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him.). All laws and regulations comply with Islamic Sharia, the laws laid down by the Koran. The Kingdom is unique in its adherence to the Sharia as the basis for all its actions in every field of human activity and worship. The religion, which is practiced faithfully, is Islam.
In general, expatriates live comfortably in terms of basic needs. Modern supermarkets, and specialized stores provide most necessities. In the Eastern Province, in the capital of Riyadh, and in the cosmopolitan city of Jeddah on the west coast, large shopping malls cater to every need. With prices competitive to those of North America or the United Kingdom, expatriates are now shopping in-Kingdom more than ever before due to the variety of brand name stores available.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Homes are furnished with modern furniture and appliances. Because most expatriates live in enclosed compounds, basic recreational needs are met by compound tennis courts, swimming pools, and recreation centers offering fitness and aerobic opportunities. Saudi Arabia is an excellent place to raise a family. There is a "protected" or "old fashioned" atmosphere with regard to temptations and complexities of western life.
Camping, softball, theater groups, etc. are alternative recreational activities outside of the housing compounds. In the coastal areas, snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, windsurfing, and sailing are popular. Each school community develops clubs and activities based on common interests. There are no performing arts theaters, cinemas, or night clubs in Saudi Arabia. National television broadcasting exists in all school locations and satellite reception is widely available allowing expatriates to stay in touch with news and trends from home.
Saudi soccer game fanaticsThere are many excellent restaurants serving almost every imaginable cuisine. Many of these restaurants are located in hotels. In the larger cities there are numerous fast-food establishments including McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Hagan Daaz, Baskin Robbins, Fuddrucker's, Starbucks and Joffrey's Gourmet Coffees. "Ethnic" food abounds at the many Indian, Thai, Lebanese, and other restaurants to tempt taste buds.
Potential employees of ISG should be aware of some aspects of living and teaching in Saudi Arabia that may require a more flexible approach to life than that expected in the western world:
- women and men must dress modestly in public.
- women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia.
- exit/re-entry visas must be obtained before staff may leave the country.
- medical care is very good but specialized care may not be available in the Kingdom.
- some people find if difficult to adjust to the hot and humid climate.
- expatriates must conform to Islamic standards and are subject to Sharia Law.
Women wearing abaya in public.Although somewhat restrictive by western standards, life in Saudi Arabia can be comfortable and socially rewarding. As a base for international travel, Saudi Arabia is beautifully positioned, an equal distance from Europe, Africa, and the rest of Asia. Thus it offers the expatriate unlimited options for exotic and adventurous holidays and stopover locations during annual repatriation and various scheduled vacation periods.