Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, is located on the Red Sea coast. The city attracts job seekers from all over the world due to the numerous job opportunities it offers. Being one of the major urban regions in the west Saudi Arabia and home to the country’s largest port, the Jeddah Islamic Port, the city is also considered to be the country’s commercial hub. Working in Jeddah not only guarantees a lucrative remuneration package for skilled workers, but numerous benefits such as tax-free income, free accommodation or accommodation at subsidized rates, health insurance, annual tickets to the home country, and low cost of living.
For those who are planning to move to Jeddah, this article will give an overview of the life that awaits them in the city.
Economy & Jobs
Jeddah is one of the most important economic centers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although the city doesn’t have much oil resources of its own, a pipeline connects it to the oilfields located in the Eastern Province of the country. Hence, the oil refining is done in Jeddah and exported to different countries via the Jeddah Islamic Port. The port has also given a new dynamism to the city by encouraging activities such as storage, packaging, transport, and logistics. There are many mining projects, quarries and power plants that contribute to the economy as well as to the employment in the city. Other major industries one can consider for employment in the city are construction, real estate, finance, healthcare, hospitality, food processing, education, and social services.
With the presence of several industries, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the scope of employment opportunities has indeed expanded in the city. From being a city that heavily depended on its oil industry, Jeddah has evolved into an attractive job market for people from across industries.
Expats who relocate to Jeddah often find the city’s work culture quite different from what they are generally used to. Islam dominates all the facets of life in Saudi Arabia, including business and the professional life. Muslims pray five times a day and the work days need to be planned accordingly. Hence, at times it might get difficult to schedule meetings and appointments. Also, the work hours are reduced by two hours during the holy month of Ramadan. Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood in the professional setting. However, knowing basic Arabic words such as greetings will help in connecting with the native people.
Religion and Culture
As mentioned earlier, Islam dominates all the facets of life in the city. Hence, there are certain religious and cultural rules that are strictly followed by the natives and the same is expected from the expats too. While non-natives are free to practice their religion, but they can only do so in the privacy of their own homes. Trying to spread a different religion is a punishable offense and it is advisable to refrain from discussing religion openly.
Additionally, there are certain rules that apply specifically to the women living in Jeddah. Women are not allowed to drive and cannot work or travel without their husband’s permission. Dressing up modestly at all times, keeping your shoulder and knees covered are absolutely necessary. Women cannot socialize or mingle with men they are not married to or directly related to by blood.
Accommodation is generally taken care of by the employing company and, usually, provided in a highly-secure expat compound to the employees. The accommodation comes with all the basic amenities and the rent may leave quite a dent in the pocket, especially when the employer is not offering any accommodation allowance or has agreed to pay only half of the total rent. However, it is important to understand the compensation package completely and also look at the other components being offered. Some employers offer transportation and education allowance (to those moving with their families), which is not a bad deal either.
Still, if one wants to save on the rent, it is best to take help from one’s friends or colleagues who have been living in the city for some time about good housing options. Checking with the company’s human resource department about other housing accommodations is also an option one can explore. Otherwise, there are many real estate agents one can go to for help.
Companies in Jeddah provide health insurance to their employees, including expats. So, the medical expenses will be taken care of. Moreover, the healthcare sector has been the focus of the country’s government for many years and a lot has been done to improve the medical facilities available in the country. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s health care is considered to be one of the best in the Middle East and Jeddah is no exception to this. The city has high-standard public and private medical facilities, both providing excellent services and treatments to their patients.
Expats send their children to private schools to avoid the language barriers as well as the Saudi curriculum followed by public schools. There are many good private international schools in Jeddah where the mode of instruction is English and also the curriculum followed is in-line with the rest of the world. Some of the popular international schools in Jeddah are:
– Jeddah Knowledge International School
– Jeddah International School
– British International School of Jeddah
– American International School of Jeddah
– Al Waha International School Jeddah
The lifestyle in Jeddah is vibrant, fun and there is a lot one can do in the city. Weekends are usually spent at one or the other sparkling beaches located just to the north of Jeddah where one can hire a boat or a jet ski. Diving in the Red Sea is another popular activity among expats living in Jeddah. Apart from this, one can even indulge in outdoor sports and activities such as golfing and horse riding. There are numerous private beach clubs with swimming areas and restaurants that one can go to.
With old souqs and traditional bazaars, the city has a lot to offer to the shopaholics. One can find everything from jewelry to clothes, fabrics, electronics and even gold, which is sold by weight. These bazaars are best for those who want a taste of the local experience and interested in trying out the local street food. The various international consulates in the city also organize numerous events that are accessible to the general expatriate public such as food festivals and cultural events.
Restaurants in Jeddah serve different varieties of cuisines from across the world, including American (except for pork), Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Turkish, Lebanese, etc.
The booming tourism industry of the Middle East too has loads to offer. One can go for a camel safari across the Arabian Desert or visit Istanbul– the cradle of civilization. Dubai is barely a few hours away by flight. Also, other international travel destinations are easily accessible from Jeddah.
Life as an expat in Jeddah can be exciting and is definitely an experience one must try once in their lives.
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