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Hajj and Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

by Expatguru - 01/29/2013

"This article gives a brief idea about Hajj and Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and its implications for potential job seekers in the kingdom."

For those of you planning to work in Saudi Arabia, it is important to know about Hajj and Ramadan and also about Government-related work during these periods.

Ramadan is a holy month during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. For non-Muslims, it is strictly prohibited to eat, drink or smoke in public. Working hours for Muslims are restricted to 6 hours. Most schools and universities work not more than 6 hours during this period. All restaurants would be closed during daytime, but come dusk, and the scenario would totally change. The streets become alive with activity which would continue throughout the night almost until just before the first prayer call before dawn. This is also the time when you would get some great bargain deals.

The month culminates in one of the biggest festivals called Eid-Al-Fitr which also marks the end of the fasting period. About a couple of months later, another equally important festival called Eid-Al-Adha is celebrated across the Muslim world, but has special importance in Saudi Arabia. This is the time when Muslims performing pilgrimage congregate in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Saudi embassies across the world shut down approximately 15 days prior to both these festivals, so I would advise expats planning to work in the kingdom to keep this in mind. All visa-related work would stop during this period. In fact, during the intervening period between Eid-Al-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha, even new visit visas are not issued. The reason is not far to seek. Millions of people across the globe would be visiting the kingdom for performing the Hajj pilgrimage, so routine visitors take second priority during this time.

A very important point I would like to emphasize here is that visitors must enter the kingdom within a month from the date the visa is stamped. The visa would expire even a day after this. So, if you are planning to visit Saudi Arabia immediately after these two festivals, you must carefully plan your date of submission of your application to the Saudi Embassy, taking into account the long closure of the embassies mentioned above. If you submit too early, your visas might expire. If you are late, the embassies would close for holidays.

Do also note that Muslim visitors cannot do the Hajj pilgrimage after coming to the kingdom on a regular visit visa. Your papers would be checked thoroughly before you enter the holy cities and unless you have special Hajj permits, you cannot enter with regular visit visas. Also, if you are a Muslim employed in the kingdom, you are prohibited to perform the Hajj pilgrimage more than once every five years.

Finally, I would advise all expats already in the kingdom to keep their multiple exit / re-entry visas valid and also renew their Residence Permits (Iqamas) well before the holiday season. This might come in handy in case of any personal emergencies.


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