In Finland where I'm currently writing from, this time of year (and for a very long time) it gets really dark, murky and gloomy. I haven't even seen the sun for a few days and I'm already feeling depressed and out of energy. Everything is so expensive and has a tax on it! Just travelling around the country to other cities costs me almost as much as international airfare. Trains, buses and gasoline are ridiculously expensive. I went for coffee and paid 24 euros (117SAR) for a sandwich, coffee and water!
I've only been here for few days but have started to appreciate some things we take for granted in Saudi-Arabia. So I thought I'd compile a list of ten things I like about living in Saudi. Yes, there can be lots of good in Saudi life believe it or not!
1. The sun!
The sun shines by default everyday of the year. It's easy to be in a cheerful mood and to keep energy levels up with so much sunshine. No need for me or the baby to take vit D supplements since we can have it naturally from the sunlight, which is much better anyways! Another thing I enjoy is sunbathing!
2. Inexpensive food
Groceries are so much cheaper in Saudi than for example in Finland or most western countries. Everything except the imported stuff is affordable and good quality. There are countless restaurants to choose from and most are very reasonably priced and eating out won't make a huge cut in your budget. Saudi foods are delicious and available everywhere for cheap prices.
3. The desert
I just love going to the desert and to experience the absolute silence that falls upon you out there. That is where your soul rests. There's always something interesting out there to find and explore and it's so easily accessible.
Every neighborhood has a mosque or two and they are all look different. It creates a peaceful atmosphere hearing the athan (call for prayer) throughout the day, even inside shops and at the hospital.
5. Tax-free income
This is definitely a big plus too with obvious benefits! Salaries also tend to be on the higher side compared to what expats would earn in their home countries.
6. Untouched places
There are not many places left in the world where tourists can have the entire site to themselves. Saudi has plenty of historic sites, nature reserves and other places around the country that remain unspoiled by mass tourism. There are spectacular World Heritage sites like the tombs in Madain Saleh and ancient city in Najran, virtually empty of visitors. One of my favorites are the pristine beaches you can have all to yourself1 Elsewhere in the world tourists pay $$$ to find such places.
7. Women Only
Sometimes it works for your advantage, especially at the airport! Enables faster security checks, passing men in queues and so on. Ladies branches of banks are a breeze and it's nice to go to the gym or swimming pool and know for sure there's no slimy men lurking around! Also I've noticed as a woman it's perfectly fine to jump the line if there's no female section, nobody will dare protest a woman walking straight up to the counter.
8. Cheap Travel
Travel around Saudi and around the Middle-East is affordable. In the Kingdom the roads are mostly in very good condition and the petrol is almost free making driving around the country easy. Domestic flights and flights to neighboring countries are cheap.
9. Red Sea
I don't live on the coast, but just being so close to the Red Sea and being able to go to the beach or diving so easily makes for one of life's little luxuries. The Saudi side of the coast is still mostly untouched by mass dive tourism and reefs remain healthy and rich in marine life unlike the neighboring Egypt side. Farasan Islands is a paradise that only residents of KSA can currently enjoy.
Not all western influence is negative of course but some I'm glad we don't have to deal with in Saudi! for example, nightclubs, casinos and bars, what good do they really do for society anyway? They only cause trouble, fights, loss of income, deterioration of health, even divorces and one night stands among other things! At least in Saudi you don't have to worry about your spouse going to the nightclub, having a second living room in the pub or gambling all the family savings. (this is not to say such activities don't exist at all in Saudi, they do behind closed doors but not to the same extent).
Also, seeing how some teenage schoolgirls here in Finland were dressed today totally shocked me. They were coming from school, dressed in miniskirts and skimpy outfits (I swear one did not have pants on, just sheer leggings and a T-shirt) in full make-up and false eyelashes. It was -10c out. Seriously? They looked more like working girls than young innocent 13-year olds to me. I was really ad to see this trend that so small girls are thinking that their worth comes from looking like pop stars. That made me feel glad that my daughter won't be exposed to a culture that views this as acceptable and objectifies young girls in this manner. Meaning, she won't be under that kind of peer pressure to dress a certain way and to please boys.