Modern Life in Saudi Arabia

Patricia sips a cappuccino by the sea. She sits in a little coffee shop, where a wide window gives a generous view of palm fronds, lush trees, and the Arabian Gulf. Red and white carnations rest in a delicate glass vase behind her.

“Just starting my day in this little café … the ocean’s right outside there. It’s really, really pretty,” she says. “I’m having a cappuccino and then, I guess, I’ll do some shopping.”

Patricia is the Nursing Program Director of Critical Care at a large tertiary acute-care hospital. I found out about her leisurely morning by the sea from a vlog-style video she posted on her YouTube channel.

In another video, Patricia, sporting glamorous cat eye sunglasses, walks back from lunch. Her blonde hair blows freely, her lipstick is carefully applied and her nails are a manicured bright pink. She would not look out of place strolling down a New York street after a corporate lunch.

“People are very, very nice, very polite, very friendly,” she remarks, brushing hair out of her face. She chats happily about her beautiful workplace and the fine dining dinner at the Ritz Carlton that she enjoyed the other night. She continues,

“I’m walking to work. I’m wearing my abaya. You have to wear your abaya outside, but they are becoming a little more understanding in the sense that women really do not have to cover their hair.”

Where is Patricia vlogging from? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where she has lived and worked since August 2017. She worked first in Riyadh and is now at the Royal Commission Hospital in Jubail, on the east coast of Saudi.

Saudi Arabia has recently been making headlines. In June, news of Saudi women’s right to drive blazed through the international media, with CNN calling the development a “Landmark day,” and The New York Times reporting that “The decision won near universal praise in Washington.”

Articles about women legally attending soccer matches, the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, the Kingdom’s first fashion week, and the opening of cinemas all point towards positive development in the Kingdom. And the headlines crowing change are not limited to Western media – Arab News also boasted of cinemas opening and runs numerous articles about Saudi female entrepreneurs.

These developments are in large part due to Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, who is on a mission to propel aspects of Saudi culture into a Western sense of modernity. Some stereotypes surrounding the Kingdom may not be unfounded, but the changes we have seen lately are undeniably significant.

Patricia speaks to these developments in a video titled “Thinking of working in Saudi Arabia?”

“I adapted really well. You have everything here,” she remarks. “You have restaurants, you have shopping, you have events going on that you can partake in, activities and various groups.”

She pauses to show decorative water fountains in a spacious courtyard.

“At night they’re really pretty. They have all different colours.”

She adds,

“My experience here has been wonderful. To anyone who’s thinking about it, life is short, you only live once. It’s a great experience.”

*Watch more of Patricia’s adventures here. *

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Social Life in Saudi Arabia

Like anywhere else, the social life in Saudi Arabia is what you make of it. There are organized trips to historical sites, sports competitions, and other recreational activities. Dinner parties, desert parties, and beach parties are common. There are concerts at embassies and expatriate-operated amateur theater and musical ensembles. more