Jessica Boyd has been working at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia since July 2009. She offers practical advice:
1) Where to get an abaya:
You can purchase an Abaya at the hospital gift shop and this will do until you can make a trip to Deira, a shopping souk, or one of the many malls.
My personal favorite is BeDoon Essm, which is located at the Al Faisaliyah mall and the Granada mall, because alterations are done at a low cost, plus the sales associate throws in a bottle of Abaya wash.
2) Avoid going out on Saudi National Day.
3) Always carry a scarf with you when you are going out, especially to the malls.
4) Also make sure your Abaya either touches the ground or is at ankle length since only your feet should be showing. Also wear high necklines.
5) My favorite spas are Yibreen and Mariyah Center (across from the Kingdom Mall)
If you want to save money, the hospital-provided shopping bus is your best bet. You may also fill out a form through the hospital-operated Hala Limosine and have a driver pick you up at specific times subjected to fixed rates. I strongly advise using the hospital transportation as opposed to the street taxis.
7) Always have a shopping buddy!
8) Try to stock up on groceries one week before Ramadan.
9) When you first arrive, remain patient and go with the flow.
10) Surround yourself with as many positive people as you can.
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