Andreas Haberbeck is a partner in the Jeddah office of Hatem Abbas Ghazzawi & Co.

Postcard from... Saudi Arabia

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Readers' comments (23)

  • You are talking and mentioning all the good part of life in KSA. I am sure that they are true. If this is the case then KSA should be everybody"s dream. But it is not. Why? Because there are other heavy factors that make life in KSA difficult.

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  • Yes, sounds great... you didn't mention the added attractions of beating your missus, beheading the infidels and marrying 6 year olds. Who's hiring?

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  • Anonymous | 24-Mar-2010 10:34 am, with some minor tweaks, your comments apply more to the catholic church than Saudi. I suggest that you suck and see (before being so judgemental!).

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  • Interesting to see the inevitable and stereotypical comments - both in the article and in the comment section.

    I eagerly await for the postcard from Paris that complains about Muslim girls being prevented from dressing as they wish, or the postcard from Switzerland that complains about the building restrictions on places of worship.

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  • My mistake. Given the basic human right of freedom of religion doesn't exist in Saudi and such things occur in the Catholic Church, Saudi of course is free of such horrors. "Moreover, women are not allowed to drive", what a disgrace making such a flippant comment and selling one's soul for a few bucks.

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  • You're right, such atrocities therefore couldn't happen in Saudi with no freedom of religion hence Catholic Church

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  • "Most expatriates live in high security compounds" - sounds charming.

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  • I know about Saudi. I'm a woman and I have been there a lot. It is a hard hard country for women. The comments are accurate. There is no stereotyping going on. Think carefully about going. And it is more dangerous than this article suggests unless things have changed recently-there is a reason for the high security. I think it is probably OK for men aprt from the security issues-at least you can move around freely without being hassled by the religious police -unlike women.

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  • Re-Anonymous | 24-Mar-2010 12:11 pm
    "I suggest that you suck and see (before being so judgemental!)." Don't advise sucking in Saudi. Could end up with some serious consequences.

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  • The cultural relativism espoused in some of these comments here makes me sick. The fact that Swiss citizens voted (by referendum) to prevent the construction of new minarets in no way is in the same ballpark as a medEVIL theocracy which tortures its citizens, beheads homosexuals, and keeps women locked up at home. Furthermore the cynicism of the writer and the corporate law firms which seek to operate there in pursuit of a quick buck is absolutely reprehensible.

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  • Don't go to Saudi. Come to 'business friendly' Bahrain. You can have some of the restrictions of Saudi and some of the 'delights' of Western culture all at the same time. It is here that the Saudis themselves come in great numbers!!

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  • And next weeks postcard come from...

    ....

    ...

    ...

    Mogadishu!

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  • As an expat lawyer who actually LIVES in Saudi (Riyadh), I find the "postcard's" decription actually pretty fair and accurate. These are really the +/- of the country in a nutshell. (I have been here for about 5 months.)
    Don't come if you're single (let alone if you're a single woman, which is borderline impossible anyway), but if you have young kids it's actually a pretty good life... The various expats communities are extremely warm an welcoming, no doubt because of the country's adverse conditions in many areas.
    But overall, lawyers and other expats here are pretty happy -- in fact many have been here for much longer than they initially thought they would, and have a hard time going back to Europe!
    I personally don't like Dubai, which I find to artificial and 'bachelor-centric', but if you're looking for a good middle-ground between Dubai and KSA, Oman and Abu Dhabi are probably the right spots.
    Cheers

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  • To the expat lawyer who 'actually LIVES' in Saudi. I am thinking of moving to Saudi - can you advise on any synagogues in your area which my family can attend and where it may be possible to buy kosher food ?

    thanks

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  • Anonymous | 29-Mar-2010 1:01 pm shows complete ignorance of his/her own faith - why don't you put your narrow prejudice aside and learn a bit about Islam before spouting off. If and when you finally grow up, you'll realise that there's no actual difference between halal and kosher meat and that muslims and jews have a great deal (may be too much) in common. Wake up and smell the chicken soup!

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  • Anonymous @ 29-Mar-2010. This is how Saudi is,nobody is forcing you to come here, and nobody is forcing us to stay here. We can pack and leave at any time. Stop your racist comments this is not going to help expats currently living in Saudi.

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  • Ananymous @1.01 (29 March) - what an utterly inane and ignorant response to a very accurate and balanced comment.

    FYI there are Jewish communities in both KSA and even Yemen.

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  • Anonymous@1.01 I suggest you ask why there are no synagogues in the Vatican first before asking if there are any in Saudi.

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  • Lewis - "the cynicism of the writer and the corporate law firms...is absolutely reprehensible." I'm sure you'll be a far more effective advocate of change preaching to a choir or just boycotting those with whom you disagree. But if you're seeking moral clarity, may I suggest another profession?

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  • Chosen Few - though similar, there are significant differences between halal and kosher. Just because two systems both ban pork and share certain other similarities doesn't mean "there's no difference."

    Shellfish? Cheeseburgers?

    That said, the best hot dogs have always been Hebrew National - which, while both kosher and halal, are alas, not to be found in Saudi Arabia.

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  • This is not an accurate description. What about Mutwa (the vice and virtue squad who can arrest you and molest you for almost everything and nothing). Single males are not allowed in public places on weekends (at least in Riyadh).

    Also, how many of the $600bn worth of projects are actually going on? The banks are extremely cautious of lending in the Saudi Arabia. There is no real M & A market to speak of and other practice areas are about a 1000 years behind the rest of the world. Having lived and worked in Saudi for an international law firm I can assure you that the work isn't as glittering as it appears. The legal system is a joke and the enforceability of any documents against Saudis even a bigger joke. Every year that you spend in Saudi you move two years behind in terms of actual knowledge and experience.

    Also, procuring visa's for your family is a nightmare. My advice stay as far away as possible from Saudi. No amount of money is worth the pain and there is a lot of it there!

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  • I have been in Saudi (Riyadh) now for nearly three years. I am a corporate lawyer and this place is a career disaster. There is no M&A activity, no capital markets activity, and nothing but an endless stream of incorporation, foreign investment licensing and basic advisory work. Many practitioners here with international firms have been sold a myth and this "Postcard" is just another version of the myth.
    Saudi is different in many respects from anywhere else I have experienced, and I have worked in Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. While Jeddah may have a relatively vibrant expat social scene, it is another story in Riyadh. There are endless disruptions to your life and I would advise anyone thinking about a career out here to do some real due diligence before you come here. It may well offer a job during a slow period elsewhere, but are you really ready for life without culture (no cinema, theatre, art galleries), limited contact with females and the endless intrusive paperwork.
    There are some good aspects to living here, but it's just hard to think what they are.

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  • Re: corporate work & capital market work, the above bleak comments are certainly accurate. People here do JVs instead of M&A, so the level of sophistication is not as high as in other GCC jurisdictions.
    Re: visas: 100% correct! The process goes from painful if you sponsor has high-level connections to nightmarish if he doesn't.
    Re: enforceability, the court system et all: isn't this true of all GCC jurisdictions? Many standard international practice contract provisions would not fly before local courts (and the same issue would arise in terms of enforcing arbitration awards). Most of the provisions of the GCC mega-deals haven't been tested in courts -- this is not Saudi-specific.
    Re: "how many of the $600bn worth of projects are actually going on? The banks are extremely cautious of lending in the Saudi Arabia", I respectfully disagree. The major-scale projects are indeed going forward. Actually, the Saudi Gov is more than happy to make the point that - as opposed to some of its less fortunate neighbors - it doesn't need foreign or even local lenders to carry its projects forward. The Yanbu financing is evidence of that. The High Speed Train project is on track, and the major other PPPs are gong forward (they're generally delayed but this is because projects are always delayed around here, i.e. delays are not cause by the credit crunch).
    Cheers

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