Business travel to Saudi Arabia?

<p>I have an opportunity to travel for business to Saudi Arabia. I would be going with my (male) client, who works for a multinational with a regional office in Dubai. (I am not sure if the company has a satellite office in SA or not.)</p>

<p>A) Not to be paranoid, but I'm Jewish. I don't go around announcing it, nor would I plan to, but my last name is one that could either be Jewish or German. (Think a name like Weiss, Klein, etc. -- could go either way.) Will this be a problem at any point? My maiden name is one of those more "overt" Jewish names so reverting back to that is not an option. </p>

<p>B) I have an Israeli stamp on my passport from a trip in 2007. Will this be a problem for getting a visa? Should I pretend I lost my passport and get a new one so I don't have the stamp? </p>

<p>C) I have heard that it can be problematic for two opposite-sex people (meaning me and my male client) to travel together because they can't eat together in a restaurant or even share a cab without suggestions of impropriety. Is there any truth to that? I've been told that it would be better to bring my (female) business partner along, that there is less of a problem with two women and a man compared to a woman and a man -- I can propose that to my client, but there's a healthy price tag associated with that so I'd rather not unless it's a real need.</p>

<p>D) I was told I should purchase a burkah here and that I have to wear it at all times -- does this extend even inside Westernized hotels? </p>

<p>Any other advice, thoughts or suggestions? </p>

<p>I would be going to Egypt on the same trip, but I don't anticipate those complications.</p>

<p>Can't help you, but have to comment that your business takes you to some interesting places. Weren't you also the one who was going somewhere in South America? Or am I confusing you with someone else?</p>

<p>Yes, I went to Brazil (Sao Paolo) a few months back and now this same client is looking to have us do work in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. </p>

<p>But with Brazil, the concern was more staying away from petty crime, inadvertently going into the wrong neighborhood and being mugged, etc. This is a whole other level when it's the power of the government involved in enforcement of religious law, with the power to detain, etc.</p>

<p>Can't help you with Saudi Arabia. Do you really have to wear a burkha????</p>

<p>My Jewish D is going to Abu Dhabi. No burkha needed there. </p>

<p>Other D wanted to go to Beirut, but we said we strongly prefer she not, and she has respected our wishes.</p>

<p>from the State Department.....</p>

<p>
[quote]
**Travel Warning
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Saudi Arabia</p>

<p>February 18, 2010**</p>

<p>The Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the security situation in Saudi Arabia and reminds U.S. citizens of recommended security precautions. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia. There is an ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida, who may target Western interests, housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas and other facilities where Westerners congregate. These terrorist groups may employ a wide variety of tactics and also may target Saudi Government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom. This updates and replaces the Travel Warning issued June 26, 2009, to note the authorized return of U.S. government dependents to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.</p>

<p>The last major terrorist attack directed against the civilian population was an attack against French nationals in 2007. Significant improvements in the capacity and capability of Saudi security and intelligence forces have greatly improved the security environment. Although much improved, the improvements remain fragile and reversible.</p>

<p>The Department of State has authorized the return of all family members to U.S. Embassy Riyadh. The U.S. Consulate General Jeddah remains an unaccompanied post. While these changes reflect the continued improvement in the security climate in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Eastern Province and Riyadh, it is important to note that there remains an ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida, who may target Western interests, housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas and other facilities where Westerners congregate. These terrorist groups may employ a wide variety of tactics and also may target Saudi Government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom. </p>

<p>U.S. citizens who choose to visit Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to avoid staying in hotels or housing compounds that do not apply stringent security measures and also are advised to be aware of their surroundings when visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners. U.S. citizens also are advised to keep a low profile, vary times and routes of travel, exercise caution while driving, entering or exiting vehicles, and ensure that travel documents and visas are current and valid.</p>

<p>From time to time, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia may restrict travel of official Americans or suspend public services for security reasons. Whenever threat information is specific, credible, and non-counterable, this threat information will be made available to the American public. In those instances, the Embassy and Consulates will keep the local American citizen community apprised through the Warden system and make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Warden messages can be found on the U.S. Embassy Riyadh website.</p>

<p>All travelers are encouraged to register their trip online through the Department of State's Internet Based Registration Service. Updated information on travel and security in Saudi Arabia may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 from within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.) For additional information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Saudi Arabia, and Worldwide Caution. </p>

<p>Also from the State Dept. site...</p>

<p>
[quote]
In the past, American citizens have reported being refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel, although this has not happened recently. Women visitors and residents are required to be met by their sponsor upon arrival. Women who are traveling alone and are not met by sponsors have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>more from State Dept......</p>

<p>
[quote]
The norms for public behavior in Saudi Arabia are extremely conservative, and religious police, known as Mutawwa, are charged with enforcing these standards. Mutawwa are required to carry special identification and usually are accompanied by uniformed police; however, in some cases they have detained persons even without police presence. To ensure that conservative standards of conduct are observed, the Saudi religious police have accosted or arrested foreigners, including U.S. citizens, for improper dress or other alleged infractions, such as consumption of alcohol or association by a female with a male to whom she is not related. While most incidents have resulted only in inconvenience or embarrassment, the potential exists for an individual to be physically harmed or deported. U.S. citizens who are involved in an incident with the Mutawwa should report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah or Dhahran.</p>

<p>The Saudi Embassy in Washington advises women traveling to Saudi Arabia to dress in a conservative fashion in public, wearing ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and not pants. In many areas of Saudi Arabia, particularly Riyadh and the central part of the Kingdom, Mutawwa pressure women to wear a full-length black covering known as an Abaya, and to cover their heads. Most women in these areas therefore wear an Abaya and carry a headscarf to avoid being accosted. Women who appear to be of Arab or Asian origin, especially those presumed to be Muslims, face a greater risk of being confronted.</p>

<p>Some Mutawwa try to enforce the rule that men and women who are beyond childhood years may not mingle in public unless they are family or close relatives. Mutawwa may ask to see proof that a couple is married or related. Women who are arrested for socializing with a man who is not a relative may be charged with prostitution. Some restaurants, particularly fast-food outlets, have refused to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative. In addition, many restaurants no longer have a "family section" in which women are permitted to eat. These restrictions are not always posted, and in some cases women violating this policy have been arrested. This is more common in Riyadh and the more conservative central Nejd region.</p>

<p>In public, dancing, playing music, and showing movies are forbidden.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>I've not been to Saudi Arabia myself, although I have been to other countries in the region. My understanding is that you need a visa to visit Saudi Arabia, and that normally visas must be obtained through application of the host business. So is the client (host) business of your client going to provide you a Saudi visa? It might be ticklish to ask them to do this.</p>

<p>In my experience, people who have Israeli stamps in their passport get new passports before traveling to Saudi Arabia. I'm sure the State Department has experience issuing new passports for this reason.</p>

<p>Isn't Islam great?</p>

<p>You won't find any defense of fundamentalism of any stripe from me, razorsharp. But I don't want this to turn into an Islam-bashing thread. I just want practical advice based on those who have traveled there for business recently, thanks.</p>

<p>*
A) Not to be paranoid, but I'm Jewish. I don't go around announcing it, nor would I plan to, but my last name is one that could either be Jewish or German. (Think a name like Weiss, Klein, etc. -- could go either way.) Will this be a problem at any point? *</p>

<p>You're right to be concerned. We have a Jewish last name and we're concerned because H has to go to Afghanistan on business. We're afraid that some nut will get ahold of his passport and make trouble.</p>

<p>My SIL was married to a Saudi and lived there for years. She is now divorced and living in the states. She did not wear a burkah in her western compound, but did wear one on the street. As a foreigner I don't think she was required to wear the burkah, but it just makes things easier. This was all before 911, I don't really know what the expectations are now. I do know I would be nervous. My brother was working in Afghanistan for while. They had constant private security.</p>

<p>PG, If you do go, can you please post/blog about your experience there? As for advice, what about your business partner or the host who is sponsoring the trip - will they be able to offer some information based on their prior experience with foreigners?</p>