Considering a position in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia?

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A guide to Riyadh

Preparation is the key. Read our guide on what to expect…

Riyadh, Saudi’s capital city, is home to some of the most state-of-the-art and respected hospitals in the world. Although English is the working language within these health settings, anyone moving from the western world to take up a position in the Middle East will no doubt be fascinated by the historic culture that remains in this region. To make sure it’s a move that works for you, take a look at our top tips below:

A different culture

Before taking a position in the Middle East, it’s important to have some knowledge of the Islamic and Arab world in general. Although a fascinating place to live, Riyadh is a conservative city whose culture is strongly influenced by the regions religion: Islam. Muslims pray five times a day (at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall) and prayers can last up to a half an hour during which time shops and restaurants close. In health settings, a patient’s wish to pray must be accommodated, which may affect their treatment schedule as well as the way they’re positioned in their room. For non-Muslims who are planning to live or work in Riyadh, we recommend a book called Islam for Dummies which provides a fascinating insight into the world’s second largest religion.

In public areas, women are required to wear an abaya (a black, lightweight cloak that drapes over your clothing) and a scarf to cover their hair. Men are also required to dress modestly - no sleeveless shirts, or shorts. At home, at private events and under your abaya, you may wear whatever you wish so you’ll still need to take all the clothes you’d normally wear at home including swim and gym wear. Public displays of affection are also severely frowned upon and rude behavior, abusive language, drug and alcohol use are all punishable crimes, allowing for a pleasant atmosphere across the city.

Men and women

Men and women are generally regarded to be spiritual equals but they have different rights and expectations depending on which part of the Middle East you live. Riyadh, being one of the most conservative cities, has some of the most defined expectations for both males and females. Men are forbidden from entering women-only shopping areas, malls, restaurants and bank branches. Women and non-Muslims are typically forbidden from entering mosques.

In hospitals and medical centres, female nurses and technologists will work with both female and male patients. Similarly, doctors and those working on rapid response teams or in ICUs can treat both sexes. However, male expat health professionals should be aware that interaction with local women will be different in the Middle East, with some local women avoiding contact with non-Muslim men.


Expats in Riyadh can enjoy a fantastic social life and plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Your workplace and compound will organise parties, excursions, concerts and other events. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia and women are not permitted to smoke in public. Although this seems very extreme, many of our female nurses tell us that, after a while, they noticed how the atmosphere seemed much more social and inclusive. Off compound, unmarried couples are not allowed to travel or dine together without being in the company of a married couple.

English is the working language in all health settings in Riyadh. Western health professionals are very popular so you’ll find yourself working alongside plenty of Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders. Some patients may speak only Arabic but the hospital will provide translators.

The shopping is fantastic and you’ll be able to buy almost all of the brands you’re used to at home. Trying on clothes can be a problem for women but there are women's-only malls which accommodate this. The souqs, with their traditional foods and locally-made products, are well worth a visit.

The working week is Sunday to Thursday and, of course, you need to be prepared for the heat which can reach up to 50 degrees in the summer months.


Most expat compounds offer bus or shuttle services to and from your place of work, nearby shopping centers and any excursions or events organised by your compound community. Aside from this, most men travel around the city in their own vehicles or by taxi. From June 2018, women will also be allowed to drive, but until then personal drivers or taxis are the most common ways to get around.

Male expats can drive with a foreign or international driver's license for up to three months, after which time they're required to apply for a Saudi license. Cheap fuel and low import duties also offer expats the opportunity to access vehicles that they may not have been able to afford at home. Roads in Saudi are generally long, straight and in good condition, so will be pleasant to drive on.

Expats rarely use public transport in Saudi Arabia. There are city buses and an integrated bus and metro system is planned for 2019. However, women are not permitted to travel on buses.

An amazing experience

Working for a year or two in Riyadh is likely to be an unforgettable experience, not to mention a lucrative one (income is tax free). We currently have a number of opportunities for both male and female nurses and doctors who are interested in relocating there.

If you’re interested then please do contact us on +44 (0)207 959 1105 or or register with Pulse here.

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