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15 Everyday Things That Aren’t Legal In Saudi Arabia

Travel, World
15 Everyday Things That Aren’t Legal In Saudi Arabia

For every country, there are certain rules and regulations set by the government. A strict boundary is set between the things that are legal and the ones that are illegal. Legal being the ones that are allowed or prescribed by the laws whereas illegal activities are those that are forbidden by the laws or are against the laws and If one tries to break the rules and goes against the set boundary then he or she has to pay the penalty for doing so.

Saudi Arabia, the country that is officially called as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab state in Western Asia. It is known as the birthplace of Islam and like all the other country’s it has a specific set of laws that govern people and tell them the rules that they should abide by and the things that they should refrain from. The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, which is the Islamic law derived from Quran – the religious text of Islam, and other religious scriptures. Anything that is done against the Islamic laws is considered illegal in Saudi Arabia, and the penalties can be very severe for some. Here we’ve compiled a list of everyday things that have serious implications in Saudi Arabia.

15. Adult Content

via TheCultureTrip

Watching or having adult content in one’s mobile phone, tablet or any other such devices is illegal in Saudi Arabia. If people are caught in possession of or watching adult content they are instantly penalized. Customs officials are allowed to scan mobile phones at the airport and if they find anything inappropriate the phone is immediately confiscated and a person will get into serious trouble. Other than that, pictures of scantily dressed male/female models are also strictly prohibited. Saudi Arabia takes this issue very seriously. Even the naked arms and legs of women advertising a certain cereal product are covered over with a sticker or a thick black marker. Nudity in all its forms should be completely avoided if you’re planning to visit the country any time soon.

14. Taking pictures of buildings and people

via Parstoday

Taking pictures of beautiful buildings is so commonplace all over the world that most people will be shocked when they’re reprimanded for the same in Saudi Arabia. The government has forbidden taking pictures of government buildings, palaces, and military installments, making it not so easy for photographers whose specialty lies in landscape photography. One might face serious problems while taking regular holiday pictures of family and friends in front of any place significant anywhere in the country. In addition, one must avoid photographing local men without their permission. Taking pictures of local women is strictly prohibited and is penalized. The reasons behind these harsh regulations are complicated but deep-seated in the Saudi culture. There’s also a fear that pictures of women could end up online and might sully the reputation of their family or could be used by men for blackmailing them, a practice common in Asian countries.

13. Interaction between opposite genders

via National Geographic

Women of the country are not allowed to maintain an extensive interaction with men. Saudi Arabia implies a rigorous implementation of Islam and therefore the sexes have been segregated. Women are required to limit their interaction with the men to whom they are not related. There are separate entrances for women and men in buildings, offices, banks and even universities. In most parts of the country the public amusement parks, beaches and the transportation used by the public is also segregated. Unlawful mixing shall lead to criminal charges for both the sexes but women will always have to face the harsher punishment.

12. Eating Bacon


By the teachings of Islam, Muslims are not allowed to have pork or bacon. Saudi Arabia, being the country whose entire constitution and legal system are rooted in the teachings of Islam, doesn’t allow the people to have pork and therefore it is considered illegal. One should not tuck in a full English breakfast that includes a side of bacon or sausages and black pudding. Even importing pork products is forbidden. Therefore, when traveling to Saudi Arabia one must leave the thought to have bacon over there. Items that have pork content, either canned ham or tins or any pork flavored potato chips are also forbidden.

11. Consumption of Alcohol

via VerySmartBrothas

Like pork, alcohol is also prohibited and forbidden in Islamic teachings, therefore, the consumption of alcohol is strictly considered Illegal. Even the smallest amount of personal consumption is considered illegal, therefore, one must be cautious to leave such items back home while traveling to a country like Saudi Arabia. If a person is caught with alcohol the punishment is very severe, even if it was brought into the country accidentally. Even the consumption of alcohol, while the plane is en route to Saudi Arabia, is not allowed. If a person possesses alcohol or takes it for trade purpose then the penalties are severe and straight away leads to prison sentences.

10. Worshipping any religion other than Islam


Saudi Arabia is considered to be the birthplace of Islam and therefore it is the country’s official religion. The local people practice this religion and are taught to do so since birth. Therefore, Saudi people cannot even think of practicing any religion other than Islam. As a result of strict adherence having or carrying items that belong to any other religion is not allowed. It is against the country’s laws and is considered illegal for non-Muslims to worship in public. There is no church/synagogue found in the country and if one tries to switch or convert his or her religion then there is no less penalty than a death sentence.

9. Learning a musical instrument


Saudi Arabia has an active music industry but no one will ever find any musical instrument being played at a mall or department stores or even in the public schools. Music lessons are forbidden and illegal in public forums and a person will have to dig a little deeper to find someone who has the same passion for music as theirs. If a child wants to learn any such musical instrument then private tutorials should be taken, pursuing music publicly should be avoided at all costs. As is the case with every country, some rules are always broken and rock bands and people passionate about music still find their ways, but those too away from the public eye.

8. Trips to the movies


For the movie lovers, unfortunately, movie theatres and cinemas are nearly nonexistent in Saudi Arabia except for a few that are present in private camps. It is thought that cinemas are the grounds for men and women to mingle unsupervised which Muslims believe is against the moral code of their religion. Because of this belief, the country has made it illegal to visit cinemas and movie theatres. If one wants to watch the latest movies he or she must wait till the weekend when short trips can be taken to next-door-cinema-rich Bahrain to watch movies. Many Saudis spend their weekends on the island of Bahrain to spend some quality time with their families.

7. Physical activity and sports for women outside their homes


All the physical activities are thought to be solely for men and therefore practicing the physical activities for women are considered illegal. Most of the private gyms and the majority of the schools don’t allow or accept any female members. They do not even allow gym classes or physical education activities for the females. They are not even allowed to use the public swimming pools that are available to men and can therefore only swim in the private ones. Reuters editor Arlene Getz describes her experience of using the pool or gym at an upmarket Riyadh hotel and says that she wasn’t even allowed to look at them because there are male in swimsuits so therefore they should be used alone and privately.

6. Women being employed in fields other than Education and Medicine


There are specific jobs in Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to work, usually reserved for and given to men. Most job openings in Saudi Arabia prefer and employ men. Even if a woman is able to get an offer, she will need the permission of her ‘Mahram’ to practice or take the job in question. The opportunities to teach women are open to both the genders but being employed in any fields other than education and medical related fields is generally unacceptable and frowned upon. Although women have now begun to work in places such as stores (working as a clerk) and in department or grocery stores at checkout counters, they are still required to follow a much stricter code of conduct. Regardless of the job that they pursue, they are always asked to cover themselves and most importantly cover their faces while working.

5. Women traveling without permission from male guardians

via TimeDotCom

Women, in addition to all the above-mentioned points, are not allowed to travel without the permission of their male guardians, even if they are traveling out of the country. They are obligated to restrictive guardianship that governs almost all the aspects of their lives. There has to be a male guardian that gives a woman the permission to carry out most activities in everyday life. Travelling alone is forbidden and women are questioned if found doing so. If the father is deceased or absent, the consent or the approval of the brother, son, husband or any male relative is required. It’s safe to say most women don’t get to enjoy a girls’ day out with their other female friends unless accompanied by a male.

4. Women wearing revealing clothes and makeup


Under the rules and regulations of the government of Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to wear any such clothes or even makeup that can intentionally/unintentionally show off their beauty. They are supposed to cover themselves from head to toe while leaving their houses and Abaya is the official dress code for women that is governed by the strict implementation of Islamic laws. Abaya includes a long cloak and a headscarf. The face does not necessarily need to be covered but some employment conditions may require the women to do so. While all the different schools of thought in Islam agree that women should cover their heads, Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim majority country that has made this the legal dress of women and imposed it on them strictly.

3. Women conducting business without a male present


Women are supposed to ask or take permission from their sponsors while conducting any sort of business. This includes various things such as opening a bank account isn’t allowed without the permission of the husband nor is getting a car leased without the sponsors’ consent. A woman often has to call at least two men who can testify to the quality of her character and take responsibility for her actions before she can be granted a loan or license. Even applying for a national identification card or passport without the permission of a male guardian is not considered to be legal, therefore making a woman answerable for doing something that is made illegal by the government in case of noncompliance.

2. Eating at a restaurant that doesn’t have a separate family section


The mingling of males and females is not allowed and is considered immoral by the laws of the country, hence there are separate family sections made in the restaurants where families can have food and enjoy their quality time. But no woman is allowed to go to a restaurant alone that doesn’t have a women’s section or a separate family section. Due to the strict implementations of the laws, they are supposed to be with their sponsors and are not allowed to leave the house without them. Women are also required to use a separate entrance in some restaurants and sit where there is a family section made with a divider.

1. Speaking against the governing royal family


The house of Saud is the ruling family of Saudi Arabia and the most influential member of the royal family is the King of Saudi Arabia, currently King Salman. The royal family holds immense importance in the country. One of the things amongst activities considered illegal and not allowed by the government at all is speaking against the governing royal family in the country. It is said that in Saudi Arabia, if someone dares to speak against the royal family, it could cost him his life. According to a news report, Saudi Arabia has executed 47 people including dissident Shiite cleric Nimr al- Nimr who had, not once but repeatedly spoken out against the Saudi royal family and the government.

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