Wanted: A Fake Iqama

I’m done with shopping malls in Riyadh. I used to complain all the time about the ban on single men there, but after four years in this town I guess I have come to accept the sad reality of human relationships here. These days there is something else that bugs me. It bugs the hell out of me, actually.

In the northwestern part of the city, you can find the Diplomatic Quarter, aka the DQ, which is basically a nice clean area where most of embassies and consulates are located as well as a group of government offices and other businesses. Most diplomats and embassies’ staff, and also some Saudis, live in the residential part inside the DQ.

Following the terrorist attacks in the country, security on the DQ gates has been much tightened. Entering the DQ has come to mean long waiting lines and slow check points. In other words, it’s become a hassle and such a crappy experience. That is, if you are a Saudi. For the most part, foreigners don’t have much trouble getting inside the DQ.

If you have some friends (Saudis or expats) who work or live in the DQ, then you can expect that every time you need to visit them that the security guards at the gates would give you shit for merely trying to enter what has become a walled garden.

Without a trace of a smile on his face, the guard would ask you: “What?!” You, trying to speak as politely as you can, would tell him the reason of your visit, which is either to see friends or for a meeting at some embassy or something in between, like a dinner with foreign visitors at Scallini, the only restaurant in the DQ.

First, he would ask you to show an invitation. But in this era of email and mobile phones, it is rather the exception to carry printed invitation letters, unless it was a very formal occasion. If you fail to produce the invitation letter that he most probably won’t read because he can’t understand English, he will tell you you can’t enter.

You tell him that you have an appointment and people are waiting for you inside but he is not buying any of it. If he is in a good mood, he would tell you that your host must come to pick you up from the gate. If he is in a bad mood, which is the case more often than not, he would say, “You are not allowed to enter.” If you dared to ask why, the answer could be “Just like that,” “These are the instructions,” or the dreaded “Mamnou3 dukhool al-3izab” (no single men allowed).

I understand the security concerns, but this crap we as Saudis face every time we need to enter the DQ is ridiculous. I don’t mind waiting in a long line at a check point. I don’t mind being a subject for any security procedure with any device as they damn well please. But being treated in this demeaning manner is unacceptable and conveys a bizarre discrimination. Imagine being discriminated against in your own country simply because you happen to be a native citizen?

Is it time to get a fake Iqama?

44 thoughts on “Wanted: A Fake Iqama

  1. Well, get married already, to a western foreigner. That would solve all your problems wouldn’t it?
    You won’t get any of the grief from the CPVPV you always post about that way either.

  2. ugh. sounds crappy.

    for a foreigner, nothing makes the ugly reality of western power quite as palpable as the privileges i enjoy in the middle east that are denied to citizens (and i’ve never even been to saudi)

  3. this country is not suitable for us … because the law apply on a certain people and it flexible for the others and u know what I mean when I say the others .

  4. Hehehe, or fake your gender :P
    I find it amusing sometimes to remember that there are privilages to being a female in Saudi, such as smiling to the guard while stating the purpose of your visit!

  5. Salaams,

    Well, gee whiz….just marry ME already! :-D I do not know you really, but you seem like an upstanding man. I live in the USA though. I know how the tribal rules are. ……I am older than you I am sure. I am 38. I lived in Bahrain for a time. I loved my life there.

  6. I understand your frustration. I’m well familiar with the difficulties faced in trying to manuver through an unfair system where certain members have more power/privilege than others. I hope it gets better for you!

  7. Forgive me if I’m being a little ignorant, having never lived in Saudi Arabia, but wouldn’t it make sense to have a telephone at the post where the guard is, and he can call the house (or mobile number) to make sure your visit is, in fact, legit? Or perhaps the people who invited you in could have your name written on a list at the gate. Sometimes I think that the powers that be in KSA sit around and try to figure out how to make life more difficult for the average person there.

  8. Sorry, I did snigger a bit when I realised how single men are discriminated against too. ;)
    It’s just abuse of power. Little people who have no other way of feeling good about themselves. I am sorry for you though.
    Alas, I’m too old for you too. I think saudi patriot thinks a little bit too easy about these things.

  9. Think of it this way, the DQ is not an amusement park! It’s a gated neighborhood where most Embassies are located with a residential part for some foreigners and high income Saudis (Given that the rent is relatively high). That being said, it is only normal that entrance would be controlled and that Saudis face some level of discrimination, since most likely the threat will be coming from us rather than a foreigner. Just like when a Middle Eastern looking dude gets pulled off the line or gets treated differently in the entry point of an American Airport.
    That is the thing with security, you can not suspect everyone and you can not suspect no one. There has to be a cut of point where some level of discrimination takes place.
    As far as visitors, the host chose to live in the DQ area, so it is his responsibility to come outside and pick you up, just like Aramco’s Camp in Dhahran.

    One thing you mentioned that I totally agree with is the attitude of the guards, and not only at the DQ gates, but all over the place; at check points, when they pull you over, at the police dept. itself and anywhere there is an encounter. They are really nice as people, but for some reason they are taught to be stiff and rude to civilians rather than firm and polite. Maybe that was the only way to go when we were building the country, but nowadays people expect respect.

  10. Abdullah, I see your points, but what really would be normal, what shóuld be normal, is: no guards, no checkpoints, and everybody just walking around, free to go where they like, when they like.
    (I know, in our dreams only)

  11. I echo Umm Daud. And yeah-you should try disguising yourself in niqaab-& pray they don’t catch on.

    A Portuguese friend of mine lives in Riyadh. She lived in Egypt where she accepted Islam and is now married to a Pakistani living in Saudi. She finds it quite stifling after Cairo…

  12. [unokhan] (c’est la vie, tu peux susser ma bite, fils de chienne).

    and hey Mr. Shakespear i live in the dq and 100% with the security not lettin stincky ppl like in it, we dont need air polution in it, u got any problem with what im sayin well come c me at guinean ambassy. dumb F**K, get better topics

  13. As one of those who, although my skin might be as brown as yours (in the summertime), was normally waved through that checkpoint at the DQ on numerous occasions, no doubt due to the Americanized accent of my Arabic, and perhaps the Toyota Land Cruiser I was driving, I thought I should share a few anecdotes with you to help place your justified personal anguish and frustration in perspective – it is a more universal problem that a fake iqama would not fix.

    What was once called “Eskan Village”, and perhaps still is, is located on the south side of Riyadh. It was / is home to the American military contingent in Riyadh. To enter, one first dealt with the normally courteous Saudi “red berets” who checked the invite list, then took you iqama, and gave you a temporary pass for entry, which must be returned at the end of your visit to retrieve your iqama. Then the real fun started. It was regular US military that would check your vehicle – and make you stand behind a curtain so that you could not see their procedures. The US military were trained to be quite polite – but also to suspect EVERYONE of being a potential terrorist. This procedure, being checked by my own nationals, never particularly bothered me, but my American friend, retired military officer, 20 years of service – this would drive him “crazy.” No respect for him as a former officer, he was just another potential terrorist.

    The “flip side” of this was dealing with my own American Embassy, something you also no doubt have done. Yes, true, I was normally waved through the main DQ entrance, but trying to get into my own Embassy was another matter. It was NOT American soldiers guarding the outside, but contractors from Bangladesh. One time I was called by an Embassy employee, told my requested passport was ready, and that I could come get it then. I arrive, the Bangladesh guard refused me entry, EVEN after explaining that I had just been called, and I gave him the name and extension of the person. “Come back tomorrow.” This was in the era before cell phones (yes, such a time existed), I returned to home, called, complained, and was eventually granted admission. So imagine it is one thing for one of your own nationality to be rude and capricious with you, but imagine your government hiring foreigners to do it! Entering my own Embassy, inspected by these folks would always raise my blood pressure, but my above mentioned friend, 20 years, US military, for some reason this did not bother him.

    Let’s leave all the “security concerns” of Riyadh behind. I’m in the airport at Orange Co., CA, known as “John Wayne airport.” It is a domestic flight. I have shorts and sandals on. Going through security, the familiar routine, all things out of the pocket, etc. Then I’m taken aside by an inspector whose first language is not English; rather ironically, given the circumstances that I am a Vietnamese War Veteran, he is Vietnamese. He asks me to take off my sandals – no problem. But then in this era of the “shoe bomber,” he asks to see the bottom of my feet!! At no time can one say – this is utter madness – you really would be taken away then for more extensive probings.

    Complaining about this intrusive, excessive and capricious behavior sometimes works. It remains amazing to me how few do, and are willing to move like sheep through this whole process, and accept it as normal for the rest of our lives, and beyond, because we must accept the so-called war on terror as something eternal.
    – John Paul Jones

  14. Ooh I hate when Saudis aren’t allowed entry somewhere.
    I’m sorry, but isn’t this my God damn HOME?

    And by the way, just say you are a guest of prince X (make up a name) and they’ll let you right in, with a “6aal 3umrak” to boot.

  15. Ahmed,

    If it is any consolation it is NOT only Saudis who face the challenges of entering the DQ. Even me, with my blond hair, blue eyes and American passport get routinely questioned and have documents checked. And of course when my Saudi spouse and I are together entering, we are sure to have all documentation substantiating our marriage as inevitably those questions will be asked, especially when it is an Arab looking male and obviously western female together.

    However as one who has been in the diplomatic service before marrying my Saudi spouse, I understand and appreciate the actions that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken to actively demonstrate its security practices and procedures. Unfortunately, anywhere in the world where there has been an incident or attack against civilians, stricter security measures will always be put into place. Given all the equities that the Kingdom has with the world, it will certainly take whatever actions believed necessary to protect the official installations and individuals living in those areas.

    You can also look at it this way…at least the DQ will allow Saudis to enter. Have you ever heard of “The Rock?” (aka Salwa Compound) This compound absolutely forbids the entry of any Saudi national. I find this a questionable practice given the compound is in the Kingdom, on Saudi property and I believe it is also under Saudi ownership. Go figure that one out!

    Best Regards,
    American Bedu

    • Hi…having read your post, 3 things stand out…
      1. The Rock compound is NOT Salwa compound…as far as I understand the Rock compound is Vernell Compound (sorry dont know the spelling).
      2. Salwa Compound does allow residents to have Saudi nationals as guests in their homes.

      3. I would be interested to know who you believe to be the owner of Salwa Compound as even the residents don’t know

  16. this DQ gate thing is bothering the hell out of me too. but i have to note to u a7med AND to Aysha, in this case there is not discrimination.. I’m a Saudi female and i was yelled at to return back the way i came from for forgetting my card that proves I’m a student at al manahil canter.
    i tried explaining that it is simply impossible for me to go and bring it without me missing my class but the guard continued screaming that its not his problem.
    it was AWFUL!
    so i forgot my card. do i deserve to be treated like a freakin terrorest?

  17. “Imagine being discriminated against in your own country simply because you happen to be a native citizen?”

    It happens to Jews in Israel everyday. The Government, in an attempt to appease the anti-semites, prevents Jews from building new communities, from legitimate protests, from making jokes about Islam, even from watching movies like Fitna.

    It’s just wrong!

    DoubleTapper, blogging on Guns Politics Defense from Israel

  18. Ahmed,
    Once upon time when I came to work here in Riyadh , I had an apartment in DQ. although it was so expensive .. but it was such nice , quite area to live in.
    but .. as you said .. since the 11/9 .. everybody start to have hard time .. our gusts can’t come in becuase of the guards .. ourselves having problems to go in .. checking our car , asking who we are??!! and then you after a long Hospital on call have to approve that you live inside the DQ!!!?? you have to swear to GOD ten times sometime with lots of please ..

    I left the DQ and I felt so sad about that .. but .. at least .. I got some of my freedom…
    thanks Ahmed and happy anniversary ..

  19. I cant say I relate to you Ahmad nor Abu Taza….Thank God So far…I had had a good experience both in DQ and US Airports…Just one incident that left me shaken till this date,in one of the US Airports.I landed in O`hare airport(Chicago) had a connecting flight to my final destination..The Immigration officer was reallly polite..I mean like really POLITE.Asking my reasons and how long Iam going to stay ..where will I stay.I Swear…He asked me for my phone number!!!! I couldnt belive it..Should I give it to him..Maybe he wont stamp on my passport if I dont!!!!…”..Ohhh I wish but I still dont have one…Dont worry I always use this airport..we might bump into each other ..”…Pheeeeeeeeewww.Spared…Never do I use that particular airport again!!!!

  20. Hi iam illegal man wallahi i live in Saudi Arabia / Riyadh..
    i come here in 2007 and i was 19 i come with my grandmother for 3emara and i send my grand m
    and i escape from jedda to Riyadh was i was thinking that i will live good live but its change a disastrous iam know with out no future no money and no iqama so i need deeply any think to continue my life in here riyadh i was told u will get a job if u have iqama and still i don’t have i live with my cousin who is worker lplease can any one help me i need fake iqama my email is
    bahalwayne@hotmail.com i will pay

  21. I was incredibly surprised to read this post. First of all, why are single men being discriminated against in this case? What threat do single men pose that others do not? Secondly, it is also surprising to hear that men have a difficult time gaining access to certain places. In the United States, where I am from, a woman in this situation would probably have a harder time mobilizing, simply because there is greater expectation for men to be involved in this sector of work. While this explanation is overly generalized, in my personal experiences it is most often the case. Though my country totes the notion of absolute equality, there are extreme disparities between gender, racial, and class categories, which surface when the issue of identity is questioned. Due to the knowledge and experience that I have of my own country, I was particularly shocked and interested to read that men in Saudi Arabia can be restricted access under certain circumstances. And even more so to learn that women may have a greater chance at entering the DQ.

  22. salam
    marry ME, i am 27, and i’m coming soon to Ryadh, I, am aslo a foreinger with all her rights (red passeport) and arab roots, i’m cute too, and really funny,……………….:D :D :D
    what’s your name??

  23. As someone who used to live in a British compound in which it was virtually impossible for Saudis to enter, I completely agree with you. We had good Saudi friends who invited us to their houses, and it was, quite frankly, embarrassing not to be able to reciprocate, especially in such a hospitality-driven culture. They were very gracious about it, knowing it wasn’t our decision, but that is a pretty shameful situation to face in any country, much less your own. Great blog, by the way, good luck in everything!

  24. Salams.

    I understand your frustration with this.
    The reason that US citizens can get in and out so easily is that we are “pre-screened”, that is to say, we carry electronic cards that can be read at a distance.
    It is not just the iqama you would need to fake, but also the RealID card, and everything, including biometrics, would have to match
    This is also true of US airports, having been pre-screened means instant access, but at a price, the government knows exactly where I am, at all times.
    I love the Saudi people, have dozens of friends, but avoid the Royal Family at all costs, as I have to explain myself, sometimes hours at a time, for every contact.
    If a member of the Royal Family were to give me something I will have to pay full taxes on it.
    It is cheaper to buy this thing from the sauk.
    So, this is a two way street.

  25. i am an indian 25 years woman, have got married to a guy who is an indian by nationality and working there in saudi ,we got married in india , I want to come to saudi , But my husband is not willing to take me over there, but m skeptical @ his motives and @ ny cost i want to come to saudi, Can ny1 suggest is there ny way out how to reach to him, Coz he is not piking up my calls,He is not contacting me also, i want to meeet him , Plzz suggest me smthng is ther ny way that i can coem to riyadh,,, plzzzzzzzzzz help me out :( :( :( D last tiem when we had spoken he said u can never ever reach me .. Do d hell u want to do …. M very tensed B4 taking ny legel action i wana meet him once … plz sugest me smthng ……Can i coem to suadi thru Tourist Visa ?????

  26. hmmm havent read all the posts… i hav been living in KSA for sum time now… came here in 1995 for the first time…

    n e ways… i would agree to the writer… that being single.. especially saudi.. is a bit tough in riyadh… Jeddah is pretty cool…

    BUT! yes.. the big BUT… always comes in between… if u wanna party.. u can… n e where in the WORLD! righto?? and.. trust me.. this is an amazing place to be! if u can!

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