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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia

World is a messy place …

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Abdhul Rahman is a mid forties Bangladeshi national selling Miswaak in front of my mosque. It is a very common practice here in Saudi Arabia, where labour class does day jobs to earn decent money in order to support their families back home. Like Abdul Rahman there are thousands of other Bangladeshi national working different jobs in one single day.

Rough estimates suggest that there is a population of 5.6 millions foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and 0.1% of them makes Bangladeshi national. And of these 0.4 million Bangladeshis, if I am not wrong 98% of them does what Abdul Rahman do for living. Most of them doing regular jobs as tea boy or office cleaner, in afternoon selling Miswaaks or water bottles and mainly washing cars as side business. We have to admit one thing that they are business oriented; I wont be wrong in saying that Bangladeshi labour class is hired on just 400SAR per month salary but with their side businesses they do make more than 4000SAR per month; but surprisingly their lives never seems to have changed.

I have been seeing Abdul Rahman doing this work for more than 15 years now, and he is still sitting there selling Miswaak, he also does car washing in the evening which surprises that has he not earned enough in 15 years to elevate himself from this work and do something extra-ordinary or atleast go back home to Bangladesh and do decent investment to live a respectable decent life; it does amazes me. For example, if he sells 5 stick of Miswaaks in one day, 2 SAR piece so he must be making 300SAR per month; and if he washes 2 cars in one month on daily basis for 50SAR each, he must be making 100SAR; total being 400SAR in 30days period, 4800SAR in a year and 72000SAR in 15years i.e. 1368000BDT. Don’t you think 1368000BDT is enough to set up a decent earning business? I know I am getting crazy; but at least this much could have forced him to move out of street shop and car washing business. Yes it does surprise me.

But my surprise give me answer after I analyse the how world economy and businesses have been effected over 15 years. Rise in cost of living, food prices, real estate hike and Wars have no doubt affected every single person living on earth. But Mustafa a car technician from Pakistan has some other story to tell.

Mustafa a Pakistani national is in his late 40s and a professional car technician. I was told that my father has been his customer since 1983, i.e. even before I was born. At that time he uses hold his personal tools and standing outside different workshops just to grab a customer to fix minute faults in a car. But now to my surprise, after more than 25 years he owns 4 of his personal workshops with more than 20 employees working for him. He and his family are living a decent life with his kids studying to be professional engineer.

So what was different for Mustafa than Abdul Rahman, has he not been lucky enough, or the profession he selected was not worth paying or may be his the will power was not that strong? I don’t know what it is; but I know me and my family has spent more than 30 years living and working in Saudi Arabia. Thanks a million to God that HE gave us the best life we wished for and my parents has a very decent and respectable living environment back home in Pakistan which now we are enjoying. But there is always something which stops you; there is always an excuse that we should go on working before settling permanently to Pakistan. Excuse of political turmoil in Pakistan, economic instability, insecurity, lack of basic needs and facilities; I am sure Abdul Rahman also have a fair list of excuses which stops him from doing something different and stops Mustafa to leave Saudi Arabia. World is no doubt a messy place to live in.

Written by Junaid

August 4, 2011 at 3:19 AM

Posted in Life

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An Interesting Taxi Driver

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I was assigned job by my current company in eastern region of Saudi Arabia. I stayed there for almost 6 months if I am not wrong, which made me come back and forth to my home after every couple of weeks. Either I take car or train or even sometimes go by flight.

This time I decided to take plane to eastern region which is 1 hr 30 min flight and as the airport is almost 60 km out of city and heavy traffic on the road can keep anyone on the road for more than an hour from airport to city centre. I took taxi from King Fahad International Airport Dahran to my office on Khobar-Dammam highway which took me one hour, where I met a very interesting taxi driver.

Initially we talked in Arabic; he was trying to speak in a way so I can understand. He was from old eastern city of Hafouf and was dressed traditionally; the way normally eastern region residents do. After having brief introduction in Arabic my knowledge of Arabic reached its limit I gave up and told him sorry that I am not able to understand you.

Out of no where he said, “Do you speak English?” I was no doubt surprised to see an english speaking educated taxi driver where the core language is Arabic. From here we hit it of, he took much interest in Pakistani culture, he asked me from he can buy Pakistani stuff especially Pakistani clothes. I told him the thing I know. But the conversation got more interesting when he come to know about my telecommunication profession.

He took many ideas from me saying that he want to make his taxi a well-entertained ride by putting screen in his car with internet facility. He asked whether it is possible or not, I informed him the latest internet technology available these days and time might come that you will have internet everywhere in every single device. I did want to make the conversation much technical so thought this information might be enough.

But that was not enough; to my surprise he took one dairy out of dash-board and said, “This is my traveller’s diary.”  For the first in my life I met a taxi driver who is interested in making his ride more entertained and keeps travellers diary where every visitor put his comments. He told me to write whatever I want to and I can read the comments put by other riders too.

There were comments by south-african, by British, by Saudis, Pakistanis and many other nationalities with suggestion and even complaints about the problems they have faced during their stay in Saudi Arabia. Well I was so impressed by his concept of keeping his taxi that I wrote two page long letters, where I praised his work, put something about myself, my country and invited him to visit to know my people more closely.

Well in nut-shell, it was no doubt the most interesting one hour of taxi ride. And I started believing, no matter what you do, whatever profession you have; it’s up to you how you want to enjoy it and make it more entertaining for you and for people around you. May be his small contribution is just another small way to make this world a better place to live.

Written by Junaid

March 2, 2011 at 1:08 AM

Posted in Life

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Who took my chicken!?

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Hey there! Happy Chinese new year to you.

I am sure you must have enjoyed and celebrated the event a lot. You must have visited your family, your grand mother prepared tuanyan dinner for your, you watched tv, played cards, enjoyed colourful fireworks. You must have run after your mother to get money to buy paper lamps, woke up all night and chatted with your friends.

Keeping that in mind we thought why not to celebrate this New Year by our own way. We all agreed to gather to the roof top of ZTE apartment building and do … BBQ!!!!

Isn’t that amazing? Some of our friends bought chicken wings and sautéed them with spices so it can be barbequed. We all gathered at night, picked our bbq sticks, lit the coals and started barbequing the wings by ourselves; it was kind of self-service.

We all took spicy chicken, stuck it to the stick, oiled and put them on the coals to be cooked. But all of sudden we noticed that our wings started missing. Oo my god!! We got chicken wing thief among us!!! We got to catch that culprit, but all in vain; seems the thief must have been the hungriest person among us.

After filling our tummies and having cold drinks, we took guitar and started playing “beautiful melodies”. I should emphasize on “beautiful melody” with commas as it was the divesting melody we our listened. We engineers are good at handling network but today it proved that we can be the worst of musicians. Hahaha … it was fun playing guitar and teasing everyone with his own style of melody.

It was getting late but no one was willing to go back home, we decided to leave for some cafe outside to have something to have drinks and smoke sheesha. We spend almost all night and came back home after having great chit-chat and thinking about of our families at home.

It was fun and never forgetting night, but the chicken wing thief was still not found. We satisfied ourselves by thinking that chicken wings must have flown away by itself.

Happy New Year People!

May this year bring peace and blessing to whole world.

Written by Junaid

February 7, 2011 at 10:20 PM

Blueness of Red Sea

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I have seen many beaches and seen many waters ways, rivers and seas around the world, but none of them compares to beauty and aggressiveness of Red Sea. Red Sea is located in Arabian Peninsula and borders Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Eriteria. The historic city which resides on Red sea shores is Jeddah.








Excavations in the old city suggest that Jeddah was founded as a fishing hamlet in 500 B.C by the Yemeni Quada tribe, who left central Yemen to settle in Makkah after the destruction of the Marib Dam in Yemen. Other archaeological studies have shown that the area was settled earlier by people in the Stone Age, as some Thamudi scripts were excavated in Wadi Briman west of the city, and Wadi Boweb, northwest of the city. It was visited by Alexander The Great (356 B.C. – 323 B.C.).








This city rose to its importance when the third Caliph of Islam Uthman bin Afan made it the gateway to Holy city of Makkah. Now Jeddah has the largest and oldest King Abdul Aziz Sea Port which is the business hub and stay point for the ships crossing the red sea going towards Suez Canal. This is also the entrance point for the pilgrims trying to enter Makkah through Sea.









I have got chance to visit and view the beautiful corniche of Jeddah; it was adventurous and mesmerizing experience. Sitting on the rock in the middle of sea and cold splashing waves of water trying to push you on the ground was the never forgetting experience.

Written by Junaid

January 25, 2011 at 10:39 PM

Historic Town of Badr

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The small town of Badr, located 130 km south-west of Holy city of Madina in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Though it only covers a couple of square kilometres of area but enjoys great historic significance.

When Last Prophet of God Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) left Makkah in 622 AD, towards Madina making it the first Welfare state of Islam, it was obvious that He would face resistance from his opponents. This opposition took the shape of war in 624 AD, which came to be known as Battle of Badr. That’s why this small town stores 1400 years long history.

Thanks to my job, I got a chance to visit this town. After visiting sites in Madina we left towards Red Sea town of Yanbu, we took small detour on our way to Badr.  The Battle field is still preserved where all the martyrs are buried. Because of intense security we were not able to take pictures of graveyard, but there proudly stands a monument with the names of martyrs engraved on it. I am honoured to have visited this historic place

Badr Monument

Written by Junaid

September 11, 2010 at 12:00 AM

OFW(s) ruling the Kingdom …!!

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Philippine is the 12th largest population with total of 92 million people scattered in 7107 islands in Western Pacific Ocean. The skills, commitment and hard work of its citizens are highly respected as overseas migrant workers around the world. OFW is Overseas Filipino Worker; this term was first introduced under Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos ACT of 1995 to protect the rights of million Filipinos working abroad. This ACT is 43 sections long explaining the rights and laws to protect and help the OFW(s). According to Section 2(c) of Republic ACT; “… the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development”. “The State, therefore, shall continuously create local employment opportunities and promote the equitable distribution of wealth and the benefits of development.” And Section 4 states: “Deployment of Migrant Workers – The State shall deploy overseas Filipino workers only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected.” Government has created societies like Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in every country to help and protect right of their workers.

According to unconfirmed sources there are estimated 11 millions Filipinos working around the globe with highest number of almost 2.8 million in US, around 1.5 million in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in hundreds of other countries. These 11 million makes almost 11% of the total population and contribute around 10 billion dollars every year in Philippines economy which makes 15 % of total GDP. In 2009, the amount of $17.348 billion was sent to the Philippines by Overseas Filipinos, highest among prior years in which Saudi OFW(s) contributed 1.4 billion dollars. But why Saudi Arabia!?

Saudi Arabia is oil based economy possessing 25% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves with GDP of $592.886 billion as of 2009 estimate. 7 million labour forces are required to run its machineries and 80% of which are overseas migrant workers. Average wages in Saudi Arabia hover around 75 – 96$ and 6 – 9$ per day depending upon your nationality, skill and professional; which is also tax-free with benefits like housing and medical insurance. Even after last year’s world financial crisis; World Bank declared Saudi Arabia as strongest Arab economy. All these conditions make Saudi Arabia the best choice to work. According to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); Saudi Arabia welcomed 123, 048 Filipino migrant workers in 2009 among which 48,109 are female; it is highest number of migration.

These 1.5 million OFW(s) are posted in every city, every field and literally every company inside Saudi Arabia. Working as Head Nurses to helpers in every big hospital like King Faisal Specialist Hospital, King Khalid and National Guard Hospital. Taken over posts from Project Manager till technicians and even tea boys in all the major Telecommunication operators like STC, Mobily and ZAIN. You will find them working in every shopping mall working as shoppers and helpers. You will find them in very home as house; and as managers, chefs and waiters in all Fast food chains of Saudi Arabia. Thus you will find them everywhere.

Filipinos has proven themselves as very big, active and vital community in Saudi Arabia. The Business centre of Riyadh (Batha) has converted into Mini Manila with many shops, malls and restaurants run my Filipinos themselves. The cooperation and operators has to offer special packages to attract this 1.5 million community; as they know they are playing vital role in Saudi Arabia’s economy. They are living as one big family and they work and intermingle with other nationalities very easily. They don’t separate themselves as other Western, European or Chinese community does here.

Despite all the riches and benefits, they do face racism and abuse like all the other nationalities does in every other country. Al Jazeera has shown their problems and miseries in their documentaries like “Working for Nothing and Migrant workers”. So I thought why not to directly ask them; how they live, what they do and why they selected Saudi Arabia?

Erick has been working as engineer in telecommunication sector for almost 9 years. Due to boom in telecommunication and power field in Saudi Arabia; electrical engineers are in high demand. According to POEA; 919 electrical engineers migrated to Saudi Arabia in 2009. I thought to ask Erick what he thinks about working in Saudi Arabia and what his take on increasing OFW population.

I:         What is the situation of jobs for telecom engineers in Philippines?

ErickJob market for telecommunication is very good in Philippines. Initially it was totally in control of government operator but after lot of foreign investments, private operator started doing business, which created many jobs.

I:         Were you enjoying your job life in Philippines?

ErickYes, I was very much enjoying. Esp. when I was about to leave Philippines I was team leader and many engineers were working under me.

I:         What made you leave Philippines; is life difficult there?

ErickLife is not difficult there, it depends how you want to live, depends upon your life style. But nowadays taking care of family is getting difficult because of high prices and taxations.

I:         So family finances was main reason to become OFW!

ErickYes and No. In these days of high prices it has become very hard to take care of family, daily expenses for good education for my kids. Though I was enjoying my work but not satisfied with salary. One is not able to buy land, property or do investments for future. This made me think of working overseas and I also want to have new experiences.

I:         Why you selected Saudi Arabia?

ErickIt was by chance, it was the only option available at that time.

I:         What benefits OFW enjoy in Philippines?

ErickEvery government try to give different facilities, benefits to overseas workers. For example, previous government used OFI (overseas Filipino investors) instead of OFW trying to give us opportunities to make large investments. OFW can get loan on easy terms and sometimes government also wave taxes depending upon the investment.

I:         How overseas Filipinos are treated by people back home?

ErickWe are treated as “Heroes”. Whenever we arrive in Philippines we are given VIP welcome, whole family is there to receive. Even on airports we have separate immigrations lines and while leaving we don’t even have to pay terminal fees. People organise dinners and you have to give PASALUBONG.

I:         PASALUBONG?

ErickPresents, souvenirs people bring for their loved ones. We have to take care of pasalubong, especially for kids.

I:         And what benefits you have in Saudi Arabia?

ErickGovernment has representative offices of OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) in every country, even in Saudi Arabia. They help Filipinos in different problems like handling legal matters, court cases or helping the Filipinos who face abusive treatment from their sponsors, unfortunately most of them are house maids. Secondly many Filipinos have made many communities like educational community, religious community even sports communities. We are lucky enough to have helpful and productive communities here.

I:         Have you every faced any professional difficulties in Saudi Arabia?

ErickNo, never in profession. I have been lucky enough to work with good institutions.

I:         How is daily life in Saudi Arabia?

ErickLife is simple but very boring if you are single; as there not many activities to do here. Yes, we really admire family life here as you get a lot of time to bond with your wife and kids. Family life is relaxing here.

I:         Do you think your life has changed in Philippines because of your overseas employment?

ErickYes definitely, no doubt about that. I have been able to buy property, I have been to give good education to my son and Alhumdulillah enjoying and getting everything we wish for.

I:         In last, do you recommend others to come to Saudi Arabia?

ErickWell, NO.

I:         And why is that?

ErickFor financial stability and savings, Saudi is very good option; but culturally it is not. Filipinos face cultural difference here and also religious as Saudi Arabia is 100% Muslim country; we Christians have no religious independence here. And secondly I am not satisfied with the education level of school for my son. I want my son to have degree from highly respected schools. Beside school, kids don’t get much chance to enjoy outside life. So Saudi Arabia is good option but not best one.

Sarah has been working as beautician for four years. This profession is in high demand; 314 Filipinas migrated to Saudi Arabia as beauticians. Got a chance to discuss with Sarah how she thinks about her stay in Saudi.

I:         Why you selected to become OFW?

Sarah: I decided to work abroad because I believed that this was the easiest way for me to have any investment; not only for my self but also for my family. Because in Philippines the rate of my salary was not sufficient, everything in Philippines is expensive.

I:         How is life in Philippines?

Sarah: The life in Philippines is very comfortable because your family is always there for you to help and support, but it gets very hard too in case of finances.

I:         Do OFW(s) have any benefits in Philippines?

Sarah: OFW have a lot of benefits in Philippines. Like SSS (Philippine Social Security System) which gives financial support in case of sickness, Maternity, Retirement, Death or funeral or in case of any disability. And Programs like Philhealth which is National Health Insurance Program. So we enjoy many benefits back home.

I:         Why you selected Saudi Arabia, any special advantages for OFW(s) here?

Sarah: I choose KSA, because this is the only country that had a ready visa, very easy place to go. I don’t have any benefits or any advantages here from my employer.

I:         What do you think about Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)? Is this society active in KSA?

Sarah: OWWA! You can’t really depend on them. It is very difficult for them to come here. You will be very lucky if they can help you.

I:         How life is in KSA as family and single?

Sarah: Life in KSA is very different, difficult, sad and boring. If you are a single here, you feel alone, only friends can give you any support.

I:         Do you think anything changed back home in Philippines because of your work here?

Sarah: KSA and my work have really helped me. Now I have a little investment in my homeland, Philippines. And I can help my family too, esp. their financial needs.

I:         Will you recommend your friends to come and migrate to Saudi Arabia for employment?

Sarah: Well if I have a friend who wanted to work abroad, I will not recommend KSA, much better if they try to work in other country. I am also hoping that one day good opportunity will come for me to go in any other place, not again Saudi Arabia. I can’t fulfil my dreams here. I want freedom and open country.

It was really great meeting both of them and getting to know about there stay in Saudi Arabia. Now I decided why not to talk to someone who is now living and working in Philippines and looking for any opportunity to work abroad. I got a chance to have online interview with James who is working in Sales department in one company for last 3 years in Manila.

I:         Why Filipino wants to go overseas?

James: Reasons why most of Filipino wants to work overseas is lack of job opportunities in the Philippines and low rate of salary. They think that working abroad could help them give their family a better living because of high paying jobs.

I:         Which countries mostly OFW(s) go to?

James: Countries mostly Filipinos go to are Middle East countries, European countries & America.

I:         What benefits do they have in Philippines?

James: There are some benefits & special programs for OFW(s) in Philippines. I won’t mention all of them; but they do enjoy special treatment.

I:         Do you see the life style difference of OFW(s) in Philippines?

James: You will see different life style of those Filipino with a OFW relative. They can send their children in a nice school, built their own house etc, if the one received remittances spend the money wisely.

I:         Do you think Philippine cannot live without OFW(s)?

James: If there are enough jobs in the Philippines I don’t think Filipinos have to work abroad. But since it’s one of the major problems here, lots of Filipinos will still go and find their luck in other countries.

We can guess from the above interviews that people do enjoy the salary and benefits they receive while working in Saudi Arabia, but their main concern is cultural and religious differences. But whatever opinions may be; Saudi Arabia no doubt is the hottest market for migrant workers due to its stable and growing economy. Not only OFW(s), Saudi Market welcomes foreigners from every part of the world; Pakistanis, Indians, Africans and people from other Arab countries have already taken over Saudi job market and working in every field and every post.

Written by Junaid

June 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM