Situated north of Mecca, Medina is Saudi Arabia’s second most holy city. Also known as Madinat Al Nabi, or “The City of the Prophet”, it is the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad and home to some of the oldest and most significant mosques in the world. The Prophet's Mosque, which was built by Muhammad, is known as one of the largest mosques in the world, while the Quba Mosque is famous for being the oldest mosque in the world. Due to its sacred status, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city center. For Muslims living in Medina, life is similar to that in any other Saudi city. There are no cinemas, theatres or music venues, so entertainment relies on traditional activities such as shisha pipe smoking, storytelling, camel racing and attending mosque events. Those who are planning on joining the community of expats living in Medina can expect a quiet, religious lifestyle in one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating cities. If you have any questions about Saudi laws and the Islamic lifestyle, simply ask another expatriate on one of the InterNations discussion boards or in our forums.
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Before moving to Medina, or anywhere in Saudi Arabia, you must be absolutely certain that your visas are in order. Visas are processed at the Saudi embassy nearest to you, and it can take weeks, or even months, to clear each applicant. You will have to leave your passport at the embassy while your application is being processed, so don’t make any travel plans during this time! It is also a good idea to read up on Saudi law before moving to Medina. Saudi law is very different to Western laws, and a lot stricter than traditional Shariah law, so make sure you are aware of the dos and don’ts before making your move. Other expats living in Medina or elsewhere in Saudi Arabia will reassure you that moving to a Saudi city is an interesting and enlightening experience, and as long as you follow the rules there is nothing to be worried about. Check in with the InterNations community and get in touch with fellow expatriates in Medina if you have any queries or concerns.
Like other Saudi cities, Medina follows the traditional Islamic working week. Office hours are Sunday to Thursday, with time off for religious holidays. Work will pause during the daily prayers, and some offices may close early during Ramadan to accommodate those who are fasting. The easiest way to get around Medina is by car, as public transport is quite limited. Women are prohibited from driving, and are also banned from many jobs, so any female expat working in Medina will rely on a male relative to drive them around. Arabic is the national language of Saudi Arabia, and it is widely spoken in business, along with English. It is worth picking up a few words in Arabic to impress your new colleagues – check out the InterNations forums for tips on learning a foreign language.