Saudi Arabia may not be the first place you think of when planning a tropical beach side diving holiday, yet Yanbu is one of the best dive sites in the world. Known as "The Pearl of the Red Sea", it is situated on Saudi’s west coast, around 180 miles north of Jeddah and 140 miles west of Medina. The city is known for its safe, warm, and fish-abundant waters, which make for great diving, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, and sailing opportunities all year round. In fact, pioneering dive expert Jacques Cousteau said that the diving around Al Hasani Island, just north of Yanbu, was second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. However, expats living in Yanbu should not expect an Australian-style beachfront lifestyle. Saudi Arabia is a strictly Muslim country and most local women and expatriates enter the sea in a variation of the abaya and hijab. There are private beaches around the Yanbu area, but women in particular should always be careful to avoid the attention of the religious police, or more conservative locals.
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Saudi Arabia’s vast oil industry means that expatriates have been moving to Yanbu and other Saudi cities for many years. Yanbu has a diverse expat population, with people commonly hailing from Asia, the Middle East, Canada, Europe and the United States. Before moving to Yanbu, make sure you know what to expect from expatriate life in Saudi Arabia. Alcohol is forbidden, and there are no cinemas or theaters. Women must wear a black abaya at all times, and a headscarf which covers their hair. While the west coast of Saudi is more liberal than some other parts of the Kingdom, it is still wise to follow the county’s Shariah law at all times. Read InterNations’ Expat Magazine for more information on how to best cope with life in a foreign culture, or get in touch and directly speak with other expats who are familiar with life in such an Islamic country through the InterNations platform.
Most expatriates working in Yanbu are employees of one of the many petroleum and oil companies which export from the city’s shipping terminal. Expats in Yanbu will have to get used to the Saudi working week, which is Sunday to Thursday, and to working days that are broken up by the daily calls to prayer. Most expatriate workers in Yanbu are offered on-off contracts, whereby they work for a set period of time, then have a few weeks off. Spend any ‘off’ time to get to know the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a bit better and travel off the beaten track to places such as Mada’in Saleh – a site of ancient ruins on a par with Petra, but barely visited by locals or tourists. Not many people get a visa to Saudi Arabia, so make the most of it while you are there. For more tips on getting to know your new host county, and to find out more about working life in Yanbu and other Saudi cities, sign up on InterNations and benefit from the combined experiences and knowledge of its expat members.