Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ma'salama, I'm Leaving Saudi

You're invited to my Ma'salama - I'm leaving Saudi.  That invite, or something similar, arrives in my e-mail on a fairly regular basis.  A ma'salama is a farewell party, though the literal meaning of the word is 'Peace be with you'.  People tend to celebrate leaving Saudi permanently.  We're getting out.  Woohoo good for us.  Never mind you losers still left here to suffer...that's the general feeling put out there anyways.  Though, believe it or not, I've met people who admit they are actually going to miss the place.

Yes, there are some folks who are sad to leave Saudi.  They have enjoyed their experience, which doesn't mean it was all smooth sailing, they just took Saudis quirkiness in their stride. For all its 'weirdness' Saudi isn't that bad a country to live in, as an expat.  We're a very welcoming community (mostly) and it is possible to do whatever you want here if you look hard enough.  It's that sense of community that people miss once they get back to their rat racing homelands.

Heck, I even know a number of people who left with a 'Cheerio, I'm never coming back' and a year or two later, here they are again! (I don't reckon those types should get another crack at a Ma'salama - not unless the second time round is substantial, like 20 years!)

Anyway, Ma'salama parties come in all shapes and sizes - the formal occasion, the small dinner party, the compound shindig or the desert blow out.  I guess it depends how many friends you have and what kind of circles you circulate in.

Some people don't have a ma'salama.  They sneak out in the dead of night, only telling their nearest and dearest they are leaving.  Usually that's because they have been sacked.  Or they're doing a runner.

Hubster says its not easy to sack someone in Saudi because the Labour Law is quite clear on the when's, why's and how's of any dismissal,  but it does seem to happen quite frequently, the typical 'we have to let you go' reason being 'We don't have a role for you here anymore' or
'We're not renewing your contract'
'Why not?'
'We're just not.' - which isn't actually a sacking, though it feels like one.

I understand those who do runners usually have a lot of debt they're trying to escape, though I know one guy who went out on holiday and never came back because his boss had started being a prat.  Generally speaking, if you do a runner you should have no intention of ever coming back to Saudi because re-entry could be very problematic for you.

Whether you choose to end your contract, or it is chosen for you, once you're on a Final Exit you have to rattle your dags because without a job you shouldn't be staying in the country and Final Exits usually come with a time frame for getting your exit visa sorted and your heeny on a plane.  Women who leave Saudi for good swear black and blue they are going to the airport without an abaya and wearing a mini-skirt.  Alcohol at the Ma'salama party is usually responsible for such promises.

We had two Ma'salama's at the end of Feb, both were quiet affairs - one a picnic in the desert, the other a quiet afternoon by the pool with some very zesty apple juice.   Mr UK has headed back to English shores and The Americans are off to Europe.  We will miss Mr UK popping his head out the window for a chat and No 4 won't be the same without The Americans sitting on their patio.  But life in Saudi is a revolving door of people, so we're looking forward to seeing who will be sitting on the patio next month, and who might be popping their head out the window.

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