Celebrating 5 Years of KAUST

I wrote a bit about the 5 year anniversary a few weeks ago. Now that the main celebrations have passed, I wanted to follow-up and take a moment to share a few of the highlights.

The 5-Year Anniversary Photo

The most impactful commemoration in my opinion was a group of people self-organizing to take a 5-year photo at our main monument, the Beacon. Note the little, bitty people making up the “5 Years” in the photo below:


Photo used with permission from Luca Passone

This wasn’t quite as big an event for many people as the festival that was planned for months (which I discuss below), but what it demonstrated to me was community pride, a real-world appreciation for and application of technology, and community members coming together to co-create something special.

A small group of dedicated community members worked together to plan the event, set the “stage”, solicit volunteers, get the mini helicopter with camera working for the event, and create a really wonderful video from the footage. I imagine this was a tremendous amount of work – and I’m blown away by the outcome.

Here is the video they produced:

KAUST 5 year tribute from Luca Passone on Vimeo. Video shared with Luca’s permission and under creative commons license.

If you’re interested, you can read the full write-up of the work from the organizers. And, WELL DONE to the organizers and participants of this impressive project!


The 5-Year Festival

A big, community-wide event was also planned to invite the entire community to celebrate the 5-year anniversary. Working in the President’s Office on a separate project, I have been listening to the planning and organizing for about 3 months and was getting tremendously excited for the festival! It did not disappoint!

It had a county-fair-meets-circus feel to it, with people on stilts, games for all ages with prizes, food from vendors in Jeddah, and lots of performances from abroad like a fire show and magicians, as well as community-artists. There was even a huge 3D light show over the harbor. It was really quite impressive.

Here are a few photos that were shared with me from the event:

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Photo used with permission from the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

Credit: Meres Weche. Photo used with permission from the photographer. All rights reserved.

The 5 year celebrations really made us think: “I can’t believe they pay us to live here”! Great job to everyone who worked on these projects!

Importing Your Dog from USA to KAUST

In an earlier post on this blog, I shared our dog import story. It wasn’t a very happy story, and the upshot was basically: “Don’t do it the way we did!“. In the 3-years since we moved here, I’ve always hoped to follow-up that post with one which says the right ways to import a dog to Saudi. I finally found it! I met a man who recently moved to KAUST named Jason Schrum. He was kind enough to share his story and lessons learned here on the blog, so others can learn from his SUCCESS!

I hope this will be of some help to those of you moving your dog from the USA to KAUST. And, I think there is some juicy info in this post for people moving their dog to Saudi in general – not just from the USA and not just to KAUST. Especially the point about not flying your dog as cargo, as we mistakenly did! 

Quick disclaimer: These things change frequently. Please do your own homework on all of this, and use Jason’s experience only for information gathering purposes. His experience may not be representative of yours.


Here is Jason’s dog, Stella, at KAUST

Jason P. Schrum; August 2014
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Pet Import Permit Guidelines USA -> Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Like many people, when I was considering the opportunity for a position with KAUST, the ability to bring my dog was a major factor in whether or not I would be able to make the move. As I looked into the process in a bit more detail I found the entire process to be rather daunting and cumbersome due to the number of requirements, seemingly tight timelines, expenses, and apparently high rate of unacceptable outcomes.

Many people use pet relocation companies to handle the entire process. However, I did notice these are both expensive (I received quotes >USD 6,000, not including vet fees) and error-prone (dogs held in quarantine due to errors or restriction with the paperwork linked directly to the logistics of the relocation, unfavorable Port of Entry – dogs routed through Riyadh and long drives across the desert to Jeddah; moreover, pet relocation companies ship your pet as Cargo, which requires you to have your Iqama first, etc…).

Since a lot of the unfavorable outcomes appeared to be related to Cargo Transport (which, beyond the Pet Import documents and requirement to have your Iqama first, actually require an entire additional set of paperwork for Cargo shipping), I chose to eliminate cargo transportation from the picture entirely and look at only Excess Luggage or In-cabin options. This effectively reduced the burden to only Pet Import documents and this process is described below. Large dogs are able to be transported as Excess Luggage, but you must follow the crate requirements carefully and coordinate with the airline in advance. In my experience, I strongly recommend Lufthansa as the carrier given their exceptional track-record with pets and I really can’t endorse any other airlines to handle pets after hearing stories from others, unfortunately.

The entire process took about 3 weeks and I had my Import Permit a full week in advance of my flight and at a significantly more reasonable cost point.

All the information below was heavily informed by the experiences of people from KAUST, Aramco, BKS International, and Arabian Kennels that I was able to connect with before I moved. Thank you to those of you who were involved.

Process and Order

  1. Confirm ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15 digit pet microchip.
  2. Rabies Vaccination Certificate between 30 days and 12 months prior to entry into the country
    • Three year vaccination is not accepted; vaccine must be at least 30 days old (not 21 days as required for the EU)
    • Signed by hand, not stamped. Preferably in blue ink
  3. Two Copies of the USDA APHIS form 7001 completed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian (one issued within 30 days before travel and one within 10 days of travel; make sure your vet is actually USDA-accredited); These forms are only good for 30 days; the first form is required for the Import Permit, the second is for the airline and to cover any potential concerns at Customs upon arrival
    • APHIS form 7001 for the Veterinary Health Certificate must be accompanied by the Rabies Vaccination Certificate (e.g., DD Form 2208); the APHIS form must state that it is a guard dog (in Block 9 of APHIS 7001);
    • 6 digit National Accreditation number; and state license number
    • Signed by hand, not stamped. Preferably in blue ink
    • Verify all the information is correct before you leave. For example, our vet did not include the name of my dog on the form. They also did not include the date the vaccinations were given (only when they were due again) – so, both my dog’s name and the date of vaccination had to be added onto an amended form.
  4. The Veterinary Health Certificate must have an accompanying Cover Letter from your vet on their letterhead, addressed to the Director of Customs, Saudi Arabia. I wrote the letter myself and had the veterinary office print it on their letterhead and sign it in blue ink. This document stated all of the following:
    • a. The animal is up-to-date with its vaccinations and does not have rabies or any other disease.
    • Statement of the overall condition of the dog and that the dog is fit for travel
    • Indicate on the paperwork that the dog is being imported as a guard dog (e.g., Labrador Guard Dog) and that the dog is required to accompany you.
    • Name of the dog (dog’s first name and your last name)
    • Gender; Spayed/Neutered – adult dogs must be altered
    • Age (years; months)
    • Microchip number (write out the15 digit code and state that the chip is ISO-compliant in the letter)
    •  Owner’s name (As it appears on your Passport, Visa, and Employment Letter)
    •  Name of employer (KAUST, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia)
    • Job title (As it appears exactly on your Employment Letter)
  5. Medical Record with Vaccination History with Microchip Information listed
    • Signed by hand, not stamped.
  6. Export Certificate within 10 days of departure (was not needed)
    • Signed by hand, not stamped
  7. EU Pet Passport updated within 10 days of departure, if available/needed (was not needed, but had papers for Germany anyway, just in case)
    • Tick and de-worming entry to be added no more than 2 days before departure

Authentication and Endorsements

  1. Veterinary Health Certificate APHIS 7001, 2) Rabies Certificate, 3) Vaccination Record, 4) Parasite test results, 5) Cover Letter, and 6) Medical Record must then be verified by:
    • USDA APHIS office in your state. Recommend driving to the office directly, or FedEx overnight
      • They will stamp your APHIS form only and need to see the Rabies certificate
    • US Secretary of State Authentication Services
    • Royal Saudi Embassy or consulate endorsement
      • Strongly Recommend FedEx’ing to WPVS (contact info below) for the US Secretary of State and Royal Saudi Embassy steps; the aforementioned items will be returned to you grommeted together; ensure all documents are present:
        Washington Passport & Visa Services, Inc.
        2318 18th Street N.W., Suite 200
        Washington, DC 20009
      • NOTE: You do not need to send a copy of your passport and, technically, do not need to have your Visa issued at this stage, though you will need to have the Visa to proceed once you receive everything back – and recall this needs to be completed within 30 days.

While the documents are getting endorsed (between 5-8 days time), collect the following:

  1. 3 Photos of your dog (Front, Side, one demonstrating no aggression [e.g., playing with a small child])
    • Pictures should be austere, and preferably outdoors, cropped to show only the dog.
  2. Copy of passport and visa
  3. Copy of employment letter
  4. KAUST GASC Import Slip – Ask your relocation advisor for the GASC email address.
    • They will email you a scanned color copy of the stamped Letter

Import Permit Agent

  1. The Import Permit Application Document will be completed by the Import Agent after receipt of documents from you.
  2. An import permit is issued from the Ministry of Agriculture at the proposed Port of Entry. Permits must be issued and used at the same port (e.g., Import Permits issued in Jeddah require the dog to arrive via Jeddah; Import Permits issued in Riyadh cannot be used for a Jeddah Port of Entry)
    1. Acquisition of Import Permit from Jeddah Port of Entry only:
      Arabian Kennels: Mr. Mohammed Azzouz – The General Manager and/or Anees Afzal Mughal
    2. A customs declaration upon arrival.

Submission of paperwork for the Import Permit

I initially contacted Arabian Kennels one full month in advance of when the papers would be ready to send to them (about 2 months before my planned arrival at KAUST). The point being to confirm what documents they may need, pricing, and any other details, as well as to introduce myself to them. It should go without saying the emails should be very courteous since Arabian Kennels is getting the Import Permit for KAUST personnel as a courtesy – to the best of my knowledge, no formal agreement is in place between KAUST and Arabian Kennels. It may take a couple days for them to respond.

About 10 days before my flight I scanned all the documents (in color) and sent them an email telling them which airline I was flying on (again, with pets, you should really only consider flying Lufthansa or KLM with minimal connections) and that the dog would not fly cargo (dogs are, in fact, permitted in the cabin on Lufthansa, provided they meet Lufthansa guidelines – otherwise, fly your dog as Excess Luggage – the luggage handlers at King Abdulaziz International airport are, in my experience, extremely efficient – my bags are always waiting for me by the time I clear passport control (~10-15 minutes after the shuttle arrives to the terminal); state: no cargo. I also stated that I would assume responsibility for transport to the final destination at KAUST. If any concerns were to arise in the process, I also requested them to contact the KAUST Government Affairs office at the phone number provided in the KAUST letter as it was critical to obtain the Permit.

List of documents sent to Arabian Kennels to get the Import Permit (scanned together as a single PDF, 13 pages in length; NOTE: the complete veterinary medical record was not submitted with this package):

  1. Letter of Support from KAUST GASC
  2. Copies of my Visa and Passport
  3. Authenticated and Endorsed Health Certificate from the US Department of Agriculture, United States State Department, and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. (less than 30 days old at the time of arrival) – Scan front and back of the Authentication page to demonstrate both the US Secretary of State signature and the Royal Saudi Embassy endorsement on the back of the front page
  4. Certified Rabies Certificate
  5. Certified Letter of Support from our Veterinary Doctor verifying status as a Guard Dog, Health, Vaccinations, Microchip, and fitness for travel
  6. Certified Vaccine Certificate
  7. Certified Test Results demonstrating no parasites
  8. Photos of dog showing front and side view as well as an image with a baby to demonstrate no aggression.
  9. Image of banned dog list from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture demonstrating the breed is not a banned breed. The image can be found here, though I have no idea if it’s official)
  10. Copy of my KAUST Employment Contract

NOTE: If your dog appears on the banned breed list, your dog will not be given an Import Permit from Jeddah. If your dog is <35lbs, it may be considered a “toy breed” and will not be given an Import Permit from Jeddah. In either case, you will have to identify an alternative pathway. I have heard other people successfully route through Riyadh.

Arabian Kennels got my Import Permit ~3 days after I sent them all the paperwork (this included the time for a weekend). They demonstrated the Permit was issued with a black and white scan. In order to receive the color scan, I wired the payment to their account in Jeddah, sent them the transfer receipt, and confirmed they received the transfer. They then emailed me the color scan of the Import Permit. All in all, I had the Import Permit within 22 days of starting the process and one full week in advance of my flight – all took place at the end of Ramadan and over the Eid holiday.

Other Sources of interest:

  1. Arabian Kennels, Jeddah, KSA
    • Phone: +966 2 616 40 30
    • Email: info@arabiankennels.com
  2. BKS International Pet Shipping, Inc. Houston, Texas, USA
    • Jane Edwards
    • Phone:+1 713 466 1378
    • Email: petsandplanes@aol.com
  3. Pet Imports Saudi Arabia Facebook Page
    • This is managed by Joy Neumann. She strongly encourages people to read and review her site regularly.

Good luck and Happy Flying!


[Update September 25, 2014: Here is some info on exporting your dog out of Saudi Arabia once you are here!]

Entrepreneurship at KAUST

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.41.08 PM

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Gordon McConnell, the Acting Director New Ventures & Entrepreneurship, in the Entrepreneurship Center at KAUST. He was telling me about all the programs they have for both students and community members here at KAUST.

Avid readers will know that I have a passion for social innovation and using technology to improve/build communities. While my focus has mainly been large nonprofit organizations, I have also worked with many small nonprofits and socially-focused entrepreneurs to help them with their communication, online presences, PR, networking, and other related efforts. So, when Gordon told me that there would be free classes for anyone wanting to learn about business and entrepreneurialism at KAUST, I was blown away.

That’s right: I said free classes for anyone wanting to learn about business and entrepreneurialism at KAUST. Maybe I’m just a geek, but that is something I think should be celebrated in a big way!

So for those of you who are interested in business classes and entrepreneurship events, and you are located here at KAUST, check out their lineup events…. I hope to see you there!

You may also wish to follow the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center on Twitter and the Saudi Startup Scene on Linkedin.

Celebrating Home: KAUST’s 5th Birthday

Photo by long-time KAUST resident Marcos Aguilar. View on Instagram

KAUST recently completed its 5th Academic year. As such, the University is throwing itself a birthday party chock full of 3 days of activities highlighting academic and community life. This event has been in the planning for months with many, many people working tirelessly to make it an event to remember. It’s an exciting time for the University. An opportunity to move out of its infancy, an opportunity to reflect, and an opportunity to envision the future.

The 5 year anniversary celebrations were also the catalyst for us to look inwards at ourselves and our 3 years at KAUST. As we reflected, we found that we have played a (very small) part in shaping the university, but more interestingly the university has played a large part in shaping us as individuals and as a family.  We like the direction that both are heading in!

We also realized how our attitude has shaped our experience since we moved here. We operate under the assumption that we will spend the next 20 years at KAUST. I think this may be the single most important factor in our happiness here at KAUST. It shapes the way we operate every single day.

We aim to build a better university and a better community because we are emotionally invested in the long-term. For my husband, playing the long-term mindset means he makes good decisions at work. Not just decisions that will get him through the next few months, but decisions that will help the University succeed over a long period of time. For me, it means that I make good decisions with my community efforts – through work, volunteering, and even in my social life. We both aim to build long-term, sustainable solutions to enhance our adopted home.

I’ve written before about how we often hear people talk about how they plan to come here for 3-5 years and then move on to the next gig. While we totally respect that attitude – especially for students – we find that people with that attitude don’t get as much satisfaction out of being here at KAUST.

Yes, something – anything – could cause us to change our plan to stay in Saudi. We know that, and we plan for that too. But we like it here and we look forward to seeing where the university and the community that supports it will be in 20 years time. It’s amazing how attitude and mindfulness can really shape perception and I’m so grateful for this realization.

Apply to Attend the Middle East Youth Leadership Jam

Are you a changemaker in the Middle East?
Do you want to connect with other Middle East changemakers?
Are you free November 7 to 14?
Are you aged 20-40(ish)? 

I really encourage you to apply to the Middle East Jam in the beautiful Wadi Rum in Jordan this fall. It’s an opportunity that I believe will be life changing for the right people. If I were not having a baby around that approximate time, I would definitely be applying myself!

According to their website, “This Jam will connect 30 diverse, engaged and committed leaders from around the region, for a week of deep listening, sharing, self-discovery, systemic inquiry, and community building.”

What I like most about these Jams is that they are all about building community, capacity, understanding, and impact. They are also very interested in bringing a diverse audience. The events are part structured and part open-format which gives participants the opportunity to create their own reality from the event. I think an event like this can be a really strong catalysts for both ideation and self-improvement – and for meeting and talking with people you might never otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

Yes! is doing great work all over the world, and I see a huge opportunity for projects like this to create benefit for diverse audiences of young people all around the arab world.

If this sounds like a good opportunity for you, check out the Jam invitation and apply by August 22.

Our Third KAUSTiversary!

bikes at KAUST

Three years ago today we moved to Saudi. We didn’t know what we were in for and that was part of the allure. Every time I have moved to a new country (to study in New Zealand, to live in the UK, and to live in Saudi), I have had this  very particular and hard to define sense of blankness when I boarded the plane. The sense of a blank slate and an opportunity to redefine my life. It is an incredibly liberating feeling.

Living in Saudi has changed me. It’s made me more patient and more relaxed. It’s made me much more realistic (what happened to my youthful idealism?!). It has made me live a quieter life that is much more focused on my family and close friends. It has turned me into a parent. Most scary of all, it’s turned me into an SUV driver.

I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity.

One of the frequently asked questions you hear among friends and colleagues here at KAUST is “how long do you plan to stay here”. Most people will tell you 3 years, or 5 years, or “until I’m done with my PhD”. Our answer is different. We plan to stay here as long as life is good. If Kevin’s job continues to go well, if the schools stay good for our children, if the health care stays good for our family, and if the community life continues to be vibrant, then I can certainly see us as being “lifers” like so many of our friends who grew up at Aramco have become…. (or maybe we’ll see another bright shiny object and move to another wonderful place that will change us in equally wondrous ways?)

As the university matures, I see so many positive changes in the way that it operates. I am quite active in encouraging the community to be one which I would like to stay in. I wrote a bit about this in my President’s Task Force Post. All of this really plays a big role in the being the change you want to see in the world theme that I wrote about in last year’s KAUSTiversary post.

So this year, I invite the rest of the KAUST community to join me. Join me in allowing Saudi to change you. And join me in being the change you want to see in your world!

You have to watch this: The KAUST Rap

Every year KAUST hosts a talent show for community members to show off their skills. This year, there were all sorts of talents – some musical performances, dancers, actors, and there was even a baton twirler!

The winner this year, Brit Jenkins, blew away the crowd with her KAUST-themed original performance. She started with some classical vocals, but it quickly became… well.. you’ll just have to watch to find out.

(This video has been shared with permission from the performer.)


You’re invited! Wednesday Coffee Mornings at KAUST

IRC View

View from the IRC Cafe. Photo used with permission. Courtesy JD D’Antoni.

I am a big supporter of community-driven activities – with that in mind, I want to be sure to help support a great community-driven event that happens every week here at KAUST: Wednesday Coffee Mornings at the Island Rec.

Awhile ago, some non-working ladies began meeting at the Island Recreation Center for coffee and breakfast and a beautiful view every Wednesday morning. Now, it is an established event and an excellent example for the rest of our small community.

Have you recently moved to KAUST? This is a great opportunity to get out and meet people.

You’re Invited!

The idea is simple, and everyone is invited-

What: Wednesday Morning Coffee Meetup
When: Every Wednesday morning – around 8:30 to 10:30am
Where: Island Recreation Club Cafe
Description: Come and bring a friend for Wednesday Coffee Mornings at the IRC Cafe or poolside if the weather is good.


What about my kids?


My husband and son at Playland

Good news! Just yesterday it was established that the Playland facility will be open on Wednesday mornings! So, to all you stay-at-home parents of young kids out there, you can now come and enjoy a coffee with some new or familiar faces while your kids tire themselves out in the 4-story play facility.

The new Wednesday operating hours are: 8:30-12pm and 2pm-8pm.

A big thanks goes to my friends at Saudi Oger for opening the facility on Wednesday mornings, in response to the request from this group. I hope it will prove to be a worthwhile endeavor!

The KAUST President’s Task Force: Maturing a Young Community

Recently, KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau invited community members to join a task force to help make recommendations towards improving our community. Specifically:

The President’s Task Force is your opportunity to be part of shaping future community, arts and cultural programs, events and activities at KAUST. My hope is that we can build upon our success by asking, what is missing and how can we improve?

The task force will have two simple goals:

  • To gain broad community input about community, arts and cultural events and activities to enhance the social and life experience at KAUST; and
  • To recommend ways we can improve our coordination and communication to support existing and future activities and events.

If you know anything about me, you know I was eager to jump in and get my hands dirty. So I applied and recently was asked not only to be a member of the Task Force, but to Vice-Chair it as well!

I am beyond honored.

Since my arrival in 2011, I have been active in the community, trying to ensure KAUST is as inviting and livable as possible. I see the President’s Task Force as having the same goal, and I hope that my participation will have a positive impact for the group and its goals.


What will it accomplish?

We already have a great community here at KAUST which gives us a strong foundation to start from. We’re aiming to bring some brilliant minds  together to make things even better.

I think that The President’s Task Force has the potential to put great grassroots ideas into action. If living at KAUST has taught me one thing it is that anything is possible. I am excited for this opportunity to collaborate with our most passionate community members to create a better place for all of us to live and work. And I can’t wait to see what we come up with.


Maturing a young community

The “KAUST founders” moved here five years ago. Before that, KAUST was a construction site. Before that, it was sand.

In just five years, we’ve gone from faculty and staff going to work in construction helmets without any amenities at all to an established and fully functioning town. We now have pools, restaurants, sports teams, dive trips, concerts, meetups for kids, and even an annual community talent show. We’re a small town but we’re resourceful and we’re growing up fast.

I like to think that in those five years, we have moved along a continuum from a new community towards an established community. It’s no longer the case that you have to get out of KAUST to experience some culture and have a bit of fun. There is a lot to offer here – and a lot more to come.

An offer to all KAUST community members

Do you have big ideas for our small community? Share them in the comments below and I’ll do what I can to get your ideas heard.