Shipping our Dog to Saudi Arabia (part 2)

By | July 25, 2011

The following is a guest blog post from my husband, Kevin.

Muttley finally made it to Saudi safe and sound on Wednesday. His journey was ultimately a success, but we had some major unexpected hurdles along the way. We hope that by sharing our story here, others can learn from our experience.

This post follows on from Claire’s previous post about importing Muttley into Jeddah, here is where I take up the story:

The “OK to Forward” saga

Claire and I arrived in Jeddah in the early hours of Monday July 11th, and we knew we had just a couple of days to get settled in the house before Muttley’s arrival on Wednesday. Safe in the knowledge that all the dog paperwork was complete, Claire and I were able to focus on settling into our new surroundings. I reported into work on Tuesday, while Claire stayed home and worked. My first day on the new job was going well, until I received a phone call from Claire saying that Christine (the export agent from Whitehouse Kennels) had contacted her and told her we had a problem.

They were not going to allow Muttley to fly unless Lufthansa received an “OK to Forward” message from Saudi Air Cargo. This was surprising to us, as we could not understand why a Lufthansa flight into Jeddah needed a Saudi Air Cargo authorisation. We did know however, that the clock was ticking, as at this point Muttley should be on his way to Heathrow for his flight to Frankfurt where he was due to spend the night. It was clear that we had to go to Jeddah airport with all of Muttley’s paperwork and try to sort this problem out. I left work and Claire booked a car to take us to Jeddah Airport. We had little idea of where we actually needed to go, who we needed to speak to, or what the process for requesting this “OK to Forward” was, but we knew we needed to do something to make this happen. Claire donned her Abaya and we jumped in the car.

We arrived at Jeddah Airport and followed the signs to Saudi Air Cargo. As we followed the signs to cargo ,it became clear that this was not an area that the general public normally had access to. There was very little signage in English, and there were no other women in sight. Claire and I took one look at each other and decided that it would be best if she stayed in the car with the driver.

The car pulled up to the first barrier at Saudi Air Cargo and I jumped out of the car and headed over to the guard house. I introduced myself to the guard, and it soon became clear that he did not speak any English, so he called over a more senior looking person to translate for me. I explained that I needed to get an “OK to forward” and the reply I got back was “come back tomorrow, they have finished for the day”. I looked at my watch, it was ten past two in the afternoon. How could they be closed for the day? I persisted with them and explained that it was very important, but all they kept on saying is come back tomorrow. I knew that tomorrow would be too late as Muttley would not be allowed to fly today without the “OK to Forward”.

Eventually, they got frustrated and told me to go down the road to the next gate. I jumped back in the car and we headed down to the next set of offices. These offices were again clearly not designed for people off the street to come into and wonder about. I followed a few corridors until I found a set of offices with Saudi Cargo above the door. I wondered in, trying to be as polite and respectful as possible, and I explained my situation to the first person who looked up and spoke English. Again they did not understand the problem, so at this point I called the Lufthansa cargo rep in Jeddah and asked them to explain to Saudi Air Cargo what we need. Once that conversation had finished, the same answer came back. They are closed now, come back tomorrow.

It was about this time that a young Saudi man with perfect English came over to help. He explained that even though Lufthansa are the importers, nothing comes in or out of Jeddah without the approval of Saudi Air Cargo. He explained that what normally happens is that the import agent in Jeddah works directly with Saudi Air Cargo to arrange the “OK to Forward” back to the importing airline. He was surprised that this had not been done for us by the import agent, and he agreed to help us, but again he explained that that the team that process the “OK to Forward” only work until 2pm. It was now clear that Muttley would not be joining us on the 13th.

The young Saudi man then extended an offer of kindness and hospitality that is typical of all the Saudi people I have met so far. He offered me a cup of tea, and we sat in his office chatting. For the sake of his privacy I will not name him here, but I will say he was a great guy. We chatted about life in Saudi, and in the USA (where he studied) and by the time I had finished my tea we had swapped contact details and made plans to meet in Jeddah after Ramadan. The friendliness and generosity shown my this young Saudi at Jeddah Air Cargo is typical of the friendliness, and helpfulness that I have experienced from many Saudis since our arrival.

In the end, he agreed to talk to the “OK to Forward” team the next morning on my behalf, and all being well I would not need to make another trip out to the airport to get paperwork done.

Sure enough, the next morning an email and a text message arrived from him telling me that the paperwork was complete. It was frustrating that we had to go through this, as we understand that this is normally facilitated by the import agents in Saudi, but as Claire has explained in her earlier post, we ended having to do this ourselves.

Back in the UK

Meanwhile back in the UK, Muttley would have to stay another week before he could get on a flight to Jeddah. Along with the extra kenneling costs, Muttley would need to see the vet again 96 hours of his flight, and get all that paperwork re-processed in the UK. This, of course, lead to additional fees – and I’m sure a massive headache for Christine, the export agent, who ended up having to do the job twice.

One week later

Christine booked Muttley in for a flight exactly one week after the original one. The whole week I was dreading the collection process. The thought of having to navigate the Saudi import process filled me with dread. Fortunately my father-in-law, Rick, also works as KAUST and he very kindly agreed to come along and help.

On the Wednesday of his arrival, we tracked Muttley’s inbound flight online, and we saw that he arrived at JED on time at 19:05. We set off for Jeddah in a large SUV, and we were on the airport grounds by 20:00.

Arriving at Saudi Air Cargo

We were a little confused where we should report to once we reached the airport, as we knew that he was flying in Lufthansa, yet we could not find any details of the Lufthansa cargo services at Jeddah. When we arrived at the airport and followed the signs to cargo it soon became clear why this was. All air cargo, regardless of inbound carrier is handled by Saudi Air Cargo. This also explains why Saudi Air Cargo had to send the “OK to Forward”. So again I presented myself at the first gate at Saudi Air Cargo and went into the glass box security office. This time things were much smoother than my previous visit.

Rick and I were shown through the security office, and pointed towards loading bay 18 where the import office was located. The loading area between the security gate and the loading bays is a filthy, smelly, rubbish strewn area with emaciated feral cats roaming about. We presented ourselves to the first official person we saw in the cargo area, and told them that we had a live dog to collect that arrived on the 19:05 Lufthansa flight. The look of surprise he gave when we mentioned “live dog” was just the first of many such surprised looks we received the entire evening whenever we mentioned Muttleys arrival to anyone working there.

The man checked his list and told us that the cargo had not arrived yet and to come back after 21:00. So we turned round, trudged back through the dirty smelly loading area, and back to the security gate where we told the security guards we would be back at 21:00.


We cooled our heels for an hour and at about 21:10 we went back and headed through the nasty loading area, and into the cargo office at loading bay 18. We were then told that the paperwork was not yet available, and to come back in 5-10 minutes. There were no seats in this office for visitors so we left there, walked back through the loading area, and back through security to a little cafe that is located next to security. One thing that everyone had told us about the collection experience was to stay patent and polite no matter how frustrating the process gets. This is the reason why we did not wait in the cargo office. We did not want to be seen standing over people waiting for them to do their jobs. we wanted to be respectful and show that we were patient people.

Back and Forth

At 21:30 we left the cafe, went back through security (again), back through the loading area, and back to the cargo office. We handed over our airway bill number and sure enough, after a little searching about behind the counter, they located our paperwork. There was a small fee to pay at this point (75SAR if I recall), and to pay this we had to visit another window in the cargo office. Once payment was made, we were given the Airbill paperwork, and told to go down the hall to the customs office.

We found the customs office and handed over all of our paperwork. At this point the customs officer pulled out all of the paperwork that was attached to Muttleys crate, and begins to examine it. He soon noticed the dogs import health certificate, and after reading it carefully, he sent us to the quarantine department next door. His final words to us were “If quarantine say this is OK then come back to me”, so we headed over to quarantine.

Final destination: Riyadh

The quarantine office was the nicest of the offices we visited that evening, and that was just as well, as it was the office we were to spend the most time in. We presented all our paperwork to the quarantine officer and he examined the forms carefully. It is about this time that things started to unravel. He pointed at the import authorization letter and told us that this letter has Riyadh as the final destination of the cargo, not Jeddah. He said that this was a problem and that we should see the customs person. This was not a problem that we could have spotted ourselves earlier, as the entire form was in Arabic. The lesson here is to have someone who speaks Arabic to check all your paperwork!

With our hearts in our mouths we went back to the customs officer, and he explained the same thing to us. That the paperwork was wrong. We asked what could be done to fix it. There was much sucking of teeth, and pointing at the paperwork and nervous waiting on our part at this point.

Best Stamp Ever

After what seemed like an age, the quarantine officer entered into the customs office and asked us to follow him back into the quarantine department. When we arrived back in the quarantine office we were joined by another young Saudi who spoke reasonably good English. He explained the problem and told us that they would need to get authorization to correct the form and release the cargo. The older quarantine officer was making lots of calls on his mobile while we sat with the young officer, and judging by the tone of the conversation and body language, he was attempting to get authorization to help us out.  Eventually the older quarantine officer printed out a from completely in Arabic. The younger officer then helped us complete the appropriate sections in English. When the form was complete, we handed it over to the senior quarantine officer, and with a big broad smile he pulled out his official stamp, and with a windmill arm motion he stamped our import certificate, gave it to us and sent us on our way back to the customs office.

So much paper

At the customs office the customs officer then informed us that he needed a copy of the visa page of my passport, and he also asked why we did not have the red Airway bill document. Heart in mouth time again, where did we last see the Airway bill document? Why were we not given our copy back? So again we went back to the quarantine department where we explained that we think they had kept our copy of the Airway bill. The officer gave us all of the paperwork he had collected on us, and invited us to look through it. At this point we found our copy of the Airway bill, as well as a very nice hand written card to us from Christine at Whitehouse Kennels. As quarantine kept ALL of the paperwork from the shipment, we would not have seen this note if we had not had the chance to look through the stack. Meanwhile the senior quarantine officer had made a copy of my passport. So with passport copy and red Airway bill letter in hand we again said our goodbyes to the quarantine department and headed into the customs office.

We handed over the paperwork again, and were informed that we now need to pay a fee of 45SAR. So back out of the customs office and down the hall to the collection desk to pay the fee, then back to the customs office with a stamp on our form indicating we have paid.

The Home Straight

We sat patiently with the customs officer while he completed several pages of forms, and eventually the printer spluttered into life and out popped another 2 pieces of paper. The officer handed this paper to us, with instructions to give one copy to the gate security office on the way out, and another to the people in the warehouse to collect the cargo. Finally we were in the home straight, all we needed to do was to give the paperwork to the warehouse, and they would bring us our boy Muttley. We handed over the paperwork and held our breath. By this time it was 11pm. We knew that Muttley had landed at 7pm. The sun was down by the time he landed, but that was still 4 hours he had been on the ground in the Arabian night heat. We were under strict instructions to call Claire as soon as we could see Muttley was OK.

After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably no more than 2 minutes Muttley’s crate was rumbled around the corner and our boy came into view. He was standing up, and both his water bowls (With funnels attached from the outside so they could be re-filled without opening the crate), were still full of water. A result! One healthy, but very smelly dog was delivered to us, and loaded into the back of the SUV.

Mission accomplished!

Here are a few of our lessons learned from this experience:

  • Use an export agent if you want your sanity in the last 96 hours before you move
  • Use an import agent to do all the import work for you! – Don’t try to do it yourself
  • Have a native speaker check all your paperwork – Don’t trust others to have done their job correctly
  • Be patient and humble and polite throughout the process.

Final thought.

Although though the process is slow, rigid & unfriendly the people we met there were just the opposite. Honestly, everyone there really tried to help us, they were all very friendly, and welcoming. I have found this friendly, helpful attitude a lot in my short time here in the Kingdom, and long may that continue.


[UPDATE September 2014: I have published a blog post with instructions for moving your dog from USA to KAUST]

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  • kristin

    wow, what a story! we just arrived at KAUST on the 28th and we brought our dog with us as well, maybe we’ll see Muttley around campus one of these days! glad everything worked out.

  • Claire

    Hi Kristin! I hope your ordeal to get here was nothing like ours!

    Thanks for saying hi – it would be great to get to know you and your pup. Are you teaching here? I know a lot of new teachers recently arrived. In any case, welcome to kaust!

  • Nimisha Rajawat

    What a story!! heart was in my mouth while I was reading.I love dogs more than humans:))I just arrived at KAUST from California(a week ago) and brought my beautiful 4yrs old Whippet as well..My husband and I had perfect paper work and still it took almost 3 and half hours to get my boy out of Saudi air cargo.
    One very important lesson learned during all this—Talk to Saudi people as much as you can about their families and their country and get your work DONE!!(They are nice and very friendly people) most of them know broken English and we all can learn some Arabic too!! Anyways my boy is with me and that’s all matters..see you guys with Muttley around the campus!

  • Hi Again– I just replied to your other post, but just wanted to add congrats on getting your dog here safe and sound. It’s a bit of a nightmare, but in the end, it all seems to work out!

    I’m on my way to the states for a month as I write this message, but would love to invite the three of you over for the dogs to run around and for us to have a coffee upon my return.

  • Karie Holtermann

    Hi Clarie! I love your blog. I would love to meet you and the other dog owners when I arrive at KAUST next month. I too am coming from CA and seek your advice as well as Nimisha’s advice.
    I am bringing my labrador but am having a hard time obtaining an import document. I called Jeddah Vets and they told me that it’s impossible to get the form issued unless the dog will live on a farm? How can I bypass this? Is there someone you recommend talking to? Also, the APHIS form 7001, letter to customs, and Saudi Arabian export certificate for international movement of dogs— how far in advance do they need to be stamped by USDA and legalized by the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Is it ten days or 72 hours? I am confused on the timing of having these forms filled out.
    Thank you in advance for any help that you can offer.

  • Nimisha Rajawat

    Hey Karie..I want to just jump in here :). USDA stamp is valid for 30 days(letter from vet and complete health certificate which is form number 7001 has to be stamped by USDA SO get it done as soon as possible and then paper has to go to the state department and from there it has to be stamped in Saudi embassy. We got it done by visa services. It was done it 3 weeks otherwise it takes forever ( months). Below is information of visa services we used. They do all work(walking papers to state department and Saudi embassy) and include mailing the stuff as well. I think we gave $200 for their services.
    oh ya another thing, Jeddah vets don’t do import permits anymore. You have to contact Brenda L Debruin she works in legal department in KAUST. she helped us to get import permit. I hope this information helps..

    Talk to David.
    Washington Passport & Visa Services, Inc.
    2319 18th Street N.W.
    Washington, DC 20009

  • Karie Holtermann

    Thank you so much for your help! I will bring a present for your Whippet and for Muttley too.

  • Nimisha – thanks so much for jumping in here! Since I was coming from the UK, I didn’t have too much to add. So glad you were able to help! I heard you and your husband met my husband? I can’t wait to join you guys back at KAUST in a few short weeks!

    Karie – Good luck with your dog, and if you want to share any other questions or tips, I really encourage you to do so on the KAUST pets facebook group or google group. you can find links to both of these spaces at Looking forward to meeting you when you arrive! What will you be doing here? And when do you arrive?

  • Sue

    Hi Claire/Kevin

    The difficulty with the airlines is not new. I had exactly the same problem 3.5 years ago when trying to bring in my cats. Saudi Air Cargo in London kept on saying that they hadn’t received paperwork, Saudi Cargo in Jeddah kept on saying it had been sent. Cats were booked on planes 3 times before the 4th was successful. Like Mutley the paperwork at the airport was horrendous, but I had the help of the wonderful Saudi air cargo representative here. He waited for the cats to be off-loaded and then took personal responsibility for them to ensure they were safe; met me at the gate and accompanied me through all the paperwork. I too would advocate using import agent especially in the UK as the export requirements are quite stringent regarding timings.

  • Hi Sue — thanks for sharing your experience here – I hope it serves to help other people on their way in! I’m glad that your cats made it safe and sound, despite the headache.

    Also – I’m working on an update to this post which should be up in the next few days, regarding changes in rules that I heard about. Check back on the blog in a few if you’re interested!

  • Pauladamabraham

    Hi Claire and Kevin,

    We are intending on importing our lab/collie for the beginning of school in Septemeber to Jeddah.
    How to you find mutley gets on here in Saudi? We are worried about our dog, Missy, quality of live and the lack of open running spaces apart from the deserts. Our other concern is what to do come the vacation periods, as we are both teachers we look forward to the summers etc when we can leave. What do you do when you leave for holiday with Multey??

    Thanks for your help, your post has openned our eyes to what we will have to go through and we will be in touch with Whitehouse kennels.

    Paul and Jayne

  • Hi Paul and Jayne — are you coming to KAUST or to Jeddah? Also, are you coming from the UK? Let me know those answers and I’ll be happy to respond with more detail…

  • P & J

    Hi Claire,

    Thanks for getting back to us.

    We are coming from Dorset in the UK to work at Jeddah School of Knowledge in September. We are currently in Jeddah until late June finishing a temp contract at other school and are trying to do as much leg work to organise Missy whilst we are here.

    A huge concern is that Missy won’t have the space to be able to run and for us to be able to let her off to enjoy herself. Along with the summers and other holidays were we are considering travelling other parts of the world. Are you both teachers and what happens to Mutley if you leave Saudi on holiday?

    Any help/advice would be brilliant.

    Randomly Missy looks suprisingly similar to Multey!!

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Paul & Jayne

  • Wow! Missy and Muttley look so similar! Muttley is also a lab/collie mix, so I’m sure that has something to do with it (ps he was born at Woodgreens in Feb 2010… any chance they really are siblings?! I know it’s a longshot, but…)

    Okay, so let me answer your questions:

    Q. How do you find mutley gets on here in Saudi?
    A. He LOVES it! The heat isn’t really a problem. In the summer, we just go for walks early in the morning or at night on hot days, or go for shorter walks. If we know we’ll be out for awhile, we bring water too. And in the winter, the weather is perfect all day every day, so he’s a happy pup. He’ll often lay out in our garden for hours just basking in the sun… he really loves it!

    The main problem is finding spaces for him to run and play with other dogs. We don’t know of any dog parks or other obvious places for him to run…. here at KAUST or in Jeddah. This is a problem, as the collie in him really needs to run. I guess the desert is an option but we’re a bit worried about thorns and wild dogs….

    Q. What do you do with your dog when you leave the country on holiday?
    A. Again, there isn’t really a facility in place that we know of. There definitely isn’t one here at KAUST (though there are roomers that one is coming) and I don’t know about the kenneling/boarding facilities in Jeddah. We have a great network of people on our compound that are willing to pet-sit, but it is always a problem… especially in the summertime, when many people want to head out all at once.

    One thing some people do is find housemaids or drivers that are available to stop by and walk the dog. Many people are willing to share these folks if you pay the maid or driver for their services.

    Q. What other considerations should we think about?
    A. I’m not sure where you will be living, but I would suggest living on a pet-friendly (expat friendly?) compound where people are used to seeing dogs around. One cultural piece is that many Saudis are terrified of dogs. I guess this is because they are used to seeing street dogs rather than pet dogs? Or maybe because most dogs here are trained as guard dogs? Either way, many of the Saudis we know here have never pet a dog before and are very weary of meeting Muttley.

    I would also suggest finding a house with a yard for the dog to play in… for obvious reasons.


    Also, just to be clear, we’re on a compound an hour north of Jeddah, so I really don’t have all the answers about the Jeddah-specific questions.

    There is an excellent facebook group called PIN (Pets In Need) that is focused on helping animals in Jeddah. You can connect with the PIN community at
    – and @PIN_Jeddah on Twitter
    You may be able to find some more specific answers via that group.

    Let me know what you end up doing! And if you learn anything in your research that might help us!

    Lastly, if we ever do find a dog park, it’d be fun to get our “twins” together! Let me know if you’re interested!

  • P & J

    Morning Claire,

    Thanks for getting back to us!

    We are trying to sort out import permits and get as much information together before we make our final decision.

    We are thinking that Missy will either come with us when we first arrive back in August for the start of term, or at Christmas when we return home – she can travel out then.

    Our compound allows dogs so its all ok from that point. Missy to is a huge fan of the heat and we can see her doing not alot apart from lying on the hot tiles! The open space is an issue, however we do know of possibly two beaches a little way out of Jeddah that we can visit on the weekends or a free evening. These maybe more suitable than the desert and you can camp on them.

    Apartly you can also get ”boot’s” for your dog. We are looking into this for the desert to protect Missy’s paws and pads.

    If and when she finally arrives she will love a play mate and we are very keen to get the dogs together. Missy will be two later this year and is full of energy and character!!

    We are currently in Jeddah until the end of the month, if you drop down this way let us know and we can meet for an outdoor coffee so you can bring Mutley!

    Thanks for all your help Claire and Kevin!

  • P & J

    Hi Claire,

    A quick note, thought you maybe interested. Dog boots are available on the following website in the UK:

    A bit pricey but maybe worth it.

  • hahaha oh man! That’s more than I’ll spend on *my* shoes! Though, not a bad idea… I just wish I could guarantee he wouldn’t just eat them.

  • This is all good news! And, I’ll need to pick your brain on the two beaches — perhaps once Missy gets here we can all go.

    Let us know how you get on with the dog boots too. While I used to think shoes for dogs were a bit silly, I think this is actually a really practical solution to the problem. Those acacia thorns are pretty serious, so some very strong shoe soles would make sense.

    And, when you get back in town, let us know that too!

  • Roisin

    Hi ,
    Glad it all worked out…I am trying to take Maggie(a yorkie) to Dammam..She is all booked to travel in the cabin with me. I am waiting to have the papers stamped in Canada then sent here to be stamped..It is Ramadan so will have to see how this goes…Hopefully having her with me will be easier…We are traveling from Canada
    Wish me luck..

  • Sonia

    Hello Claire! Thanks for the amazing blog :) Me and my husband are negotiating a position at KAUST, so hopefully will be moving during spring time!!!
    We have two cats and I would like to ask you:
    1) Is there a Vet at KAUST or we can only find it in Jeddah?
    2) When people are going on vacations to their home countries, how do they do? Ask a trustee friend to feed them, or is there other type of solutions? You mentioned in a comment bellow that a facility at KAUST could come!

    Also, can I wear a t-shirt, or is it mandatory long sleeves? :(

  • Hi Sonia — That’s great news! Keep us posted on your progress! Here are the answers to your questions:

    1. There is a vet that visits KAUST once per week. Apparently, they’re working on a way to get two visits per week plus a 24/7 veterinary nurse. They usually diagnose and provide injections and minor treatments, and we travel to Jeddah for more intensive procedures. We prefer to use EuroVets

    2. KAUST has a new community group that’s just forming and the plan is to build a pet hotel on the compound in the next few years. In the meantime, we all just pass pets around when we go out of town. We’ve made friends with dog-owners and dog-lovers alike and everyone has been very helpful. We just spent a month pet-sitting a friend’s dog, and in return, I’m sure they’d do the same for us one day. There are online groups along with the offline community group that you can join once you get here that will connect you to other pet-owners at KAUST.

    3. There are two areas of the compound – the campus and the community. On campus, people dress more conservatively: Men wear long sleeves and long trousers. Women are expected to cover their chest, elbows, and knees. In the community, the norms are a bit more relaxed. It’s not unusual to see teeshirts and shorts, but not too short or revealing (I always wear long shorts, for instance). You’ll know when you’re wearing something inappropriate because people stare at you – and its really uncomfortable! The key here is to recognize that you’re in a multicultural environment and respect for other people’s norms and values are very important.

    I hope this helps!

  • Good luck!

  • snegrao

    Thank you soooo much Claire, I think you are an angel and that your
    blog is an essential tool for “KAUST soon to be people” =))

    I was reading a few other comments from a reader of your blog (Tiago) and he is
    also Portuguese like me and my hubbie, so I think that if everything
    goes well….. KAUST will have a Portuguese invasion :p

    I didn’t know about the division of the compound on campus and
    community! Interesting…..So I will work in research in a new lab that
    I will help to “build”. The labs are in campus area, correct?

    If we get the contract (lets keep our finger crossed, but it seems like
    is going smoothly) I will keep you posted and probably end up with more
    Me and my husband are a young couple with no kids (yet) and two gorgeous cats :))) So I hope we can meet personally in the near future!

    Thanks, and Cheers,


  • Hi again! I’m so glad my posts have been useful to you – and I hope you and Tiago can connect directly before you come if you decide to make the big move.

    I actually don’t know any Portuguese people here yet (though I do know a bunch of Brazilians) so I look forward to the “invasion”. I’ve noticed that portuguese readership of my blog is quite high (from the analytics) – so perhaps that’s an indicator of lots of new portuguese people to come, too!

    The labs are in the campus area, yes. But it’s not a distinct difference in culture between campus and community. It’s just the difference between “work-mode” and “personal-mode” – and you can get a feel for it based on the locations. Don’t worry too much about this – just make sure you have a supply of conservative work clothes.

    KAUST is a great place to start a family. We’re expecting our first in January :-)

    Looking forward to (hopefully) meeting you soon!

  • Sonia Negrao

    Congrats on your baby’s arrival :))

    Uhmmm…what do you mean with conservative clothes? Like a “suit”???? Gosh… I was thinking on linen pants and long sleeves blouses :/

  • Oh boy.. I think I’ve confused you more than I’ve helped you. I mean conservative as in “covers a lot of your body”. Linen pants and long sleeve blouses sounds perfect.

  • Sonia Negrao

    LOL…OK that’s OK then!!!! I though I would need to wear formal clothes and I was not happy with that, I like to wear casual clothes! Thanks Claire! I’ll keep you posted :))

  • Glad we got that cleared up :-)

  • Andrea Mellor

    Hi there, I’ve just come across your blog and am so glad to hear encouraging things about bringing pets despite some of the red tape – I’ve only read not so good stuff and it’s extremely discouraging. My husband has received an offer to in Saudi, living in a dharhan compound. We are both quite excited about the opportunity, but bringing our two Australian shepherds means a 20hr flight coming from Canada and I’m terrified they’ll be despondent and traumatized. Or something will happen and we won’t be able to find them at the airport or one of them will bite someone (does anyone check them out without one of us there) or I’ll forget some kind of etiquette being a woman or or or… There’s no end to worries, but perhaps I’m getting too worked up? They can have a good quality of life in Saudi? Can they ever come with us outside the compound on leashes? Am I restricted with them outside the compound because I’m a woman? Oh geez! I greatly apprecite any insights you may have. Thanks, Andrea

  • Hi Andrea–

    Thanks for getting in touch! You have a lot of questions here, so let me reply one by one:

    – Traumatized from the flight? I doubt it… the worst for us was that muttley had lost his voice, but it seems that he doesn’t have any memory of the flight over.
    – Finding them at the airport? I’ve never been to the airport over there, but if it’s anything like Jeddah, you’ll find them. As it’s a male-dominated society, my advice is to get your husband to do all the talking though. And, if he’s kind, helpful, and patient with the airport workers, everything will be fine.
    – Will they bite someone? The Saudis won’t let the dogs out of their crates, so I think there is very little chance of being bit here in Kingdom. If your dogs need to transfer, I recommend seeing if it can be done in Frankfurt, as there is a very good veterinary service there. The trained professionals will feed and walk your dogs there. I’m sure there are services like this in other cities as well.
    – Female Etiquette – as I said before, it may be best to have your husband do the talking. I ended up staying home when Kevin went to go get Muttley… I just knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut. Bonus points if you can find a Saudi or other arabic speaker to join your husband to retrieve the dogs. Maybe even an arabic-speaking driver can be of assistance with some of the red tape (if you’re renting a car to retrive the dogs).
    – Can they have a good quality of life in Saudi? YES! Our dog is very happy here. He loves the heat and I often find him sunbathing in the yard. I was very surprised by this as he’s from england where it’s grey and wet and cold!
    – Walking them outside the compound? I’m really not sure. We live on a large compound in the middle of nowhere here at KAUST, so it’s never come up… I wouldn’t really want to though. We have talked about bringing him out to the desert for an afternoon but haven’t taken him yet. We’re a bit worried about some of the spiky bushes on his bare feet. They look a bit brutal.

    One more thing to keep in mind is that having dogs in the house is considered unclean for many muslims. So, we’re always keen to make our muslim friends comfortable and not allow the dog to go near them unless we have permission first. Many people are curious, and likewise many are fearful. It’s important to realize that this is a real cultural difference and to be as understanding as possible.

    Hope this helps! Good luck!

  • Christina

    Hi Claire,

    My name is Christina. I posted earlier today. However I do not see that it went through. So apologize if you get a double post by me. When I came across your blog I got very excited to finally read positivity about Saudi. My husband as accepted a position to work on the embassy being built in Jeddah as a security manager. We will be coming from the US along with our 4 furry babies (dogs). I have contacted many pet relocators. However the quotes I have been given are extremely our of our budget. And frankly I really don’t need a service to take my pet the the vet or airport. I have plenty of family members that would be happy to help me if needed. It is the paperwork that has me stressed out. I continue to read so many different processes. I called the Saudi Embassy in DC and they were not much help.

    We know we have to get crates for the dogs. 2 of our dogs are small enough to ride in the cabin with us and we plan on bringing them with us that way. And the bigger two be in cargo. I know that I have to get all the health certificates and what not. My question is about the export permission from the ministry. Can this be done before arriving in Jeddah without me going to Saudi first? I keep hearing it can or cannot from websites. What do I need to provide the ministry to get approved? My husband is going over to Jeddah in the next month or so to do a sight survey before starting the job in March. So if he had too would you recommend that he goes to Riyad and applies for the export permits? Isn’t it only good for 30 days?

    I know that I am asking a lot. I will appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Thank you in advance.


  • US Expat

    Hi Claire, thanks for the great information about importing a dog into KSA. We are in a similar situation, but coming from the US to KAEC just 20 km to the north of your location at KAUST. Our dog is quite small (3 kg) and would be able to ride in the cabin with my wife on Luthansa via Frankfurt. I am all set with paperwork on the US side, but struggling with how to get the KSA import permit as the rules seem to constantly change and am being told by a local Vet Clinic that the import permit and the other paperwork needs to be in the name of a Saudi National plus the dog would need to ship as cargo. That arrangment is not workable for us as I can foresee many things going wrong and my wife is not going to let the dog out of her site (it’s like a child to her) or put the ownership in someone else’s name. Since I don’t want to be on permanent single status, I am wondering if you know of others in KAUST who have recently imported small dogs as either luggage or within the cabin and specifically how to obtain the import permit in KSA. Am happy to pay all the fees and pay for a VIP greeting service for my wife upon arrival, but as you know finding reliable info is KSA is next to impossible, but there is always a way to get things done with the right connections.. Thanks for any insight you may have.

  • Dear Claire and Kevin,

    Thank you soon much for your blog as my husband and I are due to move out to Riyadh this summer, and after initially being told that we should re-home our animals, I’m pleased to have found such an honest and helpful portrayal on how to get our furry friends out there…(being 2 dogs and 1 cat!).

  • Richard

    Hi Claire,

    I am moving to KAUST in July with my family and we would love to bring our dog. She is a Staffordshire bull terrier (a complete softie). We have seen a list of banned breeds for import to Saudi Arabia. Are you able to give any advice on whether it would be possible to bring Roxy with us? Any advice appreciated.

    Thank you


  • You said “we have seen a list of banned breeds” – is that a typo? If you have found the list, I’d love to see it! Though, I’ve never heard of an actual list that exists…

    As for as I have heard (and I’m by no means an expert or any authority on the issue!) any dog that may be perceived as a fighting dog may have trouble getting in. I would assume that a staffie would be perceived this way (though of course *I* know better!)

    Sorry to not have any better advice than that for you… I hope that you and Roxy make it without a hitch!

  • Aww, thanks for your nice words, Alice! I hope your move goes great.

  • Hi there — I’m sorry but I don’t know! I have heard of somehow some small dogs being allowed in but I’ve never heard of a dog coming in the cabin though… I really wouldn’t know how to make this happen.

    Good luck!

  • Hi Christina — I’m afriad I can’t be of much help to you. I really only know about the paperwork that we listed in the blog post. We tried to list everything we knew… and after 18 months the details are getting pretty foggy!

    I can say though that I’ve never heard of a dog being allowed in the cabin on a flight to saudi. Perhaps there have been some that I’m not aware of though.

    Good luck and let us know what you find out!

  • carandalex

    Gosh, I think I was very lucky when we imported our Golden Retreiver 10 years ago, from Dubai. I agree, DO NOT TRY TO DO THIS YOURSELF! It really is complicated. Get a registered company to do it for you. Make sure the company is experienced in shipping to Saud Arabia. My husband, already in Saudi, did not have to do anything on his end, in Jeddah. The daftest, softest dog in the world had to be classified as a guard dog, usual for all dogs imported to Saudi. Fortunately, the fact that he was called Amstel did not cause problems! He arrived on the same plane as me and after my own tribulations at Immigration, I had to go get my husband to ‘claim’ me! We headed directly to the cargo. There he was already waiting but shaking like a leaf. He appeared well looked after. The only thing that made me sweat there was that the officer could not find a picture of a retreiver, in his book on dogs! Despite my saying he’s just ouside the door, go look! Then, I had the brainwave of looking in the book myself under Labrador Retreivers and Bingo! We could not get his case in the truck along with all my luggage and they would not let us return next day to collect but cest la vie! Of course, this is a country where you can never be certain of anything, especially paperwork, being correct. This is a realy good site to check out. You’ll see the process is exactly as Claire and her husband describe. and it does give a list of prohibited dogs.

  • Claire Sale

    Thanks for sharing your advice and experience here! And that link is invaluable… I’ll be sure to share it around when I hear of others who are planning to move here with pets.

    Also, I love your dog’s name! I know two called Captain and Morgan who live here in Saudi…. very cute :-)

  • sam westhead

    Very interesting to read of your experience: I’m about to move to Dhahran… a vet (!!) and will be bringing my little terrier Oscar with me. Your comments were invaluable and I’ll be sure to take your advice. Hope it’s all going well for you and that you have found my old friend Doc McLaren at the Jeddah Vet Clinic by now.

    All the best

    Sam Westhead

  • Claire Sale

    Hi Sam — thanks for your kind words! Another reader, Carandalex, recently posted a link with the importation process here: I heard from a friend though that the list of banned breeds is out of date, so I hope the process listed there is correct.

    I haven’t met Doc McLaren — Jeddah Vets closed shortly before I moved to Saudi in 2011. Many of us go to Dr. Carlos at EuroVets. He’s german and very nice.

    I hope you have a nice time in Dhahran. I hear there are a lot of animals over at aramco. I know a lot of people wish there was help from the Jeddah-based vets to do animal imports to Saudi, so if your practice does that for folks all around saudi, I’m sure it would help a lot of people!


  • Sonia Negrao

    Hi, Claire! We will move to KAUST next May, I’m already in the VISA process. I already spoke with my HR relocation coordinator, and she said that she would investigate about an import agent, but she was not familiar with the pet relocation process. If you remeber we have two cats….Therefore:

    1) Could you please indicate me a good import agent to help me taking care of all the paperwork necessary to Saudi government, including the requested import permit. And the import agent will also help us through the cargo process (company in which they will flight and Saudi Air cargo), and can help on picking them up at the airport?

    2) Do you know if its necessary for me to have the Iqama, so that they can travel? We were thinking on sending them to someone at KAUST that would receive them and we would travel the same they or the day after them.

    We are not the first to bring pets to KAUST, but I’m really concerned about this and I need an import agent that can solve all these issues.
    Kind regards,

  • Hi Sonia — I just sent you an email. For question number one, I’m pretty sure nothing like this exists. If it did, we would have used it! For question number two – no, I think they can travel with you.

  • Sonia Negrao

    Thank you so much for the info….You rock! :)
    I already spoke with your contact and she helped me A LOT!! I am now much more relaxed (uufffff) since my cats relocation is now in good hands and also because they can travel with us :)

  • SO glad to hear this! Hope it works out great :)

  • Excellent portrayal of what must have been a frantic time for you and Muttley. Thanks for sharing.

  • How did you get around the ‘Terriers not allowed’ clause we have read? We would like to bring a Yorkshire Terrier to Riyadh, but everything we have read suggests small dogs are banned, Terriers are mentioned specifically, with larger dogs needing to be declared as, for example, ‘working dogs’.

  • How did you get around the ‘Terriers not allowed’ clause we have read? We would like to bring a Jack Russell Terrier to Riyadh, but everything we have read suggests small dogs are banned, Terriers are mentioned specifically, with larger dogs needing to be declared as, for example, ‘working dogs’. Any advice appreciated.

  • Claire Sale

    Thank you Tony and Vivienne! It’s a good story, but only after-the-fact!

    I do like to stress that we had a really bad experience and most people we’ve met have had a much easier (and cheaper) journey than we did.