Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

There’s an interesting sign above the baggage carousels at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. The sign very politely asks you to declare if you have certain items of interest to the customs inspector. I am always slightly bemused, if not a little nonplussed, not so much by the actual items, but by the order in which they appear:

First on the list: video tapes, films, and audio recordings. I assume they mean x-rated videos or messages (political?) disseminated by cassettes (which really dates the sign too). Some of the items that follow are pretty standard, like drugs, currency, and commercial goods. Others, like sculptures, alcohol, and pork, reflect the religious regulations here.

But what caught my eye is the fact that it’s not until the very end of the list that fire-arms and ammunition appears. I would have thought that in terms of a country’s and its citizens’ security, this last item should be a priority for the border officials to check!

As I alluded to above, I think this sign reflects policies and practices from an earlier era. I have yet to be questioned by a customs official, or seen anyone else being questioned or having their bags searched. Camelman says they used to be much more strict and would hand search people’s luggage more often. Nowadays, before you can exit the terminal, all your bags have to be put through an x-ray machine, which is manned by a bored-looking officer. So maybe they are not as worked up about finding those contraband materials (except, hopefully, firearms and ammunition).


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