Water? Just because it’s 120 Fahrenheit? Pfffffffff

Imagine being a foreign worker in Saudi Arabia. Now imagine being a foreign worker in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan.

Saudi authorities are warning non-Muslim expatriates against eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan, the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast — or face expulsion.

The Interior Ministry of the oil-rich kingdom is calling on non-Muslims to “show consideration for feelings of Muslims” and “preserve the sacred Islamic rituals.”

Otherwise, a statement says, Saudi authorities will cancel violators’ work contracts and expel them.

The warning came on Friday, the first day of the Ramadan observance.

In addition to Saudi Arabia’s 19 million citizens, there are nearly 8 million Asian workers in the country, as well as hundreds of thousands of other foreign expatriates from around the globe, according to government figures.

You realize what that means – it means that in one of the hottest countries on earth, foreign workers are forbidden to drink water on the job between sunrise and sunset. (Clearly so are all Saudis, including those who would prefer not to be Muslim at all if only that were permitted.)

Mo said Allah said everybody has to risk dehydration and death during Ramadan, so no back talk or you’ll be on the next plane to Manila.

Via Taslima.



  1. Roger says

    V. S. Naipaul, in Among the Believers, gives a very grim and funny account of his experiences in a North African country in Ramadan, where no-one had heard of hindus and they were all convinced he was a muslim trying to dodge his religious duty.
    There are other unpleasantnesses in Ramadan in muslim countries- people should be extra careful driving- especially just before and after sunset- because muslims are even more careless.

  2. says

    Ohhhh yes, even water. In a desert country.

    Olympic athletes who are observant Muslims are having to decide whether to go without water all day or not.

  3. tigzy says

    Um…I think this article has been misread a little. To wit:

    Saudi authorities are warning non-Muslim expatriates against eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan, the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast — or face expulsion.

    Note the words ‘in public’. There’s every reason to suspect that enclosed areas will be available so that non-muslims will be able to eat and drink out of sight from the local muslim populace.

  4. says

    tigzy – is there? Every reason?

    Foreign workers are mostly there to do the shitwork – building sites, that kind of thing. Is there every reason to assume a private space will be provided for them? In a country that notoriously treats foreign workers like shit?

    I doubt it.

  5. tigzy says


    Yes, there is every reason to suspect it. There’s no reason to assume that individual Saudi employers are either so heartless or stupid as to risk their employees becoming seriously ill whilst working. From a purely utilitarian point of view, it would create much more hassle and inefficiency for them in having to continually replace workers.

    It would cost them next to nothing to erect a small marquee, or something of that sort, to accommodate non-muslim needs during Ramadan.

  6. says

    But they must risk their non-foreign employees becoming ill while working, so why would they make special arrangements for foreigners? There’s plenty of reason to assume many Saudi employers are heartless when it comes to foreign workers – go to HRW and do a search and you’ll see.

  7. Chibby says

    Oh, come on Ophelia!! How hard would it be to nip to the loo (or whatever) for a quick glug of water?

    Apart from that though, this is an abject disgrace, of course.

  8. Jean says

    That must be relatively new. I was in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan a few years ago and we did not have to do that. That’s a disgusting place that I never want to visit again but that was not one of the issues.

    And not being able to drink with the temperature they have there would be a nightmare.

  9. tigzy says


    There has obviously been a lot of nastiness as relates to the abuse of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia – and of course, this abuse has come from those individual private employers who take on the domestic workers.

    But there is a distinct difference between a heartless indivuidual abusing his female domestic servants, and a contractor employing dozens of people on a construction site – a contractor, furthermore, who needs his project completed efficiently and on schedule. I would say it’s very unlikely that such an employer would needlessly allow his workers to become ill, when providing a private space for them is so easily accomplished.

  10. says

    You sure the loo has potable water? You sure it’s not public?

    It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy here in the US – I’ve worked as a laborer, so I know you’re not just automatically guaranteed a nice private loo with potable water. You all seem to be thinking of offices, but foreign workers are mostly not in offices (except to clean them). Besides what makes you think there isn’t an attitude of “we have to put up with it, why should we make things more comfortable for them?” They risk dying of dehydration themselves, so why shouldn’t everyone?

  11. says

    Jean, I took it that since this is news, it’s a new policy. Progress in the kingdom!

    tigzy – but you’re forgetting that the employer is used to Ramadan. The employer won’t think of it as the employees becoming ill.


    I’d love to know what the death rates are during Ramadan.

  12. tigzy says

    tigzy – but you’re forgetting that the employer is used to Ramadan. The employer won’t think of it as the employees becoming ill.

    I’m not finding it clear as to what you’re getting at here, sorry.

  13. Kiwi Dave says

    So, if you drink in public, Allah and the morals police will both notice, but if you drink in private, either Allah doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Have I understood this correctly?

  14. felixBC says

    I look forward to Tigzy’s reasoned and vigourous defence of “easily accomplished” workplace allowances like small rooms devoted to, say, breast-feeding, daily prayer, or even a scent-free work environment. Or would it be, you’re lucky to have a job at all, and why make special accommodations for employees who should just go back to where they came from if they can’t hack the real world?

  15. M Walton says

    I’m kind of in the “private place to drink” school but it isn’t a given by any means.

    Looks like a good opportunity for a “drink-in” for any work site that doesn’t provide such facilities. Would any employer risk losing his entire workforce to expulsion? Could be.

  16. felixBC says

    Looks like a good opportunity for a “drink-in” for any work site that doesn’t provide such facilities. Would any employer risk losing his entire workforce to expulsion? Could be.

    You realize this is Saudi, right? The place where women who want to drive face arrest, losing their jobs, homes, and their family members have to leave the country due to threats?

    I’m sure that foreign-worker defiance of Ramadan “drink in” will go gangbusters for human + workers rights.

  17. M Walton says

    Sure, felix, I realize that, but the threat wasn’t death or even twenty lashes, it was expulsion. And realistically just how many foreign workers could the Saudis expel before the economic impact was unacceptable? If it were done only at worksites that didn’t provide nonpublic drinking stations, the potential impact would be targeted pretty well.

    Of course, I know that it wouldn’t work (for a number of reasons-mainly because most of the workers wouldn’t want to risk their employment) but it would be an interesting exercise in labor relations, wouldn’t it?

  18. Jet says

    This seems like something similar to the view that Muslims veil their women because their men have no self control, and if they see a non-veiled woman they ‘have no choice’ but have to assault or rape them. They must have not enough self-esteem to not eat or drink if they see anyone eating or drinking either?
    It’s also an example of religion using ‘respect’ to mean ‘follow our rules no matter what’. Which is total bollocks.

  19. felixBC says

    And realistically just how many foreign workers could the Saudis expel before the economic impact was unacceptable?

    Sometimes people will happily cause economic damage long before they’ll accept changes to their own status in society. Even in the US, land of “interesting exercise(s) in labor relations”.

    Cutting off your nose to spite your face: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/alabama-law-drives-out-illegal-immigrants-but-also-has-unexpected-consequences/2012/06/17/gJQA3Rm0jV_story.html

    Leaving tomatoes to rot in the fields doesn’t make economic sense, and yet, there they are, harassing immigrants, legal or otherwise. And it’s not even a religious issue. Imagine if it were.

  20. left0ver1under says

    Remember folks: The “reasoning” that bans water in 50°C heat is the same “reasoning” that wants evolution banned from school.

    The religious want to dictate to everybody, not just members of their own religion. Anything that muslims would do to non-muslims in Saudi Arabia, christians in the US and other western countries would like to do as well. It was that way in Europe when catholicism was the only religion.

  21. Matt Penfold says

    I was listening the BBC the other, and learnt that in the Northern Hemisphere Ramadan is especially onerous this year due to how early in the year it comes. More hours of daylight compared to other years.

  22. says

    Ramadan is just about impossible in Scandinavia during the summer when it barely gets dark. I’ve read that some Muslims are starting to use the Mecca clock – so it’s from 6 am to 6pm. I can imagine that taking over as a practice in Northern Europe – just like the mid-winter aspect of Christmas took over as part of the celebrations.

  23. SteveV says

    I spent a few years in Saudi. (shit, 30 years ago)I don’t recall any “official” warnings then, but the strong advice was to be discreet. Of course, that was quite easy to do as an office worker – not so easy on site. It was always a touchy time, not least because Muslim coworkers became more and more tired as the month went on – a result of staying up late eating and drinking!

    “We have 30 days of Christmas Eve full of banquets and food,” he explains. “Egypt consumes three times its normal food consumption during the month of Ramadan.”
    Different country, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the same applied to SA.
    Oh, and IIRC, ARAMCO altered the working hours for Muslims during Ramadan. Live goats were also available through the company store at the end of the month for the Eid celebrations.

  24. tigzy says


    Well, if you’re gonna play it that way, then I look forward to felixBCs reasoned and vigorous defence of why SAs muslim employers must be somehow incapable of providing – or providing access to – private areas where their employees can grab a drink or a bite to eat during Ramadan.

  25. Seymour says

    Yes it’s ram a dam a ding dong time again.

    On all the sites I’ve worked on in Saudi (4 years on operating and being constructed petrochem sites) the Saudis worked a half day during ramadam and around the sites there were smoking huts and water was available in those and non-smoking huts. Some of them even had A/C. After the Saudis pissed off to have a nap before spending the night eating and drinking even the canteen normally opened.

    The Saudis work on the principle of out of site out of mind.

    It is actually bida and so haram for them to only work half the day. The rule book says they should work as normal.

  26. says

    Actual information! Thanks Seymour.

    It appears that you’re right, tigzy. Which is good! Things aren’t as miserable as I thought.

    (I have vivid memories of a boss who ignored supervisors’ firm instructions to give extra shade-and-water breaks during a hot spell – ignored them despite the fact that one worker had died on the job on a broiling day a few weeks before.)

  27. newzea says

    Its a shame that the Saudis are sitting on a sea of oil. That’s the only reason western countries are civil to their leaders. Unfortunately they are not about to run out soon.

  28. carlie says

    It’s kind of sad that their faith is so weak it could be broken by seeing someone drink water during the day.

  29. Andy says

    As an expat living and working in the region, I am one of the poor bastards that are not allowed to drink water during Ramadan. Now, first of all, we do have AC here as well. Further, labour laws say we have 30 hour working weeks during ramadan. And as a non muslim I can eat and drink all I want out of sight of muslims when ever I want. So for an atheist like me, 6 hour work days, is not a real problem, the real problem is to find something usefull to do with all the free time. Usually it means more beer in the evenings.

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