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The Middle of the End

Two months after publishing my previous blog I finally have found time to recount the activities around leaving Saudi Arabia. As well as Elaine and me packing up, we have had to consider how to get Belle (our wee dog) and our personal possessions home. When I moved to KSA in 2016 it was with an international consulting company who offered a full relocation package for both our arrival and departure. However in 2019 I was taken “in house” and transferred my employment to that of the Saudi Government agency, the TGA. The upshot of this that my demobilisation package was not what I expected, and instead of all my goods and chattels being sent home for me, we were allowed 2 suitcases each on a Saudia flight.

So the exit strategy was worked out that Elaine would go home first, about 2 weeks before I finished work, then we would send Belle home via an international pet transfer service, and then I would pack the excess personal items for shipping and despatch that, and then finally leave myself. We had to pay extra for the pet transport, as Belle is too large to be allowed as accompanied cabin baggage, and Saudia do not take pets unless they look like cats or falcons. We employed an excellent local company Expat Logistics, owned and operated by a British man in Riyadh and serving the expat community. We paid a bit more than what it would have cost to have exported Belle from KSA and imported her into the UK ourselves, but the company took care of all the paperwork and procedures which seemed to have been quite complicated and this freed up our precious time to concentrate on the other myriad of requirements. She was shipped in a smallish dog-box which met the requirements allowing her to stand, turn and stretch inside it. 

20240228_001544 v2jpgLooking apprehensive before departure

Her routing was with Qatar Airlines from Riyadh via Doha to Edinburgh. Apparently Qatar specialises in pet transport and there is a pet handling facility at Doha airport where dogs are exercised and fed, as well as having an in-transit health checkup. This was our first experience of moving any pet internationally and for entry into the UK she needed to have her pet passport in order. In reality this was ensuring she was microchipped and that her anti-rabies vaccine was properly recorded and in date. And so it was, she was picked up from me at our compound home in Riyadh and delivered to Elaine in Biggar 48 hours later. Obviously we couldn’t ask her about the experience but she seemed to be in good shape. I guess the biggest shock to her system would be the transition form late February daytime temperatures of 30 degrees C. to 3 degrees C. in Scotland.

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"So what's all this green stuff then?"

And in the few weeks before departure we identified all the sellable household or personal items we would not take home, and using the compound's social media groups sold most of this at bargain prices. 

The extra personal possessions included a large-screen TV, an Arabic rug, various ornaments and pictures, my kilt and various other clothes, some small kitchen appliances, my golf clubs and various other odds and sods. Expat Logistics offered various service options and we chose for them to pack, despatch and deliver to our UK address. Again various forms were required. One critical form was the UK import ToR (Transfer of Residence VAT relief) which had to have a detailed contents list and a declaration that all the contents were personal property brought from the UK, or bought abroad at least 12 months before return to the UK. Failure to include the approval reference with the consignment would mean having to pay 20% tax on the goods' value before UK Customs would release them. Unfortunately we could not complete this in advance because we did not have the final packing list, this depended on what I could / could not cram into my 2 suitcases within the weight limit. So the ToR application was the last part of that consignment process. It took UK HMRC over 2 weeks to issue the approval, so as I write this the goods have not yet been delivered.

Other tasks I have needed to do include applying for “Final Exit” visas for Elaine (which I could do using the Saudi Absher system), so as she passed through passport control at Riyadh Airport she ceased to have Resident status. My Final Exit process would be actioned by my work sponsor when I left, but before I could do that I had to free myself from all Saudi encumbrances – car, bank account, phone, property ownership/rent etc. This became a juggling act in deciding which closure action to take, in which order and when. My employers threw a spanner in the works when I discovered that Saudi Government protocols would not allow them to make my final salary payments to my UK bank, it had to be to my registered Saudi bank account. As my final day of employment would be 2nd March, the final salary transfer would not take place until the 26th March, and I could not close the account till then, and therefore could not finally leave the Kingdom until that was done. So, in reality I was looking at hanging around for 4 weeks with no accommodation. A long story short – I decided to pack everything up and leave KSA on the week after I finished work and I will return again once the final salary transfer is paid. As there is no rush on my side I will do that later, probably at the end of April, once the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr are well over. And at a time that is convenient for me too, I have several family commitments during April to look forward to, not least of which is my niece’s wedding. I have agreed with the TGA that they will not process my final exit until all this is concluded.

We have had a small number of farewells before we left – Elaine had a couple of nice “masalama” lunches with her lady friends, and after my last curling day the Saudi curling committee presented me with a lovely cake and a certificate then took Elaine and me out for a meal to the Najd Village traditional restaurant. 



Curling 'masalama', the stone was edible!

And on my final day at work my colleagues also produced a cake and certificate plaque, a signed Hi-Viz vest and a lovely pen. 

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Final day at work

I had suspicions that these ceremonies would happen, but I was totally taken by surprise after my (earlier) final audit at Jeddah Airport APM was concluded by the management there also presenting me with an expensive pen and thanking me for my help in them gaining their licence and guiding them in their maturing into a safe and efficient operator. And the day before I flew home my ex-pat ex-colleagues invited me out for a meal too. All these events meant a huge amount to me, thanks very much gentlemen and ladies.


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