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Could I bring books like The God Delusion from Richard Dawkins to Saudi Arabia?

What will happen if they saw this book in my hand during the check-in or somewhere else in Saudi Arabia?

What about books about evolution or fiction like The Da Vinci Code etc. ;D

Anybody experienced that in Saudi Arabia?

What can I expect?

Could that be punishable by a fine or put in a prison cell?

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You could always pull the dust jacket off –  Jonathan Landrum Jul 24 at 17:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Here how it goes:

After you pass the passport control desk, you will pass the customs desk. The guys at the customs desk will scan the luggage, if they found books or CDs they might ask you to show them. If they do not like them from the cover, they will take the books and/or CDs and give you a slip. The books will be sent to a department where they will check the books/CDs and you can visit them few days later to collect them if allowed, or to be informed that they are confiscated if they weren't allowed. No more or less, no charges or any other things will be taken against you. Sometimes you will have to pay a fine, usually the fine is 500 SAR ($134 USD) per prohibited item, but I guess this only applies to CDs/DVDs and rarely happens. If you are not Saudi most likely they will pass on the fine because you do not know the local rules.

Regarding anti-religious books, they are not allowed. But again, only if they notice and are in the mood to apply the rules. Regarding Da Vinci code, I bought a copy of this book in Saudi Arabia so I guess it is allowed.

In 2000 or 2001, I brought 3 "inappropriate" CDs, the customs checked them and I had to pay 1500 SAR and they were confiscated. I guess I paid because I was stupid and I argued and shouted. Otherwise they would have just taken them and let me go without paying.

Remember, the above is applied to books and CDs/DVDs, alcohol is not allowed and will be confiscated right away. Drugs smuggling is a serious problem and is punishable by the local laws.

Last thing, inside Saudi Arabia, no one will care about the book in your hands :)

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Thank you a lot. I guess Kindle and iPad would be fine, or? –  Derfder Nov 4 '13 at 18:57
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@Derfder Yes totally fine –  MeNoTalk Nov 4 '13 at 19:36
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fine as noun or as adjective? ;) –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Nov 4 '13 at 21:17
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HaLaBi's on the money here. In my experience with Saudi customs, they're mostly looking for alcohol, they don't really care about books at all. (The one time I caused some excitement was, when leaving Saudi, an excitable muttawa found a bottle of Budweiser NA in my bag and started yelling about al-ghaul -- I had to point out the bit where it said "malt beverage" in Arabic.) Also, most customs officers speak little to no English, so any English book should be OK unless there are naked women on the cover. –  jpatokal Nov 4 '13 at 22:37
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@jpatokal I am surprised with your knowledge, what you said is true ;). Regarding books, as I said in my answer, if they do not like the cover they will send it to the department of the media something where they do know English. In general the customs guys are nice and they do not talk much. Just do not bring alcohol and drugs. –  MeNoTalk Nov 5 '13 at 3:07

The Saudis are less concerned about anti-"religious" books per se, than about anti-Muslim books. The greatest danger lies with anything that is anti-Mohammed, or anti-Islam, or even anti-clergy (religious men).

If they are "anti-religious" in the sense of being anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, or pro atheist, the Saudis might not care.

On the other hand, Playboy magazine would be considered "anti-religious" because it violates Shariah law sensibilities, even though it is technically "not religious." You're more likely to get in trouble with Playboy than with, say, "the God Delusion" or the Da Vinci Code.

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I'd guess a hardcore atheist book might also get you in trouble if it's not specifically anti-Christian. +1 for "anti-religious" meaning "anti-muslim" to the Saudi authorities. If it didn't a lot of their own publications would be illegal. And of course under their law there's only 1 religion... –  jwenting Jun 30 at 6:58
    
True in the past, currently things are much more open. The government itself hosts an annual book exhibition and it invites all book publishers around the world to show their books and in this exhibition there is one rule: EVERYTHING IS ALLOWED. The problems usually comes from conservative people rather than the government. –  MeNoTalk Jul 24 at 20:06

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