One of the most frequently asked questions i get on my webpages about Saudi Arabia is about Pornography in Saudi Arabia; many people are afraid about what constitutes porn in Saudi and how deep a search will be made of items such as laptops, flash drives and even mobile phones.
What is considered Porn in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a very conservative society in which women are covered from head to toe when in public as such what we in the rest of the world may consider a perfectly harmless picture will be considered porn in KSA. This is a society in which you will see your cereal box in the supermarket covered over with a sticker or a thick black marker pen to obscure the naked arms and legs of the model advertising the slimming effects of said cereal. Any picture in which more than a woman’s head, feet and hands are visible will be considered just too much!
So if you bring a harmless magazine into the country you may find it confiscated due to it containing images of women showing just too much cleavage or leg. It is unlikely that you will get in any trouble over this offense if is an “honest” mistake, however if you bring a “lads mag” or real porn then you could find yourself on the next plane home (or worse!)
Will they check my laptop in Saudi Arabia?
I have been asked many times if people will have their laptops, disk drives and flash drives inspected when they enter Saudi Arabia. While it has never happened to me or anyone I have ever known it is always a possibility. There are many rumors circulating about this being done, however I have never yet met anyone who can confirm this ever happening. My personal opinion is that it would just take them far too long and be very ineffective unless they started to use IT experts to do their checks for them and quite frankly the Saudis are just too darn lazy to do it! The other side to this would be that many people’s innocent snaps would be considered risque in Saudi and most visitors if they had their laptops checked would probably contravene something!
Therefore I would not be overly concerned about pictures on my laptop, flash-drives or external disc drives unless I was actually bringing in real porn! (In which case compressed files hidden in unusual directories would prevent a simple inspection finding them!)
Will I have my Mobile Phone pictures Checked?
Many people have pictures that would be considered porn in Saudi Arabia on their mobile phones, whilst I have never had my phone checked while working in Saudi Arabia I have met several people who have had theirs checked by mutawa (religious police) in the streets of Saudi Arabia. However in all of these cases the phones belonged to women from the Philippines, India or Indonesia and they were harassed by the Mutawa for every reason they could think of, a few tearfully confided as to having been sexually abused by these so called religious police after being threatened with arrest as being prostitutes for whatever charges they could make up! Women in Saudi Arabia are not treated very well, especially expat women who will be seen as an easy target by many Saudi Bullies.
Porn on the internet in Saudi Arabia
You will find that internet access in Saudi Arabia is heavily censored, you will find it almost impossible to access a porn website from Saudi Arabia. You will also find it difficult to use proxy servers and the like to fool the system into thinking you are not in KSA, it is best to have them set up for your laptop before you get into the kingdom if you want to use them.
Along with porn in KSA you will find many other sites are impossible to access such as dating sites and even some social networks and news sites.
Porn on the Television in Saudi Arabia
You will find that films from the west that are aired on Saudi television and even on Saudi Airlines flights are heavily censored. You will see cleavage that is given the same treatment as witnesses faces are given in programs aired in the west so that you cannot see it clearly. Words and scenes that are unacceptable will also be cut even if it leaves the film being totally un-followable, things like gay kisses, touching areas that should not be touched etc will all be cut!
Due to how easy it is to access the feed from a TV satellite you can watch many channels and this includes several porn channels that the government is unable to block that are meant for neighboring countries.
You will also find that if you are able to connect your satellite decoder to the internet you can watch many of these channels for free despite them being totally against the law in Saudi Arabia.
Don’t get caught with Porn in Saudi Arabia
Films, pictures, magazines, computer files or any other media that may be considered pornography or immoral in Saudi Arabia should be avoided if you possibly can, certainly never get caught passing anything that could be considered porn to another person or you will certainly be in big trouble.
Remember that the Saudi definition of pornography and what is immoral is much tighter than we would expect, a flash of cleavage or thigh, or a suggestion of homosexuality is enough for something to be totally unacceptable and enough to get you in trouble.