Helping Hints When Engaging a Part-time Housemaid in Saudi Arabia

Most individuals in the Kingdom, whether a Saudi or expat, will usually employ a housemaid.  So many opt to have a fulltime live-in housemaid as the cost to do so is overall reasonable and it is very convenient.  Others like me, for whatever reason, may choose to have someone who comes in part time and does not live in.



There are pros and cons to both options.  A full time housemaid is usually a housemaid which the individual has sponsored directly.  By sponsoring, I am referring where one has requested a housemaid from an agency, pays the agency fee as well as the costs associated with acquisition of a visa and airline ticket.  The housemaid then arrives in the Kingdom under the direct sponsorship of the individual (not the agency) and the individual is identified as the sponsor on the iqama of the housemaid.  In the majority of cases, the employer (individual) usually retains the housemaid’s iqama and passport.  You might read that last sentence and immediately wonder “why?” or think “that doesn’t sound fair.”  The reason is because many housemaids shortly after arrival may try to run away from their employers.



Housemaids will attempt (or succeed) in running away for various reasons.  A lot of them come here already having friends, relatives, boyfriends in the Kingdom.  Naturally they want to be reunited with them.  Yes; some housemaids are abused by families whether it is physical, mental or simply treating them like a slave.  Other housemaids run away for they quickly discover they can earn more money by “freelancing” than by working for one steady employer.  In those cases, the housemaid will usually live with a group of others of the same nationality and they have their own network for finding various jobs.  However these groups are now in the Kingdom illegally (without appropriate documentation on their person) and if such a housemaid is hired, it is difficult to check up on them in the event of items getting broken in your home or problems such as thievery.



So to wrap up about a full time housemaid before segueing to part time…a full time housemaid really does become part of the family.  She is in the home 24/7.  Depending on the  family she may be given a day off from work one day a week but even so, still relies upon the sponsoring family to go anywhere if she wishes (remember, the sponsor likely retains the iqama and passport). 


The part time housemaid as I alluded to in earlier paragraphs is someone who is already in the Kingdom and not sponsored by the individual hiring her part time.  In the majority of cases she is an illegal having come to the Kingdom and either she has run away from her sponsor or may have been in the Kingdom legally but the iqama expired.  In the minority of cases she is a legal resident of the Kingdom with a valid iqama.  There are a number of Saudis who will sponsor housemaids and drivers but rather than have the housemaid or driver work for them will instead collect a monthly fee from them in turn for the sponsorship.  These individuals are then free to find their own work and way in the Kingdom.



If engaging a part time housemaid in the Kingdom, whether she is legal or illegal, be prepared to pay an hourly rate and usually a higher rate than compared to having a full time housemaid.  The average going rate for a part time housemaid is 30 SAR per hour.  Some housemaids will accept a daily rate and agree to work until an entire house is cleaned to satisfaction.  These rates can vary.



With any housemaid and especially a part time housemaid it is ideal to have them work with supervision.  This tactic assures a return on the investment and that the housemaid is indeed working the expected hours agreed upon.  The terms and scope of work must be made clear.  She may need to be reminded of house rules, especially when concerning the use of appliances.  If a home has multiple currents like mine (both 110 and 220) be sure and implement some kind of a color code system that is easy for a housemaid to understand in regards to what appliances can or cannot be plugged in where!



For a part time housemaid, I recommend knowing her situation.  Be aware if she is legal or not.  Offer in the beginning to pick her up and return her to her residence.  Make every effort to confirm that she truly lives where she says she lives.  She’s part time, you’re not her sponsor so you will not be holding her passport or an iqama in case of any difficulties.  Therefore do your homework.



If she is not a legal resident of the Kingdom, ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk of employing an illegal alien.  This is especially most common in Mecca where many will come to perform hajj or umrah and not return, instead preferring to remain in the Kingdom and take various odd jobs.  If an illegal is apprehended by authorities she will be deported unceremoniously back to her home country.  I’m not exactly sure what repercussions are faced by the one employing a housemaid illegally as to whether there are fines to pay.  It would not surprise me if that were the case.



A part time housemaid can work out well if she is reliable, dependable and trustworthy.  Determining these factors can be challenging sometimes.


26 Responses

  1. Since my house in Saudi is not too big, shares the same backyard with my in laws, and I’m not planning on having another child who is already 2+, I’m seriously considering the use of part time housemaid. I recongnize it in myself, the “guilt” factor which would nag at me day and night if I have a miad at home-instead of her helping me, I might start helping her-because as Saudi lifestyle has it the maid won’t have many opportunities to socialize outside and vent the “regular” way.

    Thank you for an enlightening post Carol!

  2. Glad you enjoyed, Aysha!

  3. I believe they are being specially strict regarding employing illegal aliens in Saudi. As i understand it, employing an illegal alien can result in a fine andup to 6 month of jail time for the employer and deportation of the Alien. You should check on that.

  4. Shadowhispers, Thanks for the input. I knew there was some kind of a penalty but not aware of what exactly. Therefore this reinforces what I posted is that one should be aware of who they engage if using a part time housemaid.

    In fact, we had our own interesting experience with a part time housemaid. She had worked one day until late at night so we suggested she stay at our place rather than return to her home at that hour and in a taxi. So the next morning she got up around 7am to go out and flag down a taxi. Our Saudi-only compound has good and vigilant security. She was noted coming out of our house at an early hour so security apprehended her and returned her to our home fearing she was attempting to run away! My husband had to explain she only worked for us part time and was going home and she also had to show her papers proving she was legal!

  5. One of my friends in Riyadh hired a man and wife for driver and housemaid duties. They lived in a small apartment constructed on the property for that purpose. There was a door to the street and a door to the yard.The arrangement worked well, but my friend worried that her employees would share their housing with compatriotes who needed clandestine quarters. It hasn’t happened–yet.

  6. There are a lot of pros and cons when engaging a housemaid and driver whether to get a couple or individuals not related. Each has its pluses (two for one, easier to lodge without conflict, stability) and cons (if one is unhappy they both are unhappy, if one must be fired then usually you have to fire both).

  7. let me add when I say two for one, I do not mean one salary for both of them. Of course they each get their individual salaries but sometimes when engaging a couple it is cheaper than when hiring two separate individuals.

  8. Arriving in Saudi very young and newly married, it was a bit of a shock to see live-in housemaids/cooks working for my husband’s family. When it was time for the family to eat, for example, they ate their meals in the kitchen and always after us. I thought that this habit was such a terrible injustice to the employees. I soon found out that just as our painters and yard workers back home don’t eat breakfast or lunch with us when we hire them back in the USA, the same is true for here with live-in help. When I finally had my own ‘domestics’ a few years later, it became very clear that everyone needs their space; no matter what size the home. I realize now how judgemental one can be when one hasn’t experienced something firsthand. Full time maids in Saudi are a necessity with the lifestyle here if one can arrange it.

  9. Carol,

    What impact do you think the expectation of domestic help has on Saudi people and society?

    Not all Saudis have the resources to get domestic help, but a large chunk do. How does the expectation of domestic help, from very poor third world nations, affect their view of peoples from these countries? Does it enter into family relationships and bonds? The stories of Saudi children learning Tagalog (dominate language in the Philipines) before Arabic are legion.

    I have met Saudis here in the USA who are barely able to function on a domestic level because from birth they had someone attending their every need. When they get to a place like the West where having a maid is the exception, not the norm for all but the very richest, they have a hard time.

    I have met Saudis here on the scholarship, men and women in their early 20’s, who are unable to wash their own clothes, iron and have a very hard time with even the most basic tasks of cleaning their living space or cooking food.

    I know that is a whole other subject, but when you said most Saudis would employ such help it got me thinking.

  10. “She is in the home 24/7. Depending on the family she may be given a day off from work one day a week but even so, still relies upon the sponsoring family to go anywhere if she wishes (remember, the sponsor likely retains the iqama and passport).”

    In the UAE I came across a good few families who gave no days off to the domestic help. The reason? So that they wouldn’t get pregnant. *rolling eyes* I really think the Gulf needs to move towards work conditions that are uniform: time off, minimum wage, etc.

  11. AbuSinan,

    My Saudi husband never had to work a day in his life to make his bed, wash his clothes, etc. And yet, he learned how to cook, clean, and take care of himself before he left for college in the States. How? The maid taught him! Fast forward 25-30 years. How did our son, who also had to do very little work in the house learn? I taught him. He wasn’t interested in cooking in the beginning, but when he came home for winter break that first year, he begged me to teach him how to make his favorite foods. : )
    As for cleaning, my husband felt sorry for our son and sent him extra money for a maid to go in and help out. Problem solved. Many Saudis do the same. It’s one of the joys of living here–no housework!

  12. Abu Sinan,

    The environment here perpepuates (sp?) it becoming routine to have domestic help. For example, most Saudi homes are considerable larger than the average home in the West. In addition, the homes are not necessarily equipped with the conveniences of the West such as dishwashers and in some cases, washing machines and dryers. The environment also requires daily or thrice daily dusting and sweeping and mopping and vacuuming due to the continual dust and sand. And Saudi food usually is timely and requires a significant amount of advance preparation. Even if a woman is not working full time or part time outside of the home, a housemaid makes a huge difference towards keeping up with day-to-day life. And last but not least, for many people housemaids are affordable. I know of some Filipinas who are here as legal “freelance” housemaids and they even employ someone to clearn their own apartments!

    Whether or not a housemaid cooks is negotiable. But the housemaid is expected to clean the house, do laundry and iron. And like I mentioned, given the usual larger size of a Saudi family plus the size of the home, the housemaid is kept very busy.

    Naturally depending where a housemaid is from and also how they perform in your home and what kind of personality the housemaid has can impact on ones view of the housemaid’s home country. At the same time, many Saudi families will have had their housemaid for so many years that she (and her family) become part of the Saudi extended family too. Close and caring relationships develop.

    Of course the impact on expecting domestic help has various effects. It will cause some individuals to be just plain lazy and lethargic. Others will take positive advantage of having domestic help to channel their energies and talents into other directions than maintaining the house. You will see and hear all kinds of stories…good, bad, heartwrenching and ones that will simply put a big smile on your face too.

  13. I dont know, I am a cynic. I think there is value in children learning to do these things on their own as children. I think it teaches them the ability to do it and doesnt leave the impression that it is work unfitting for a “Saudi”.

    My step son went back to live with his family in Saudi in November. He isnt finished with high school yet and wanted to get a job working at a hotel or something. With his Arabic and fluent English he’d be a good fit in a front desk position.

    He was told by his family that no respectable Saudi would do such a job and they refused him permission to look for such a position. Do they expect young man who hasnt finished his education to be given a management position where he has the Indians, Pakistanis and Africans do all of the work?

    To a certain extent I think the whole “domestic help” culture feeds into this. The idea that certain jobs and tasks are reserved for certain people, from certain countries, of certain races. The idea that all work is honest work is not one present in Saudi society.

    This is reflected in the fact that Western workers, with Western educations, will make more money and do less work than their counterparts from the East, even if those from the East have Western educations.

    I had one such Westerner tell me once that the Saudi who owned the company just wanted the prestige of having a white guy in the front office, so he paid him more and required less work, whilst the people from India and Pakistan who did the real work got paid much, much less.

    All work IS honest work. There is a lot to be gained by having to work for what you have. I think it does people, and a society, an injustice by giving them things without working for it. I think making beds, fixing your own food and doing dishes builds character, not just for children, but for adults as well.

    There is a sense in the wider Middle Eastern society, especially in Saudi, that some work is just not respectable, therefor the people who do it usually end up being treated as unrespectable as well.

    I think learning these things, amoungst others, actually goes a long way to instilling a work ethic in a person and in a society. One that I think, in my experience, is lacking in the Middle East. When you out source everything to others because you cannot, or will not do it, it negatively affects a society.

    I’d love to hear from a Saudi on this one, someone with experience in the business world and both the West and Saudi. “Saudi in the USA” would be the perfect one to chime in on this.

    Personally, I think it is a drag on Saudi society, I think it pretty much victimises many people from around the world, not to mention tens of millions of dollars are sent out of the country every year. Honestly, there are Saudi women out there who would do this work because they need the money. It is the idea that it is not fit for a Saudi that keeps them from being able to do it.

    All work is honest……….an idea that has yet to catch on in the Middle East, and this attitude very negtively effects both the work ethic in the region and production.

    My father in law brought a wife to help my mother in law after she got breast cancer, before that she refused. She was a nice Muslim lady from Sri Lanka and had worked in Saudi for years. She spoke little English, but her Arabic was good. She used to relate stories to me of ill treatment in Saudi. I think ill treatment, on one level or another, is the norm not the exception.

    I have seen it often in the Middle East, but having never been in Saudi I can just relate what I am told by those in both positions. I have had many Saudis, my wife’s family included, tell me all sorts of stories of beatings, murders, rape, the standard initiation of young Saudi boys with the maid.

    All in all I think more ill comes from it than positive. 10,000 houses being properly kepy by a well treated maid does not justify the rape or murder of one maid.

  14. Opps………….should have said my father in law brought a maid to help his wife after her breast cancer.

  15. “I dont know, I am a cynic. I think there is value in children learning to do these things on their own as children. I think it teaches them the ability to do it and doesnt leave the impression that it is work unfitting for a “Saudi”.”

    I completely agree. Yes, I am whole-heartedly in favour of hired help if it’s within my budget. That said, I’ve spent years cleaning my own place. I grew up in a house where everyone had to do their bit. It makes me value even more those who commit themselves to this as a profession. The topic of manual labout came up on another blog about Saudi. It was mentioned that Saudis (and other Gulf Arabs) won’t really ever respect servants and as equals until they’ve done those same jobs-whether it’s inside their own house or as a full-time job.

  16. I agree with Abu Sinan too, mostly.
    I of course do everything myself and I am a total loser as housekeeper.
    But I do enjoy the rare times I have my house in order.

  17. Yes abu Sinan, it’s great what you wrote! We need to take responsability to take care of ourselves and teach our children to do the same EVEN if we have maids. Does the maid wipe(water wash) your bottom after you go for you or do you do it yourself is what people need to ask themselves. If you can wipe, you can do other things that “lesser” people can do too.
    In Lebanon they look down on the Palestineans and Syrians that come to look for low jobs and my husband needed a job badly I told him to try to be a street sweeper and though he has no racial prejudices he wouldn’t do it because his family would get talked about and he didn’t want to bring harm to them. SO not everyone is racist but a lot of people have to pretend they are for family. Sad i know.

    BEDU: I want you to please add more (an update maybe?) (or an excerpt here) about HOW TO KNOW IF YOU CAN TRUST A MAID because THAT is the main worry about most maids if they are going to rob you blind. Weither they are legal or not. I love your post but I’m itching for more.
    My mother-in-law who has to hire before SriLankans and now (because price has gone up for Sri’s) Bangladeshis always tests them with a simple test. She leaves a 10 or 20 in the fridge or in pants pocket in the laundry or on a dresser or in a drawer then asks the maid to do that task of cleaning that place anytime she gets to it (like she’s not emphasizing the place) and if it’s there at the end of the day she knows she maybe can trust them better or if the maid takes it to her and says she found it. Sometimes when it was gone she would ask the maid if she’s seen it and sometimes the maid gives in and says yes and she put it on a table and will rush to her room to retrieve it or other maids will say no (lying). She fires both the second ones. So I am curious what ways you know of or have heard of to test the maids so they don’t take your most personal items.

  18. American Muslimah Writer,

    Trusting a maid or even a driver can be well….many times, a matter of trust. At the moment I have no housemaid or driver. I was using a part-time housemaid but recently let her go for unreliability and carelessness. Thankfully not due to an issue of mistrust. But you raise a very key and common area where many have problems with domestic help. Your MIL’s technique is good. I have not given specific tests in regards to trust but when I have had live-in help in the past and also my part time help I had here, I had ground rules which I post on the refridgerator door as a regular reminder. We reviewed the ground rules together so there is no misunderstanding or confusion. One of the issues is trust in that if I find anything missing or an item was broken and I was not informed, that could be grounds for immediate dismissal.

    Many families I know will not allow the housemaid into their bedroom to clean unless escorted by a family member because that is where jewels or other important papers are kept. Many others, to avoid risk of temptation, keep their valuables secured.

    It seems though that the most common observation is that a housemaid will not steal overtly from her employers but if she accompanies the family when they visit others, then if she is someone who would steal, may be more tempted to take something from another home, especially if another housemaid or two can be around to take the blame.

    One does have to remember that the housemaid generally comes from an impoverished background and is being exposed to what in her eyes are riches she has not seen before. In her eyes, her employer may be living in exess and living lavishly. She may think “he or she does not really need this or that since they have so much.” I’m not saying this is right. And of course, the way a housemaid is treated also goes a long way in how they in turn react with the family who employs them and what loyalty is given.

  19. This is nothing. Why do you people harp on abuse of women in Saudi Arabia. In India, specifically in occupied Kashmir and Gujrat, Muslim women are raped en masse by Indian soldiers. What goes on in Saudi Arabia in regards to women being molested pales in comparison to what goes on to Muslim women in the rest of the world, including in India.
    Yes, I agree there is abuse in Saudi. Arabs in the gulf do have a superiority complex about themselves, as do most Arabs, but what happens to others is far worse. In Thailand, the whole sex industry there is far more demeaning to women then anywhere else in the world. An industry created by the United States after the Vietnam war.
    Much of this Saudi bashing is symptomatic of Jewish Neocon propaganda. The same lies about women being abused was used by the Bush administration to go to war against Afghanistan.

  20. Furthermore, in Israel Palestinian women are abused. In addition, Eastern European women are forced into prostitution to serve the vile appetites of the Israeli military. The Jewish-controlled media says nothing about this abuse of women.
    National Review, a thoroughly neoconservative publication, ran several articles about Saudi slavery in the United States, involving women. Daniel Pipes on his webpage does the same. Come on you people, think about it! You bash your own fellow Muslims, when non-Muslims do much worse.
    I ask you to consider the facts and weigh the evidence, instead of serving as dupes for this present “War of Terrorism” against the Islamic world.

  21. Syed Saboor – this is a blog about customs, cultures and experiences in SAUDI ARABIA. Therefore I usually do not write about other issues; there are many other blogs out there covering all the relevant issues.

    Keep on track, keep your comments clean or else you will be blocked. I was kind earlier and only removed your very inappropriate comments with foul language. If you persist, you are blocked.

    Thank you – American Bedu

  22. I am married to a Saudi National and we will be relocating to Saudi next month. I will not be working for the moment. What are the procedures for us to get a maid and driver? Are there any restrictions because I will not be working? Please your assistance would be most appreciated.

    Thank you

  23. Maryam,

    Your Saudi husband will have to apply through one of the many agencies for sponsorship of a maid and driver. There are no restrictions in regards to whether a woman is working or not.

  24. Thank you for the information – are there any agencies that you could recommend and do you know what the procedure and costs are?

    Thank you

  25. We used Fast Track Agency in Riyadh. The costs vary depending on what nationalties. If you do additional searches in my blog on housemaid you’ll find where I’ve written earlier posts on the step by step procedures.

  26. […] you who would like to read some of the earlier posts I have written about housemaids, you may like this post on engaging a part time housemaid and this post on obtaining a housemaid and this post on […]

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