Saudi Arabia: Which Housemaids are Better?

 

In the Saudi culture it is customary to have a housemaid.  For many, a housemaid is considered essential.  Additionally, a housemaid is relatively affordable.  The salary of a housemaid depends upon which country she is from.  For example, housemaids from Africa, Bangladesh or Indonesia are paid less than if seeking a housemaid from the Phillipines.  Most popular among Saudis are generally housemaids from Indonesia as they are Muslim, know some Arabic and have a reputation of being hard workers.  Expatriates usually engage Phillipina housemaids as they will speak English and are more Westernized.

 

Presently in the Kingdom there have been issues among both Indonesian and Phillipine housemaids.  The issues have been due to wage disputes and abuse.  As a result there is presently a stand-down on bringing additional housemaids from these countries into the Kingdom.  An agreement has been reached between Saudi Arabia and Morocco for the import of Moroccan housemaids.  However, many Saudi and expatriate women married to Saudis have strong objections to the presence of Moroccan housemaids.

 

  The objection that I hear most often about the Moroccan housemaid is that she is “opportunistic” and has loose morals.  It is said that Moroccan women are prettier than the women who come from other countries to be housemaids.  The Moroccan woman is said to know the Saudi culture best, has the language, is Muslim and knows the way to a Saudi man’s heart.  Others say that a Moroccan woman is skilled in black magic.

 

Ironically Morocco is among the preferred vacation destinations of Saudis.  Even King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan prefer to convalesce in Morocco.  So, what’s the deal exactly about a Moroccan housemaid?  Is it okay to visit but don’t bring a Moroccan female into the home in Saudi?

 

Frankly one takes a risk regardless of nationality when bringing someone unknown into the home.  Regardless of how pious a housemaid may seem or in spite of being a practicing Muslim, some housemaids can be dishonest and not think twice of stealing from an employer.  Some housemaids may have a personality or a specific intent to be close to the men in the household.  Again, these are risks with bringing a female domestic employee into the home where all live together day in and day out.

 

It is imperative that there be ground rules when a housemaid arrives of what is expected, what is tolerated and what are red lines which if crossed would result in immediate termination.  At the same time, a housemaid should be treated with respect and not abused.  Abuse is not only physical.  Mental abuse such as yelling and harsh words is not acceptable.  Nationality makes no exception.

 

But speaking of nationality, is there really a difference whether one has a Phillipina, Indonesian, Moroccan, or housemaid of some other nationality?  Is one really better than another?  What have YOUR experiences been?

 

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36 Responses

  1. It is wrong idea to bring maids from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, because saudi women wont accept it and much problems will be create in saudi houses. Saudi women will be jealous from moroccain maid in their houses near of their husbands !!!

  2. “In the Saudi culture it is customary to have a housemaid.”

    With due respect, this shows utter lack of knowledge of Saudi society. 40% of the Saudi population is at or below the UN designated poverty level. Servants and maids used to be royals’ and their looting partners exclusive privilege. Maids are new to the general public. Most well-to-do Saudis (the ones Western expats meet and socialize with) can afford housemaids (modern slaves).

  3. I guess we agree to disagree on how many Saudi families have housemaids, Ali. I saw Saudi families who were struggling to make ends meet but still had domestic help.

    From my own personal experience I did not know any families who were without a housemaid and this included what I would call lower to middle class.

  4. “It is said that Moroccan women are prettier than the women who come from other countries to be housemaids. The Moroccan woman is said to know the Saudi culture best, has the language, is Muslim and knows the way to a Saudi man’s heart. Others say that a Moroccan woman is skilled in black magic…Ironically Morocco is among the preferred vacation destinations of Saudis.”

    Ironically?? I think the first sentences explain EXACTLY why Saudi (men) love to vacation in Morocco!

  5. There is a very simple reason that Saudi women do not want Moroccan women in their homes. Moroccan women are Arabs and therefore more desireable than Africans, Bangladeshi or women from any other Asian country who are barely regarded as humans.
    Unfortunately too many issues in this place boil down to good-old-fashioned racism.

  6. I have had experiences with Filipino, Sri Lankan, and Indonesian housekeepers and I have had the most success with the Indonesian females. I found them to be fiercely loyal, friendly and easy to please. I have always warned others that if they were not caring and were mean to the help, then they should not expect that she should reciprocate behind their back. Especially if they were to leave their children in her care! She would definitely take it out on the kids!!
    If you abuse the housemaid, expect her to abuse your kids.
    I think nationality makes a difference and am patiently waiting for the KSA to reinstate bringing in help from Indonesia.

  7. I had experiences with Filipina, Kenya and Indonesian housemaids. I found the Filipina housemaids I had were good but always wanted a raise (my experience). I was very pleased with my Kenyan housemaid but then issues arose between her and some of my Saudi family. As a result we had to let her go. My Indonesian housemaid was good and I was pleased with her. She did not speak any English but as a result it helped me with my Arabic. If my husband and I had not left KSA I imagine we’d still have our Indonesian housemaid.

  8. Carol, the Indonesian housemaids – all 3 of them – were speaking English by the time their contracts were up! All of my non-English speaking Arabic friends were extremely jealous!:)

  9. @Robin – that is fabulous! My housemaid did learn some English but since we had so many Saudi family around us, Arabic tended to be the primary language.

  10. I have a Q: is it possible to get a part-time nanny for a newborn? Not full-time housemaid.

  11. One of my Saudi friends loved Morocco, but didn’t have loose morals. I think he honestly just enjoyed his time there like anyone else would vacationing somewhere they enjoy going. But then again, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the nicest, most interesting people. However, I must also say that Spain seemed to be one of the most consistently desirable places for my Saudi friends to visit (as in pretty much all of the ones I met enjoyed their time visiting Spain and wanted to go there again -although they did have to take care not to eat pork while in Spain).

  12. Of my three Saudi families only one has a maid. who is from Malaysia. The families all make excellent incomes but the family with the maid has a very large house. One set of friends has two maids plus a driver all from Sri Lanka. All were very surprised that I did not have a maid to clean my very large house and didn’t believe how expensive it is here to hire someone to help clean.

  13. check out the link below, some are claiming that Moroccan house maid are risky for their BLACK MAGIC skill lol
    http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article501818.ece

    though for me its racist that you pay for the nationality not for the skill. That is what you will find here in middle east. Its a modern slavery.
    A Yamani cooker will get better salary thn his south asian mate thouhg they both have the same qualifications! Is not it absurd?? But its so true in here.

  14. check out the link below, some are claiming that Moroccan house maid are risky for their BLACK MAGIC skill lol
    http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article501818.ece

    though for me its racist that you pay for the nationality not for the skill. That is what you will find here in middle east. Its a modern slavery.
    A Yamani cooker will get better salary thn his south asian mate thouhg they both have the same qualifications! Is not it absurd?? But its so true in here.

  15. Wendy…

    I too have a very large house and my Indian family was aghast that I didn’t have help, but when they found out how much it was they understood. I do have a 2 person team come in twice a month to take care of the “heavy” cleaning. They work maybe three or four hours each time. The rest I do myself…My MIL was on me about getting help until I explained to her that what she pays her fulltime help in India for a month is about what I pay for one session of cleaning. She stopped bugging me after that. LOL!

  16. It always surprises me that people in ME countries believe in black magic. I would have thought that the belief goes against Islam?

  17. What’s black magic?

  18. Wendy, muslims believe wholeheartedly in black magic! There are surahs in the Quran where it is specifically mentioned, most famously, Surah Al-Falaq (The Dawn).

    This surah asks for protection from various evils, such as the dark of the night, or the “envies” of the “envious”. In verse 4, “those who blow on knots”, refers to would-be witches. In the time of the prophet(pbuh), some “women of a tribe would try to cast spells on enemies by tying a knot in a rope, reciting spells and blowing on them.” The “evil of the envious when he envies” is taken by some to allude to the Evil Eye, although it can be taken literally.

    It is a beautiful surah that alerts the muslim to the fact that “black magic” does exist and that one should be careful of all signs pointing to it.

  19. @ robinrcks

    Thank you. I must be of the school that such magic is non-nonsensical even if it’s written in religious texts. No wonder, people don’t walk with me when I had black suit on when I was back in the motherland. They probably were afraid of being stricken by a lightening rod, or Naif religious police bamboo sticks

  20. @ robinrcks

    Thank you. I must be of the school that thinks such magic is non-nonsensical even if it’s written in religious texts. No wonder, people don’t walk with me when I had black suit on when I was back in the motherland. They probably were afraid of being stricken by a lightening rod, or Naif religious police bamboo sticks

  21. 🙂

  22. We had a srilankan maid – I improved my srilankan tamil vastly ,she didn’t care much for english or the indian version of tamil 🙂 but she was sincere, honest and very regular . part time though, she did ask if we could sponsor her fullt ime but we were not comfortable with someone staying with us ..

    now i have 2 lovely romanian ladies come weekly and keep my house sparkling clean. – they are wonderful and worth every cent i pay them.

  23. @ Radha-Hurray for cleaning ladies everywhere!
    I was thinking it would be nice to hear from the maids themselves on these issues. What is it like for them to come so far from their home countries to work for strangers and live in their house? What do they think of how they are stereotyped? Many of the maids come from poor backgrounds and don’t have much education, but some of the ones who come to my house for occasional cleaning through an agency speak fluent English and also use the internet. They mainly use the internet for social networking and to chat with their families back home, but maybe some are also reading blogs? It would be cool to have a Saudi expat blog written by a maid or nanny.

  24. If someone does know a maid in Saudi Arabia that could do an interview I’d like to be put in touch with her.

  25. @ California–my hometown

    They all come from poverty stricken backgrounds, otherwise why they would accept the depredation, degradation, humiliation, sexual assaults and the poking of their bodies with burning nails and cigarette buds.

    The reasons they are not participating in this condescending discussion (which slave is better, the Indonesian, the Moroccan or the others) about their conditions and fate are because they could be subjected to more abuses (nails and cigarette buds treatment) if they could tell their true stories about their treatment in the hands of their masters and mistresses.

    It’s not just the majority of Saudis who abuse house slaves, Western expats do it too based on first hand eye witnessing. Based on the exchanges above, one does not have to be more than mediocre to imagine how house servants are treated. As long as there are no institutionalized protective laws and other measures to protect, not only house servants, but the overwhelming majority of Saudis, especially women, abuses will continue unabated.

    CDHR is looking into hiring a part time woman to rally support for empowering Saudi women. They are the only hope to move the country forward and rid it from its present social and political stagnation as well as its deadly religious extremism. We are also seeking financial support to hire a part time woman to expose the maltreatment of expatriates, especially women, drivers and sweepers. Any takers and/or put your money where your mouth is individual, family or group of true human rights defenders? If so, please call or email me.

  26. Leaving KSA for USA … have you read “The Help” yet??? Things were bad but I think these women had a good life compared to some stories I hear out of KSA and other Arab countries.

  27. Western expats can not hire maids legally. They hire from the black market and those maids can leave any time they chose. Of course it’s all not legal. But that is how non-Saudi’s hire help. And how anyone hires part-time.

    I’m not so sympathetic towards street sweepers these days. They are starting to harass people (especially women) for money. Though if it is because they are not being paid their salary the government is at fault. If they are paying them they are at fault for not protecting women. I should be able to walk in the street or through a parking lot without being approached by multiple men who when I don’t give them money sometimes knock at my car with their brooms.

    The system is a disgrace and invites abuse from all angles. But it is not true to say that all maids are treated like slaves. I know many that are not.

  28. Wendy, just googled “The Help.” Sounds fascinating! I’ll bet the book is better than the movie, though. I’m going to Jarir soon!

  29. I hope they have it. It’s a great bookstore for sure! The book IS much better than the movie.

  30. The Help is an outstanding read. Once I started I could not put it down.

    I could imagine a Saudi version of The Help. It would certainly be an eye-opener for many of the world.

  31. Sandy,westernersareallowwed to sponsor maids.We’ve brought themover onmore than one occasion.

    Umm Adam

  32. @Um Adam, if you don’t mind me asking- how did you manage that? I thought only a Saudi could sponser someone. In fact, as a westerner-you yourself must have a sponser. I don’t in any way mean to be argumentative- just wondering the technicalities on how it is done. Every westerner I know with help- is not the sponser of the help.

  33. There are western as well as nonwestern expatriates in our compound who have sponsored domestic helpers from overseas. There is an iqama “classification” requirement as well as a minimum income requirement. The expatriate’s sponsor has to sign off on the paperwork as well.
    We also have an hourly service for hiring housekeepers available legally through a company. This kind of option has not caught on widely in the Kingdom, I believe. The rates for this service are higher, much higher than what is typically paid to live in helpers. The workers, themselves, are not paid well, but from talking with some of them, I find that they prefer the well defined hours and relative safety of working for a company.

  34. @California,
    Ok. That makes sense. Similar to being able to bring a family, and ultimately the sponsor has to procure the classification of the iqama and sign off on whoever comes.

  35. Can a single expat woman have a housemaid (not live-in) come and clean for her on a compound?

  36. People people there is no modern slavery or what so ever wen people
    want a job the will take every job that will be offered that is no news but too be honest never ever would i take or even if i had power
    in that way i would never let Romanian-en people in to the kingdom!!!!!! because it doesn’t has nothing to do with racism but the
    are one of the most awful!!! people that are now walking around Europe because of my study I travel d allot true Europe and it was always something with the Roma’s abducting children or they dont have documents at all or robbery or prostitution or the whats so every i find them bad people I they must be denied in the kingdome

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