Friday, February 26, 2010


Saudi Arabian customs is one of the slowest and least flexible institutions I have ever dealt with. My lab group has a critical order sitting in Jeddah for five weeks - we have called to check on the paperwork and asked how long it will take to clear numerous times. Last week, I got this email:

Hi Nathan,

I have been informed that the authorization for the release of the shipment from customs has been delayed. Our customs agents are required to submit more paperwork and the delay will be at least 2 weeks.

I will check again at the end of the week and update you.

Our case is not unique. The King has invested so much money and effort into this project, but stone-wall bureaucracy in the customs office continues to frustrate us all by stifling research. Major reforms are needed even in government customs offices, for KAUST's research mission to thrive. I hope they don't kill us with paperwork before that reform comes.


  1. Hi Nathan

    To add into your misery look into this customs paradox .Some scholars think the idea of customs is forbidden in Islam ie charging tariffs on goods entering the country , because it is very similar to “ Talaqi Alrukban “ which means going out side of town waiting to the trade caravan and buying it all denying every body else the chance to compete fairly.

    Some think that what customs are doing basically buying your goods and re selling it to you with marked up percentage. In spite of that searching trafficked illegal goods are prised by every one.

    Take care

  2. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.
    Wernher von Braun
    US (German-born) rocket engineer (1912 - 1977)

  3. Welcome to Saudi dude. Our buraucracy is legendary. No jobsworth is willing to take initiative or responsibility.