Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saudi Filthy Public Toliets - Riyadh to Makkah

In year 2000, I went for my hajj from Riyadh by bus (convoy) with hundreds of Indonesians living in Riyadh. We stopped at several rest stop (R&R) areas for refreshments, solat etc and of course for relief.

The conditions of the toilets along the journey at these areas were out of this world, outrageously & shockingly dirty & filthy. They had not been maintained at all...most of the rest areas had no toilets for the ladies.

It is demeaning since Saudi has a king who hailed himself as the guardian of two holy mosques and Islam promotes cleanliness. Saudi is also a rich country.

It was cultural shock for me as I thought our (Malaysia's) public toilets were dirty.

It is very much different in the UAE with the petrol stations along the Saudi border to Abu Dhabi provide good and clean toilets.

I thought Saudi public toilet conditions had been improved until I read an entry by a blogger recently

I have written previously on the typical condition of public toilets in Saudi Arabia. And I have also suggested a woman may prefer the open expanse of the desert for relief rather than try to use a public toilet…particularly if one is driving between Riyadh and Makkah for example. However recently I heard of the alternative taken by one expat woman which I believe has simply gone too far. During this woman’s travels and seeing the pitiful condition of the public toilets adjacent to the masjid (mosque), instead of attempting to use the toilet, she actually went in to the empty masjid and relieved herself on the carpeted floor of the masjid. She did this intending to make a point about the conditions of the public toilets and seemed not to comprehend how most individuals would react to her actions.

squatting style toilet

After another recent road trip I have become convinced that the elite and wealthy of Saudi Arabia simply do not use public toilets nor do they travel any great distances in a car. Why am I making such a statement you may ask? Because consistently when traveling either East to West or North to South the conditions of the public toilets at wayside places where one would stop are atrocious and among the filthiest I have seen in my life. I was going to post a photo taken with my mobile phone camera but I decided it was actually to distasteful to publicly post.

Public toilet, Al Hasa, Saudi Arabia

For a rich country not much time or effort or interest is spent on public facilities. The majority of public toilets are connected with a mosque. Think about it, it is typical to wash and ensure one is clean (make woodoo) before praying in the mosque. Yet even the individuals preparing for their prayers must walk on floors that are not only dirty and covered with filth but usually have 2-3 inches of water amassed on the floor as well. Now imagine that scenario if you are also a woman wearing an abaya and trying to squat over a “two stepper” toilet all the while having to watch just where you do place your feet because of all the filth and garbage and waste all around. I find this appalling.

As a result, it has convinced me that the elite and wealthy have likely never been anywhere near these public toilets. I further understand why people may choose to fly from Riyadh to Damman instead of drive the 3 hour trip. The worse is going from Riyadh to Mecca. While one can have an enjoyable car ride with the changing scenery again the public toilets defy the imagination.

It really saddens me that better care is not taken for the provision of clean public washrooms. I would gladly pay a few token riyals each time I used one to know that would ensure their maintenance and cleanliness. I think back on the public rest stop areas in the States which would not only have clean western style toilets but many would also have rooms with showers as well.

I’ve traveled to many countries and Saudi Arabia is right at the top of the list of countries with the worse and dirtiest public toilets along the highways.

and one comment:-
I have lived in Malaysia for quite a while and there’s no thought in that they maintain cleanliness in terms of all facilities, .. toilets on highways,malls,stations … and general areas; including not throwing trash outside the bins .. Part of the reason i see is that they charge for use .. which I think is totally acceptable. I think most of us wouldn’t mind paying for better facilities.
Thats also the reason for the amazing highways of Malaysia .. coz they have tolls .. thus they r able to provide excellent “Rehats” … rest places .. where you would find showers, toilets, prayer areas, fruit vendors, and restorans, gas stations, …
Also, I think that a lot depends on the people who r using it. A countless number of times I came across toilets where people squatted over the western style, leaving their filthy footmarks over the seat .. and obviously making it unhygienic for other people. Now this cant be dealt with, unless people start respecting other people. …
… the latest trip being jarir .. jarir is supposed to be the top notch bookstore .. so we expect their toilets to be at least cleaner …
I remember at Ikea Malaysia , the sign read “leave the toilet as you would have wanted to find it” …. CLEAN !
I would be happy to find clean toilets in the cities first … the highways .. err .. i have given up on it …


nj said...


Mr Fudzail...

If you've experienced it during your last visit here in Saudi in 2000, you will not be surprised to find out that the condition is the same or should I say even worse still today! I've written quite a lengthy entry in my blog ALL about the toilets in Saudi. I wish that I could bring along a portable one if I had one on every trip ... Cleanliness is a NO NO practice over here...I hated it so much even my children weren't dare to use the so called 'public' toilets here...
What can we do about it? hmmm wonder...

Norma Kassim said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this & so do my saudi friends !

Yusri said...

I've done my Umrah a couple of times, alhamdulillah. Met several arab friends and still contacting. You are right about the fact but before we as Muslims start pointing our fingers at them, we have to think very deep into this. Is it really the Saudis who doesn't practice cleanliness?
Maybe. I could be wrong about this one but as far as I know, Saudis are hygienic society. What normally makes those public facility filthy are the outsiders, like Pakistan, Afghan, India, Bangladesh and other 3rd world countries, not to mention Malayzia.
Original Arab people are clean. Look how they dress! Their clothes are very clean even with hijab and niqab on! And now look at how we Malaysian dress. The guys wear perfumes and all. I've been several places like Jordan, Syria (my fav place!!!), Saudi (Madinah, Makkah, Dubai etc) etc. I often go visit the middle east every year. Yes, some public toilets are dirty. Although in fact, I rarely been to such public toilets because I never had any faith of its cleanliness. It's a public toilet! What do you expect. It's not the Arab, in my point of view. Again, if you see other races than Arab, the place will most likely be less hygienic. On 2nd thought, maybe the Bangla didn't cleaned it as they were told or maybe you came at the wrong hour.

Yusri said...

I'd like to add, imagine when there are a million people using that toilet during Haj like last year that I've been. It is one of the test from Allah to test how patience and iman. Sorry if I sound like preaching but it is important for us to look upon other factors in which it may be related to the matter. We have to open our mind, look into different horizon at a wider scope. During umrah, they'd be thousands of people in and out from the public toilet and most of them are FOREIGNERS. What do you expect. Even at those shops, are they Saudians? They are not Saudis, they are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indians etc.. Some Arabs in Makkah and Madinah has never done their Haj yet! So now we can do the math and calculate who are those majorities using those public toilets. We can't expect it in perfectly form, and I think you know about that. My umie had told me once, "expect the worse is even better" and I've already did. The toilets in Mina, in Makkah, Arafah etc., when you have expect the worse, give it a smile. Now, we have passed all that.
I love Middle eastern countries than Europe. I know Europe is perhaps 10 times better, I prefer middle eastern more. I'm not saying we should say it is 'okay' to public toilets like that. But you will experience all that every year during the pilgrimage, Haj. It's normal. Get used to it. The Saudi government has done their very best to satisfy the..umm....4 million people who uses the public facility. Imagine that. 4 Mil beb. 4 mil or 6 mil? Not sure but as far as I know, they're going expand Masjidil Haram, meaning there'll be more people and more....public toilets!!! More public toilets can help to solve the filthy problem? The answer is no because the numbers of people coming always multiplies by 5 for each toilets available!
Don't you just love maths. Ha-ha.


nj said...


Mr Fudzail,

(I wish I could reply to the comment from brother Yusri...)
I would agree with brother Yusri's comment, true the public toilets are frequent by the non Saudis, as a matter of fact, these Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians, Kabayans, Nepals, Sri Lankans and a few other nationalities 'take care' of the toilets because the Mudeer (owner) of each premise such as petrol station, R&R etc, obviously the Saudis...contracted out the duty and responsibility to their workers...what do you expect? The Saudis do not do 'dirty' jobs! I've been here in Jubail for a humble 4 months already and living around the Saudis ...they couldn't care less on other people! Evidently, Arab Saudi is NOT a tourist country...because again...they couldn't care less of what other people thinks and feels...so why bother to have their workers to practice a little bit of cleanliness disciplines at the premises...
Again just take a realistic example for that matter; if you were the manager of a department...you want your workers to portray good images and utmost services to your clients...so as to maintain other aspects at your 'desired' level...hence, if you are the manager who does not bother to consider those elements as important to your department's productivity, or at least being firm on those aspects (image & service)...apparently you have not done the simplest managerial principles (PLOC)good enough or you are just a BAD manager!
Just my humble two-cents!

han said...


You faced the worst because you've travelled by Bus. Bus drivers have certain spot that they all seem to stop for rest area. Due to that the place tends to be overcrowded and the operator couldn't care less (to maintain toilet clean etc.) for he's been assured of customers by the bus drivers. Maybe they're paid or getting free meals (just like Msia).

You get better toilets and other facilities that you can choose from if you travel by car. This is at least from my experience for Dammam-Mekkah route.

Well better not best but at least bearable. Look for rest area run by organisation like Sasco or Al-Drees. Or even independent outlets I found quite OK.


Mohammad said...

My Yusri,

I am sorry and deeply hurt by your narrow minded and RACIST comments. This blog is intended to highlight an issue about the discomfort and problems faced by travelers while travelling.

Rather than making an attempt to comprehend the problem or add a positive comment you are blaming others for it. Have you ever been to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan or Bangladesh to see the condition of the toilets? I bet not, then how on earth are you making such derogatory remarks?

Your sparkling white clothes are only clean because the so called 'Banglas' clean it for you and based on the comments you have made here, I am convinced that your cleanliness is only outwardly, as the traces of dirt that is inside is visible from the comments you have made.

Ghulam Mubashar said...

Dear Mr. Yusri,

Its sad to know that tried to deceive people by your confuse state of mind due to RACISIM. Actually, its very easy to maintain toilets clean by patrol pumps. They are earning and need to facilitate people.
As far as Saudi's cleanliness is concerned, just meet pure badoweins or arabs out of main cities. You will get to know their bad manners, dirtyness, rudeness, jahiliyah and top of all dis-respect about Islam (while they read and understand what is written in Quran unlike most of muslims of India, bangladesh, pakistan etc.)
I believe that all nations have good and bad people and may Allah keep us among good people. So, do not blame 3rd world countries. Do not forget that these 3rd world countries are empowering the technology, medical facilities, millitary and safety of land of Muhammad (SAW).

LifeCoach said...

There was no water in the toilets and the facilities were disgusting worse than in the poorest of countries, we travelled by car Makkah to Medina. I travelled to Ummrah in 2012 for the 1st from Uk to me it felt the Saudi government just don't care. There is no excuse for toilets facilities the area around Makkah to be filthy the way it is. No excuse either for some of the arrogant manner many of the Saudi's have who man the Kabbah area. Islam teaches cleanliness, manners and piety. If the Makkan's can't get those basic traits of Islam, shame on them.

ATH007 said...

I travelled for Umrah yesterday and I have to say, the situation has improved by miles. Every point of major stop I made (travelled by car from Riyadh to Makkah), I saw very clean facilities and toilets. The last time (an year back) I saw the changes coming, and I thought it was a one of incident. Now I have to say its good.

Make sure you stop at SASCOs. They showcase the 'clean tag' with everything they have; toilets, food, service.. anything.


ATH007 said...

I travelled for Umrah yesterday and I have to say, the situation has improved by miles. Every point of major stop I made (travelled by car from Riyadh to Makkah), I saw very clean facilities and toilets. The last time (an year back) I saw the changes coming, and I thought it was a one of incident. Now I have to say its good.

Make sure you stop at SASCOs. They showcase the 'clean tag' with everything they have; toilets, food, service.. anything.


sidra qadir said...

is there a rest area for overnight stay for Riyadh Makkah route??