I think I have mentioned it before but the university administration is broken up into two sections, male only and female only. Obviously, I had never had any interaction with anyone outside of the ladies’ section, as I’m not allowed into the men’s building. That all changed, however, when I arrived at the ladies’ section requesting signatures for my clearance. I was advised by one of the ladies in finance that I had to get a signature from the finance manager before anyone else could sign my form and he could only be reached by entering the men’s section. This put me at a significant disadvantage as I don’t travel with a man in waiting who could run errands for me when the need arose, such as this one. My lack of male escort seemed to surprise and confuse some of the ladies, who offered the solution of trying to talk to the security guards at the entrance to the building.
Upon arriving at the men’s section I was met by the security guards who quickly tried to send me back to the ladies’ section, thinking I must have made some major error in my navigation there. After a few minutes of broken Arabic and a lot of gesturing at the Arabic words on my forms, one of the guards decided to take it in for me while the other guard offered me a chair to sit in. He pushed it out the door and into the entrance hall to the building. Then he pushed it a little further, while gesturing at me to keep pushing until I was a safe distance away. This seemed to work to my advantage because the security guards were so concerned about getting me away from the building that they did not waste any time completing the task I had left to them. To my relief, I got the signature, which allowed me to get the remaining ones from the ladies’ section and was told my clearance was complete. All I needed now was my plane ticket (paid for by a voucher from the university) and my final exit visa. By now it was mid-August and Eid al-Fitr was just over a week away. I thought I was likely to be done by the first week of September, after Eid vacation (a week-long public holiday), but I was very wrong.
My next task was to apply for my exit visa, the procedure for which no one except the head of the KAUH passport office knew about (or at least no one else was prepared to explain to me). This was a problem because he had taken vacation until the middle of Ramadan. Fortunately, by the time he had returned to work I had completed my clearance paperwork and I needed to know what other documents were required to apply for the visa. I also wanted to know the length of time I had between getting the visa and leaving the country so that I could book my flight back to Australia.
After a number of unsuccessful visits to the passport office, I finally managed to arrive at a time when the head of the passport office was there (which, as I mentioned previously, can be very difficult during the month of Ramadan) and he happily answered all of my questions until I was able to fully comprehend the procedure. This may have seemed silly of me but I was well aware that often details important to me were considered to be unimportant to the person I was speaking to because they considered it common knowledge (ie, that I needed clearance paperwork in the first place). In fact the man I was speaking with appeared quite surprised that no one else had explained the exit visa requirements to me already. This was a pretty common occurrence throughout the whole time I was trying to get my clearance and I was often met with looks of surprise when I asked for more information or clearer instructions.
So now I knew what I needed to submit my exit visa application.
- My completed clearance paperwork,
- A letter from KSU administration explaining that I was ending my contract and the end date of my contract,
- My plane ticket,
- Two photos,
- My passport and,
- My iqama.
I was also advised that the exit visa would have a validity of 30 days from its issuing date for me to leave the country (as it turned out I was given a rather generous 60 days) and that I should plan to allow 10 days for my visa to be processed once I submit the documents (which was subsequently reduced to 3 days. It pays to be on good terms with the passport office). With this knowledge on hand I made plans to visit the travel agency to redeem my flight voucher for my plane ticket home.