When we moved to Jeddah we shipped a 20 foot container of 'household' goods. (Things for the classroom too.) Our shipment departed the States in August for its six week transit. It arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia October 8th. We didn't see it until the 8th of December. Why? Great question!
There are many things that are not allowed in Saudi - all for religious reasons. The only religion allowed to be practiced is Islam. Any item that can be seen as against Islam can be confiscated. If it is overly offensive there can be additional consequences, jail time, and/or deportation.
Our shipment was originally packed in Jordan when we had no idea we would end up in Saudi. (Yes, it went from Amman to Seattle and then back to Jeddah!) Once we were hired for Saudi I went through the shipment to pull out the no-no's. I pulled out Bibles and icons, nativity sets and some art. I searched for bottles of liquor and stuffed animals. (Technically no depiction of people or animals are allowed.)
Sometimes I chose to play the odds. After talking with others about their recent experiences I decided to send the Little People, as toys tend to be ignored. We had purchased them on Craig's List so we wouldn't be losing a fortune if they were taken. I also chose to put in a Christmas tree. I had purchased it at 60% off, so again, not a huge financial loss if they took it and a balm to the soul if we got to have it.
Here is the crazy part about trees. You can actually buy them in the Ballad (downtown market). They are very poor quality, but available. You just can't bring one in. We didn't know this before we arrived, but does it make any sense to you? Me either.
I shipped over 50 boxes of books, mostly for my classroom library. (Though G isn't hurting for books at home.) It was these boxes of books that were probably the great hold up on our shipment clearing customs. The government liaison officer at our school figured each day they took out one box of books, opened it, and then put it back. The next day, another box, and so on. This is very possible. Plus we got to pay a storage fee for each day they held our container. They could honestly say they were working on it!
Finally we got some news. I had to go sign for the confiscation and destruction of prohibited items. What had they found? Our tree. I jokingly asked how many days should I wait before I went down to the Ballad to buy back my tree.
That seemed to take care of it. The day was scheduled for the container to be delivered. (The delivery is another story.) The container had been loosely packed. To keep the space from shifting during its oceanic crossings the packers in Jordan had used four HUGE boxes in addition to everything else (the 50 book boxes, etc.) When I say huge these boxes were 6'x3'x4'. Absolutely unruly, heavy, and packed with all kinds of things.
As I was unpacking the third of these monstrosities I came across the stand to the Christmas tree. I chuckled to myself and thought, "This figures. They probably didn't know what it was." I continued to take out hand-woven carpets, bedding, and various household goods. I then came to the middle section of the tree. I was a bit annoyed. What good does the middle do me?!? It felt like someone was thumbing their nose at me.
By the time I had unpacked the whole box the entire tree was there! I was joyously in shock. I called my husband (who was traveling for work) to tell him the news. All we can figure is there was a case of 'the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing' and they both assumed the other had taken out the tree.
Whatever the reason I am so thankful and deeply blessed to have twinkling lights next to me as I write this.