hi - i am on my home-leave vacation from my job in riyadh, saudi arabia, and can tell you my feelings and experiences working there.
i first worked there from jan. '91 to jan. '98, then again for three months in 2002 and went back in march of this year on a one year contract.
personally, i love it there. i have noticed a significant difference in the appeal of living there now due to lack of westerners though. most of the nurses there now are filipino and south african. it used to be more like living at a very socially active resort but, i assume due to safety concerns, few american, canadian, british, irish, australian or new zealand nurses seem to go there now. this can make for a lonely time.
but, even though i did have concerns about my safety, i believe the u.s. goes overboard in warning people away. there is a very strong feeling against terrorism in saudi arabia and the saudi government is doing its utmost to fight terrorism.
there are frequent security force attacks against terrorists reported on the local t.v. and in newspapers there, but i find i always feel safe. i often walk the streets alone, either in the morning or evening, shopping, and never have felt in any danger. of course, i also cover my hair (according to muslim custom) and follow local customs, which may draw less attention to me. but, in my opinion, there are far more reasons for being afraid in any large american city, such as n.y.c, chicago, miami, l.a. etc. than in riyadh. now, there is no way i'd ever go to iraq but that is another matter entirely!!
and, although i was amazed, i have met no one who was less that very welcoming and friendly towards americans. working in the e.r. i see many saudi's and always hear "welcome. we like americans and are glad you are here." they have awareness that our civilian feelings have nothing to do with our government's actions.
as far as working conditions - i work 44 hours a week (much more laid back than working in the u.s.), have 45 vacations days a year - which, along with sick leave, weekends etc, means i get ~ 10 weeks vacation a year. i live in a lovely 2 bedroom apt. with rent and utilities paid. there are company buses to take you shopping twice daily, and you are totally free to take taxies around town to shop or visit on your own. being on the other side of the world and having plenty of vacation time (by u.s. standards) means it is lots easier to travel. uniform allowance is provided, and english is the language spoken in all hospitals. learning at least a smattering of arabic is convenient but not absolutely necessary.
i've read the previous posters note about the hospitals there and her co-worker's very unfortunate experience, and can only say that i have been hospitalized twice there, along with a visit to an e.r. in another part of the country and have found the care excellent. in fact, due to the number of nurses and the up-to-the-minute facilities, i find the care better than in the u.s. health care and prescriptions are free of charge. but that is just my experience.
as far as the pay goes, king faisal hospital in riyadh is now offering 18,000 riyals per month, or ~ $4,500. a month salary (tax free). my salary is much lower because i work in an eye hospital connected with the ministry of health, but the main reason to work there is no longer mainly the salary but just the opportunity to work in another country and learn first hand of a totally different culture. you find yourself changed forever by the experience and i would never discourage anyone from doing that.
good luck, and if any questions feel free to pm me. i went through 'saudi arabian international' recruiters in houston and liked them very much, but perhaps for a first timer helen ziegler would offer more information about living conditions and what to expect.