SIM cards with IDs are on sale in black market

Updated 13 March 2014

SIM cards with IDs are on sale in black market

Despite strict regulations, street vendors in the Kingdom are still selling SIM cards of all major mobile firms without customers providing proof of identity.
According to regulations, buying and charging a SIM card requires a customer to provide an identity number. The regulations were introduced to prevent misuse and criminal activities.
A seller, Abdul Rahman, told Arab News that SIM cards without ID numbers cost between SR50 and SR1,500, depending on the uniqueness of the number sought by the customer. An expatriate can have as many as 10 different SIM cards while a Saudi citizen can have 20 numbers.
“People can buy SIM cards from us without producing any document. Those who want to register their SIM cards on their name are welcome to do so, but if someone doesn’t have an ID or doesn’t want to buy the SIM on his ID, we can provide the person with a SIM card without any problem because the seller himself will provide the ID number,” he said.
When asked whose ID numbers are used, Abdul Rahman said it could be anyone and buyers need not worry about this. “We have cards with different ID numbers written on them for customers who don’t have iqama numbers or others who don’t want to use their own iqama number,” he said.
If anyone wants to register the SIM with his ID number, the street vendor does that too by forwarding a message to the mobile phone company along with a photocopy of the ID card.
Abdul Rahman said there is no danger of being caught out by the mobile phone firms. “Anyone can get any SIM card from us without any problem. If someone wants a particular number, that can also be arranged but it comes at a premium,” he said.
Zaheer Ahmed, a buyer, told Arab News that he bought a card without quoting his iqama number. The vendor provided him with someone else’s iqama number to be filled in on the form. “I asked him about this, but he said I shouldn't worry about anything,” he said.
Ahmed said the vendor told him that he has contacts with people at mobile firms so there is no possibility of getting into trouble.
“I went to the STC office and asked them about this practice, but they said if anyone bought SIM cards from them to sell, it was not their problem,” he said.
He said the sale of such SIM cards in the open market would encourage people to misuse them and even commit fraud.
Amina Rasheed, a Jeddah resident, said she and many of her friends receive crank calls from individuals not known to them. “I blocked these numbers on some occasions, but they continued to harass me by calling from different numbers,” she said.
Another buyer, Mamoon Malik, said it was common to see vendors selling SIM cards in the market. “Even the officials at phone companies are aware of this practice,” he said.
Arab News could not get comment from mobile companies.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.