Continuing a discussion of things it is good to know if you’re coming to visit, live in, or work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
- Prayer time governs EVERYTHING. I’d be hard pressed to emphasize how important this fact is in getting through the day. I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating. In Saudi Arabia, nearly everything stops five times each day: 1) Fajr (Dawn); 2) Shorook (Sunrise); 3) Zuhr (Noon); 4) Asr (Afternoon); 5) Maghrib (Sunset); 6) Isha (Night). Yes, I listed six, but the main five are numbers 2 – 6. Stores close. Restaurants close. Some restaurants and stores will let you stay inside and shop; but, many will not. Business meetings come to a halt. Most Muslims will stop and pray at these times. There some who do not, but most do. So, you must plan not only your commercial, but your social activities around prayer time. Prayer time is based on the position of the sun; so it changes throughout the year. Most of us keep a sheet identifying the daily times. I use IslamiCity.com as my source of prayer times. They are not so strict in other Muslim countries, but they are very strict in KSA.
- The weekend is Thursday and Friday…NOT…Saturday and Sunday. I have written about this previously, but this is a biggie. Of all the things that required adjustment for me, this was the most difficult. After a while, you get used to it, and it’s just the weekend…though, it is almost impossible to shake the feeling that Saturday should be the start of the weekend rather than the start of the work week. In most Arabic countries, the weekend is Friday and Saturday…why it is Thursday here, I don’t know. But, this has greater impact than just your personal psyche. Business with US and European counterparts is pretty much limited to three days a week. Saudis take off Thursday & Friday; Westerners take off Saturday & Sunday. While there are exceptions to the no business statement, it holds true in most cases. Thursday will sometimes see half-days, but most folks take the full day. Everyone likes their weekend.
- Business is rarely, if ever, conducted on Friday. This is one of the hardest things for Western business people to realize. Friday is the Islamic holy day. While it is not against the Q’uran to conduct business on Jumu’a (Friday), except one hour before noon prayer (that is how I understand it anyway), the practical matter is most stores and restaurants don’t open until 1pm. Most of the ones that do open close at 10am or 11am. After 1pm, it’s almost exclusively stores and restaurants, which open – except in emergency situations. Islam requires all adherents to participate in public prayer at a mosque on Jumu’a, which is held at noon. Many of the TV channels actually switch to prayers for those who cannot attend. If there is a single day commonly used as a day of rest, it is Jumu’a. Even the lower caste folks who do all the crappy work are given the day off. No business on Friday. None. Anywhere in the Arabic world. Except for emergencies.
I have more items to offer up to those preparing to come to Saudi Arabia, which I’ll be posting. I hope someone finds them useful.
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