The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. There are a lot of foreigners who speaks a dialect Arabic depending where they come from (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon) and other languages like Tagalog (Philippines), Urdu (Pakistan and India) and other languages.
English is taught at school as the second language. it is well spoken generally and used in business.
Saudi Arabia is named after the Saud Family. This country is ruled by a single family and it is the basis to the Saudi social life.
Saudis family member tend to be very close of each other. Like in many Arabic countries, it is possible to marry from the same family, it is about trusting more relatives.
Polygamy is also allowed in Saudi Arabia, this is why a family can be very large and extended
Traditional men wear is the “thob” which is a white long robe that covers the body. It could be white or in colour. The “guthra” goes on the head, it is like a white/black or white/red cloth. It is stabilized on the head with a “igal” (Doubled black rope). This is the traditional, business, and formal wear in the Arabian Peninsula.
Women should wear publicly the “abaya”, the long robe that covers the body. They are some that puts the “nikab” a black fabric that covers the face and head except the eyes. Others just put something to cover just the hair.
Foreigners should wear abayas in public and better have something to cover the hair when needed, as a respect to the Islamic law. Sometimes it is better that to attract attention. The religious police (Mutawwa) could ask any foreign women to cover her hair.
Foreign men can wear anything they want. Short and sleeveless should be avoided in public areas. Suits could be worn at meetings. It is important for foreigners to show respect and dress conservatively.
There are two Islamic holidays, one marks the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is one of the months in the Muslim lunar calendar. During Ramadan, it is not allowed to eat and drink between sunrise and sunset.
The other holidays are Hajj season (Pilgrimage to Mecca).
The last holiday is the National Day (one day) on the 23rd of September. its marks the memorial of the day that followed King Saud announced the country as a kingdom.
Since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. It is the official religion of the country. This plays an important role in the everyday life of Saudi Arabian inhabitants.
- Friday and Saturday are the week-end; shops don’t open on Friday until the afternoon.
- Shops closes during prayer time, so 4 times for half an hour every day: Noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. In the morning prayer, shops are not open yet (about at 4.00 am)
- Alcohol is forbidden
- Women should wear Abaya in public
- Millions of Muslims from around the world come to Mecca for pilgrimage every year during “Hajj” season.
- If you are non-Muslim, it is better not to eat, drink, or smoke during Ramadan. Business times are changed and shortened. Shops opens at different timing too.
- Socializing usually are women between each other, the same way goes with men.
Traditional Food and Drink
Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic law so it is forbidden for people living in Saudi to eat pork or drink alcohol whether you are a citizen or a foreigner.
The traditional meal would be rice with meat, in general chicken or lamb (Kabsah, Mandi, . Other traditional meals would be Gursan, Mutazees, Mutabbak, Masoub, … Traditional restaurants like the Najdi village offer these meals.
You can find all types of cuisine, inspired by neighbor countries like shawarma or fava beans (Foul) or international restaurants.
Cinema is forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
Feeling bored? There are always something to discover or do! Go check 25 fun things to do in Riyadh.
There are few festivals held in Riyadh too.
This event happens in July/August with many entertainment activities in shopping centers and sale season that goes to 70%.
This is one of the most interesting festivals in the Kingdom. It is held in January/February for 2 weeks with many cultural and traditional events. You can experience the traditional way of living in the Kingdom while going around the multiple building and kiosk representing the different areas of Saudi Arabia.