Saudi Arabian Culture

Other Considerations

  • Be aware that not all Saudi Arabians are ‘rich’. Just like most other countries, there are social differences in wealth. Many of those who travel overseas can only do so due to government sponsorship.
  • Friday is a holy day for Muslims. In Saudi Arabia, most businesses close on this day and Saturday in respect of that. This means the ‘weekend’ falls on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday.
  • Saudi women traditionally wear an ‘abaya’ (long black cloak) over their clothing that covers them from head to toe. This is commonly paired with a ‘niqab’ (a veil that covers the head and face, but not the eyes) or a ‘hijab’ or ‘shayla’ (a headscarf that covers the hair, but not the face). Different colours and styles of abayas and scarves are now very popular. Some women may also choose not to wear a headscarf at all, although this is more uncommon. 
  • Traditionally, Saudi men wear a ‘thobe’ (long white robe made of light fabric), a head covering called a ‘ghoutrah’ or ‘scarf’ with a black headband known as an ‘egaal’. However, Western clothing is also common – usually long trousers and sleeved shirts.
  • Sexual activity is not openly discussed in Saudi Arabia, and literature and media intentionally avoid the use of the term ‘sex’. The word is often replaced with ‘relationship between men and women’. All pornographic websites are banned in the country.
  • Female contact information is usually kept private (unless in a business context). Women generally do not post photos of themselves, and men do not show photos of their female relatives unless they are young children. Some men may also refuse to tell others what their wife, sister or mother’s name is. 
  • There is a concept that one should not depict mankind or simulate God’s creations. Therefore, one will find there are barely any statues of people in Saudi Arabia. Mannequins also rarely have a head on the figurine to avoid a full depiction of a person. It is highly offensive to depict God or the Prophet Muhammad in human form, artistically or not.
  • Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia, even in products such as mouthwash.
  • It is common to encounter quite strong positions on issues relating to religious morality and social conservatism, particularly homosexuality. Homosexual relationships and same-sex marriages are illegal, punishable by fines, flogging, prison or death. Fear of persecution and prosecution is widespread among LGBTQI+ individuals in Saudi Arabia.
  • Media outlets are heavily censored to suppress political dissent in Saudi Arabia. Journalists (and others) who voice criticism or analyse political problems risk being charged under anti-terrorism laws and arbitrarily detained.1 As such, Saudis may censor themselves when talking about politics in certain contexts.


1 Reporters Without Borders, 2019

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