Local traditions and culture in Saudi Arabia

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Saudi Arabia

  • shelnlin's Profile Photo

    I thought this was a lovely video

    by shelnlin Updated Apr 4, 2011

    YouTube is a great wee site where we can watch videos and see things from around the world. This little documentary was really nicely shot of a Saudi Arabian housewife who opened her home to public to give the world a glimpse of her life.

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  • DunaKal's Profile Photo

    Wearing the head covers for women.

    by DunaKal Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    In Saudi Arabia we(as women)wear the (Abayah)it`s like an over dress worn over clothes when we need to go out,but inside the homes(among women)we tend to take it off.
    The head scarf is called(Tarha),usually it comes as a set with the Abayah....and we have it either as (custum made) or (ready to wear),,it also has trends and styles,few years back it was a trend to wear an Abaya made of coloured matirial(Brown,Navy blue,and gray),
    now it`s classical black with some embroidery.
    Chinese symbols and indian sari are very popular this year.(2003)

    In many places(uptown speacially)
    you will find that it`s OK not to wear the head scarf.

    By the way,this is as far as you will see of me ;-)
    If you are a lady and arraiving to Saudi,You can shop online for an Abaya from this site provided below:

    My Abaya
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  • uglyscot's Profile Photo

    The Hajj

    by uglyscot Updated Jan 6, 2010

    Every year , depending on the lunar calendar, pilgrims come in their millions to do the pilgrimage and umrah in the holy towns of Mecca and Medina. There are pre-determined points at which the pilgrim must enter 'ihram' the state of purity necessary for a pilgrim. From the moment the pilgrim dons the clothes necessary for a pilgrim, no shaving, cutting of hair, using perfumes or deodorants or having sexual intercourse is permitted.
    Men wear two large towels; one is tied round the waste and hides the lower part of the body. The other covers the chest and is tied leaving the right shoulder bare.
    Women wear ordinary but decent clothes leaving only the face, hands and feet exposed. Nowadays most women were a loose shift over loose trousers, and then cover all with an abaya [usually black or white] and a head covering that hides the neck and all hair.
    These are only removed after completing the hajj.
    The most important things to do are to complete the circambulation of the kaaba seven times before and after the other rituals which include standing on the mount Arafat from sunrise to sunset on the appointed day, then sacrificing a ram or paying a 'fine' instead. Then stoning the three pillars representing the devil.

    The pilgrimage is testing as there is a lot of physical effort involved, as well as performing the five daily prayers.
    Most pilgrims visit Medina either before or after the Hajj proper.

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  • hajjabdullah's Profile Photo

    When in Saudi, remember it is a real kingdom

    by hajjabdullah Written Jul 2, 2009

    Mamalukatu Aribatu As-Saudia is a real great place to visit, but you must have a reason to go there. The people are quite obliging and helpful. I went on a pilgrimage as a muslim and I was delighted with everything, even the 120 degree heat. If you are a westerner, just dont act like one. There are no postcards to mail and they dont take travelers checks or credit cards, so carry cash. I had no problems with thieves whatsoever, but they are rumored to exist. Hire a driver and dont be afraid to roar thru the desert at 180 kmph, you are in the hands of Allah.- Hajjabdullah

    They discourage smoking, perhaps the only one! This is me, hajjabdullah with some friends at Uhud Entrance to the Prohphet's Mosque in Medina Across from the Grand Mosque, Mecca; Burger King You can buy a miswak [toothpick] from him
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  • american_tourister's Profile Photo

    Get the Prayer Schedule

    by american_tourister Updated Mar 31, 2008

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    Life in Saudi Arabia is regulated by Islamic law and part of this is strict adherance to prayer times. During prayer times every shop and restaurant will close. If you are already inside you can continue but you will not be allowed to check out before you leave the shop. Western chain restaurants will let you pay but you usually have to duck out the back way so no one sees you. It is important info to be armed with as it can be very frustrating to stand around in the weather waiting 30 minutes to an hour for a place to open up.

    I have added a website address that I have a shortcut to. It will tell you the prayer time for any city or town you may be in.

    Be respectful of this. If you are not you can land in some seriously hot water.

    Even Chili's stays on schedule
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  • musical instruments-3: Kanoun

    by Manyana Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    ...is my always favourite.

    it's a string instrument that takes the shape of a diagonal triangle with lots of strings and wooden latches. it's played with all fingertips wearing a bit of wide metal rings, and often placed over a table in order to be played.

    it originally comes from turkey but it's still popular in saudi musical concerts. best known to be used for the Tarab genre.

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  • musical instruments-2: darbuka

    by Manyana Written Jan 25, 2008

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    this is more popular in the hijaz region than anywhere else in saudia. it originally comes from turkey or egypt. since the hijaz is historically diverse, a lot of cultures have poured their musical touches into the region.

    it's a goblet drum, made of copper, marble & shell, or jar mud. prices vary depending on the material that is made of.

    usually used for bellydancing and strong quick beats

    i used to attend darbuka classes. beats come from different arab regions. famous beats are like: Saeedi, Ayoubi (egypt)

    the main darbuka rythms:
    Dom: hitting the centre with your finger tips
    Tak: hitting the drum edge
    Shak (hitting the drum centre with your pink and ring fingers jointly)

    i might be wrong at the above, as i had these lessons a while ago but this is to give you a general idea.

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  • musical instruments-1: oud

    by Manyana Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    ...is the most popular instrument in saudi or the gulf region. it's a string, wooden bowel instrument with a a wooden handle. it looks like a guitar but more oval and deeper inside.

    however, you don't play it with a long black stick, but with a 10-centimetre white plastic flat piece, a little bit longer than a human finger. then you base your other hand on the handle strings.

    this is one of my favourite instruments, although i don't play it but it's often played for typical oriental pieces - saudi, gulf, egyptian, iraqi or even turkish.

    it can be a very expensive instrument with an average of SR2,000 - SR7,000

    Abadi al Johar is the most well-known saudi singer to play oud. he's known as the Octupus of Oud as he can play oriental and western pieces on this middle eastern instrument

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  • Don't spit on the ground in Saudi Arabia

    by worktraveler Written Jan 20, 2008

    I will be travelling to Saudi Arabia for work my first time soon. Some of my co-workers have told me some things not to do there.
    I have seen most of these posted on this site. However, one guy told me it is forbidden to spit on the ground there.

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  • DunaKal's Profile Photo

    What is Ramadan all about...

    by DunaKal Updated Sep 30, 2007

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    A Muslim should start to fast when he/she reaches his puberty age...
    Some people are excused not to fast,like the elderly,but for each day they do not fast an average meal should be given to the poor instead.
    If you are ill or sick you are also allowed not to fast,if you have a medication needs to be taken during the day..but then you will have to fast the days you didn`t any time of the year before the next Ramadan,

    When women get their menstrual period,they should not fast,but also calculate the days that they have not fast and fast it any time of the year.

    Ramadan was a holy month even before Islam,non Muslims of the Arabian peninsula used to fast this month too, and move the month of Ramadan to fit in the summers only,that`s why it`s called Ramadan,,which means hot sands,or heat.
    But when Islam was founded,God was merceful with Muslims to keep Ramandan to circle all year,so it can be in the winter,spring,summer or autumn.

    Our home cooked food for Breaking our fast Yumm
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  • Arabian hospitality

    by Manyana Written Mar 5, 2007

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    "who should pay for the dinner?" is a long tradition of Arabian hospitality. Please don't miss this when everyone around the dinner table at a restaurant just fight who should pay for the dinner. Everyone is strongly offering to pay for everyone else, half of the table or at least their close friends. If the dinner includes two families, one should be fighting to pay for the other one. It is a sign of good hospitality and enjoyable friendship (supposedly).
    This is specially common among older generations, though my generation sometimes does it. well if i do it, know i like you or care for you a lot whether you're a friend, partner, acquaintance or just yourself, for me...which usually i adore!
    well, you are expected to say, 'no thank you, i'll pay for myself'. if they insist on paying for you,know they are willing to. This happens almost in everything, not only while dining out, but also over a coffee, giving a ride, helping in carrying luggage, moving house...etc. but dont have high expectations though;^)

    dinner in london, pay for yrself,lol
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  • a prayer for everything

    by Manyana Written Mar 3, 2007

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    Yes, true! integrating religion into Saudi society is just an essential part of self and group-identity. there is a prayer almost for everything you can imagine. if you want to use the bathroom, leave the bathroom, go to bed, eat and drink, dress up, have sex, sneeze, watch the lunar and solar eclipse, wait for rains, and definitely the religious festivals like Eid and Ramadan. These prayers have become a social convention and a part of daily life. On the state level, if the rain hasn't fallen in a while or there would an eclipse, the government would make announcement on TV that main mosques should perform a special prayer service across the kingdom. On the individual level, you'll see many people remind to say a little line of prayers if you sneeze, eat and finish eating or whatever. People always say, 'inshallah' or if God wills, i will do it' for everything you want to do. Even if you're going to an interview or an exam, you'll hear people say, 'Allah ma'ak' or 'Allah yewafaguik', meaning may God be with you, instead of wishing you good luck.
    Very religious people usually recite prayers before having sex, like 'may God bless this intimate relationship' and it may be a relatively long prayer.
    These features may no longer be of Islamic significance as much as it has become a way of life in Saudi society. The dancer and the teacher would probably say inshallah for anything they intend to do, 'inshallah i'll dance', and 'inshallah i'll go to class tomorrow';^)

    inshallah you find this tip interesting;^)

    just pray
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  • Eating habits

    by Manyana Written Feb 27, 2007

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    i assume many people think that arabs eat with their hands. ture but not exactly. the norma nowadays is to eat with forks and spoons, following the western style i suppose. however, bread and gravy and similar stuff are eaten with hands. Using hands, i think, is an islamic tradition that became integrated into saudi culture. Eating with two fingers can be viewed as arrogance. Eating with five fingers might be seen, 'hey have you never seen food before?' and that's why it's always the best to be in the middle using three fingers or as the islamic traditions dictate or so i heard,lol.
    even using forks and knives has become saudised or islamicised. this's the fun part i like the most. in restaurants, the waiters always arrange my utensils as the western etiquette states, forks and spoons on my left side. and i always put them on the right side. saudis eat with their right hands on all occasions. if you use your left hand, it might be considered something offensive as it's the toilet hand. i remember once i couldn't move my right hand , so i had to use my left. oh i was instantly told to stop eating, not literally tho,lol

    so while eating in a saudi house, dear traveller remember:
    - wash your hands first, it's considered an islamic habit
    - re-arrange your spoons and knives and use your right hand
    - if eating with hands, better to use three fingers
    - and always remember to say 'bismillah' at the beginning of your meal, and 'alhamdulilah' at the end, an islamic tradition.
    - even when you drink, the glass should in your right hand

    interesting ha? yeh i know:D wonder if you already believe that i follow everything,lol.

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  • Driving Rule No.1: No Rules

    by Manyana Updated Feb 23, 2007

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    I think we have the craziest and most careless drivers in the world! well, 'cause women are not allowed to drive, so men must have gone crazy,lol.
    Seriously speaking, you can attend driving lessons for one week, and obtain a driving license passing that 'lame' test, literally! my brother obtained his license and he was saying 'i don't know how to drive yet and i have a license'! The legal age to obtain a driving license is 18. But you may see lots of kids of 10 years old, literally, are learning how to drive in alleys or unmonitored areas out in the desert or so! I once heard that Saudi or the GCEs have the highest rate of car accidents in the world! i think it's a heritage i should be proud of,lol.
    So the driving rules are:
    -Use the horn if the traffic light is 10 seconds late and anywhere anytime
    -The speed limit is 120km in city, 180km on motorways,lol.
    -Never fasten your seatbelt unless you see a policeman passing by. Actually there's a fine for not backling up, up SR300 (do we even bother until we see the policeman?lol)
    -You can race other cars in city whenever you feel like it:D
    -In rush hours, just use the horn
    -In traffic jam, if you have a hammer the car, just drive over other cars,lol
    -If you car mistakenly crashed another car with a slight push, the driver may get off his car and spit on your car...literally! lol. it's not common though.
    -The golden rule, there is NO rule in Saudi driving...just learn the rules how not to have one,lol.

    riding animals is safer,lol

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  • Housekeepers: Accessory or Necessity?

    by Manyana Updated Feb 23, 2007

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    Does it sound luxury? Hmmm, in Saudi, it is a must to have a housekeeper! After the oil discovery in the 70s (I think,lol), Saudi lifestyle had become totally dependent on other-service. I mean by that, all social classes have a housekeeper at some point. Even when an architect or a real-estate agent has a deal, they do mention 'housekeeper's room available'. It is in the map! Housekeepers are not saudi females but come from different countries. Middle-class usually hires two housekeepers, depending on the number of children. Some children have their own nannies who's more likely to be the housekeeper as well. Most of the nannies live in-house with the family and co-raise the children until they get married or each 23 or so. Yes, it is the case sometimes. I know a friend whose housekeeper has been with her since she was 3 years old. My friend now is 22!
    Household shores; cooking, dish-washing, laundry, cleaning rooms and sometimes child-rearing are mainly handled by the housekeepers.
    Perhpas this lifestyle will change in the near future from being a necessity to an accessory as the annual income per capita is rapidly decreasing over the last years! And with 60% of the population is under 25 yro, would the housekeepers remain a necessity? I doubt. But it's a fact Saudi houses depend on housekeepers! a fact i don't like!

    saudi tea cup
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