Arabia Social Profile
is often powerfully flavoured and spicy. The staple diet is
pitta bread (flat, unleavened bread) which complements every
dish. Rice, lentils, chick peas (hummus) and cracked wheat
(burghul) are also popular and common. The most common meats
are lamb and chicken. Beef is rare and pork is forbidden under
The main meat meal of the day is lunch, either kultra (meat
on skewers) or kebabs served with vegetables and soup. Arabic
cakes, cream desserts and rice pudding (muhalabia) also attribute
to the diet.
Mezzeh, the equivalent
of hôrs d’oeuvres, can include up to 40 dishes.
Foreign cooking is on offer in larger towns and the whole
range of international cuisine, including fast food, is available
in the oil producing Eastern Province and in Jeddah. Restaurants
have table service.
There are no bars in Saudi
Arabia as alcohol is forbidden by law, and there are severe
penalties for infringement, it is important to note that this
applies to all nationals regardless of religion. Arabic coffee
and fruit drinks are popular alternatives and alcohol free
beers and cocktails are served in hotel bars.
Apart from hotels and restaurants there is no
nightlife in the Western sense.
(markets) sell jewellery, incense and incense burners, bronze
and brassware, richly decorated daggers and swords, and in
the Eastern Province, huge brass bonded chests.
is often expected, even for modern goods such as cameras and
electrical equipment (which can be bought at very good value).
The Shopping hours are from Saturday to Thursday
from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and 4.30 pm to 8.00 pm (Ramadan 8.00
pm to 1.00 am).
These hours can differ in various parts of the country.
The Saudi culture
is based on Islam and the perfection of the Arabic language.
The Saudi form of Islam is conservative and fundamentalist,
based on the 18th century revivalist movement of the Najdi
leader Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdel-Wahhab.
This still has a great effect on Saudi society,
particularly on the position of women, who are required by
law only to leave the home totally covered in black robes
(abaya) and masks, although there are regional variations
The Najd and other remote areas
remain true to Wahhabi tradition, but throughout Saudi Arabia
this way of life is being altered by modernisation and rapid
Shaking hands is the traditional
form of greeting. Invitations to private homes are unusual,
so entertaining is usually in hotels or restaurants and although
the custom of eating with the right hand
persists, it is more likely that knives and forks will be
A small gift either promoting the company or representing
your country will usually be well received.
Women are expected to dress modestly and
it is best to do so to avoid offence. Men are advised to not
wear shorts in public or go without a shirt. The norms for
public behavior are extremely conservative and religious police,
known as Mutawwa’in, are charged with inflicting these
Customs regarding smoking are the same as
in Europe and non smoking areas are indicated. During Ramadan,
Muslims are not allowed to eat, smoke or drink during the
day and it is illegal for a foreign visitor or traveller to
do so in public.
The practice of tipping is
becoming much more common and waiters, hotel porters and taxi
drivers should be given 10 %.