One of the best ways to be a respected tourist – and make the most of your experience in the kingdom – is to educate yourself on local customs. These questions and answers with Khaled Shuail, Visitor Experience Advisor at the Saudi Tourism Authority, will get you off to a good start!
What are the common greetings in Saudi Arabia?
When we greet each other in Saudi Arabia we say “Peace be upon you”. This is usually followed by a handshake if it’s a formal meeting, or a kiss on the cheek if it’s been a while since you’ve met that person — especially if it’s a family or close friend. Nowadays, with the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, we say “Peace be upon you” followed by a hand wave.
What are the Saudi dress codes for women and men?
Women traditionally wear the abaya [a long robe or garment that covers the whole body] over their everyday clothes. As for men, they can wear anything from traditional thobe [long-sleeved, abaya-like clothing] to jeans and T-shirts. In 2019, Saudi Arabia introduced the Public Ethics Law, which clarifies what is not considered appropriate clothing in public places for women and men. Basically, loose-fitting clothing that covers the elbow and below the ankle is recommended for both men and women in public.
What is the appropriate dress on the Saudi beaches?
In general, the wearing of an abaya or hijab (head covering) is not required. However, modest clothing should be worn. [Please review the dress code in public places in Saudi Arabia for more information.]
Is running or jogging in public acceptable for men and women, and if so, what should exercisers wear?
It is acceptable. Exercisers must wear clothes that comply with the dress code.
Is it acceptable to take young children to restaurants? Do they have to follow a dress code?
Mostly, children are not only received, but also very welcome! However, if you are going to a fine dining restaurant, it is best to contact them in advance to see if there are restrictions on taking children. As for dress, there are no set rules for children, as long as they dress modestly.
Does it encourage price negotiation in the popular Saudi markets?
As part of the warmth and hospitality in Saudi Arabia, we try to offer the best possible prices to our visitors, and treat our tourists like friends. However, bargaining is usually acceptable – and expected – in popular markets.
What are the proper behaviors in the homes of Saudis?
In general, Saudi society is very hospitable. However, there are clear standards on how to mix in Saudi homes. Most Saudi homes have a space called the Majlis, which is a space to receive guests. In the Majlis, a Saudi host offers his guests food, snacks, and more. However, it is not normal for guests to be greeted in the family’s living areas.
Are there rules for photography in Saudi Arabia?
Saudis value their privacy very much, especially females. Even before we take any picture, especially if people are in the picture, we ask them first. You should also be careful when taking pictures of government buildings, including police stations, and national infrastructure such as airports. Mobile photography is generally acceptable, but if you are using a full-size camera with a telephoto lens, you may be asked to stop shooting.
What should a person do during prayer times to show respect for the worshipers?
People usually pray in prayer areas or in mosques. To show respect around these areas, avoid doing actions that could distract worshipers, such as speaking loudly or playing loud music. If you are not in those areas during prayer time, act normally.
What is the best thing that tourists can do to make Saudis happy?
We really care about our guests in Saudi Arabia. Seeing tourists come to Saudi Arabia and explore our country makes us feel proud and happy. So the best thing tourists can do is come!