Saudi Arabia’s dominant religion is Islam. It influences most aspects of Arabian individual. This includes their economy, politics, legal and personal lives. The two most sacred places for the Islam community are Mecca and Medina, both located in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is why it is also called as “The Land of Two Holy Mosques”. Although most of the people living in Saudi Arabia are Muslims, there are also non-Muslim religions. Take Catholicism for example. But there are only limited places where one can exercise his non-Muslim religion. All churches and other religious belongings can only be found in the area of Aramco.
One of the obligations of a Muslim is to pray five times a day to Allah (their supreme being). Their exact praying hours are usually listed at every local news papers. They also have a different weekend. Muslims considers Thursday and Friday their rest days. At these days, every stall, business places and even offices are closed.
The religion of Islam influences a Muslim’s diet as well. All over Saudi Arabia, it is not allowed to have meals with pork in it. As substitute to pork they include in their meals the meat of lamb or chicken. They eat most of their meals with khobz or bread. Drinking alcoholic beverages are also prohibited. Even foreigners are subject to this law just like any local citizen. When one is caught breaking the alcohol law, they are sentenced for months in prison. In some cases, lashes can also be a part of the punishment.
When Christian has their Holy Week, Muslims have their holy month called Ramadan. During this month long celebration, they are obliged to work at the maximum hour of six hours. They also have to do fasting. No one is allowed to eat anything, drink, smoke cigars and even chew gums.
Every year, millions of Muslims and even non-Muslims visit Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. When a Muslim attends the pilgrimage it is believed that they are being more faithful to Islam religion because they are submitting themselves to Allah. Muslims are known for taking their religion seriously. Due to the overwhelming number of participants during this yearly gathering, there are incidents that hundreds of pilgrims lost their lives because of stampede. Yet, this catastrophic incident does not hinder in any way the Muslims from joining the annual pilgrimage.
Muslims also have their own way of greeting people. Like in any other places, men usually shake their hands when they greet. They may also kiss each other on the cheek as a sign of good friendship. Women, on the other hand, hug and kiss their fellow women who are close to them. However, men and women are not allowed to greet each other in public. Men and women who have mutual relationships are also not allowed to display public affection. It may lead to imprisonment. Another fact is that, when once invited into somebody else’s place, the visitor should bring any kind of gift as a thank-you token. But these gifts are never to be opened.
A foreigner visiting Saudi Arabia should abide and take their laws and culture seriously as much as their local citizens do.