The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia uses the Islamic (Hijrah) calendar, in reference to the
migration (Hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad and his companions from Makkah to Madinah on Monday
the 1st of Rabi Al-Awal, corresponding to 13 September 622 AD. The Hijrah year has 12
lunar months and consists of 354 days (see appendix XV for the calendar of 1417 H.,
corresponding to 1996-1997 AD). Date writing begins with the day first, then the month,
then the year. Since Hijrah is the official calendar in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is
advisable to use it in your official documents and correspondence. The Hijrah date is
usually followed by the Gregorian date; e.g., 1 Muharram 1417 H., corresponding to 18 May
1996, or 1/1/1417 H., corresponding to 18/5/1996.
There are two great festivals in an Islamic year, both observed by the Saudi private
sector as well as government. The first is "Eid Al-Fitr" (the feast of the
breaking of the fast of the month of "Ramadan"), which lasts for three days.
However, "Eid Al-Fitr" holiday is customarily ten days long at the end of the
month of "Ramadan" and the beginning of the month of "Shawal.".
"Eid Al-Adha" (the Feast of Sacrifice, which commemorates Abrahams
intention to sacrifice his son Ishmael in fulfillment of Gods order) is the second
of the two great festivals, and lasts for four days. The holiday of "Eid
Al-Adha" is also a ten day holiday usually extending from the fifth to the fifteenth
day of the month of "Thul-Hijja." It is observed by the government and private
sector for the performance of Hajj (the Islamic religious pilgrimage to Holy Makkah).
However, most of the Saudi private sector observes the two holidays for three and five
Saudi National Day is September 23rd.
Government offices are open Saturday through Wednesday from 7:30 a.m., to 2:30 p.m. The
official weekend holiday for the government and some private businesses is Thursday and
Friday. Private business working hours vary but are generally from 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. to
noon, and from 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. General banking hours are from
8:00 a.m. to noon, and from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Markets and shops are open from 8:00
a.m. until 10:00 p.m., with a rather long lunch break.