Saudi Arabia Redefines the Weekend

The Arab kingdom is getting in sync with the rest of the region

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FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP / Getty Images

Saudi and foreign medical workers walk inside the compound of King Fahad Hospital in Hofuf, 370 km east of Riyadh, on June 16, 2013

In a surprising announcement on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a royal decree shifting the nation’s weekend from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday beginning this Friday, June 28.

As the Guardian reports, the world’s top oil exporter is switching its national weekend to align calendars with the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia was the only member with a Thursday and Friday weekend after Oman transitioned to the regional week schedule last month. The decision follows a recommendation in April from the King’s advising Shura Council.

The move is a possible step toward the largest Arab economy opening its $400 billion stock market to foreign investors, as Bloomberg notes, and will be embraced by the business community. With only four days’ notice, the announcement seems a bit rushed, however.

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A statement posted on the national news agency SPA said the decision is “for the sake of putting an end to the negative effects and the lost economic opportunities consistently associated with variation based on workdays between local departments, ministries and institutions and the regional and international counterparts.”

While many countries use a Monday through Friday workweek, some countries work through the weekend or choose Thursday and Friday to accommodate Muslims who must attend prayer on Fridays. Afghanistan and Yemen are the only two countries left with a Thursday-to-Friday weekend.

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