Saudi shops to stay open during prayer times

New rules are part of kingdom's ongoing economic reforms

Saudi Arabia on Friday announced that shops can stay open during prayer times, a circular released by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, the country's official business group, said.

The move has been welcomed by business owners and members of the public across the country. For decades, businesses have been required to shut for at least half an hour during daily Muslim prayers.

“This has been long time coming!” Farhan Saeed, a Pakistani businessman living in Dahran, told The National.

“I have been waiting for this since Vision 2030 was announced. This is excellent, not just for local business, but for us internationally. No more time lags — we won't be closed for four prayers during the day.

“We usually close for every prayer and that takes away two hours from our work schedule and costs us a lot. We could make more money in that time period and our work output would be more efficient and lucrative,” Mr Saeed added.

“I am so happy we won't have to wait outside for 30-45 minutes to run errands. Especially for women who couldn't drive or still don't own a car, can you imagine how hard it is for us to get things done? I am usually left on the street or just wandering around a mall waiting for shops and pharmacies to open so I can get essentials. But this is fantastic,” said Lama Batarjee, a Saudi national living in Jeddah.

The popular move aims to loosen strict laws in the country in light of reforms under Vision 2030. Women were granted the right to drive in 2018 after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the sweeping initiative to diversify the kingdom's economy.

“The numerous and invaluable reforms made since 2017 represent the kingdom's potential and the Crown Prince Mohammed's ambition and confidence in his people. He is able to unify and set standards that keep us at par with the international market. The rule is another move to ensure local businesses don't lag behind internationally in opportunities nor suffer financially,” Majid Samman, a Saudi businessman in Jeddah, told The National.

Crown Prince Mohammed in 2017 vowed to bring Saudi Arabia back to moderate Islam, how it used to be 30 years ago.

“I am sure people will have a lot to say but the ultimate truth is that this announcement is pro-Islam, humanity and will help women, the elderly and children so much more than one can imagine. It's about to change the way we shop, do business and put an end to our suffering” said Ayesha Yasin, a Saudi national living in Riyadh.

Updated: July 16th 2021, 10:58 PM