It’s been 3 weeks today since I landed in Riyadh and so far I am having a great experience. I truly did my best to keep my mind far from preconceived ideas and assumptions before I come here, but as any human being my brain is too complex to be able not to build up any expectations. I was certain that there was going to be a level of cultural shock but I simply wanted to perceive it from the voice of the locals and the eyes of the believers. There are a lot of things that I find hard to embrace as they are far from my cultural norms but I respect and act accordingly with their code.
Although am far from being an expert about Islam, Saudi Arabia and its culture I thought it would be a good time to drop some facts related to it so we can familiarize ourselves a bit more with the country.
Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia. It’s often associated to negative connotations in the outside world due to its singularity, unknown and misunderstood religion and cultural code. It is a fact that religion shapes the way Saudi’s look and perceive the world, as well as their conduct.
From my experience, Saudi’s seem to be very proud of their faith, it provides them with a framework of life as well as it gives them the strength and conviction to do their work and face the challenges on their every day life. They simply recognize God as their creator and they religiously follow His commands.
Every muslim here seem to know the 5 pillars of Islam by heart and they will proudly tell you and explain the importance and benefits of following those. Those are the solid foundation of the religion and the obligations that every muslim must satisfy in order to live a good, responsible and peaceful life. It seems to me a call to action. Muslims believe that it doesn’t matter how much you have faith in god if you don’t practice it every day.
Their 5 pillars are simply: Shahad (faith) by testifying that there is no true god except Allah; Salah (Prayer) by praying 5 times a day; Zakah (charity) the payment of an obligatory charity; Sawm (fasting) by fasting during the month of Ramadan and Hajj the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Although, the last 3 weeks seem to be dependent on extrinsic factors such as financial and physical capacity, prayer and faith are inescapable for any Muslim. Salah (Prayer) is the most obligatory of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Just as the majority of the Muslim countries, throughout the day you can hear a normal call (Adhan) sent out by megaphones announcing the coming Salah. Although efforts have been made recently in endorse short prayer time, it still can last from 10 minutes up to about 45 minutes. During this times crowds rush to mosques or simply stretch their prayer mats and perform their prayers. The city suddenly goes quite and a significant part of retail shops close. It can be annoying as you have to plan your day around it but shortly you get used to it. I personally find it magic and brings to life the identity of the country.
The law of the kingdom derives from the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam) and the Sunnah (tradition) known as the Sharia Law. It shapes the dress code and their code of conduct.
It seems to be a lot of mixed opinions in regards to what is culturally acceptable, religiously expected and legally permitted. Those last two, religious and law, are somehow coupled. Religion shapes the law, and as a result of that most of the customs and cultural behaviors are not supported by any legal documentation, they are simply symbolic of religious faith as so imposed by the religious police, known as Mutawa (Islamic Religious Police).
It probably still seems to you a very strict country, but the true is that since the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power, Saudi Arabia is been witnessing a fast growing pattern of freedom and progressiveness. I will be talking more about it in the upcoming posts, so keep up with it. I am looking forward to bring you more information from the grounds of the Kingdom!
If there is any particular subject you would like me to approach in this matter just drop off a comment or email me.
Thanks so much guys!!!