Culture & Art
The culture of Saudi Arabia is a rich one that has been shaped by its Islamic heritage, its historical role as an ancient trade centre, and its Bedouin traditions.
Saudi society has experienced tremendous development over the past several decades. The Saudi people have taken their values and traditions – their customs, hospitality and even their style of dress – and adapted them to the modern world.
As part of the Vision 2030 roadmap, the government plans to build an Islamic museum in accordance with the highest global standards, equipped with the latest methods in collection, preservation, presentation and documentation. It will be a major landmark for our citizens and visitors, where they will learn about the history of Islam, enjoy interactive experiences and participate in cultural events. Using modern technology, visitors to the museum will take an immersive journey through the different ages of Islamic civilization, as well as its science, scholars and culture. It will also be an international hub for erudition and include a world-class library and research centre.
The Crossroads of the World
Located at the centre of important ancient trade routes, the Arabian people were enriched by many different civilisations. As early as 3,000 BC, Arabian merchants were part of a far-reaching trade network that extended to south Asia, the Mediterranean and Egypt. They served as a vital link between India and the Far East on one side, and Byzantium and the Mediterranean lands on the other.
The introduction of Islam in the 7th century AD further defined the region’s culture. Within a century of its birth in the Arabian Peninsula, Islam had spread west to the Atlantic Ocean and east to India and China. It fostered a dynamic period of great learning in culture, science, philosophy and the arts known as the Islamic “Golden Age.”
Every year for the past 14 centuries, Muslim pilgrims from around the world travel to holy sites in Makkah and Madinah, further enriching the region’s culture. The pilgrims brought ivory from Africa and carpets from the East, and took local goods back to their homelands.
When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed in 1932, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman dedicated himself to preserving Arab traditions and culture, and his sons and successors have followed in his footsteps.
Arab and Islamic Traditions
Saudi traditions are rooted in Islamic teachings and Arab customs, which Saudis learn about at an early age from their families and in schools.
The highlights of the year are the holy month of Ramadan and the Hajj (pilgrimage) season, as well as the national holidays that follow them. The holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, culminates with the Eid-Al-Fitr holiday, for which it is customary to buy presents and clothes for children and visit friends and relatives.
The other highlight is the Hajj season, during which millions of Muslim pilgrims from around the world come to Makkah. The Hajj season concludes with the Eid Al-Adha holiday, in which it is traditional for families to slaughter a sheep in memory of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
Arab traditions also play an important role in Saudi life. These age-old traditions have evolved over the millennia and are highly regarded. They include generosity and hospitality, which every Saudi family offers to strangers, friends, and family. The simplest expression of hospitality is coffee – its preparation alone is an intricate cultural tradition, and it is often served in small cups along with dates and sweets. Another gesture of hospitality is the burning of incense (oud) to welcome guests.
Cultural Communication – The Salam Project
Salam (meaning peace in Arabic) is a new Saudi initiative that aims to promote mutual understanding between Saudi people and the rest of the world by opening communication channels on all aspects of cultural life.
The Salam Project is an attempt to face the many issues that have stopped the flow of communication and understanding between Saudi Arabia and the world beyond. It is an honest and safe forum for open discussion and positive exchange both for Saudis and non-Saudis alike. Salam aims to help us appreciate what we have in common and talk about some of those more awkward issues that have been ignored or avoided due to a lack of understanding and a reluctance to communicate. This in turn has tended to created unnecessary barriers between both sides. By opening these communication channels and fostering exchange and understanding, Salam hopes to turn such negatives into something positive.