Saudi Weekend Moves Forward

Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree last week to change the kingdom's official weekend from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday to line up more business days with the rest of the world. Weekend Edition Sunday host Linda Wertheimer talks to Ahmed al Omran, who writes the blog "Riyadh Bureau."

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The workweek begins today in Saudi Arabia. Today is the first official day of the new workweek there. Ever since the kingdom's founding, the workweek has begun on Saturday with Thursday and Friday as weekend days. But now, the kingdom is moving closer to the Western world, making Friday and Saturday its weekend. To talk more about this, we've called up Ahmed al Omran who writes the blog Riyadh Bureau. Welcome to our program.

AHMED AL OMRAN: Thank you for having me.

WERTHEIMER: The new weekend still accommodates the principle day of prayer for Muslims, which is Friday, but now Friday will be the first day of the weekend instead of the second. What kind of practical impact do you think this is going to have on the Saudis' daily lives?

OMRAN: It is definitely going to have some changes in how people spend their weekend because Friday used to not just a day of prayer but also the day when you get together with your family and things like that. So, we'll take some time to adjust and get used to the new weekend.

WERTHEIMER: I mean, it's just as if the whole week moves forward a bit, but is there something about opening on Sunday that seems particularly odd, do you think?

OMRAN: It's just unusual, but people get used to it. Because Saudi is the only country in the region to have the Thursday and Friday weekend. The other countries in the Gulf and countries around us have used a Friday-Saturday weekend for years now. That meant in the past that you only had three common days in which you can work with the rest of the world. And that used to cause the economy billions and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think people in Saudi Arabia are annoyed with this, this sort of all of the sudden in the last week in June things changed?

OMRAN: This was probably annoying for many people who have planned, you know, for their summer travels and their other businesses. But for many other people, especially other business people, they were happy to take the change because there had been demand for this change for years now.

WERTHEIMER: Ahmed al Omran is a Saudi journalist and blogger. Ahmed, thank you very much for your time. Good luck with your workweek.

OMRAN: Well, I'm a freelancer so I don't really have a weekend.

WERTHEIMER: All right. Well, thank you very much.

OMRAN: Thank you.

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WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.

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