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What's the Date in Saudi Arabia?


Many people doing business with Saudi Arabia are usually surprised to find that the date in Saudi Arabia is over 500 years behind that of dates in the West.

Why is the date different in Saudi Arabia?

Well, we'll try to explain and at the same time, give you a glimpse into Saudi culture.

So let's start by looking at the difference in calendars before we show you how to always work out what the date is in Saudi Arabia.


The Islamic Calendar

Rather than using the Gregorian Solar Calendar, Saudis use the Lunar Hijri Calendar which doesn’t have static months like the Gregorian calendar.

  • Instead, new months are marked by the sighting of the ‘hilal or, the new crescent moon.
  • Once the hilal has been sighted, then the new month is officially certified in court.
  • The Saudi calendar is made up of 12 lunar months which happen to fall short of the Gregorian solar months.
  • While a year in the Gregorian solar calendar lasts 365 days, the Lunar Hijri calendar lasts eleven days or so less than this.

Why do Dates Always Change?

This impacts Muslims living in the West in a number of ways as they are never quite sure when important events such as Ramadan will fall, making it quite difficult to book time off from work in advance.

  • Although Ramadan arrives on the ninth month of the Hijri calendar; in the USA/Europe, the date changes each year.
  • So for example, in 2018, Ramadan fell on 16th May but in 2032, the date is likely to fall on 4th December.
  • This demonstrates the way in which the shorter Lunar Hijri calendar is slowly catching up with the Gregorian calendar.
  • To further demonstrate this, a centenarian in Saudi Arabia will only be 97 years old, or thereabouts, in Gregorian terms.
  • However, closing the gap will take a long time. Consider that the lunar annual shortfall is only 11 days.

Why is the Year Different in Saudi Arabia?

Although the difference in annual cycles goes some way towards explaining the difference in dates between Saudi Arabia and the West, it does not fully explain the significant gap.

  • Why? Because the Lunar Hijri calendar took effect in the Christian Year, AD 622, at the point at which Prophet Muhammad carried out hijrah, (migration) from Mecca (where he was being persecuted), to Medina, where he was welcomed with open arms.
  • While many other Muslim countries only use the Lunar Hijri calendar to mark religious events, Saudi Arabia uses the calendar for commercial purposes too.
  • As such expatriates relocating to Saudi Arabia will find that Lunar Hijri dates appear on business documentation and important documents such as the Iqama, or Visa.
  • If you are relocating to Saudi Arabia, then it’s essential that you take the time to understand the calendar.
  • Questioning your Saudi counterparts about the calendar upon arrival will position you as someone who is ignorant of their culture and way of doing things, which certainly won’t give you an auspicious start.

Take a Course on Doing Business with Saudis

If you are working with Saudis or visiting Saudi Arabia on business, then why not do some cultural homework?

Our eLearning course on Saudi business culture is the perfect way to make a great impression.

Watch a small sample below.

Photo by Clyde He on Unsplash

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