The latest in the Kingdom’s social reforms…

For over 30 years, commercial businesses in Saudi Arabia have shut and locked their doors as soon as the first call of prayer is heard.

Here’s a scenario we have all seen or been through: Cars would queue waiting for petrol stations to open. Pharmacies, restaurants, and supermarkets would lower their shutters, with patrons and visitors having to wait for at least half an hour in a manner deemed inconvenient to most people.

However, those days are now over. According to a circular issued by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, shops and commercial establishments are to remain open during prayer times in the Kingdom.

“This is to improve the shopping experience and the level of services for shoppers and clients,” Ajlan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ajlan, head of the Saudi Chambers, said in his circular to all members of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The federation also explained that this decision is part of the precautionary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus and ensure the health and safety of shoppers and customers.

It aims at avoiding crowding and gatherings near shops when they remain closed during prayer times.

The federation also added that the decision was taken after proper discussion with the relevant authorities whilst keeping the necessary conditions to allow the businesses to operate during the prayer times.

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“We hope you will continue to keep shops open and pursue commercial and economic activities throughout the working hours, receiving shoppers and customers,” as quoted in the circular to shops and commercial establishments.

One of the conditions, though, is to keep the workers on a rotational basis so that it won’t impede workers, shoppers, and customers from performing the prayers on time.

The debate to keep shops and businesses open during prayer times has been a topic of discussion for a long time.

This directive is the latest in a series of social and economic reforms intended to modernise the conservative Kingdom and boost the private sector’s contribution to its oil-dependent economy.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rolled out a series of reforms over the past two years, including allowing women to drive and reopening cinemas.

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