As mentioned in the previous article, religion impacts every aspect of life in the region. Different religious rituals influence the flow of time in MENA. Among these rituals are the five daily prayers a Muslim must perform. You will see in many countries, especially Saudi Arabia, that shops are closed immediately before, or as soon as the call to prayer begins. Also, keep in mind that in most Muslim majority countries, the weekend is Friday and Saturday, due to Friday being the day of the obligatory “Jumu’ah” prayer. There are a few exceptions like Turkey and Lebanon where the state identifies the weekend as Saturday and Sunday; and Saudi Arabia where weekend comprises of Thursday and Friday.
Another factor that would impact a business timetable in the region would be the sacred month of Ramadan. Ramadan begins one month before the month it started in the previous year of the Gregorian calendar. To calculate when this significant event occurs means that if this year the holy month began in June, next year it will commence in May. During this holy month, Muslims fast from slightly before dawn until dusk. For many reasons, working hours during Ramadan change. Depending on the sector or the head of the workplace, workers may have fewer working hours; usually two hours less. One of the reasons for this is for workers to get home early to prepare the Iftar meal. Of course, each country deals with their religious observations differently, so again, doing research is always essential.
As for religious holidays, the nature of adherence and frequency depends on each country. You may have heard of a festivity called Eid. Eid is the Arabic word for “celebration” or “holiday”. There are two main holidays in the Muslim world, one is called Eid Al Fitr, and the other one is called Eid Al Adha. Eid Al Fitr is a celebration of the end of the month of Ramadan, while Eid Al Adha is about sacrifice and giving to the needy, (mostly through the sacrifice and sharing of a sheep). Some countries may acknowledge the occurrence of Eid for two days, and not expect workers to show up for work during that time. Other countries dedicate more time to the celebration to one or two more days.
Whether you want to set a business meeting or hire Muslim workers, knowing how time flows in the MENA region will help you navigate effectively.