Wednesday, 23 May 2018 12:54

How Ramadan will Affect Business Operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Written by Saudi Gulf Intertrade (SGI)

Saudi Gulf Intertrade (SGI) explains the do’s and don’ts of working in the KSA during Ramadan


SGI, the leading Joint Venture and business set up service provider for Saudi Arabia, advises professionals working in Saudi Arabia to prepare for a slight shift in business practices and a potential slowdown in working processes. However, SGI has reported that certain sectors thrive during Ramadan, such as Retail and F&B who have enjoyed up to 25% increase in sales over the holy month. Due to the KSA’s ambitious goals to diversify the market, business practices are likely not to be a sleepy during Ramadan as they have been in the past.

In the past, a lull in business travel has been expected during Ramadan as statistics show international visitors travelling to the region during this time tended to decline. In 2017 SGI experienced a 19% drop from their monthly average of visas procured for their clients during the month of Ramadan.

Due to Saudi Arabia diversifying away from oil and the recent surge of investment into other market sectors, it is expected that there will be an increase in business travelers visiting Saudi Arabia over the holy month, from previous years. It is important to take into consideration that Ramadan takes place before the school term ends and companies are likely to be operating in a ‘business as usual’ manner this year.

Retail and F&B have seen huge investment over the holy month, with well-known international brands taking interest in the KSA because of the spending power of the Saudi population. Ramadan is a time of celebration and the mood in Saudi is festive and as such, Saudi Arabia saw a 20% increase in spending during Ramadan in 2017. “Due to the 2030 vision announcement and the emphasis on attractive markets such as Retail and F&B in the KSA, we expect growth in this consumer sector to continue over the coming years.” Said Neal Carley, Managing Director.

Ramadan is a time of fasting, focusing on prayers and being charitable, it is also a time of celebrating and connecting with friends and family. Ramadan offers and exciting time for businesses to connect with their clientele as the holy month encourages a sense of community and belonging. For foreigners visiting the Kingdom, it is important to be respectful to the religious holiday and aware of customary etiquette. Foreign professionals working in KSA during the holy month should be prepared for some changes and allow for flexibility in the normal business structure.


Be aware of business hours: Like most companies in the GCC, Saudi Arabia reduces the working day to a maximum of 6 hours. This is to accommodate those who are fasting. Some companies may choose to close operations for the entire month of Ramadan
Be aware of Eid Holiday: Muslim and non-Muslim employees are entitled to a four-day paid vacation for the Eid holiday, as per article 112 of the Saudi Labor Law. The vacation amount can be as much as 15 days, depending on the employer
Dress appropriately: Visitors should take extra care in ensuring they are dressing modestly during the month of Ramadan
Exchange Ramadan greetings: It is custom to use the greeting “Ramadan Kareem” when meeting Muslims, and at the end of Ramadan, during Eid celebrations, the greeting “Eid Mubarak” is used.
Be charitable: During Ramadan, taking time to be generous and charitable to the less fortunate is a part of the essence of the month.
Attend iftar: Except invitations to  Iftar meals. It is courteous to bring a gift or a dish to contribute
Allow extra time for traffic: The traffic is heaviest 30 minutes before sunset. Roads are congested as people head out to break their fast
Expect delays in government departments: Due to reduced working hours governmental departments may experience delays


Eat and drink in public: Note that chewing gum constitutes as eating. It is considered disrespectful to eat during fasting hours and can lead to severe disciplinary action
Smoking: During Ramadan, smoking in public is not allowed until after the evening Taraweeh prayer at sunset, and in Saudi Arabia, there will be few places that allow smoking during the month
Public displays of affection: This is the same as other times of the year, but especially during Ramadan, avoid public acts of affection
Play loud music: For foreigners experiencing Ramadan for the first time, it is important to stay respectful to those fasting