Saudi Arabia to study switching Islamic weekend

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The Saudi Shura Consultative Council agreed on Monday to study a recommendation to switch the Islamic weekend in the kingdom to Friday and Saturday, like other Gulf states, state news agency SPA reported.

The weekend in Saudi Arabia remains on Thursday and Friday, although other Gulf states have pushed it back by one day to reduce the difference with the rest of the world, which affects financial markets and businesses.

The council, the equivalent of a parliament but without any legislative powers, agreed to “study a change in the weekend in government entities from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday,” SPA cited the council’s chief assistant, Fahhad bin Muatad al-Hamad, as saying.

The all-appointed council has 150 members, including 30 women named recently by King Abdullah, for the first time ever, in what has been seen as a major step towards acknowledging women’s rights in the country.

But many Muslim clerics in the desert kingdom that applies a strict version of Sunni Islam are opposed to switching the weekend, apparently in fear of matching the Jewish days off.

The Saudi financial market, the largest Arab bourse in capitalization, works five days per week but only three days match those of the main global markets. The same applies to banks and financial firms.

Oman was the last Gulf state to announce this month replacing Thursday with Saturday in its weekend, starting in May.

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