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Family ties underline the strength of Saudi society on National Day

Boys wave national flags with pictures of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during celebrations in Riyadh marking Saudi Arabi's National Day on September 23, 2020. (AFP)
Boys wave national flags with pictures of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during celebrations in Riyadh marking Saudi Arabi's National Day on September 23, 2020. (AFP)
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22 Sep 2023 10:09:33 GMT9
22 Sep 2023 10:09:33 GMT9
  • Many locals like to celebrate National Day by going out to see people carrying the national flag and dancing
  • Family traditions are a means of passing down cultural values and practices from one generation to the next 

Rahaf Jambi

RIYADH: Abdullah Al-Sulaiman proudly wears his traditional attire and holds the green flag as he joins his family in celebrating Saudi National Day at his grandfather’s home this year. 

In Saudi Arabian society, particularly in Riyadh, family traditions are significant. 

“Family is a central pillar of Saudi Arabian society, forming the basis of most people’s social circles. On the National Day, I usually spend it at my grandfather’s house where all my uncles and aunts come with their kids, and we are all wearing green and white,” said Al-Sulaiman. 

Traditions are an essential aspect of this culture, passed from one generation to another, and are deeply ingrained in the daily lives of Saudi family members. 

As a citizen, Mutlaq Al-Jabaa likes to celebrate the day by taking his family on a car cruise around Riyadh to see how people celebrate by carrying the national flag and dancing. 

“My family likes to celebrate with the people, so I drive them around the city to witness celebrations, and after that, we rent a recreation center chalet that has a pool and entertainment consoles for the whole family to get together and have fun,” he said. 

In the Kingdom, it is common to rent an istiraha or a chalet, a place for a temporary stay that usually has a pool and a big living room for all families to gather with a wide garden for the children to play. 

Also, because family traditions are highly valued in Saudi, family homes usually feature a designated room called majlis for socializing, discussing important matters and receiving guests. 

Gathering for family meals is another crucial tradition in Riyadh. Family members, including close and distant relatives, gather for daily meetings at the house of the eldest male relative. 

Nouf Al-Humaidi likes to rent a farm that has a stable, where they teach the children horse riding as well as feed farm animals. 

“Saudis are well connected to horses and in my family, we like to teach children from a young age how to ride horses, so when they grow up, they can decide if they want to do it as a sport. Children also are very excited when they see farm animals and they learn a lot on how to make milk and how to collect eggs.” 

Several family traditions are commonly practiced in Riyadh, including on Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, which are two of the most important religious holidays in the Islamic calendar. During these holidays, families come together to celebrate, exchange gifts, and enjoy traditional food and drink. 

Hanouf Al-Salama said that during the holidays she likes to bake a cake and gather the whole family to listen to Saudi folk music celebrating National Day. She prepares questions about Saudi Arabia’s history every year with gifts for the winners. 

“We gather the entire family on National Day, and I quiz them on historical facts about Saudi Arabia, such as asking them what nations Saudi Arabia borders or the names of the kings, and whoever answers, I give them a gift, and eventually we eat the cake and dance to Saudi music,” she said. 

Family traditions also serve as a means of passing down cultural values and heritage. 

Many traditions have been passed down through multiple generations, providing a connection to the past and a sense of continuity. 

“We prefer to gather in a camp in the desert where the guys play the cards (baloot) and the women enjoy sitting and sipping tea or Saudi coffee while watching the kids run around,” said Abdullah Al-Sulaiman. 

During the holy month of Ramadan, families break their fasts together and distribute meals to the needy as part of the custom of helping the underprivileged. Thus, gathering for family meals is a way to strengthen family bonds and maintain traditions in Riyadh. 

Taking part in traditional activities and sports is also an essential part of family life in Riyadh. Many Saudis value traditional and modern pastimes, including football, which is extremely popular, and other sports such as horse racing and falconry. 

Moreover, families often take part in traditional activities such as henna parties and visiting relatives and friends on both joyous and sad occasions. 

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