RIYADH: Shops in Saudi Arabia may now stay open during prayer times, a leading government-linked newspaper said, relaxing the strict rules on closing shops and businesses for prayer five times a day.
It is the latest in a series of social and economic reforms intended to modernise the kingdom and boost the private sector’s contribution to its oil-dependent economy. The decision, taken by the Council of Saudi Chambers, will end decades where all shops had to shut for at least half an hour during daily prayers.
According to a circular issued by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, commercial and economic activities can also continue throughout the working hours including prayer times.
The federation explained that this decision is part of the precautionary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, as well as to ensure the health and safety of shoppers and customers. It also aims at avoiding crowding, gatherings near shops when they remain closed during prayer times.
In a statement, the federation said that the move is aimed at improving the shopping experience and raising the level of services provided to shoppers and clients. He said that the decision was taken after having made the necessary coordination with the relevant authorities.
“We hope you will continue to keep shops open and pursue commercial and economic activities throughout working hours, receiving shoppers and customers,” the federation said in the circular to shops and commercial establishments.
They have been instructed to make the necessary arrangements and take appropriate actions to organize the work and provide services on a rotation basis among workers in a way that does not impede workers, shoppers and customers in performing prayers.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged to revive a more “moderate Islam”. He has loosened ultra-rigorous social restrictions by scaling back the role of religious morality police, permitting public concerts, lifting a ban on cinema and allowing women to drive.