Many expatriates relocating to Saudi Arabia are usually surprised to find that the date in Saudi Arabia is over 500 years behind that of dates in the West.
As we leave 2018 behind and enter 2019, it’s only 1440 in Saud Arabia.
Why is this?
The Islamic Calendar
Rather than using the Gregorian Solar Calendar, Saudis use the Lunar Hijri Calendar which doesn’t have static months like the Gregorian calendar.
Instead, new months are marked by the sighting of the ‘hilal’ or, the new crescent moon. Once the hilal has been sighted, then the new month is officially certified in court.
The Saudi calendar is made up of 12 lunar months which happen to fall short of the Gregorian solar months. While a year in the Gregorian solar calendar lasts 365 days, the Lunar Hijri calendar lasts eleven days or so less than this.
This impacts Muslims living in the West in a number of ways as they are never quite sure when important events such as Ramadan will fall, making it quite difficult to book time off from work in advance.
Although Ramadan arrives on the ninth month of the Hijri calendar, in the UK, the date changes each year.
In 2018, Ramadan fell on 16th May but in 2032, the date is likely to fall on 4th December which demonstrates the way in which the shorter Lunar Hijri calendar is slowly catching up with the Gregorian calendar.
To further demonstrate this, a centenarian in Saudi Arabia will only be 97 years old, or thereabouts, in Gregorian terms. However, closing the gap will take a long time. Consider that the lunar annual shortfall is only 11 days, and it’s still only 1440 in Saudi Arabia.
Why is it 1440?
Although the difference in annual cycles goes some way towards explaining the difference in dates between Saudi Arabia and the West, it does not fully explain the significant gap between 1440 and 2019.
Why? Because the Lunar Hijri calendar took effect in the Christian Year, AD 622, at the point at which Prophet Muhammad carried out hijrah, (migration) from Mecca (where he was being persecuted), to Medina, where he was welcomed with open arms.
While many other Muslim countries only use the Lunar Hijri calendar to mark religious events, Saudi Arabia uses the calendar for commercial purposes too. As such expatriates relocating to Saudi Arabia will find that Lunar Hijri dates appear on business documentation and important documents such as the Iqama, or Visa.
If you are relocating to Saudi Arabia, then it’s essential that you take the time to understand the calendar. Questioning your Saudi counterparts about the calendar upon arrival will position you as someone who is ignorant of their culture and way of doing things, which certainly won’t give you an auspicious start.
Commisceo Global Consulting
If you are relocating to Saudi Arabia, then relocation training is essential due to the cultural differences between Saudi Arabia and the West.
Cultural training will help you to enter Saudi Arabia with your best foot forward by equipping you with an understanding of the business and local culture in Saudi Arabia.
Depending on your needs and reasons for relocating, training will usually cover key areas such as communication style, relationship building, networking, presentations, negotiations, business meetings, attitudes to time and making a good impression.
Cultural training will also cover day to day essentials such as the law, getting around, the Lunar Hijri calendar, gift giving and the etiquette of exchanging business cards.
For those in a hurry, we also offer online cultural training, made up of bitesize topics; all of which can be accessed as an when you want via a variety of devices.