When I worked in Saudi Arabia the usual standard for any company, governmental organization, university or other entity which had international connections was to have correspondence in both Arabic and in the language of the other host country. Additionally, correspondence would be dated in both the Islamic (hijri) date and the Gregorian date.
It was also typical for many hotels, restaurants and other service oriented businesses to have staff who spoke English. After all as of 2010 there were an estimated 8.4 million expatriates in the Kingdom. In spite of Saudiazation efforts, a large (in the millions) expatriate community remains.
Therefore, it came as a surprise to read a recent article in Gulf News that advises Saudi Arabia has banned the use of Gregorian dates in any correspondence and also the use of the English language to answer calls or communicate has been banned too.
This truly is a move backwards in today’s global world. The majority of the world uses the Gregorian dates and has little understanding of the Hijri calendar. The Islamic or Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar based on phases of the moon and therefore the months and days usually shift by 11 days each successive year. I can see where this can easily cause confusion in international business and can run a risk of misunderstanding dates of important meetings.
In addition, English is known as the international language of the world. Therefore it is not unusual or threatening for a hotel or restaurant to answer calls or communicate in English with non-Arabic speakers.
Now the Gulf News article is a little vague in that it credits the new ruling to a Saudi Ministry but does not identify which one. I’m just guessing but I’d say this was likely a ruling passed by the Ministry of Interior.
Is this an indication of possible further insulation on the part of Saudi Arabia?