RIYADH: Every Friday, Abdullah Al-Sulaiman dresses in his favorite clothes and takes his family to his grandfather’s house to meets all his family members and enjoy the weather in the backyard while drinking tea and mamool (cookies).
Upholding family traditions and maintaining kinship ties are an integral part of Saudi society and culture that is passed down from one generation to the next.
Residents of Riyadh shared with Arab News how much they value spending quality time with their families.
“Family is a central pillar of Saudi Arabian society, forming the basis of most people’s social circle. Every Friday is a family day, I usually spend it at my grandfather’s house where all my uncles and aunts come with their children,” Al-Sulaiman said.
Some families have a designated room, called a majilis, in their house, where important family matters are discussed and guests are welcomed for socializing.
Mutlaq Al-Jabaa, a resident of Riyadh, enjoys driving his family around the city. “We enjoy cruising around Riyadh, so I drive them around the city, or we rent a recreation center chalet that has a pool and entertainment consoles for the whole family to get together and have fun.”
In Saudi Arabia, it is common to rent an istiraha, or chalet, a place for a temporary stay that often has a pool, a large living room for families to gather, and a garden with a play area for children.
In cooler months, Al-Jabaa said that most families in Riyadh also enjoy outdoor activities, such as picnics in the desert around Wadi Hanifa and other locations. “It is called kashta. On cold winter nights, we go to the desert and bring chairs, tea, food, wood and a small carpet to sit and enjoy the weather, and we like to burn firewood for warmth.”
Other popular family activities include camping, desert safari tours, camel rides, sandboarding, quad biking and stargazing — all offering unique experiences in nature while boosting economic prospects for local businesses.
“We prefer to gather in a camp in the desert where the guys play the card game baloot, and the women enjoy sitting and sipping tea or Saudi coffee while watching the children run around,” Al-Sulaiman said.
Taking part in sports, such as soccer, horse racing and falconry, are also an essential part of family tradition in Riyadh.
Nouf Al-Humaidi likes to rent a farm with a stable to teach children horseback riding.
“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.”
During Ramadan, families, mostly during weekends, host iftar at their homes for friends and families. Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha — two of the most important religious holidays in the Islamic calendar — are joyous occasions for extended families to gather to celebrate, exchange gifts, and enjoy traditional food and drink.
Hanouf Al-Salama said that her father has a farm where family members and their children gather to enjoy nature and collect dates.
“We make Saudi coffee for the family to drink with the dates; we like to hold a competition for the children to see who can collect the most dates. We also have a barbecue, where the men of the family often cook the meat,” Al-Salama said.