Shops in Saudi Arabia may now stay open during prayer times, a leading government-linked newspaper said on Friday, relaxing the kingdom’s 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 conservative kingdom and boost the private sector’s contribution to its oil-dependent economy.
The decision, taken by the Council of Saudi Chambers, will end restriction under which all shops had to shut for at least half an hour during daily prayers. These are held at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening.
“To prevent crowding, gatherings, long waiting under preventive measures to fight coronavirus and to maintain the health of shoppers, we urge shop owners and businesses to remain open through all working hours, including prayer times,” Okaz cited a circular by the official business federation.
The Saudi government’s media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman loosened other social restrictions by scaling back the role of morality police, lifting a ban on cinema and allowing women to drive.