Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia and the first language of all native Saudi people. It is the primary language used in all public transactions and the main language used by Muslims all over the world — as the Holy Quran is written in Arabic. However, English, which is a compulsory second language in schools, is widely spoken in the Kingdom. And all road signs are bilingual, showing information in both Arabic and English. “Salamalaykum,” meaning “peace be with you,” is a traditional Arabic greeting that can be used on all occasions. “Wa alaykumas-salam,” meaning “and unto you peace,” is the standard response.
Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage and traditions have been shaped by its position as a historic trade hub and the birthplace of Islam. In recent years, the Kingdom has undergone a significant cultural transformation, adapting centuries-old customs to fit the contemporary world. For example, while modest dress is still encouraged for both men and women — tourists are advised to avoid tight-fitting clothing, and women must cover their shoulders and knees — female visitors no longer need to wear an abaya and hijab (robe and head covering). Unmarried guests to the country may now stay together in hotels, and female tourists (as well as locals) may also drive.