Saudi National Day: what it means to be Saudi

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia turns 61 this year. To mark the occasion on Sept. 23, the country will hold a public holiday (National Day), as it does every year. 

What Being Saudi Means

To understand the importance of National Day in the kingdom, we must first understand what it means to be Saudi. The kingdom has an Islamic and Arabic identity. About 90 percent of Saudis are Sunni Muslims and Arabic is the official language. The country is also very traditional and conservative, with most of the population living in rural areas. Saudi is also a young country, with more than half of the population below the age of 30. With a population of more than 32 million, the kingdom is the second most populous country in the Arab world after Egypt.

The Importance of National Day

National Day is the most important holiday in Saudi, it marks the unification of the country by King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1932 and the renaming of the country from the Kingdom of Najd and Hijaz to Saudi Arabia. Prior to 1932, Saudi Arabia consisted of various dominions and tribes. There are different activities during National Day in different cities and regions of the country. In Riyadh, for example, there are parades, concerts and various activities for children and families. In Al-Ahsa and Jeddah, the celebrations are more traditional, with camel races and traditional dances. It is common to see people wearing traditional clothes during the celebrations. The most common traditional dress is an abaya, an ankle-length black dress that is worn with a headscarf by women. Men wear a thobe, a long-sleeved white garment similar to a tunic.

Activities During National Day

Saudi National Day encourages national pride and has been celebrated annually since 2005. Activities typically include family gatherings, picnics, fireworks, barbecues and traditional food, like Arabic coffee and dates. Greetings are an important part of the celebrations. People exchange cards, flowers and gifts to mark the occasion. Saudis often exchange dates as a token of friendship. Saudis also light candles and celebrate by going on a family visit to their relatives.


Saudi is a rich, diverse country with a strong Islamic identity. National Day is the most important public holiday in the country. The celebrations are an opportunity for Saudi to come together and celebrate the achievements of the Saudi people. And it is a time for the Saudi people to reflect on the future and what they can do to make the country even stronger.

Image Credit: Akhilesh Sharma on Unsplash

Riyadh Season Team XI