RIYADH (AFP) – Oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia is switching its weekend to Friday-Saturday to better serve its economy and "international commitments," the official SPA news agency reported on Sunday quoting a royal decree.
Saudi Arabia becomes the last of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council -- which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates -- to abandon the Thursday-Friday weekend to be closer to the world's Saturday-Sunday weekend.
The decision takes effect in ministries and government departments from next week, while it will be implemented by schools and universities from the start of the next academic year.
According to the decree the change was made to better serve "the Saudi economy and its international commitments" and coordinate with the working days in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world.
It will "reduce the negative repercussions on economic and financial activity in the kingdom and make up for lost economic opportunities," said the decree.
Riyadh's stock exchange, the biggest in the Arab world, is open for five days a week, but until now only three of these coincided with the working week in the world's major financial centres.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter and a member of the G20 group of the globe's biggest economies.
The move had been previously rejected by clergymen in the kingdom, which follows the ultra conservative Wahhabi school of Islam, on the grounds that Saturday is the religious weekend for Jews.
Oman became the fifth GCC member state to make the switch several years after the other four members.