The culture of Saudi Arabia is mainly shaped by Islam and Arab and is normally deeply conservative, religious and traditional. The culture is rich and unique in its own way with regard to its behavior patterns, cultural norms and interaction. As such, the following paper explores the cultural background of the Saudis while focusing on various key aspects and outlining how the background of Saudi Arabia influences their lifestyle in terms of interior design.
In Saudi Arabian culture, spatial awareness has some consistence throughout the country although it varies slightly between genders. People in this culture feel more comfortable standing closer to each other than far apart when in conversation (Goodwin 13). However, the situation changes when opposite genders are involved; and, rarely can a man and a woman walk holding each other in public. Due to the restricted interaction between men and women, spaces in this culture are designed to be gender oriented. Regarding issues of proximity, Saudis try to retain their cultural identity and as a result, they are likely to go for products originating from their culture such as buildings designed like those in their cultural land (Long 62). In relation to the eating and food preparation habits of Saudis, lunch is the meal that a majority of the people is punctual with; while breakfast is the most skipped meal in Saudi Arabia (Goodwin 22). During food preparation, moderate quantities of oil and salt are used while fat and oil from vegetables are preferred. In this regard, interior designs for kitchens are tailored to increase food storage space while allowing for easy accessibility of all cooking ingredients.
When it comes to socialization and interaction, Saudis do it in their own unique way. The key social institution in this culture is the family and most people tend to socialize within the circles of their family's alliances. When interacting with visitors, significant limits to men-women interactions are maintained while respectful greetings are highly valued; usually involving a strong handshake (Long 102). In Saudi Arabian culture, washing rituals include the cleaning of the Kaaba, the stone structure considered sacred and whose washing is believed to be a deep worship act. This washing ritual is performed twice a year and mainly involves cleaning of Kaaba's interior (Goodwin 97). The ritual requires special designing of spaces to adequately serve the specific purpose. Saudis also have positive behaviors and attitudes concerning hygiene. In this culture, personal hygiene is emphasized for both practical and spiritual reasons. Since meals in Saudi Arabia are commonly eaten by hand, washing the hands before and after eating is crucial (Long 155). Interior designers in Saudi take this into consideration; hence, ensuring that washing places are incorporated in the design of a house.
The Saudi Arabian culture also has its unique manner of relaxation where there is a preference for sitting on the floor. In the view of most Saudis, sitting on the floor brings about automatic relaxation in addition to being informal (Long 136). Therefore, enough space for relaxation is left when designing the interior of houses. In Saudi Arabia, entertainment comprises activities such as driving, riding, spelunking, riding on sand dunes and skiing (Goodwin 56). Other entertainment activities for the Saudis include shopping or window shopping in malls dinning out and geocaching; hence, interior designs should allow for a wide range of activities like walking around.
As aforementioned, greeting of guests is accompanied by a handshake between members of the same sex and may also comprise a hug and kiss on both cheeks. Each guest in a meeting is greeted individually and short conversations including inquiries about family and health tend to dominate (Long 88). Principally, men in this culture are known to show physical affection even towards total strangers, especially when they are Saudi males. In contrast, bidding of farewells in Saudi Arabian culture varies with respect to where one has visited; however, farewells include saying "goodbye" to the leaving guest or "until we meet again" (Goodwin 187). Designing of houses is done to enhance physical contact as men interact with their male guests.
Regarding rest, it involves being away from work and Saudis like resting outside their houses in the sand. The resting time is valued in Saudi Arabia as it gives the citizens some time to refresh and get sober. On the other hand, intimacy is considered a sacred relationship which serves as the highest sense of love and compassion. For this reason, interior designers in Saudi Arabia include bedrooms to allow for intimate interactions. Intimacy is believed to be a private matter but still plays a significant role in maintaining marriage stability and success (Long 50). Some of the areas considered private in Saudi Arabia include one's home, car and in the backyard. Such areas are said to offer great places for private conversations. The interior designing of homes in Saudi Arabia is done to enhance the much needed privacy whereby visitors might have their own routes inside the house. In contrast, public areas in Saudi Arabia are those open to the public and have little or no privacy. They include public venues such as malls, restaurants, beaches, public libraries, roads, and parks (Goodwin 92). The designing of such areas is done to allow for unrestricted public accessibility.
Principally, Saudis have a strong preference for color green due to its significance in their culture and religion. Green is considered a sacred color which also symbolizes nature and life (Long 111). For this reason, interior designs in this culture normally take into account the issue of environmental friendliness. Additionally, though there are no specific guidelines for the required light levels in Saudi Arabia, enough light levels should be present in workplaces and other areas to ensure the safety of the people. As such, reasonable exposure to natural light should be allowed at all public places. Saudi Arabian authorities stress that excellent lighting produces a perfect visual environment that makes it possible for people to see, move safely and execute tasks accurately, efficiently and safely (Goodwin 147). In line with this, architectural features such as windows and doors are installed in buildings for light penetration.
Therefore, as demonstrated herein, the culture of Saudi Arabia is rich and unique in numerous aspects. It is therefore essential to incorporate these special cultural features in the design process to ensure that visitors from this culture feel comfortable in the designed space.
Goodwin, Neils L. Saudi Arabian Culture: Its Origins and Implications. 2003.
Long, David E. Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia. Greenwood, 2005.
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