Saudi Arabia has been taking several measures to boost different industries. From entertainment to eateries, it seems as though Saudi Arabia wants to become a country that never sleeps.
To help bring that title to reality, Saudi Arabia has said that shops will legally have the option to stay open 24 hours a day starting 2020. On Monday, Majed Al Qasabi, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, said the move aims to "enhance the quality of life in cities."
To be able to do so, business owners must apply for a license at the relevant municipality; cameras must also be installed for the license to be granted to the business. The decision was first passed by the Saudi Cabinet in July but needed the approval of the aforementioned ministry.
There's a catch in all this. The shops would still be obliged to close during Muslim prayers, as per a Saudi law that states malls, restaurants, cafés, gas stations, and even hospitals must close during the call for adhan (Islamic prayer) and throughout prayer time as well.
The kingdom has been forgoing strict laws that once painted Saudi Arabia as an ultra-conservative place, but that doesn't mean all age-old rules have disappeared.
Though there is a law that forces public amenities and shopping centers to close during Muslim prayer times in Saudi Arabia, some businesses have been defying the rule in recent years.
In August, a popular burger joint at a Riyadh mall didn't close its doors during prayer times after the restaurant's manager received a text from its Saudi owner instructing him to stay open.
"The (government) decides to allow shops, restaurants and markets to work for 24 hours and the decision includes... prayer times," the message the manager received read, according to AFP.
Due to the issue's sensitivity, not many public amenity owners openly discuss their decision to stay open during prayer times. However, it looks like the government is testing the waters with the matter, leading many to take action on their own before an official decision overturns the currently implemented law.
Even though the rule has long been applied in the kingdom, many locals have demanded authorities reconsider the law. One Saudi lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al Lahem, voiced his opinion in an interview last year.
"There is no religious edict stating that shops must close at prayer times, this is a law that's only in effect because the kingdom's religious police enforce it on people," he said.