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Research Papers on Culture in a Saudi Arabian Family

In writing a research paper on Saudi culture, it reports that the family is the most important institution.  It is the basis for identity and for status among society.  Marriage is not a sacrament, but rather marriage is arranged and thought to be a civil contract involving the exchange of money.  The woman continues to belong to her father, maintaining her maiden name.  Women did, however, receive an appropriate share of inheritance, and were often quite wealthy. Families often form alignments with other families who share common interests and lifestyles.  Family businesses operate as social welfare nets for all members of the extended family by employing all members in some capacity.  The structure of the family has not changed for centuries, continuing to follow the structure of the ancient tribal lineages. 

  • Saudi Arabian families are strongly patrilineal
  • Saudi Arabian families have boundaries drawn through males and their descendents. 
  • Saudi customs dictate that families shared a sense of corporate identity
  • The esteem of the family is measured by the individual’s capacity to live up to socially prescribed ideals of honor”.
  • Children are thought to belong to the father.

Government and Education

Culture in Saudi Arabia

In discussing the family values of the Saudis, it is important to understand the development of education in the country.  Educational provisions in Saudi Arabia were sparse until 1938 when oil was discovered, and became part of the economy.  The number of schools increased, and the total number of pupils rose from 700 to 42,000 in 12 years.  In 1959, the Saudi Arabian Government finally addressed the education of females, as schools had previously educated boys alone.  This change in philosophy toward females was directly tied to oil money.  Simmons and Simmons (1994) explain that “nomads (Bedouins) and farmers (fellaheen) left the poverty of the desert and the countryside for the new wealth of the towns and cities and these enlarged settlements, in turn, produced a new middle class of entrepreneurs and administrators who… had to get their qualifications abroad”.  These educated men with a worldview found the illiterate Saudi women difficult to tolerate.  They began campaigning for women’s education, arguing that educational incompatibility leads to marital breakdown.


In 1959, King Saud agreed that schools would open for girls, but insisted that the Ulama, the male religious scholars who study the holy books of Islam and apply the Sharia Law, would organize and run them.  Consequently, the study of Islam remains a defining factor in the education of the women of Saudi Arabia.  While the educational system for both genders has the responsibility of preserving the traditional social order for male and female roles as described by religious doctrine, this is particularly true in the case of women’s education.  El-Sanabary explains, “it is imperative that the education of Muslim women and the woman teacher should be designed that all its inspiration should come from the Islamic Tradition.  The hope for the preservation of the Islamic way and its generation lies in the proper Islamic education of Muslim women”.

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