On May 15-16, Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world will begin their month-long celebration of Ramadan. The end of the month of Ramadan, marked by Eid-el-Fitr celebrations, will take place between June 14-15. Though practices can vary by country, businesses, restaurants, and government administrations may operate on a reduced schedule during this holy month.
Transportation disruptions are to be anticipated during this period due to increased number of travelers, especially in airports. Heavy traffic after sundown (particularly on weekends) is to be anticipated as Muslims typically gather to celebrate the holy month with family. Furthermore, traffic accidents tend to increase during Ramadan (especially at dusk) due to a combination of exhaustion, hunger, dehydration, and impatience.
Local authorities typically report a heightened terrorism threat during the month of Ramadan, and increased security measures should be expected in major urban areas. Authorities also typically observe an increase in incidents of petty crime during this period.
Ramadan is a period of reflection and self-restraint and it carries great significance within the Muslim calendar. Muslims traditionally observe daytime fasting and are called to practice increased devotion and abstain from certain activities.
The threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia remains high due generally to the tense regional geopolitical climate, as well as more specifically the country’s direct and indirect political and military involvement abroad (e.g., the country's controversial intervention in the ongoing Yemeni conflict). It is estimated that over 2000 Saudis have left the country to join the Islamic State (IS) group, giving rise to fears that they could return to perpetrate attacks within the kingdom.
Individuals in Saudi Arabia are advised remain aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious behavior. It is advised not to eat, drink, or smoke in public throughout this period. Travelers are also advised to allow additional time for travel and to avoid any form of public demonstration or public gathering.
Given the prevailing terrorist risk in Saudi Arabia, those present in the country are advised to exercise caution at all times, to keep a low profile, and to avoid public places lacking adequate security measures or locations deemed particularly likely to be targeted in the event of an attack (e.g., official buildings, military zones, etc.). Report all suspicious objects or behavior to authorities.
As a reminder, some foreign governments advise their nationals to avoid the Yemeni border area due to the risk of attacks.