Introduction / History
Saudi Arabia is home to a number of different Arab groups. The Saudi Arab (more commonly known as the Gulf Arab) live primarily along the southern edges of the Arabian Desert in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The Saudi Arab in Qatar speak a language called Arabiya or, as it is more commonly known, Gulf Arabic.
The Arab culture was developed by tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert. From there, some of them later migrated into northern Africa. There are two basic classes of Arab: the true nomads and the fellahin-those who have embraced farming. The nomads are best known for their treks across barren deserts on camels, occasionally raiding caravans crossing their paths. The fellahin are more settled, living on the edge of the desert. Most Saudi Arab are herdsmen, who move into the desert during the rainy winter season, then back to the desert's edge in the dry, hot summer.
What are their lives like?
Life for the Saudi Arab is one of harsh existence with few material belongings. Their main possession is the home-a long tent made from woven goat or animal hair. These tents are not permanent dwellings and are divided into two parts by a decorative partition called a gata. Typically, half of the tent is for the women, children, cooking utensils, and storage, while the other half is for the men. The men's section, which contains a fireplace built in the dirt, is used for entertaining guests. Men sit and make plans for the group, while the women do most of the work.
Animals are very important to the Saudi Arab lifestyle. Those who stay close to the desert's edge herd goats and sheep; whereas, those who travel and raid in the desert rely solely on camels. Sheep and goats are raised for monetary value, and camels are used for transportation.
Dairy products have been the traditional food source for the Saudi Arab. Camel's and goat's milk is drunk fresh or made into yogurt and a kind of butter called ghee. Most Arab meals consist of a bowl of milk or yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also served when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten as desserts after meals. Meat is served only on special occasions, such as for guests, marriage feasts, or special ceremonies.
Reflecting the influence of their Muslim religion, the Saudi Arab practice endogamous marriages (marriage within a small social circle). Inheritance is patrilineal (inherited by the next male family member). Saudi Arab clothing is designed for the harsh climate. It is made of lightweight, light-colored fabric and is also loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air.
In the past, the Saudi Arab considered it shameful and degrading to have jobs doing manual labor. However, this has changed somewhat in recent years. Because of the need for better health care, improved living conditions, and more income, some have accepted wage-paying jobs. Nevertheless, most Arab still despise such positions.
What are their beliefs?
The founding of Islam in the seventh century profoundly altered the course of Saudi history. Today, the great majority of the Saudi Arab in Qatar are Hanbalite (Wahhabite) Muslims. In the mid-1700's, Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab formed his fundamentalist sect, and today, the Saudi see themselves as the preservers of the true Islamic faith. The Wahhabites reject all innovations introduced into Islam after the third century of its existence and are very traditional in their practice of Islam. Their desire is to maintain and propagate what they see as the "true" path of Islam.
What are their needs?
There are no known Christians among the Saudi Arab in Qatar. A profession of faith in Jesus may cost a person his family, honor, job, or even his life. Evangelization of this group will be challenging, due to the nature of the Arabs' lifestyle and belief system. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to open the doors of Qatar to the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Saudi Arab who will boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
* Ask God to raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors who will intercede for the Saudi Arab.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Saudi Arabs.