A notable change for working Saudi Arabians: The weekend will now come a day later. Its people had enjoyed a Thursday-Friday weekend, but Oman's recent switch to Friday-Saturday made Saudi Arabia the odd man out among the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. The change to a Friday weekend start, described by Reuters as a "surprise," is effective this week, per an order issued yesterday by King Abdullah. Businesses are pleased: "It will increase interface with the rest of the world," says a former oil exec, and a Riyadh-based strategist notes that the move puts an end to "having just three working days aligned with the rest of the world."
Bloomberg sees something more behind the shift: the Saudi stock market. "It’s not official, but this is one of the things [Saudi Arabia] needed to do to open the markets for foreign investors," says a Dubai fund manager. Bloomberg reports that Deutsche Bank and HSBC have previously predicted that foreign investors could be given direct access to the country's $400 billion stock market as early as 2014. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)