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Saudi Arabia

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al-Mamlakat al-'Arabiyat as-Sa'udiyah

Last modified: 2014-11-01 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: saudi arabia | asia | shahada | sword | swords:2 | royal flag | tree (palm) |
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[Saudi Arabia]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin
2:3 |


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Description

  • Proportions: 2:3
  • Description: Green flag with a white shahada and sword. The hoist of the flag shown above should be at the viewer's right, as it is the case for all flags featuring Arabic writings (which read from right to left).
  • Use: on land, state and war flag, at sea, state and war ensign.
  • Colour approximate specifications (as given in Album des Pavillons [pay00]):
    • Green: Pantone 330 c / CMYK (%) C 100 – M 0 – Y 50 – K 50
  • Adoption: Basic design in use by 1932; current version adopted 15 March 1973

In The International Flag Book [ped71], Christian Fogd Pedersen gives the date 1946 for the adoption of the national flag (with the older pattern of sword). The current design of the flag was established in Article 1 of Cabinet Decision 101, as approved by a Royal Decree dated 15 March 1973, and further specified by Mandatory Standards issued by the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization, approved by the board of directors 25-5-1404 A.H. (26 February 1984), published in the Official Gazette of 10-8-1404 A.H. (11 May 1985), and with an effective date of 2-10-1404 (2 November 1984). I also have another possible date for flag legislation of 22-10-1377 A.H. (12 May 1958), with a decree number 38 [content of the decree not reported – Ed.].
Christopher Southworth, 14-15 April 2003

The Dorling Kindersley 1997 Ultimate Pocket Book of Flags [rya97] mentions that the current version of the sword was adopted in 1981, and that it represents the sword of king Abd al-Aziz, given to him by his father. However, Dorling Kindersley's flag books are not the most precise vexillological source – actually they should be called DK's handbook of flag urban legends. So most probably the 1981 date is a mistake and bears no relationship with any adoption, either de facto or de jure, of Saudi flag elements.
Santiago Dotor, 15 April 2003

If the sword was adopted in 1981, it apparently wasn't by legislation, because the only law mentioned in the Mandatory Standards (which themselves formed part of the law after 11 February 1984) is the Decree of 1973. Figure 2 and Table 8 of the standards give precise geometric instructions for the sword, which the original decree did not.
Christopher Southworth, 15 April 2003

The point of the sword always points to the viewer's left, no matter what side of the flag you're looking at. The sword points in the direction in which you read the shahada--right to left.
Joe McMillan, 31 August 2006

A few items about flags found here and there in Arab newspapers and websites:
Since 25th May 2011 the six GCC countries decide to fly the GCC flag alongside their national flags according to the decision by the origanization.
News with/without pictures, from Arabic websites (can be translated!):
Bahrain: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-to-fly-gcc-flag-alongside-its-own-1.811541
Kuwait: http://alwatan.kuwait.tt/ArticleDetails.aspx?Id=113125
Oman: http://www.arrouwad.net/news/2011-01-17-21-12-19/2011-01-17-21-16-01/6324-2011-05-25-23-45-28.html
Qatar: http://www.alarab.com.qa/details.php?docId=189552&issueNo=1257&secId=16
Saudi Arabia: http://www.aleqt.com/2011/05/25/article_542200.html
UAE: http://www.alittihad.ae/details.php?id=50338&y=2011
Various pictures: http://www.3rabpet.com/vb/showthread.php?t=310995&page=1
Jalal Muhammed, 11 February 2012


National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Saudi Arabia: PMS 355 green. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise. Both sides are identical.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012


The Sword

The sword on the national flag is not slightly curved, but is entirely straight-bladed according to a precise construction diagram contained in Mandatory Standards effective 11 March 1984. According to both the Law of 1973 which regulated the design and the Mandatory Standards mentioned above, the sword's hilt is always to the right on both the obverse and reverse of the flag and is never reversed.
Christopher Southworth, 29 August 2006

At a business ceremony in Tokyo on Apr 2 1980, they still used curved sword.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 27 October 2006

I saw a documentary about two English guys who flew around the world (in 80 days) on a microlight. They had to get customs clearance in Saudi Arabia, and when the camera rolled – right there behind the customs officials was Saudi Arabia's National flag with – a curved sword! The Shahada was smaller too.
Martin Grieve, 28 October 2006


The Shahada

The inclusion of sacred Islamic Text on the flag of Saudi Arabia has created problems when the flag is reproduced on souvenir items or as a throw-away hand-waver. An example of this problem occurred when Muslims complained of the flag appearing on World Cup footballs. I recall that one solution was to reproduce the flag with only the sword, deleting the text. However I cannot locate any source for this approach. Does anyone know if this or of any other approach to including Saudi Arabia in a flag display without giving offence to devout Muslims? If the sword only is used, is it centered?
Ralph Kelly, 12 December 1998

Flags are not flown at half-mast because the green Saudi flag is inscribed with Islam's testament of faith and lowering it would be considered blasphemous.
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4736935.stm
contributor and date unknown


The Reverse of the Flag

[Reverse side of Saudi national flag]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin

If made according to law, the Saudi national flag should be identical on both sides, i.e., with the Testament or shahada reading from right to left and the hilt of the sword hilt to the right, under the beginning of the inscription. The flag therefore, looks the same whether it is the obverse or reverse which is being shown – the only way to tell which you are viewing on an image of the flag is to show a flag pole or halyard along with the image. Article 1.1 of Decision 101 (8 March 1973) is specific about this, and states that "The Testament and sword shall be clearly shown in white and appear identical on both sides of the flag." The legal position is further clarified in "Mandatory Standards" (enforced 3 November 1984) in which Article 3.3.1.1 states that, "The body of the flag shall be composed of two layers of green fabric, printed on them El-Shahada and the Sword in white (as per figure 1)."
Christopher Southworth, 23 September 2003

Based on description above, shouldn't both sides of the flag be identical except for the location of the flag pole?
Lorraine Gillespie, 27 June 2013

According to the Law (of Saudi Arabia) copies of which I have on file (and have quoted in the past), Lorraine is perfectly correct and our image [was] incorrect.
Christopher Southworth, 28 June 2013

I was not checking the mentioned law, but I believe it is so. I believe that the Antonio's image was made to illustrate one of the variants of the reverse, i.e. not all flags are made according to the law - sometimes the flag with the sword part is made printed and inscription part is the appliqued on a green patch only to be correctly readable, so gatting the illustrated flag. Other techniques may be used as well, but following the Law the design should be as pointed out.
Željko Heimer, 29 June 2013


Vertical Version

[Vertical Saudi Arabian flag]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin

Actually, the official Saudi hanging flag reads correctly and has the sword underneath the shahada, just like on the flag. In other words, take a Saudi flag and make it longer than wide with the heading at the top and you would have it.
Dave Martucci, 02 February 1998

Consider the citation from page 47 of Znamierowski [zna99]:

"Indeed, at least four countries, namely Brazil, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, explicitly forbid vertical display of their national flags."
If so, we can ask what this vertical flag is? Indeed, there has been a tendency of vertical hoisting of flags recently, especially at big international events like Olympic games, and in several such occasions the vertical Saudi flag was surely used. Is it the official design, officialized recently just for that reason, or is it only an unofficial rendition of the Saudi flag made by foreign flagmakers, as a way to display the text rightly? That is, is this an official design, a de facto flag or simply an erroneous design that might have been used somewhere?
Željko Heimer, 07 June 2000

I have the idea that Saudi law prohibits the vertical hoisting of the normal flag, because the writing would become illegible. Maybe the design with the writing set horizontally across the middle of a vertical flag is done not in spite of this legal provision, but because of it.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 08 June 2000

I am not sure that the religion prohibits writings from the Quran from being written vertically. If I am not wrong, the inscriptions, in various ornamental forms, are used throughout the Muslim world as a very developed form of art, and scriptural ornaments are to be found in many places. So, if there is a ban on vertical hoisting of the Saudi flag (and it seems there is), that would be for other reasons – first due to the design that is not suitable for vertical hoisting, and second, and not quite unrelated with the first, due to the apparent tradition of "horizontal-only" hoisting of flags in the Arabian Peninsula. Comparably, there are bans on vertical hoisting in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as mentioned above. These flags are not to be hoisted vertically for the same reasons as mentioned above, and not due to religious reasons. Other flags in the same part of the world are rarely if ever seen vertically hoisted in their own countries – and without any religious reason behind it, and even without the "designwise" problems.
Željko Heimer, 10 June 2000

The Mall in London has been lined with flags for the State Visit of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud; alternate Union Jacks and Saudi Flags hung vertically on short almost horizontal staffs. If the unsupported end of the staff is considered to be the 'top', it would seem that the Saudi flags have been hung 'upside down' as the sword is at the unsupported end and the inscription at the supported end of the staff ? A photograph from Tuesday's Daily Telegraph.
David Prothero, 30 October 2007

[Vertical Saudi Arabian flag]
loacted by Graham Bartram, 30 October 2007

Yes the flags are upside down on one side (they are fully double sided). Apparently the Saudi Embassy in London agreed the design and had officials present when the flags were hoisted and they approved the "look". I can only think they considered the flags to be vertical flags and decided that it was better for the Shahada to start at the "top" on both sides. If the flags had been made conventionally the Shahada on the Western-style obverse would have started at  the "bottom" and read up. The side of the flag we can't see is what you would expect from a conventional Saudi-flag reverse. As the flags are double-sided the writing reads correctly on both sides, with the hilt of the sword being under the initial letter and the blade pointing in the reading direction.
This was also reported in the Scotsman, along with a colour photograph, and on MSN with the same photo.
Graham Bartram, 30 October 2007


Reported Civil Flag

Reported Civil Flag of Saudi Arabia
image by Joseph McMillan, 26 August 2006

The Saudi Arabian flag is only allowed for official purposes. Private citizens can fly a plain green flag with a golden palm tree over two crossed swords in the upper fly corner.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 28 June 2002

We have a World Cup promotion poster in Japan which shows 32 national people with their national flag paintings on their faces. Only Saudi Arabia does not use the national flag but a green flag charged with a yellow palm above two crossed swords.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 28 June 2002

The only mention of a "civil flag" I can find in Saudi Arabian flag legislation is contained in a Mandatory Standard ("Dimensions, Geometrical Details and Usages of Flags and Banners of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia") whose date of enforcement is given as 3 November 1985. This is the Civil Ensign (described in the Mandatory Standard as the "commercial flag") used by merchant vessels at sea. There is no other which might conceivably be considered as a civil flag.
Christopher Southworth, 10 July 2003

Unusual Variant of Civil Flag

Saudi Arabian Civil Flag Variant
image by Zoltan Horvath, 29 October 2014

I have attached an image of a flag seen in a clip PSY Champion & Gangnam Style - INCHEON Asian Games Opening Ceremony 2014.09.19 of the 2014 Asian Games opening ceremony. It shows the Saudi Arabian emblem/coat of arms on a green background. I have never seen this as a flag. I don't know if the usual Saudi Arabian flag was used for the actual athletes parade as there doesn't seem to be a video of this available.
Martin Dix, 29 October 2014

It might be the reported Saudi Arabian Civil Flag, although the quality of the photo makes identification difficult.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2014

While this boy holds this flag by both hands, flagpole is on his right hand, and he grasps upper right part of the flag with his left hand, it seems that this a green flag with a yellow Saudi emblem placed in the middle of this flag.
Zoltan Horvath, 29 October 2014


Coat of Arms

Saudi Arabian Coat of Arms
image by Joseph McMillan, 26 August 2006

Adopted 1950.


A second flag for Saudi Arabia?

From the Tunisian blog "Waleg", 30 June 2007:
"A serious decision has been taken by the Saudi authorities to come up with a second flag for Saudi Arabia one that presents the most significant aspects of Saudi Arabia as a symbol of union so that it could be used in sports events and other occasions. This statement was given by Sheikh Abdallah Saleh Al Otheimin, who felt that the current flag is being degraded by events like Star Academy & other similar programs.
It seems the Saudi citizens are glad to hear this news, because after seeing a singer or dancer holding the flag & dancing around they would rather have it changed!"
Source: http://www.waleg.com/archives/008519.html
I have not found this information anywhere else but I do not have access to Arabic-speaking sources.
Ivan Sache, 01 July 2007


The national flag in an unusual environment

On 21 May 2008, Farouk Saad Hamad al Zuman reached the top of Mount Everest as the member of an international expedition. The first Saudi to reach the highest mountain in the world, Zuman hoisted the national flag of Saudi Arabia, as can be seen on a colour photography taken by Mingma Sherpa and shown by "The National Newspaper" (Abu Dhabi), 12 June 2008.
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080612/FOREIGN/17107700/1011/NEWS&Profile=1011
A bigger copy of the photography can be seen on the expedition website: http://www.peakfreaks.com/everestnews2008.htm
http://www.peakfreaks.com/images/Everest_one.JPG - direct link to the image, confirming that the flag has a white border / fringe all around.
Ivan Sache, 13 June 2008

I just wondered, is that white fringe or border official in any way ?
Colin Dobson, 14 June 2008

I don't think so. This may have been manufactured for aggressive weather conditions (which we would expect on Everest). Perhaps the "sleave" is extended around 4 sides to prevent the flag from becoming frayed in the wind.
Martin Grieve, 14 June 2008

I don't think its a "sleeve" on the other 2 sides as it look already frayed. More likely its a fringe for decoration.
Marc Pasquin, 14 June 2008