Last modified: 2014-05-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: saudi arabia | asia | shahada | sword | swords:2 | royal flag | tree (palm) |
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image by António Martins-Tuválkin
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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!):
Saudi Arabia: http://www.aleqt.com/2011/05/25/article_542200.html
Various pictures: http://www.3rabpet.com/vb/showthread.php?t=310995&page=1
Jalal Muhammed, 11 February 2012
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 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 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.
contributor and date unknown
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 188.8.131.52 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]
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
Željko Heimer, 29 June 2013
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?
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
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
David Prothero, 30 October 2007
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
This was also reported in the Scotsman, along with a colour photograph, and on MSN with the same photo.
Graham Bartram, 30 October 2007
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
image by Joseph McMillan, 26 August 2006
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!"
I have not found this information anywhere else but I do not have access to Arabic-speaking sources.
Ivan Sache, 01 July 2007
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.
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