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Family, Clan & Tribe in Saudi Arabia

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Medina / Photo HH

Marriage in Saudi is usually arranged in accordance with tradition. Intermarriage is usually between members of the same line of descent; tribal and immigrant families rarely intermarry. The family follows a strict patriarchal structure, in which the father is the head of the family, and the mother’s main task is to run the household and look after the husband and children. Education and employment have given women more power outside the home and as a partner in the financial maintenance of the family.

Urbanization and education have reduced the effect of tribal culture and values. While many Saudis still live with their extended family in the same household, nuclear families are on the rise, and there is less adherence to traditional tribal values.

Tribal values include care for the elderly and generosity towards relatives and guests. This is, in turn, becomes social capital for the Saudi individual, whose first line of support is the immediate family or tribal leaders. Tribal leaders still negotiate major problems with the members of the clan, and intervene with the authorities on behalf of their members.

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