Saudi Arabia Adopts the Gregorian Calendar
In April, the dynamic deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman, chose to call his transformation plan Vision 2030, not Vision 1451 after the corresponding Islamic year as traditionalists might have preferred. Recently his cabinet declared that the administration is adopting a solar calendar in place of the old lunar one. Henceforth they will run the state according to a reckoning based on Jesus Christ’s birth, not on the Prophet Muhammad’s religious mission.
The Saudi administration, hopes one official, should now be more orderly and in step with the rest of the world. But having spent a lifetime learning dates from the year Muhammad fled from Mecca to establish the first Islamic state in Medina (622 in the Gregorian calendar), counting from Jesus’s birth is likely to leave many scratching their headscarves.
Still, Saudi Arabia is not alone in wrestling with ancient calendars. It is 1395 in Iran, 2628 in Kurdistan, and 5776 in Israel’s Knesset. Nor is it just the Middle East that is out of sync with the times. It is 2559 in Thailand, though only year 28 (of the Heisei era) in Japan.
From “The prince’s time machine” in The Economist, 2016; Illustration by Claudio Munoz
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