Saudi Arabia: First Name or Title?
Addressing others with respect
The use of first names denotes more familiarity than in the west and there is no real equivalent to Mister, although the Saudis borrow the Hashemite noble title “Sayyed” for this purpose in correspondence.
“Bin” [or ben or ibn], preceding a name, particularly a middle name, means “son of.” “Bint” [daughter of] is the female form.
The perfect level of friendliness without undue familiarity is achieved by the use of the kunya. A man becomes known to his friends as “Abu” [father of], followed by the name of his [usually eldest] son. It is quite acceptable to ask a mutual acquaintance if you don't know a man's kunya. Somewhat less common is the female equivalent “Umm” [mother of].
Just as in most western monarchies, Saudi Princes are addressed as His/Your Royal Highness [Samu Maliki]. Similarly, non-royal ministers and ambassadors have the standard international designation of “Excellency.”
Several years ago, King Fahed abandoned the style of Majesty in favour of “Khadam al-Haramain ash-Sharifain.” This translates to “Steward of the Two Noble Sanctuaries” but is often very badly rendered “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in English.
The titles Doctor, Shaikh [chief], Mohandas [engineer] and Ustadh [professor] are used, as on the Continent, in both the literal and honorific senses. “Shaikh” should always be used the same as a knighthood in English--applied only to the first name, never the surname.
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