Saudi Boy Scouts Keep Alive a Tradition while serving the Community



Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts raise the national flag at one of their many camps throughout the country.


Scouting has grown steadily in popularity among Saudi youth. Drawn to the philosophy of service, brotherhood and self-reliance, close to 50,000 young Saudis are active members of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association.

In the early 1950s, a few groups of Scouts were loosely organized through some of the local schools under the direction of adult volunteers. With the establishment of the Ministry of Education under the direction of then-Prince Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz in 1954, the educational system in the Kingdom grew rapidly, and participation in the Saudi Scouts increased as more schools were created. Over the next few years, the number of boys involved with the grassroots organization grew steadily, and in 1961 a royal decree was issued formally establishing the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association.



Through their many programs Saudi scouts perform outstanding community services, including assisting pilgrims during the Hajj (above) and organizing national campaigns to raise public awareness of drugs (bottom), the environment and other important social issues.

Although some aspects of the Scouting program differ from country to country, the goal of preparing boys for adulthood in a changing world remains the same, uniting the world brotherhood of Scouting. The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is the international organization which stands as the federation for coordinating groups of Scouts in all countries which are recognized members. In 1963, the Saudi Scouts Association became a member of the WOSM. That same year, a group of Saudi Scouts traveled to Greece in order to participate in a meeting of the World Scout Conference.

The basis for recognition and membership in the WOSM includes adherence to the following aims and fundamental principles of world Scouting: duty to God and respect for individual beliefs; loyalty to one's country and respect for its laws; strength of world friendship and the brotherhood of Scouting; service to others through community development; universal regard for the Scout Promise and Law as a guide for life; voluntary membership; service by volunteer leaders; training of boys in responsible citizenship, physical and mental development, and character guidance through use of the patrol system, group activity, recognition through awards, and learning by doing; and outdoor program orientation. Traditional Islamic values of honor, generosity, community, charity, tolerance, knowledge and cooperation reinforce the WOSM principles and are the foundation upon which the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association is based.

The World Scout Bureau, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the secretariat that carries out the instructions of the WOSM. The Bureau maintains regional offices in five areas around the world: Africa Region; Asia-Pacific Region; European Region; Inter-American Region; and Arab Region, under which the Saudi Association falls. It is the responsibility of the bureau staff in each region to help associations improve and broaden their Scouting by training professionals and volunteers, establishing sound finance policies and fund-raising techniques, improving community facilities and procedures, and assisting in marshaling the national resources of each country behind Scouting. With the assistance of the Arab Regional Office and the World Scout Bureau, the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association participates in most regional and international Scouting activities. In addition, the Saudis contribute generously to help advance the philosophy of Scouting in less fortunate countries in the Arab world and globally.

The Saudi Scouts Association is an independent group, but many of its activities are supported by a number of different government agencies. Because the local Scout troops are organized through the schools, the Ministry of Education maintains a prominent presence in the organization's activities. Additionally, other agencies in contact with the Saudi Scouts Association are the Ministry of Pilgrimage, the Ministry of Finance and National Economy, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health and the Islamic Development Bank.



Saudi Scouts use a variety of media, including banners on hot air balloons, posters and booklets, to educate the youth about the dangers of drugs.

Scouts in Saudi Arabia are organized into different levels according to their age, much like the system used by the Boy Scouts of America. The youngest members are called "Cubs" and are between the ages of 7 and 12. The second level is "Scouts" for those 12 through 16. Older teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 are "Seniors." The highest level is "Rovers" for Scouts who are 19 to 21. Within each level, individuals can also advance their rank by earning merit badges through mastering sports and nature activities or through volunteer community service projects.

A board of directors comprised of ten members oversees the activities of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association. Working together with a staff, the board organizes and coordinates service projects, camping expeditions, fund-raisers and other Scout activities throughout the Kingdom. Locally, various district offices organize the Scouts into small troops through local schools, and these small groups meet regularly throughout the year.

Some of the outdoor activities the Scouts focus on include camping, hiking and lessons about wildlife and the environment. The Saudi Scouts often take part in overnight expeditions at the permanent youth camps established by the General Presidency of Youth Welfare. Outings at the camps enable the young people to become accustomed to being self-reliant and, at the same time, learn cooperation as they work together as a team. The troops also organize leadership training courses as a way to instill Scouts with self-confidence and other valuable traits.


After a hard day's work helping lost pilgrims find their camps, rushing to the aid of those needing emergency assistance and performing other services for more than two million Muslims that gather in Makkah during Hajj, a troop of Scouts returns to their camp outside Makkah.

Local troops also turn to regular exercise and education to ensure well-rounded Scouts. Some troops form teams and participate in organized sports and other types of athletics such as soccer, swimming and boating. Specialized educational activities are encouraged, including arts and crafts, computer classes and Islamic instruction.

As part of the Scouting philosophy, community involvement is a priority for the Saudi Scouts Association. The Scouts have become active participants in the campaign against drugs, taking part in parades and educational programs in an attempt to educate their peers on the dangers of drug use. Another aspect of the Scouts' focus on community is their commitment to Road Safety Week, when they distribute information on safe driving in an attempt to reduce the numbers of automobile accidents and potential injuries. In recent years, the Saudi Scouts have worked tirelessly for the environment through educational programs and hands-on activities. Every year on Arbor Day the Scouts organize a tree-planting campaign to emphasize the need to renew the environment, and regular "clean-up" days are held when Scouts devote their time to beautifying their neighborhoods and communities.

Undoubtedly the most significant contribution the Saudi Scouts have made to the community is their continued involvement in the annual Hajj, pilgrimage to Makkah. For over 35 years the Scouts have cooperated with the various government agencies that work together annually to ensure a safe and comfortable visit for more than two million pilgrims who travel to Makkah from around the Kingdom and the world. The first group of Scouts began volunteering their services in 1960 in a program with four adult leaders and 50 Scouts. Since then, the program has grown into one of the largest annual community service projects ever.

Volunteers take part in a ten-day comprehensive training course during which they visit the many sites throughout the area in order to familiarize themselves with the locations where the different rituals will be performed and to determine where their services will most be needed. High on the list of priorities is becoming acquainted with the layout and organization of the massive tent-cities where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims camp. With so many pilgrims congregating in one place, many of them foreigners who have never visited Saudi Arabia, the chance of parties becoming separated is great. Trained to spot those who look confused or distraught, particularly children and the elderly, Scouts move through the crowds and approach anyone who appears to need help. Many pilgrims wear a wristband which specifies which camp he or she is assigned to and the scouts use this information to guide the person back to his or her area. Those who are not wearing the wristband are directed to the nearest Pilgrims Guidance Center where they wait until someone from their party comes looking for them.

The Saudi Scouts also volunteer in other aspects of the Hajj. Any pilgrim who is in need of medical attention will be escorted by a Scout to the nearest health center or hospital. Additionally, the volunteers distribute books and informational pamphlets to the pilgrims to keep them informed of the Hajj schedule. Many Scouts find themselves in the position of guides, willing to answer questions and identify points of interest and sites of historical significance. This annual project organized by the Saudi Scouts Association to serve the pilgrims regularly involves scouts from other Arab and Islamic countries.

The Scouts stand as a shining example of young Saudis making a difference in the world today. Striving to serve their communities and country, the Scouts learn valuable lessons about cooperation, helping others and taking action. With strong character and a respect for the world around them, the Scouts will mature into responsible citizens and become a strong base for the future of Saudi Arabia.


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