Here’s one of the usual everyday life frustrations if you live in Saudi Arabia: You want to eat cereal. You open the fridge and realize you’re out of milk. You get dressed, get in your car and drive to the supermarket. Then the moment your reach the supermarket, they close for prayer.
The kingdom is the only Muslim country in the world where all businesses must be closed for prayer – five times a day.
Enter Ymdi, a new iPhone app that wants to help users in Saudi Arabia to determine whether they can get to any location before prayer closing time or not.
- Ymdi website
The man behind the app is Ahmed Alawaji, a 26-year-old who works as a Riyadh-based consultant for German software giant SAP . He said he created the app mainly to scratch his own itch, but he figured that others would also find it useful.
When you open the app for the first time it asks for permission to use your location. Once the permission is granted, the app shows a countdown clock for when is the next prayer time based on an equation developed to calculate it in your location.
A search box at the top of the screen allows you to enter your desired destination, or you can choose from a list showing nearby attractions pulled from the database of Foursquare.
After you choose a destination, the app will calculate whether or not it is possible to arrive to your destination before prayer closing time then show a pop-up message that says Ymdi! (which can be loosely translated to: “there’s enough time!”) with the ETA and a button for directions.
The way the app does that is by using Google API to determine the distance and how long it would take you to get there depending on the traffic and other factors like detours and road accidents.
This app comes as some voices in the local media call for the ban on all commercial activity during prayer time to be lifted, while conservatives reject any change of the current policy which they see as one of the manifestations of the country’s Islamic identity.
As a compromise, moderate cleric and member of the Shoura Council Issa Al Ghaith suggested last year that shops should be closed for prayer but some businesses like pharmacies and gas stations can be exempted from the ban that is enforced by the powerful religious police.
Religious police chief Sheikh Abdulatif Al Alsheikh told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year that they are considering relaxing the strict rules on closing businesses during prayer times in a bid to improve the image of the force. However, no change in policy has taken place yet.
As the debate around this issue continues, an app like Ymdi offers a practical solution to a daily problem that faces many who live in Saudi Arabia, especially business travelers who sometimes find it difficult to plan their day around prayer time closures.
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(via WSJ Blogs)