Saudi Arabia

Infobox Country
conventional_long_name = Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
native_name = _ar. المملكة العربية السعودية "al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya"
common_name = Saudi Arabia

national_motto = "There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" (the Kalima)
national_anthem = "Aash Al Maleek" "Long live the King"
official_languages = Arabic
demonym = Saudi, Saudi Arabian
official_religion = Islam
capital = Riyadh
latd=24 |latm=39 |latNS=N |longd=46 |longm=46 |longEW=E
largest_city = capital
government_type = Absolute monarchy
leader_title1 = King
leader_name1 = Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
leader_title2 = Crown Prince
leader_name2 = Sultan bin Abdul Aziz
sovereignty_type = Establishment
established_event1 = Kingdom declared
established_date1 = January 8, 1926
established_event2 = Recognized
established_date2 = May 20, 1927
established_event3 = Unified
established_date3 = September 23, 1932
area_rank = 14th
area_magnitude = 1 E12
area_km2 = 2,149,690
area_sq_mi = 829,996
percent_water = negligible
population_estimate = 27,601,038 [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Saudi Arabia ] ]
population_estimate_year = 2007
population_estimate_rank = 46th
population_census =
population_census_year =
population_density_km2 = 11
population_density_sq_mi = 29
population_density_rank = 205th
GDP_PPP_year = 2007
GDP_PPP = $446 billion
GDP_PPP_rank = 27th
GDP_PPP_per_capita = $21,200
GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 41st
HDI_year = 2004
HDI = increase 0.812
HDI_rank = 61st
HDI_category = high
currency = Riyal
currency_code = SAR
country_code = SAU
time_zone = AST
utc_offset = +3
time_zone_DST = (not observed)
utc_offset_DST = +3
cctld = .sa
calling_code = 966
footnote1 = Population estimate includes 5,576,076 non-nationals.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA ( _ar. المملكة العربية السعودية, "Unicode|al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya"), or Suudi Arabistan is an Arab country and the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Sea to its west. It has an estimated population of 27.6 million, and its size is approximately 2,150,000 square km (830,000 square miles).

The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of The Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia (pronounced IPA|/ˈsɒdɪ/ or IPA|/ˈsaʊdɪ əˈɹeɪbɪə/). The Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation, and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter. Petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. [ [ U.S. Energy Information Administration - Saudi Arabia Country Energy Profile] ] Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, [ [ Social Services 2] ] [ [ Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia-London: The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia - A Welfare State] ] which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices. [ [ Gulf Daily News ] ]


Although the region in which the country stands today has an ancient history, the emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. That year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of the town of Ad-Dir'iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with a cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. This alliance formed in the 18th century remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula (see First Saudi State and Second Saudi State). The third and current Saudi state was founded in the early 20th century by King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as "Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud").

In 1902 at the age of only 22, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud re-captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, Al-Qatif, the rest of Nejd, and Hejaz between 1913 and 1926. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz bin Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 29, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz's realm, then known as the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz. In 1932, the principal regions of Al-Hasa, Qatif, Nejd and Hejaz were unified to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938. Development programmes, which were delayed due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939, began in earnest in 1946 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community.

Prior to his death in 1953 Abdul Aziz, aware of the difficulties facing other regional absolute rulers reliant on extended family networks, attempted to regulate the succession.

Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s the Kingdom was in jeopardy due to Saud's economic mismanagement and failure to deal effectively with a regional challenge from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a consequence Saud was deposed in favour of Faisal in 1964.

Intra-family rivalry was one of the factors that led to the assassination of Faisal by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa'id, in 1975. He was succeeded by King Khalid until 1982 and then by King Fahd. When Fahd died in 2005, his half-brother Abdullah ascended to the throne.


The kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemen signed an agreement to settle their long-running border dispute. [ [ Yemen, Saudi Arabia sign border deal] , "BBC News", June 12, 2000. Accessed June 25, 2008.] A significant length of the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government's estimate is 2,217,949 km² (856,356 miles²). Other reputable estimates vary between 1,960,582 km² [ [ CIA World Factbook - Rank Order: Area] ] (756,934 mi²) and 2,240,000 km² (864,869 mi²). The kingdom is commonly listed as the world's 14th largest state.

Saudi Arabia's geography is varied. From the western coastal region (Tihamah), the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center. The southwestern 'Asir region has mountains as high as 3,000 m (9,840 ft) and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abha in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The geographically hostile Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") desert along the country's imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.

Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation's landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Less than two percent of the kingdom's total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofuf and Buraydah. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub' al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry is constructing a few planned communities there. Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for 2640 km (1640 miles) and, on the Red Sea side, offers world-class coral reefs, including those in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Native animals include the ibex, wildcats, baboons, wolves, and hyenas in the mountainous highlands. Small birds are found in the oases. The coastal area on the Red Sea with its coral reefs has a rich marine life.


Extreme heat and aridity are characteristic of most of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the few places in the world where summer temperatures above 50 °C (122 °F) have been recorded,Fact|date=June 2007 51.7 °C (124 °F) being the highest ever recorded temperature. In winter, frost or snow can occur in the interior and the higher mountains, although this only occurs once or twice in a decade. Lowest ever recorded temperature is -12.0 °C recorded at Turaif. The average winter temperature range is 8° to 20 °C (47° to 68 °F) in January in interior cities such as Riyadh and 19° to 29 °C (66° to 83 °F) in Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. The average summer range in July is 27° to 43 °C (81° to 109 °F) in Riyadh and 27° to 38 °C (80° to 100 °F) in Jeddah. Nighttime temperatures in the central deserts can be famously chilly even in summer, as the sand gives up daytime heat rapidly once the sun has set. Annual precipitation is usually sparse (up to 100 mm or 4 inches in most regions), although sudden downpours can lead to violent flash floods in wadis. Annual rainfall in Riyadh averages 100 mm (4 inches) and falls almost exclusively between January and May; the average in Jeddah is 54 mm (2.1 inches) and occurs between November and January.


The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The "Basic Law of Government" adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to The Economist's Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the ninth most authoritarian regime in the world.

There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. [ [ Saudi women barred from voting] , "BBC News", October 11, 2004. Accessed June 25, 2008.] The king's powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders ("ulema"), and other important elements in Saudi society. The Saudi government spreads Islam by funding construction of mosques and Qur'an schools around the world. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a "majlis"; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

The combination of relatively high oil prices and exports led to a revenues windfall for Saudi Arabia during 2004 and early 2005. For 2004 as a whole, Saudi Arabia earned about $116 billion in net oil export revenues, up 35 percent from 2003 revenue levels. Saudi net oil export revenues are forecast to increase in 2005 and 2006, to $150 billion and $154 billion, respectively, mainly due to higher oil prices. Increased oil prices and consequent revenues since the price collapse of 1998 have significantly improved Saudi Arabia's economic situation, with real GDP growth of 5.2 percent in 2004, and forecasts of 5.7% and 4.8% growth for 2005 and 2006, respectively.

For fiscal year 2004, Saudi Arabia originally had been expecting a budget deficit. However, this was based on an extremely conservative price assumption of $19 per barrel for Saudi oil and an assumed production of convert|7.7|Moilbbl/d|m3/d|abbr=on . Both of these estimates turned out to be far below actual levels. As a result, as of mid-December 2004, the Saudi Finance Ministry was expecting a huge budget surplus of $26.1 billion, on budget revenues of $104.8 billion (nearly double the country's original estimate) and expenditures of $78.6 billion (28 percent above the approved budget levels). This surplus is being used for several purposes, including: paying down the Kingdom's public debt (to $164 billion from $176 billion at the start of 2004); extra spending on education and development projects; increased security expenditures (possibly an additional $2.5 billion dollars in 2004; see below) due to threats from terrorists; and higher payments to Saudi citizens through subsidies (for housing, education, health care, etc.). For 2005, Saudi Arabia is assuming a balanced budget, with revenues and expenditures of $74.6 billion each.

In spite of the recent surge in its oil income, Saudi Arabia continues to face serious long-term economic challenges, including high rates of unemployment (12 percent of Saudi nationals), [Ghafour, P.K. Abdul. [ 470,000 Saudis Are Jobless, Says Study] , "Arab News", April 15, 2007. Accessed June 25, 2008.] one of the world's fastest population growth rates, and the consequent need for increased government spending. All of these place pressures on Saudi oil revenues. The Kingdom also is facing serious security threats, including a number of terrorist attacks (on foreign workers, primarily) in 2003 and 2004. In response, the Saudis reportedly have ramped up spending in the security area (reportedly by 50 percent in 2004, from $5.5 billion in 2003). Saudi Arabia's per capita oil export revenues remain far below high levels reached during the 1970s and early 1980s. In 2007, Saudi Arabia's citizens earned around $20,700 per person, versus $22,589 in 1980, but it is catching up. This 80 percent decline in real per capita oil export revenues since 1980 is in large part because Saudi Arabia's young population has nearly tripled since 1980, while oil export revenues in real terms have fallen by over 40 percent (despite recent increases). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has faced nearly two decades of heavy budget and trade deficits, the expensive 1990-1991 war with Iraq, and total public debt of around $175 billion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia does have extensive foreign assets (around $110 billion) which provide a substantial fiscal "cushion."

Saudi municipal elections took place in 2005 and some commentators saw this as a first tentative step towards the introduction of democratic processes in the Kingdom, including the legalization of political parties. Other analysts of the Saudi political scene were more skeptical. [ [ 'Islamist win' in key Saudi poll] , "BBC News", February 11, 2005. Accessed June 25, 2008.]


The Basic Law, in 1992, declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the progeny of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also declared the Qur'an as the constitution of the country, governed on the basis of Islamic law. [ Saudi Arabia] . JURIST]

Criminal cases are tried under Sharia courts in the country. These courts exercise authority over the entire population including foreigners (regardless of religion). Cases involving small penalties are tried in Shari'a summary courts. More serious crimes are adjudicated in Shari'a courts of common pleas. Courts of appeal handle appeals from Shari'a courts.

Civil cases may also be tried under Sharia courts with one exception: Shia may try such cases in their own courts. Other civil proceedings, including those involving claims against the Government and enforcement of foreign judgments, are held before specialized administrative tribunals, such as the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes and the Board of Grievances.

Main sources of Saudi law are Hanbali fiqh as set out in a number of specified scholarly treatises by authoritative jurists, other schools of law, state regulations and royal decrees (where these are relevant), and custom and practice. [ Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of] ]

The Saudi legal system prescribes capital punishment or corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for certain crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug smuggling, homosexual activity, and adultery. The courts may impose less severe punishments, such as floggings, for less serious crimes against public morality such as drunkenness. [ [ Human Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Deafening Silence] ] Murder, accidental death and bodily harm are open to punishment from the victim's family. Retribution may be sought in kind or through blood money. The blood money payable for a woman's accidental death is half as much as that for a man. [ [ Saudi Arabian Government and Law] ] The main reason for this is that, according to Islamic law, men are expected to be providers for their families and therefore are expected to earn more money in their lifetimes. The blood money from a man would be expected to sustain his family, for at least a short time. Honor killings are also not punished as severely as murder. This generally stems from the fact that honor killings are within a family, and done to compensate for some dishonorable act committed. Slavery was abolished in 1962. [ BBC - Religion & Ethics - Islam and slavery: Abolition] ] [ Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History] ]

Human rights

Several international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have issued reports critical of the Saudi legal system and its human rights record in various political, legal, and social areas, especially its severe limitations on the rights of women. The Saudi government typically dismisses such reports as being outright lies or asserts that its actions are based on its adherence to Islamic law.

In 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under the Shari'a. The Saudi delegation responded defending its legal traditions held since the inception of Islam in the region 1300 years ago and rejected "interference" in its legal system. [ [ Saudi 'torture' condemned by UN] , "BBC News", May 16, 2002. Accessed June 25, 2008.]

Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are banned from driving on public roads. Women may drive off-road and in private housing compounds - some of which extend to many square miles. [Hassan, Ibtihal; Hammond, Andrew. [ Car makers target Saudi women despite driving ban] , "Reuters", December 10, 2007. Accessed June 25, 2008.] The ban may be lifted soon, although with certain conditions. [ [ "Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Drive - With Conditions" by Assyrian International News Agency, March 17, 2008] ]

The Government views its interpretation of Islamic law as its sole source of guidance on human rights. In 2000, the Government approved the October legislation, which the Government claimed would address some of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

"The state protects human rights in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah."
Basic Law, Chapter 5, Article 26. [ [ Saudi Arabia: Basic Law of Government] ]
The first independent human rights organization, the National Society for Human Rights was established in 2004.The Saudi Government is an active censor of Internet reception within its borders. [ [ "Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia"] ] A Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was jailed for five months in solitary confinement in December, 2007, without charges, after criticizing Saudi religious, business and media figures. [Robertson, Nic; Drash, Wayne. [ "No freedom for 'dean of Saudi bloggers'"] , "CNN", February 28, 2008. Accessed June 25, 2008.]


Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 "emirates" [Citation
title=Saudi Arabia: Administrative divisions
] ("manatiq", - singular "mintaqah"). The emirates are further divided into governorates.

See also

columns |width=270px |g

col1 =
* Communications in Saudi Arabia
* Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia
* Public holidays in Saudi Arabia
* Human trafficking in Saudi Arabia
* Irrigation in Saudi Arabia
* Law of Saudi Arabia, Basic
* Military of Saudi Arabia
* Mutaween
* Nuclear program of Saudi Arabia
col2 =
* Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts Association
* Saudi Aramco
* Saudi riyal
* Pre-Islamic Arabia
* Arab diaspora
* Transport in Saudi Arabia
* Water supply and sanitation in Saudi Arabia


* List of Arabian Houses
* List of Ambassadors from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia
* List of cities and towns in Saudi Arabia
* List of companies of Saudi Arabia
* List of universities in Saudi Arabia

Notes and references


* Jones, John Paul. "If Olaya Street Could Talk: Saudi Arabia- The Heartland of Oil and Islam." The Taza Press (2007). ISBN 0-97904-360-3
* Lippman, Thomas W. "Inside the Mirage: America's Fragile Partnership with Saudi Arabia" (Westview 2004) ISBN 0-8133-4052-7
* Mackey, Sandra, "The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom" (Houghton Mifflin, 1987) ISBN 0-395-41165-3
* Matthew R. Simmons, "Twilight in the Desert The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy", John Wiley & Sons, 2005, ISBN 0-471-73876-X
* Ménoret, Pascal, "The Saudi Enigma: A History" (Zed Books, 2005) ISBN 1-84277-605-3
* al-Rasheed, Madawi, "A History of Saudi Arabia" (Cambridge University Press, 2002) ISBN 052164335X
* Robert Lacey, "THE KINGDOM: Arabia & The House of Sa'ud", Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1981 (Hard Cover) and Avon Books, 1981 (Soft Cover. Library of Congress: 81-83741 ISBN 0-380-61762-5
* Roger Owen, "State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East", 3rd Edition (Routledge, 2006) ISBN 10: 0-415-29713-3
* T R McHale, "A Prospect of Saudi Arabia", International Affairs Vol. 56 No 4 Autumn 1980 pp622-647
* Turchin, P. 2007. Scientific Prediction in Historical Sociology: Ibn Khaldun meets Al Saud. [ History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies.] Moscow: KomKniga, 2007. ISBN 5484010020

Further reading

* Carmen Bin Laden, " [ Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia] ", Grand Central Publishing, 2005, SBN 0446694886

External links

* [ Online Newspapers in Saudi Arabia]
* [ Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries]
* [ "The New York Times" "Asterisk Aside, First National Vote for Saudis" 2005-02-10]
* [ BBC "Q&A: Saudi municipal elections"]
* [ BBC "Saudis' first exercise in democracy"]
* [ site of Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice] Forum for Saudis to anonymously report "un-Islamic" activities to the Mutaween.
* [ "Saudi says US human trafficking criticism unfounded"]
* [ "Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia"]
* [ The Ideology of Terrorism and Violence in Saudi Arabia: Origins, Reasons and Solution]

* [ Saudi Arabian Information Resource] , Saudi Ministry Education
* [ Saudi Arabian Information Resource] , Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information
* [ Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia] in Washington, DCOverviews
* [ Understanding Saudi Arabia] , Kamal Nawash
* [ BBC News Country Profile - "Saudi Arabia"]
* [ CIA World Factbook - "Saudi Arabia"]
* [ Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding Saudi Arabia]
* [ US State Department - "Saudi Arabia"] includes Background Notes, Country Study and major reports
* [ U.S. Energy Information Administration - Country Energy Profiles - Saudi Arabia]

* [ "SAMIRAD website - Saudi Arabia Market Information and Directory"] directory category
* [ Arab Gateway - "Saudi Arabia"]
* [ Open Directory Project - "Saudi Arabia"] directory category
* [ Yahoo! - "Saudi Arabia"] directory category
* [ Datarabia - Saudi Royal Family, Business Directory - "Saudi Arabia"] directory category

Other links
* [ Mark Steel: Why does Saudi Arabia need military aid?]
* [ Saudi Arabia: Historical Demographic Data Factsheet]
* [ "Saudi Match Point"] - a novel set in contemporary Saudi Arabia
* [ Asinah - Saudi Arabia]
* [ British Business Group, Jeddah]
* [ Information about Saudi Arabia Historical]
* [ U.S. Department of Justice: Foreign Agents Registration Act]

Saudi Arabia topicsTemplate group
title = Geographic locale
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