About Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic: المملكة العربية السعودية , Al-Mamlaka al-Arabiyya as-Saudiyya ) is the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula. It borders 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, with the Persian Gulf to its northeast and the Red Sea to its west.

The Kingdom is sometimes nicknamed “the lands of the two holy mosques”, a reference to Makkah and Medina, Islam’s two holiest places. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia, often as just Saudi by many English-speaking expatriates in the kingdom, or, less commonly (as in international football events or in its national press) as KSA or SA. Arabia is sometimes used to refer to the nation, but the term can also refer to the entire peninsula and its varied nations, and sometimes the entire Arab world, and is thus ambiguous. The Arabic short form is usually as-Saʻūdiyya / السعودية .


Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of exports and nearly 75% of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices. The Kingdom is also one of the few states that comprise the Cradle of Humanity.


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 (120°F) are common, while in winter frost or snow can occur in the interior and the higher mountains, although this does not occur annually. 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 mid desert can be famously chilly even in summer, as sand gives up daytime heat rapidly once the sun has set.

Annual precipitation is usually sparse (up to 100 millimetres (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. Plants can still survive in Saudi Arabia, mostly in the south-east mountains and lowlands. They bloom mid-March through mid-May. The plants provide food for birds and insects.

(and largest city) Riyadh
24°39′N, 46°46′E
Official languages


Absolute monarchy
– King Salman bin Abdul Aziz
– Crown Prince is Mohammad bin Salman


– Kingdom declared January 8, 1926
– Recognized May 20, 1927
– Unified September 23, 1932


– Total 2,149,690 km² (14th)
829,996 sq mi
– Water (%) Negligible


– 2006 estimate 27,019,731 (46th)
– Density 11 /km² (205th)
29 /sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
– Total $314 billion
– Per capita $16,744 (40th)

The currency is the Saudi Riyal. For one US dollar you receive 3.75 riyals OR 375 riyals for US$100. There are many private money changers in Makkah, Medina and Jeddah and other major cities. During Ramadan and the Hajj season, you can change your money even after midnight. Hajjis are advised to travel with US$ in large denominations, $100 bills.

History of Saudi Arabia

The emergence of a Saudi state began in central Arabia in 1744. A regional ruler, Muhammad bin Saud, joined forces with an Wahhabi cleric, Muhammad 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. The Saudi state was founded by the late King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as Abdul Aziz bin 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 the Hejaz between 1913 and 1926. On 8 January 1926 Abdul Aziz bin Saud became the King of Hejaz. On 29 January 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jedda, signed on 20 May 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz’s realm, then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd. In 1932 the 3 principle regions of Al-Hasa, the Nejd and the 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.


Internationally Abdul Aziz initially chose to follow an isolationist policy. He refused to allow Saudi Arabia to join the League of Nations and from 1916 until his death in 1953 chose to leave his kingdom on only three occasions. One of which was the meeting with President Roosevelt pictured above. Eventually however Abdul Aziz acceded to the realities of world politics and in 1945 Saudi Arabia became a founding member of the Arab League and joined the United Nations.


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. He took steps to provide that his eldest living son, Saud, would become king but that he would be required to work closely with his more financially and diplomatically astute brother, Faisal.


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 President Nasser of Egypt. 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. Saudi Arabia’s religion is mostly Sunni Muslim.

The People

The people of Saudi Arabia are generally kind and generous. They are a friendly and peaceful nation. They spend on the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, and treat the Hajjis with great respect and honor. There are still traditional families that spend millions of their personal wealth on the Hajjis, providing cold water, fruit juices and snacks during the Hajj season.

Saudi Arabia’s 2005 population was estimated to be about 27 million, including about 5.6million resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, most of the population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled. Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600 per sq. mi).


Saudi Arabia is known as the birthplace of Islam, which in the century following Muhammad’s death in 632 A.D. spread west to Spain and east to India. Islam obliges all Muslims to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, at least once during their lifetime if they are able to do so. The cultural environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative; the country adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic religious law (Shari’a). Cultural presentations must conform to narrowly defined standards of ethics. Men and women are not permitted to attend public events together and are segregated in the work place.


Most Saudis are ethnically Arab. Some are of mixed ethnic origin and are descended from Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, Africans, and others, most of whom immigrated as pilgrims and reside in the Hijaz region along the Red Sea coast. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There also are significant numbers of Asian expatriates mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There are less than 100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia.


During the Great Hajj season, pilgrims are restricted to the three main cities, the Grand City of Makkah which houses the Holy Ka’bah and the most honorable Mosque, Al-Haram Ash-Shareef, the second is the City of the Prophet, Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the City of Light, where the Messenger of Allah (OWBP) is buried, and the third is Jeddah, the Sea-Port, and financial capital of Saudi Arabia. All the Hajjis arriving by air, land at Jeddah International Airport, known as King Abdul Aziz airport. This airport is extremely busy during the Hajj season, and during Ramadan, the month of Fasting.