SAUDI ARABIA (/ˌsɔːdi əˈreɪbiə/ ( listen ), /ˌsaʊ-/ (
listen )), officially the KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA (KSA), is a
Arab state in
Western Asia constituting the bulk of the
Arabian Peninsula . With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2
(830,000 sq mi), Saudi
Arabia is geographically the fifth-largest
Asia and second-largest state in the
Arab world after Algeria
Arabia is bordered by
Iraq to the north,
Bahrain and the United
Arab Emirates to the
Oman to the southeast and
Yemen to the south. It is separated
Egypt by the
Gulf of Aqaba . It is the only nation
with both a
Red Sea coast and a
Persian Gulf coast and most of its
terrain consists of arid desert and mountains.
The area of modern-day Saudi
Arabia formerly consisted of four
Najd and parts of
Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa )
Southern Arabia (\'Asir ). The Kingdom of Saudi
founded in 1932 by
Ibn Saud . He united the four regions into a single
state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture
Riyadh , the ancestral home of his family, the
House of Saud .
Arabia has since been an absolute monarchy , effectively a
hereditary dictatorship governed along Islamic lines. The
Wahhabi religious movement within
Sunni Islam has
been called "the predominant feature of Saudi culture", with its
global spread largely financed by the oil and gas trade. Saudi
Arabia is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in
reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in
Mecca ) and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
Medina ), the two holiest places in Islam. The state has a total
population of 28.7 million, of which 20 million are Saudi nationals
and 8 million are foreigners. The state's official language is Arabic
Petroleum was discovered on 3 March 1938 and followed up by several
other finds in the Eastern Province . Saudi
Arabia has since become
the world's largest oil producer and exporter , controlling the
world's second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves
. The kingdom is categorized as a
World Bank high-income economy with
Human Development Index
Human Development Index and is the only
Arab country to be
part of the
G-20 major economies . However, the economy of Saudi
Arabia is the least diversified in the
Gulf Cooperation Council ,
lacking any significant service or production sector (apart from the
extraction of resources). The state has attracted criticism for its
treatment of women and use of capital punishment . Saudi
Arabia is a
monarchical autocracy , has the fourth highest military expenditure
in the world and
SIPRI found that Saudi
Arabia was the world's
second largest arms importer in 2010–2014. Saudi
considered a regional and middle power . In addition to the GCC , it
is an active member of the
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 Before the foundation of Saudi
* 22.214.171.124 Nabatean Kingdom
* 126.96.36.199 Kingdom of
* 2.1.2 Middle Ages and rise of
* 188.8.131.52 Ottoman
* 2.1.3 Foundation of the Saud dynasty
* 2.2 Post-unification
* 3 Politics
Monarchy and royal family
Al ash-Sheikh and role of the ulema
* 3.3 Legal system
* 3.4 Human rights
* 3.5 Foreign relations
* 3.6 Military
* 4 Geography
* 4.1 Animals
* 5 Administrative divisions
* 5.1 Cities
* 6 Economy
* 6.1 Agriculture
* 6.2 Water supply and sanitation
* 7 Demographics
* 7.1 Languages
* 7.2 Religions
* 7.3 Foreigners
* 8 Monarchs (1932–present)
* 8.1 Crown Princes (1933–present)
* 8.2 Second Deputy Prime Minister/Second-in-line (1965–2011)
* 8.3 Deputy Crown Prince/Second-in-line (2014–present)
* 9 Culture
* 9.1 Religion in society
* 9.1.1 Islamic heritage sites
* 9.2 Dress
* 9.3 Arts and entertainment
* 9.4 Sport
* 9.5 Cuisine
* 9.6 Women
* 10 Education
* 11 Health care
* 12 See also
* 13 Notes
* 14 References
* 15 Further reading
* 16 Bibliography
* 17 External links
Following the unification of the
Nejd kingdoms, the new
state was named al-Mamlakah al-ʻArabīyah as-Suʻūdīyah (a
transliteration of المملكة العربية السعودية in
Arabic) by royal decree on 23 September 1932 by its founder, Abdulaziz
Al Saud (
Ibn Saud ). Although this is normally translated as "the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English, it literally means "the Saudi
Arab kingdom", or "the
Arab Saudi Kingdom".
The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Suʻūdīyah in the
Arabic name of the country, which is a type of adjective known as a
nisba , formed from the dynastic name of the Saudi royal family, the
Al Saud (آل سعود). Its inclusion expresses the view that the
country is the personal possession of the royal family.
Al Saud is
Arabic name formed by adding the word Al, meaning "family of" or
"House of", to the personal name of an ancestor. In the case of the
Al Saud , this is the father of the dynasty's 18th-century founder,
Muhammad bin Saud .
History of Saudi Arabia
There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula
dates back to about 125,000 years ago. It is now believed that the
first modern humans to spread east across
75,000 years ago across the
Bab el Mandib connecting Horn of Africa
Red sea crossing
BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF SAUDI ARABIA
In ancient times the Arabian peninsula served as a corridor for trade
and exhibited several civilizations. The history before the foundation
Arabia divided into two phases: pre-
Islam and after Islam.
Religions of the people of the
Arabian Peninsula before Islam
consisted of indigenous polytheistic beliefs , Arabian Christianity,
Al-Magar is prehistoric civilisation that was founded in the center
Arabian Peninsula , particularly in
Al-Magar is where
the first domestication of animals occurred, particularly the horse,
Jubail Church is a 4th-century
church building near
Jubail , Eastern Province , discovered in 1986.
It originally belonged to the
Church of the East
Church of the East , an ancient
Nestorian branch of
Eastern Christianity in the Middle East. It is one
of the oldest churches in the world. Aramaic inscription from
the ancient city of
Tayma (6th century BC)
Dilmun Correspondence between
Ilī-ippašra , the
governor of Dilmun, and Enlil-kidinni, the governor of
Nippur , c.
Dilmun is one of the ancient civilizations in the
Middle East and in
Arabian Peninsula . It was a major trading centre, and, at the
height of its power, controlled the
Persian Gulf trading routes. The
Dilmun encompassed the east large side of the
Arabian Peninsula ,
particularly in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. One of the
earliest inscriptions naming
Dilmun is that of King
Lagash (c. 2300 BC) discovered in a door-socket: "The ships of Dilmun
brought him wood as tribute from foreign lands
Thamud is the name of an ancient civilization in the
Hejaz known from
the 1st millennium BC to near the time of Muhammad. More than 9,000
Thamudic inscriptions were recorded in south-west Saudi Arabia.
Nabataeans The ancient archaeological site of
The NABATAEANS, also NABATEANS (/ˌnæbəˈtiːənz/ ;
الأنباط al-ʾAnbāṭ , compare to Ancient Greek :
Ναβαταίος, Latin : Nabatæus), were an
Arab people who
Arabia and the
Southern Levant , and whose
settlements, most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu , now
called Petra, in CE 37 – c. 100, gave the name of NABATENE to the
Syria , from the
Euphrates to the Red
Sea . Their loosely controlled trading network, which centered on
strings of oases that they controlled, where agriculture was
intensively practiced in limited areas, and on the routes that linked
them, had no securely defined boundaries in the surrounding desert.
Trajan conquered the
Nabataean kingdom , annexing it to the Roman
Empire , where their individual culture, easily identified by their
characteristic finely potted painted ceramics, was adopted into the
Greco-Roman culture . They were later converted to Christianity
. Jane Taylor, a writer, describes them as "one of the most gifted
peoples of the ancient world".
Kingdom Of Lihyan
The kingdom of
Lihyan (Arabic: لحيان) or Dedan is an Ancient
North Arabian kingdom. It was located in northwestern of the now-day
Saudi Arabia, and is known for its Ancient North Arabian inscriptions
dating to ca. the 6th to 4th centuries BC.
Kindah Head of a man from the ancient capital
Qaryat al-Faw (1st century BCE) Fragment of a wall painting
showing a Kindite king, 1st century CE
Kindah was a tribal kingdom that was established in the
central Arabia. Its kings exercised an influence over a number of
associated tribes more by personal prestige than by coercive settled
authority. Their first capital was Qaryat Dhāt Kāhil, today known as
Qaryat al-Fāw .
Middle Ages And Rise Of Islam
Shortly before the advent of
Islam , apart from urban trading
settlements (such as
Medina ), much of what was to become
Arabia was populated by nomadic pastoral tribal societies. The
Muhammad , however, was born in
Mecca in about 571
A.D. In the early 7th century,
Muhammad united the various tribes of
the peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity.
Following his death in 632, his followers rapidly expanded the
territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge and
unprecedented swathes of territory (from the
Iberian Peninsula in west
to modern day
Pakistan in east) in a matter of decades.
became a more politically peripheral region of the
Muslim world as the
focus shifted to the vast and newly conquered lands . At its
greatest extent, the Umayyad
Caliphate (661–750) covered 11,100,000
km2 (4,300,000 sq mi) and 62 million people (29% of the world's
population), making it one of the largest empires in history in both
area and proportion of the world's population. It was also larger than
any previous empire in history.
Arab dynasties, originating from modern-day Saudi Arabia,
particular, founded the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750),
Abbasid (750–1517) and the Fatimid (909–1171) caliphates.
Battle of Badr , 13 March 624 CE
From the 10th century to the early 20th century
under the control of a local
Arab ruler known as the Sharif of
but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of
the major Islamic empires based in
Istanbul . Most
of the remainder of what became Saudi
Arabia reverted to traditional
For much of the 10th century the Isma\'ili -Shi'ite
the most powerful force in the Persian Gulf. In 930, the Qarmatians
pillaged Mecca, outraging the Muslim world, particularly with their
theft of the
Black Stone . In 1077–1078, an
Arab Sheikh named
Abdullah bin Ali Al Uyuni defeated the
Al-Hasa with the help of the
Great Seljuq Empire and founded the
Uyunid dynasty . The
Uyunid Emirate later underwent expansion with
its territory stretching from
Najd to the
Syrian desert . They were
overthrown by the
Usfurids in 1253. Ufsurid rule was weakened after
Persian rulers of Hormuz captured
Qatif in 1320. The
vassals of Ormuz, the
Jarwanid dynasty came to rule eastern
Arabia in the 14th century. The
Jabrids took control of the region
after overthrowing the Jarwanids in the 15th century and clashed with
Hormuz for more than 2 decades over the region for its economic
revenues, until finally agreeing to pay tribute in 1507. Al-Muntafiq
tribe later took over the region and came under Ottoman suzerainty.
Bani Khalid tribe later revolted against them in 17th century and
took control. Their rule extended from
Oman at its height and
they too came under Ottoman suzerainty.
Main article: Ottoman era in the history of Saudi
In the 16th century, the
Ottomans added the
Red Sea and Persian Gulf
coast (the Hejaz, Asir and Al-Ahsa ) to the Empire and claimed
suzerainty over the interior. One reason was to thwart Portuguese
attempts to attack the
Red Sea (hence the
Hejaz ) and the Indian Ocean
. Ottoman degree of control over these lands varied over the next
four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the
Empire's central authority.
Foundation Of The Saud Dynasty
Unification of Saudi Arabia The
Arabian Peninsula in
The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family, known as
the Al Saud, began in
Nejd in central
Arabia in 1744, when Muhammad
bin Saud , founder of the dynasty, joined forces with the religious
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab , founder of the
a strict puritanical form of
Sunni Islam. This alliance formed in the
18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and
remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today.
The first "Saudi state" established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh
, rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day
territory of Saudi Arabia, sacking Karbala in 1802 and capturing
Mecca in 1803, but was destroyed by 1818 by the Ottoman viceroy of
Egypt , Mohammed Ali Pasha . A much smaller second "Saudi state",
located mainly in Nejd, was established in 1824. Throughout the rest
of the 19th century, the
Al Saud contested control of the interior of
what was to become Saudi
Arabia with another Arabian ruling family,
the Al Rashid . By 1891, the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud
were driven into exile in
Kuwait . Abdul Aziz
Ibn Saud , the
first king of Saudi
At the beginning of the 20th century, the
Ottoman Empire continued to
control or have a suzerainty over most of the peninsula. Subject to
Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers,
with the Sharif of
Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz. In
1902, Abdul Rahman's son, Abdul Aziz—later to be known as Ibn Saud
—recaptured control of
Riyadh bringing the
Al Saud back to Nejd.
Ibn Saud gained the support of the
Ikhwan , a tribal army inspired by
Wahhabism and led by
Faisal Al-Dawish , and which had grown quickly
after its foundation in 1912. With the aid of the Ikhwan, Ibn Saud
captured Al-Ahsa from the
Ottomans in 1913.
In 1916, with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was
World War I
World War I ), the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein
bin Ali , led a pan-
Arab revolt against the
Ottoman Empire to create a
Arab state. Although the
Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in
its objective, the Allied victory in
World War I
World War I resulted in the end
of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia.
Ibn Saud avoided involvement in the
Arab Revolt, and instead
continued his struggle with the Al Rashid. Following the latter's
final defeat, he took the title Sultan of
Nejd in 1921. With the help
of the Ikhwan, the
Hejaz was conquered in 1924–25 and on 10 January
Ibn Saud declared himself King of the
Hejaz . A year later, he
added the title of King of Nejd. For the next five years, he
administered the two parts of his dual kingdom as separate units.
After the conquest of the Hejaz, the
Ikhwan leadership's objective
switched to expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British
protectorates of Transjordan ,
Iraq and Kuwait, and began raiding
those territories. This met with Ibn Saud's opposition, as he
recognized the danger of a direct conflict with the British. At the
same time, the
Ikhwan became disenchanted with Ibn Saud's domestic
policies which appeared to favor modernization and the increase in the
number of non-Muslim foreigners in the country. As a result, they
Ibn Saud and, after a two-year struggle, were defeated
in 1929 at the
Battle of Sabilla , where their leaders were massacred.
In 1932 the two kingdoms of the
Nejd were united as the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Main article: Modern history of Saudi
Arabia Saudi Arabia
political map The Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia after unification in
The new kingdom was reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage
revenues. In 1938, vast reserves of oil were discovered in the
Al-Ahsa region along the coast of the Persian Gulf, and full-scale
development of the oil fields began in 1941 under the US-controlled
Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company) . Oil provided Saudi
economic prosperity and substantial political leverage
Cultural life rapidly developed, primarily in the Hejaz, which was
the center for newspapers and radio. However, the large influx of
foreign workers in Saudi
Arabia in the oil industry increased the
pre-existing propensity for xenophobia . At the same time, the
government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant. By the 1950s
this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign
In 1953, Saud of Saudi
Arabia succeeded as the king of Saudi Arabia,
on his father's death, until 1964 when he was deposed in favor of his
half brother Faisal of Saudi
Arabia , after an intense rivalry, fueled
by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. In 1972, Saudi
Arabia gained a 20% control in Aramco, thereby decreasing US control
over Saudi oil.
In 1973, Saudi
Arabia led an oil boycott against the Western
countries that supported
Israel in the
Yom Kippur War against Egypt
and Syria. Oil prices quadrupled. In 1975, Faisal was assassinated by
his nephew, Prince
Faisal bin Musaid and was succeeded by his
half-brother King Khalid . Saudi Arabian administrative regions
and roadways map
By 1976, Saudi
Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the
world. Khalid's reign saw economic and social development progress at
an extremely rapid rate, transforming the infrastructure and
educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with
the US were developed. In 1979, two events occurred which greatly
concerned the government, and had a long-term influence on Saudi
foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic
Revolution . It was feared that the country's Shi\'ite minority in the
Eastern Province (which is also the location of the oil fields) might
rebel under the influence of their Iranian co-religionists. There were
several anti-government uprisings in the region such as the 1979 Qatif
The second event was the
Grand Mosque Seizure in
Mecca by Islamist
extremists. The militants involved were in part angered by what they
considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi
government. The government regained control of the mosque after 10
days and those captured were executed. Part of the response of the
royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of traditional
religious and social norms in the country (for example, the closure of
cinemas) and to give the
Ulema a greater role in government. Neither
entirely succeeded as
Islamism continued to grow in strength.
Dammam No. 7, the first commercial oil well in Saudi Arabia, struck
oil on 4 March 1938.
In 1980, Saudi
Arabia bought out the American interests in Aramco.
King Khalid died of a heart attack in June 1982. He was succeeded by
his brother, King Fahd , who added the title "Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques" to his name in 1986 in response to considerable
fundamentalist pressure to avoid use of "majesty" in association with
anything except God. Fahd continued to develop close relations with
United States and increased the purchase of American and British
The vast wealth generated by oil revenues was beginning to have an
even greater impact on Saudi society. It led to rapid technological
(but not cultural) modernisation, urbanization, mass public education
and the creation of new media. This and the presence of increasingly
large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi
norms and values. Although there was dramatic change in the social and
economic life of the country, political power continued to be
monopolized by the royal family leading to discontent among many
Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government.
In the 1980s, Saudi
Arabia spent $25 billion in support of Saddam
Hussein in the Iran–
Iraq War . However, Saudi
Arabia condemned the
Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait in 1990 and asked the US to intervene. King
Fahd allowed American and coalition troops to be stationed in Saudi
Arabia. He invited the Kuwaiti government and many of its citizens to
stay in Saudi Arabia, but expelled citizens of
Yemen and Jordan
because of their governments' support of Iraq. In 1991, Saudi Arabian
forces were involved both in bombing raids on
Iraq and in the land
invasion that helped to liberate Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia's relations with the West began to cause growing concern
among some of the ulema and students of sharia law and was one of the
issues that led to an increase in
Islamist terrorism in Saudi Arabia,
as well as
Islamist terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi
Osama bin Laden was a Saudi national (until stripped of his
nationality in 1994) and was responsible for the 1998 U.S. embassy
bombings in East
Africa and the 2000
USS Cole bombing near the port of
Aden, Yemen. 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in September 11 attacks
in New York City, Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania
were Saudi nationals. Many Saudis who did not support the Islamist
terrorists were nevertheless deeply unhappy with the government's
policies. Oil and gas pipelines in the Middle-East
Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the government.
Although now extremely wealthy, Saudi Arabia's economy was near
stagnant. High taxes and a growth in unemployment have contributed to
discontent, and has been reflected in a rise in civil unrest, and
discontent with the royal family. In response, a number of limited
"reforms" were initiated by King Fahd. In March 1992, he introduced
the "Basic Law ", which emphasised the duties and responsibilities of
a ruler. In December 1993, the Consultative Council was inaugurated.
It is composed of a chairman and 60 members—all chosen by the King.
The King's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual
changes in the status quo as possible. Fahd made it clear that he did
not have democracy in mind: "A system based on elections is not
consistent with our Islamic creed, which government by consultation
In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and the Crown Prince,
Abdullah , assumed the role of de facto regent , taking on the
day-to-day running of the country. However, his authority was hindered
by conflict with Fahd's full brothers (known, with Fahd, as the
Sudairi Seven "). From the 1990s, signs of discontent continued and
included, in 2003 and 2004, a series of bombings and armed violence in
Yanbu and Khobar. In February–April 2005, the
first-ever nationwide municipal elections were held in Saudi Arabia.
Women were not allowed to take part in the poll.
In 2005, King Fahd died and was succeeded by Abdullah, who continued
the policy of minimum reform and clamping down on protests. The king
introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the
country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation, encouragement
of foreign investment, and privatization. In February 2009, Abdullah
announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary, armed
forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions
including the replacement of senior appointees in the judiciary and
the Mutaween (religious police) with more moderate individuals and the
appointment of the country's first female deputy minister.
On 29 January 2011, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of
Jeddah in a rare display of criticism against the city's poor
infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city, killing
eleven people. Police stopped the demonstration after about 15
minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people.
Since 2011, Saudi
Arabia has been affected by its own
protests . In response, King Abdullah announced on 22 February 2011 a
series of benefits for citizens amounting to $36 billion, of which
$10.7 billion was earmarked for housing . No political reforms were
announced as part of the package, though some prisoners indicted for
financial crimes were pardoned. On 18 March the same year, King
Abdullah announced a package of $93 billion, which included 500,000
new homes to a cost of $67 billion, in addition to creating 60,000 new
Although male-only municipal elections were held on 29 September 2011
, Abdullah allowed women to vote and be elected in the 2015
municipal elections , and also to be nominated to the Shura Council .
Politics of Saudi Arabia
Mohammad bin Salman
Arabia is an absolute monarchy . However, according to the
Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992, the king
must comply with
Sharia (Islamic law) and the
Quran , while the Quran
Sunnah (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the
country's constitution. No political parties or national elections
are permitted. Critics regard it as a authoritarian dictatorship .
The Economist rates the Saudi government as the fifth most
authoritarian government out of 167 rated in its 2012 Democracy Index
Freedom House gives it its lowest "Not Free" rating, 7.0
("1=best, 7=worst") for 2013.
In the absence of national elections and political parties, politics
Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal
family, the Al Saud, and between the royal family and the rest of
Saudi society. Outside of the Al-Saud, participation in the political
process is limited to a relatively small segment of the population and
takes the form of the royal family consulting with the ulema, tribal
sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major
decisions. This process is not reported by the Saudi media.
By custom, all males of full age have a right to petition the king
directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis .
In many ways the approach to government differs little from the
traditional system of tribal rule. Tribal identity remains strong and,
outside of the royal family, political influence is frequently
determined by tribal affiliation, with tribal sheikhs maintaining a
considerable degree of influence over local and national events. As
mentioned earlier, in recent years there have been limited steps to
widen political participation such as the establishment of the
Consultative Council in the early 1990s and the National Dialogue
Forum in 2003.
The rule of the
Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources:
Islamist activism; liberal critics; the Shi\'ite minority
—particularly in the Eastern Province ; and long-standing tribal and
regionalist particularistic opponents (for example in the
Hejaz ). Of
these, the Islamic activists have been the most prominent threat to
the government and have in recent years perpetrated a number of
violent or terrorist acts in the country . However, open protest
against the government, even if peaceful, is not tolerated.
Arabia is the only country in the world that effectively bans
women from driving : although there is no written law to that effect,
in practice women are hindered from obtaining the locally issued
licenses required to drive. However, on 26 September 2017, King
Salman decreed that women will be allowed to gain driver's licenses in
the Kingdom, effectively granting women the right to drive. On 25
September 2011, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced that women will
have the right to stand and vote in future local elections and join
the advisory Shura council as full members.
MONARCHY AND ROYAL FAMILY
The king combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions and
royal decrees form the basis of the country's legislation. The king
is also the prime minister, and presides over the Council of Ministers
Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia .
The royal family dominates the political system. The family's vast
numbers allow it to control most of the kingdom's important posts and
to have an involvement and presence at all levels of government. The
number of princes is estimated to be at least 7,000, with most power
and influence being wielded by the 200 or so male descendants of Ibn
Saud. The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family,
as are the thirteen regional governorships.
Long term political and government appointments have resulted in the
creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes, such as those of
King Abdullah, who had been Commander of the National Guard since 1963
(until 2010, when he appointed his son to replace him), former Crown
Prince Sultan , Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 to his
death in 2011, former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister
of Interior from 1975 to his death in 2012, Prince Saud who had been
Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1975 and current
King Salman , who
was Minister of Defense and Aviation before he was crown prince and
Governor of the
Riyadh Province from 1962 to 2011. The current
Minister of Defense is Prince
Mohammad bin Salman , the son of King
Salman and Crown Prince.
The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan
loyalties, personal ambitions and ideological differences. The most
powerful clan faction is known as the '
Sudairi Seven ', comprising the
late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants.
Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of
reform, and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or
reduced. There were divisions within the family over who should
succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince
Sultan. When prince Sultan died before ascending to the throne on 21
October 2011, King Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef as crown prince.
The following year Prince Nayef also died before ascending to the
throne. As many as 500 princes, government ministers, and
business people, including Prince Fahd bin Abdullah , were arrested by
Saudi Arabian authorities as part of an anti-corruption purge in
The Saudi government and the royal family have often, over many
years, been accused of corruption. In a country that is said to
"belong" to the royal family and is named for them , the lines
between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are
blurred. The extent of corruption has been described as systemic and
endemic, and its existence was acknowledged and defended by Prince
Bandar bin Sultan (a senior member of the royal family ) in an
interview in 2001.
Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad
undocumented accusations, specific allegations were made in 2007,
when it was claimed that the British defence contractor BAE Systems
had paid Prince Bandar US$2 billion in bribes relating to the
Al-Yamamah arms deal . Prince Bandar denied the allegations.
Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted, in 2010, in
plea bargain agreements with the company, by which it paid $447
million in fines but did not admit to bribery.
Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index
for 2010 gave Saudi
Arabia a score of 4.7 (on a scale from 0 to 10
where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean"). Saudi Arabia
has undergone a process of political and social reform, such as to
increase public transparency and good governance. However, nepotism
and patronage are widespread when doing business in the country. The
enforcement of the anti-corruption laws is selective and public
officials engage in corruption with impunity. A number of prominent
Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers, and businesspeople,
Al-Waleed bin Talal , were arrested in Saudi Arabia
in November 2017.
There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal
family's rule, an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and
after his accession in 2005. The creation of the Consultative Council
in the early 1990s did not satisfy demands for political
participation, and, in 2003, an annual National Dialogue Forum was
announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to
publicly debate current national issues, within certain prescribed
parameters. In 2005, the first municipal elections were held. In 2007,
Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. In
2009, the king made significant personnel changes to the government by
appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a
ministerial post. However, the changes have been criticized as being
too slow or merely cosmetic.
AL ASH-SHEIKH AND ROLE OF THE ULEMA
Al ash-Sheikh with
Bogdan Borusewicz in
Polish Senate , 26 May 2014
Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema (the body of
Islamic religious leaders and jurists) a direct role in government.
The preferred ulema are of the Salafi persuasion. The ulema have also
been a key influence in major government decisions, for example the
imposition of the oil embargo in 1973 and the invitation to foreign
troops to Saudi
Arabia in 1990 . In addition, they have had a major
role in the judicial and education systems and a monopoly of
authority in the sphere of religious and social morals.
By the 1970s, as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the
country initiated by King Faisal, important changes to Saudi society
were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline. However,
this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in
Islamist radicals. The government's response to the crisis
included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their
financial support: in particular, they were given greater control
over the education system and allowed to enforce stricter observance
Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour. After his accession
to the throne in 2005, King Abdullah took steps to reduce the powers
of the ulema, for instance transferring control over girls' education
to the Ministry of Education.
The ulema have historically been led by the
Al ash-Sheikh , the
country's leading religious family. The
Al ash-Sheikh are the
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab , the 18th century founder
Wahhabi form of
Sunni Islam which is today dominant in Saudi
Arabia. The family is second in prestige only to the
Al Saud (the
royal family) with whom they formed a "mutual support pact" and
power-sharing arrangement nearly 300 years ago. The pact, which
persists to this day, is based on the
Al Saud maintaining the Al
ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and
Wahhabi doctrine. In return, the
Al ash-Sheikh support the
Al Saud's political authority thereby using its religious-moral
authority to legitimize the royal family's rule. Although the Al
ash-Sheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades,
they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely
linked to the
Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage.
Main article: Legal system of Saudi
Arabia See also: Capital
punishment in Saudi
Arabia and Public executions in Saudi
Verses from the Quran. The
Quran is the official constitution of the
country and a primary source of law. Saudi
Arabia is unique in
enshrining a religious text as a political document.
The primary source of law is the Islamic
Sharia derived from the
teachings of the Qur\'an and the
Sunnah (the traditions of the
Arabia is unique among modern Muslim states in that
Sharia is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent ,
giving judges the power to use independent legal reasoning to make a
decision. Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbali
school of jurisprudence (or fiqh ) found in pre-modern texts and
noted for its literalist interpretation of the
Qur'an and hadith .
Because the judge is empowered to disregard previous judgments
(either his own or of other judges) and may apply his personal
Sharia to any particular case, divergent judgements
arise even in apparently identical cases, making predictability of
legal interpretation difficult. The
Sharia court system constitutes
the basic judiciary of Saudi
Arabia and its judges (qadi ) and lawyers
form part of the ulema , the country's Islamic scholars.
Royal decrees are the other main source of law; but are referred to
as regulations rather than laws because they are subordinate to the
Sharia. Royal decrees supplement
Sharia in areas such as labor,
commercial and corporate law. Additionally, traditional tribal law and
custom remain significant. Extra-
Sharia government tribunals usually
handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees. Final appeal from
Sharia courts and government tribunals is to the King and all
courts and tribunals follow
Sharia rules of evidence and procedure.
The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for its
"ultra-puritanical judges", who are often harsh in their sentencing
(with beheading for the crime of witchcraft), but also sometimes
overly lenient (for cases of rape or wife-beating) and slow, for
example leaving thousands of abandoned women unable to secure a
divorce. The system has also been criticized for being arcane,
lacking in some of the safeguards of justice, and unable to deal with
the modern world. In 2007, King Abdullah issued royal decrees
reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system, and, in
2009, the King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's
personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger
Deera Square , central Riyadh. Known locally as
"Chop-chop square", it is the location of public beheadings.
Capital and physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as
beheading , stoning (to death), amputation , crucifixion and lashing ,
as well as the sheer number of executions have been strongly
criticized. The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of
offences including murder, rape, armed robbery , repeated drug use,
apostasy , adultery , witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by
beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by
crucifixion. The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were
all carried out by public beheading. The last reported execution for
sorcery took place in September 2014.
Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right
hand, only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between
2007 and 2010. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death.
Atheism or "calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic
religion on which this country is based" is considered a terrorist
crime. Lashings are a common form of punishment and are often
imposed for offences against religion and public morality such as
drinking alcohol and neglect of prayer and fasting obligations.
Retaliatory punishments, or
Qisas , are practised: for instance, an
eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost
his own eye. Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between
demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a
payment of diyya (blood money), by the perpetrator.
Main article: Human rights in Saudi
Arabia In 2014, Saudi
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and
1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam".
Western-based organizations such as
Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its
severe punishments. There are no jury trials in Saudi
courts observe few formalities. Human Rights Watch, in a 2008 report,
noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first
time in 2002, but it lacked some basic protections and, in any case,
had been routinely ignored by judges. Those arrested are often not
informed of the crime of which they are accused or given access to a
lawyer and are subject to abusive treatment and torture if they do not
confess. At trial, there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is
often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal
defense. Most trials are held in secret. An example of sentencing is
that UK pensioner and cancer victim Karl Andree, aged 74, faced 360
lashes for home brewing alcohol. He was later released due to
intervention by the British government.
Arabia is widely accused of having one of the worst human
rights records in the world. Human rights issues that have attracted
strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women
(see Women below), capital punishment for homosexuality , religious
discrimination, the lack of religious freedom and the activities of
the religious police (see Religion below). Between 1996 and 2000,
Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and, in 2004,
the government approved the establishment of the National Society for
Human Rights (NSHR), staffed by government employees, to monitor their
implementation. To date, the activities of the NSHR have been limited
and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence.
Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not
to accept the UN's
Universal Declaration of Human Rights . In response
to the continuing criticism of its human rights record, the Saudi
government points to the special Islamic character of the country, and
asserts that this justifies a different social and political order.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom had
unsuccessfully urged President
Barack Obama to raise human rights
concerns with King Abdullah on his March 2014 visit to the Kingdom
especially the imprisonments of Sultan Hamid Marzooq al-Enezi, Saud
Falih Awad al-Enezi, and
Raif Badawi .
Arabia also conducts about 2 executions per week, mainly for
murder and drug smuggling, although there are people who have been
executed for deserting
Islam and crimes against the Faisal bin Musaid
. The method of execution is normally beheading in public. For
Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 when he was
17 years old for taking part in an anti-government protests in Saudi
Arabia during the
Arab Spring . In May 2014, Ali al-Nimr was
sentenced to be publicly beheaded and crucified .
In 2013, the government deported thousands of non-Saudis, many of
them who were working illegally in the country or had overstayed their
visas. Many reports abound, of foreigner workers being tortured either
by employers or others. This resulted in many basic services
suffering from a lack of workers, as many Saudi Arabian citizens are
not keen on working in blue collar jobs.
Arabia has a "Counter-Radicalization Program" the purpose of
which is to "combat the spread and appeal of extremist ideologies
among the general populous" and to "instill the true values of the
Islamic faith , such as tolerance and moderation ." This "tolerance
and moderation" has been called into question by the
Baltimore Sun ,
based on the reports from
Amnesty International regarding Raif Badawi
, and in the case of a man from Hafr al-Batin sentenced to death for
rejecting Islam. In September 2015, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi
Arabia's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, has been elected Chair of the
United Nations Human Rights Council panel that appoints independent
experts. In January 2016, Saudi
Arabia executed the prominent Shia
Sheikh Nimr who had called for pro-democracy demonstrations and
for free elections in Saudi Arabia.
In August 2017, ten
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Desmond
Lech Wałęsa , urged Saudi
Arabia to stop the executions of
14 young people for participating in the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian
Main article: Foreign relations of Saudi
Arabia U.S. President
Donald Trump and First Lady
Melania Trump with
King Salman bin
Al Saud and the President of Egypt,
Abdel Fattah Al Sisi ,
May 21, 2017
Arabia joined the UN in 1945 and is a founding member of the
Arab League ,
Gulf Cooperation Council ,
Muslim World League , and the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of
Islamic Cooperation ). It plays a prominent role in the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank , and in 2005 joined the World Trade
Organization . Saudi
Arabia supports the intended formation of the
Arab Customs Union in 2015 and an
Arab common market by 2020, as
announced at the 2009
Arab League summit.
Since 1960, as a founding member of
OPEC , its oil pricing policy has
been generally to stabilize the world oil market and try to moderate
sharp price movements so as to not jeopardise the Western economies.
Between the mid-1970s and 2002 Saudi
Arabia expended over $70 billion
in "overseas development aid". However, there is evidence that the
vast majority was, in fact, spent on propagating and extending the
Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam. There
has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and
fomented extremism in recipient countries. The two main allegations
are that, by its nature,
Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes
terrorism. Counting only the non-Muslim-majority countries, Saudi
Arabia has paid for the construction of 1359 mosques, 210 Islamic
centres, 202 colleges and 2000 schools.
Arabia and the
United States are strategic allies, and since
Barack Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. has sold $110
billion in arms to Saudi Arabia. In the first decade of the 21st
century the Saudi
Arabia paid approximately $100 million to American
firms to lobby the U.S. government. The relations with the U.S.
became strained following
9/11 . American politicians and media
accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a
jihadist culture. Indeed,
Osama bin Laden and fifteen out of the
9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia; in ISIL -occupied
Raqqa, in mid-2014, all 12 judges were Saudi. According to former
U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton , "Saudi
Arabia remains a
critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the
other terrorist groups... Donors in Saudi
Arabia constitute the most
significant source of funding to
Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."
James Woolsey described it as "the soil in which
Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing." The
Saudi government denies these claims or that it exports religious or
cultural extremism. In April 2016, Saudi
Arabia has threatened to
sell off $750 billion in Treasury securities and other U.S. assets if
Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be
sued over 9/11.
Faisal Mosque in
Islamabad is named after a
Saudi king. The kingdom is a strong ally of
Pakistan . WikiLeaks
claimed that Saudis are "long accustomed to having a significant role
in Pakistan's affairs".
Arab and Muslim worlds, Saudi
Arabia is considered to be
pro-Western and pro-American, and it is certainly a long-term ally of
the United States. However, this and Saudi Arabia's role in the 1991
Persian Gulf War , particularly the stationing of U.S. troops on Saudi
soil from 1991, prompted the development of a hostile Islamist
response internally. As a result, Saudi
Arabia has, to some extent,
distanced itself from the U.S. and, for example, refused to support or
to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of
Iraq in 2003.
The consequences of the 2003 invasion and the
Arab Spring led to
increasing alarm within the Saudi monarchy over the rise of
influence in the region. These fears were reflected in comments of
King Abdullah, who privately urged the
United States to attack Iran
and "cut off the head of the snake". The tentative rapprochement
between the US and
Iran that began in secret in 2011 was said to be
feared by the Saudis, and, during the run up to the widely welcomed
deal on Iran's nuclear programme that capped the first stage of
US–Iranian détente, Robert Jordan, who was U.S. ambassador to
Riyadh from 2001 to 2003, said "he Saudis' worst nightmare would be
the administration striking a grand bargain with Iran." A trip to
Saudi by US President
Barack Obama in 2014 included discussions of
Iran relations, though these failed to resolve Riyadh's concerns.
In order to protect the house of Khalifa, the monarchs of Bahrain,
Bahrain by sending military troops to quell the
uprising of Bahraini people on 14 March 2011. The Saudi government
considered the two-month uprising as a "security threat" posed by the
Shia who represent the majority of
Bahrain population. Foreign
Adel al-Jubeir with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
in London, 16 October 2016
According to the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in March 2014,
Arabia along with
Qatar provided political, financial and media
support to terrorists against the Iraqi government.
On 25 March 2015, Saudi Arabia, spearheading a coalition of Sunni
Muslim states, started a military intervention in
Yemen against the
Houthis and forces loyal to former President
Ali Abdullah Saleh ,
who was deposed in the 2011
Arab Spring uprisings.
As of 2015 , together with
Turkey , Saudi
Arabia is openly
Army of Conquest , an umbrella group of
anti-government forces fighting in the
Syrian Civil War that
reportedly includes an al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and another
Salafi coalition known as
Ahrar al-Sham .
Following a number of incidents during the
Hajj season, the deadliest
of which killed at least 2,070 pilgrim in
2015 Mina stampede , Saudi
Arabia has been accused of mismanagement and focusing on increasing
money revenues while neglecting pilgrims' welfare.
Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the
Arab–Israeli conflict , periodically putting forward a peace plan
Israel and the Palestinians and condemning
Arab Spring Saudi
Arabia offered asylum to deposed
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of
Tunisia and King Abdullah
Hosni Mubarak of
Egypt (prior to his deposition)
to offer his support. In early 2014 relations with
strained over its support for the
Muslim Brotherhood , and Saudi
Arabia's belief that
Qatar was interfering in its affairs. In August
2014 both countries appeared to be exploring ways of ending the rift.
Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi
Arabia Further information:
Al-Yamamah arms deal and Saudi Arabian-led intervention in
Royal Saudi Air Force
Eurofighter Typhoon and Sikorsky UH-60
Black Hawk The Frigate Al Makkah in the
Red Sea belongs to
Saudi Arabia's Royal Navy.
Arabia has one of the highest percentages of military
expenditure in the world, spending more than 10% of its GDP in its
military. The Saudi military consists of the
Royal Saudi Land Forces
Royal Saudi Land Forces ,
Royal Saudi Air Force , the
Royal Saudi Navy , the Royal Saudi Air
Defense , the
Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG, an independent
military force), and paramilitary forces, totaling nearly 200,000
active-duty personnel. In 2005 the armed forces had the following
personnel: the army, 75,000; the air force, 18,000; air defense,
16,000; the navy, 15,500 (including 3,000 marines); and the SANG had
75,000 active soldiers and 25,000 tribal levies. In addition, there
is an Al Mukhabarat Al A\'amah military intelligence service.
The kingdom has a long-standing military relationship with
it has long been speculated that Saudi
Arabia secretly funded
Pakistan's atomic bomb programme and seeks to purchase atomic weapons
from Pakistan, in near future. The SANG is not a reserve but a fully
operational front-line force, and originated out of Ibn Saud's tribal
military-religious force, the
Ikhwan . Its modern existence, however,
is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah\'s private army since
the 1960s and, unlike the rest of the armed forces, is independent of
the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The SANG has been a
counterbalance to the
Sudairi faction in the royal family: The late
prince Sultan, former Minister of Defense and Aviation, was one of the
Sudairi Seven' and controlled the remainder of the armed
forces until his death in 2011. Saudi and U.S. troops train in
Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since
the mid-1990s and was about US$25.4 billion in 2005. Saudi Arabia
ranks among the top 10 in the world in government spending for its
military, representing about 7% of gross domestic product in 2005. Its
modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi
Arabia among the world's
most densely armed nations, with its military equipment being supplied
primarily by the US,
France and Britain.
United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware
between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military. On 20 October 2010, the
State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the
biggest arms sale in American history—an estimated $60.5 billion
purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a
considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi
armed forces. 2013 saw Saudi military spending climb to $67bn,
overtaking that of the UK,
Japan to place fourth globally.
United Kingdom has also been a major supplier of military
equipment to Saudi
Arabia since 1965. Since 1985, the UK has supplied
military aircraft—notably the Tornado and
Eurofighter Typhoon combat
aircraft—and other equipment as part of the long-term Al-Yamamah
arms deal estimated to have been worth £43 billion by 2006 and
thought to be worth a further £40 billion. In May 2012, British
defence giant BAE signed a £1.9bn ($3bn) deal to supply Hawk trainer
jets to Saudi Arabia.
According to the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ,
SIPRI, in 2010–14 Saudi
Arabia became the world's second largest
arms importer, receiving four times more major arms than in
2005–2009. Major imports in 2010–14 included 45 combat aircraft
from the UK, 38 combat helicopters from the USA, 4 tanker aircraft
Spain and over 600 armoured vehicles from
Canada . Saudi Arabia
has a long list of outstanding orders for arms, including 27 more
combat aircraft from the UK, 154 combat aircraft from the USA and a
large number of armoured vehicles from Canada. Saudi
41 per cent of UK arms exports in 2010–14.
France authorized $18
billion in weapons sales to Saudi
Arabia in 2015 alone. The $15
billion arms deal with Saudi
Arabia is believed to be the largest arms
sale in Canadian history. In 2016, the
European Parliament decided to
temporarily impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, as a result
Yemen civilian population's suffering from the conflict with
Arabia . In 2017, Saudi
Arabia signed a 110 billion dollar arms
deal with the
United States .
Geography of Saudi Arabia
Geography of Saudi Arabia and Wildlife of Saudi Arabia
Arabia topography Saudi Arabia's Köppen climate
classification map is based on native vegetation, temperature,
precipitation and their seasonality. BWh Hot desert BWk Cold
desert BSh Hot semi-arid BSk Cold semi-arid
Arabia occupies about 80% of the
Arabian Peninsula (the world's
largest peninsula), lying between latitudes 16° and 33° N , and
longitudes 34° and 56° E . Because the country's southern borders
with the United
Arab Emirates and
Oman are not precisely marked, the
exact size of the country is undefined. The
CIA World Factbook
estimates 2,149,690 km2 (830,000 sq mi) and lists Saudi
Arabia as the
world's 13th largest state. It is geographically the largest country
Arabian Plate .
Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the
Arabian Desert ,
associated semi-desert and shrubland (see satellite image) and several
mountain ranges and highlands. It is, in fact, a number of linked
deserts and includes the 647,500 km2 (250,001 sq mi) Rub\' al Khali
("Empty Quarter") in the southeastern part of the country, the world's
largest contiguous sand desert. There are a few lakes in the country
but no permanent rivers, however wadis are very numerous. The fertile
areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis, basins, and
oases. The main topographical feature is the central plateau which
rises abruptly from the
Red Sea and gradually descends into the Nejd
and toward the Persian Gulf. On the
Red Sea coast, there is a narrow
coastal plain, known as the
Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing
escarpment. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous, and
contains the 3,133 m (10,279 ft) Mount Sawda , which is the highest
point in the country.
Except for the southwestern province of Asir , Saudi
Arabia has a
desert climate with very high day-time temperatures and a sharp
temperature drop at night. Average summer temperatures are around 113
°F (45 °C), but can be as high as 129 °F (54 °C). In the winter
the temperature rarely drops below 32 °F (0 °C). In the spring and
autumn the heat is temperate, temperatures average around 84 °F (29
°C). Annual rainfall is extremely low. The Asir region differs in
that it is influenced by the
Indian Ocean monsoons , usually occurring
between October and March. An average of 300 mm (12 in) of rainfall
occurs during this period, which is about 60% of the annual
Arabian oryx are found in the deserts and are endangered
animals The famous
Arabian horse is native to
Arabia and an
important element of traditional Arabian folklore
Red Sea coral
and marine fish
Animal life includes
Arabian leopard , Arabian wolves , striped
hyenas , mongooses , baboons , hares , sand cats , and jerboas .
Animals such as gazelles, oryx , leopards and cheetahs were relatively
numerous until the 19th century, when extensive hunting reduced these
animals almost to extinction. Birds include falcons (which are caught
and trained for hunting), eagles, hawks, vultures, sandgrouse ,
bulbuls etc. There are several species of snakes, many of which are
Arabia is home to a rich marine life. The
Red Sea in
particular is a rich and diverse ecosystem . More than 1200 species of
fish have been recorded in the Red Sea, and around 10% of these are
found nowhere else. This also includes 42 species of deepwater fish .
The rich diversity is in part due to the 2,000 km (1,240 mi) of coral
reef extending along its coastline ; these fringing reefs are
5000–7000 years old and are largely formed of stony acropora and
porites corals. The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along
the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the
Blue Hole (Red Sea) at
Dahab ). These coastal reefs are also visited
by pelagic species of
Red Sea fish, including some of the 44 species
of shark . The
Red Sea also contains many offshore reefs including
several true atolls. Many of the unusual offshore reef formations defy
classic (i.e., Darwinian) coral reef classification schemes, and are
generally attributed to the high levels of tectonic activity that
characterize the area. Domesticated animals include the legendary
Arabian horse ,
Arabian camel , sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, chickens
etc. Reflecting the country's dominant desert conditions, Saudi
Arabia's plant life mostly consists of herbs, plants and shrubs that
require little water. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is
Regions of Saudi
Arabia and Governorates of Saudi
Arabia is divided into 13 regions (
Arabic : مناطق
إدارية; manatiq idāriyya, sing. منطقة إدارية;
mintaqah idariyya). The regions are further divided into 118
Arabic : محافظات; muhafazat, sing.
محافظة; muhafazah ). This number includes the 13 regional
capitals, which have a different status as municipalities (
أمانة; amanah) headed by mayors (
Arabic : أمين; amin).
The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (
مراكز; marakiz , sing. مركز; markaz). Tabuk Bahah —–
Jawf Madinah Makkah Jizan — Ha\'il Northern
Borders Asir Qasim
Najran Eastern Province
The 13 regions of Saudi Arabia.
Largest cities or towns in Saudi Arabia
Madinah !Al Madinah
Madinah !Al Madinah
Economy of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah Financial
Center is one of the largest investment centers in the Middle East,
located in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia's command economy is petroleum-based; roughly 75% of
budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry.
It is strongly dependent on foreign workers with about 80% of those
employed in the private sector being non-Saudi. Among the challenges
to Saudi economy include halting or reversing the decline in per
capita income, improving education to prepare youth for the workforce
and providing them with employment, diversifying the economy,
stimulating the private sector and housing construction, diminishing
corruption and inequality.
The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia's nominal gross
domestic product, compared with 40% from the private sector (see
Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels
(4.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves , comprising about one-fifth of the
world's proven total petroleum reserves.
In the 1990s, Saudi
Arabia experienced a significant contraction of
oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth. Per
capita income fell from a high of $11,700 at the height of the oil
boom in 1981 to $6,300 in 1998. Taking into account the impact of the
real oil price changes on the Kingdom's real gross domestic income,
the real command-basis GDP was computed to be 330.381 billion 1999 USD
in 2010. Increases in oil prices in the aughts helped boost per
capita GDP to $17,000 in 2007 dollars (about $7,400 adjusted for
inflation), but have declined since oil price drop in mid-2014.
Saudi Aramco , the world's most valuable company and the
main source of revenue for the state
OPEC (the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its
members' oil production based on their "proven reserves." Saudi
Arabia's published reserves have shown little change since 1980, with
the main exception being an increase of about 100 billion barrels
(1.6×1010 m3) between 1987 and 1988.
Matthew Simmons has suggested
Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon
show production declines (see peak oil ).
From 2003–2013 "several key services" were privatized—municipal
water supply, electricity, telecommunications—and parts of education
and health care, traffic control and car accident reporting were also
privatized. According to
Arab News columnist Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg,
"in almost every one of these areas, consumers have raised serious
concerns about the performance of these privatized entities." The
Tadawul All Share Index (TASI) of the Saudi stock exchange peaked at
16,712.64 in 2005, and closed at 8,535.60, at the end of 2013. In
November 2005, Saudi
Arabia was approved as a member of the World
Trade Organization . Negotiations to join had focused on the degree to
Arabia is willing to increase market access to foreign
goods and in 2000, the government established the Saudi Arabian
General Investment Authority to encourage foreign direct investment in
the kingdom. Saudi
Arabia maintains a list of sectors in which foreign
investment is prohibited, but the government plans to open some closed
sectors such as telecommunications, insurance, and power
transmission/distribution over time.
The government has also made an attempt at "Saudizing " the economy,
replacing foreign workers with Saudi nationals with limited success.
Graphical depiction of Saudi Arabia's product exports
Arabia has had five-year "Development Plans" since 1970. Among
its plans were to launch "economic cities" (e.g. King Abdullah
Economic City ) to be completed by 2020, in an effort to diversify the
economy and provide jobs. As of 2013 four cities were planned. The
King has announced that the per capita income is forecast to rise from
$15,000 in 2006 to $33,500 in 2020. The cities will be spread around
Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their
economy, and the cities are projected to contribute $150 billion to
In addition to petroleum and gas, Saudi also has a small gold mining
sector in the
Mahd adh Dhahab region and other mineral industries, an
agricultural sector (especially in the southwest) based on dates and
livestock, and large number of temporary jobs created by the roughly
two million annual hajj pilgrims.
Statistics on poverty in the kingdom are not available through the UN
resources because the Saudi government does not issue any. The Saudi
state discourages calling attention to or complaining about poverty.
In December 2011, the Saudi interior ministry arrested three reporters
and held them for almost two weeks for questioning after they uploaded
a video on the topic to YouTube. Authors of the video claim that 22%
of Saudis may be considered poor (2009). Observers researching the
issue prefer to stay anonymous because of the risk of being arrested.
Al-Hasa is famous for its palm trees and dates.
Al-Hasa has over
30 million palm trees which produce over 100 thousand tons of dates
every year The
Nejd landscape: desert and the
Arabia encouraged desert agriculture by providing substantial
subsidies as well as consuming 300 billion cubic meter of mostly
non-renewable water reserves free of charge to grow alfalfa, cereals,
meat and milk in the Arabian Desert. Consuming non-renewable
groundwater resulted in the loss of an estimated four fifths of the
total groundwater reserves by 2012.
WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION
Main article: Water supply and sanitation in Saudi
Water supply and sanitation in Saudi
Arabia is characterized by
significant investments in seawater desalination , water distribution,
sewerage and wastewater treatment leading to a substantial increase in
access to drinking water and sanitation over the past decades. About
50% of drinking water comes from desalination, 40% from the mining of
non-renewable groundwater and 10% from surface water, especially in
the mountainous southwest of the country. The capital
Riyadh , located
in the heart of the country, is supplied with desalinated water pumped
Persian Gulf over a distance of 467 km. Given the substantial
oil wealth , water is provided almost for free. Despite improvements
service quality remains poor. For example, in
Riyadh water was
available only once every 2.5 days in 2011, while in
Jeddah it is
available only every 9 days. Institutional capacity and governance in
the sector are weak, reflecting general characteristics of the public
sector in Saudi Arabia. Since 2000, the government has increasingly
relied on the private sector to operate water and sanitation
infrastructure, beginning with desalination and wastewater treatment
plants. Since 2008, the operation of urban water distribution systems
is being gradually delegated to private companies as well.
Saudi Arabian people and
Demographics of Saudi Arabia
Arabia population density (people per km2)
The population of Saudi
Arabia as of July 2013 is estimated to be
26.9 million, including between 5.5 million and 10 million
non-nationalized immigrants , though the Saudi population has long
proved difficult to accurately estimate due to Saudi leaders'
historical tendency to artificially inflate census results. Saudi
population has grown rapidly since 1950 when it was estimated to be 3
million, and for many years had one of the highest birthrates in the
world at around 3% a year.
The ethnic composition of Saudi citizens is 90%
Arab and 10%
Afro-Asian . Most Saudis live in
Najd (28%), and the
Eastern Province (15%).
Hejaz is the most populated region in Saudi
As late as 1970, most Saudis lived a subsistence life in the rural
provinces, but in the last half of the 20th century the kingdom has
urbanized rapidly. As of 2012 about 80% of Saudis live in urban
Jeddah , or
Its population is also quite young with over half the population
under 25 years old. A large fraction are foreign nationals. (The CIA
Factbook estimated that as of 2013 foreign nationals living in Saudi
Arabia made up about 21% of the population. Other estimates are 30%
or 33% )
As recently as the early 1960s, Saudi Arabia's slave population was
estimated at 300,000. Slavery was officially abolished in 1962.
The official language of Saudi
Arabic . The three main
regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi
Arabic (about 6 million
speakers ), Najdi
Arabic (about 8 million speakers ), and Gulf Arabic
(about 0.2 million speakers ).
Saudi Sign Language is the principal
language of the deaf community. The large expatriate communities also
speak their own languages, the most numerous of which are Tagalog
(700,000), Rohingya (400,000),
Urdu (380,000), and Egyptian Arabic
Main article: Religion in Saudi
Arabia The Great Mosque of
Mecca during the
Hajj of 2009.
Virtually all Saudi citizens are Muslim (officially, all are), and
almost all Saudi residents are Muslim. Estimates of the Sunni
population of Saudi
Arabia range between 75% and 90%, with the
remaining 10–25% being
Shia Muslim. The official and dominant
Sunni Islam in Saudi
Arabia is commonly known as
(proponents prefer the name
Salafism , considering
) and is often described as 'puritanical', 'intolerant', or
'ultra-conservative' by observers, and as "true"
Islam by its
adherents. It was founded in the
Arabian Peninsula by
Muhammad ibn Abd
al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. Other denominations, such as the
Islam , are systematically suppressed.
According to estimates there are about 1,500,000 Christians in Saudi
Arabia, almost all foreign workers. Saudi
Arabia allows Christians to
enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work , but does not
allow them to practice their faith openly. The percentage of Saudi
Arabian citizens who are Christians is officially zero, as Saudi
Arabia forbids religious conversion from
Islam (apostasy ) and
punishes it by death . In spite of this, a 2015 study estimates
60,000 Muslims converted to
Christianity in Saudi Arabia. According
to Pew Research Center there are 390,000
Hindus in Saudi Arabia,
almost all foreign workers.
There may be a significant fraction of atheists and agnostics in
Saudi Arabia, although they are officially called "terrorists".
Apostasy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, hence non-believers
hardly ever come out.
See also: Foreign workers in Saudi
Arabia , Migrant workers in the
Gulf region ,
Kafala system , and
Saudi Arabia's Central Department of Statistics "> foreign nationals
living in Saudi
Arabia made up about 21% of the population. Other
sources report differing estimates. Indian : 1.3 million, Pakistani :
1.5 million, Egyptian : 900,000, Yemeni : 800,000, Bangladeshi :
400,000, Filipino : 500,000, Jordanian /Palestinian: 260,000,
Indonesian : 250,000, Sri Lankan : 350,000,
Sudanese : 250,000, Syrian
: 100,000 and Turkish : 80,000. There are around 100,000 Westerners
in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in compounds or gated communities .
Foreign Muslims who have resided in the kingdom for ten years may
apply for Saudi citizenship. (Priority is given to holders of degrees
in various scientific fields, and exception made for Palestinians who
are excluded unless married to a Saudi national, because of Arab
League instructions barring the
Arab states from granting them
Arabia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee
As Saudi population grows and oil export revenues stagnate, pressure
Saudization " (the replacement of foreign workers with Saudis)
has grown, and the Saudi government hopes to decrease the number of
foreign nationals in the country. Saudi
Arabia expelled 800,000
Yemenis in 1990 and 1991 and has built a Saudi–
against an influx of illegal immigrants and against the smuggling of
drugs and weapons. In November 2013, Saudi
Arabia expelled thousands
of illegal Ethiopian residents from the Kingdom. Various Human Rights
entities have criticised Saudi Arabia's handling of the issue. Over
500,000 undocumented migrant workers — mostly from Somalia,
Yemen — have been detained and deported since 2013.
King Salman and President Trump take part in the traditional
ardah dance at the
Murabba Palace , 20 May 2017.
* King Abdulaziz (1932–1953); second longest reigning Saudi
* King Saud (1953–1964); third longest reigning Saudi monarch.
* King Faisal (1964–1975); fourth longest reigning Saudi monarch.
* King Khalid (1975–1982); sixth longest reigning Saudi monarch.
* King Fahd (1982–2005); longest reigning Saudi monarch.
* King Abdullah (2005–2015); fifth longest reigning Saudi monarch.
King Salman (2015–present); current monarch.
CROWN PRINCES (1933–PRESENT)
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef with U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry , 6 May 2015 Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman
aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt , 7 July 2015
* Crown Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz (1933–1953); became King. Crown
Prince of King Abdulaziz .
* Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz (1953–1964); became King.
Crown Prince of King Saud .
* Crown Prince
Muhammad bin Abdulaziz (1964–1965); Resigned from
post. Crown Prince of King Faisal .
* Crown Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz (1965–1975); became King.
Crown Prince of King Faisal .
* Crown Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz (1975–1982); became King. Crown
Prince of King Khalid .
* Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (1982–2005); became King.
Crown Prince of King Fahd .
* Crown Prince
Sultan bin Abdulaziz (2005–2011); died in office.
Crown Prince of King Abdullah .
* Crown Prince
Nayef bin Abdulaziz
Nayef bin Abdulaziz (2011–2012); died in office.
Crown Prince of King Abdullah .
* Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (2012–2015); became King.
Crown Prince of King Abdullah .
* Crown Prince
Muqrin bin Abdulaziz (2015); removed from post. Crown
King Salman .
* Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef (2015–2017); removed from post.
Crown Prince of
King Salman .
* Crown Prince
Mohammad bin Salman (2017–present); incumbent.
Crown Prince of
King Salman .
SECOND DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER/SECOND-IN-LINE (1965–2011)
* Prince Fahd (1965–1975); became Crown Prince.
* Prince Abdullah (1975–1982); became Crown Prince.
* Prince Sultan (1982–2005); became Crown Prince.
* Prince Nayef (2009–2011); became Crown Prince.
DEPUTY CROWN PRINCE/SECOND-IN-LINE (2014–PRESENT)
* Prince Muqrin (2014–2015); became Crown Prince.
* Prince Mohammad (2015); became Crown Prince. Son of Prince Nayef .
* Prince Mohammad (2015–2017); became Crown Prince. Defense
Minister of Saudi Arabia. Son of
King Salman .
Main article: Culture of Saudi
Arabia Supplicating Pilgrim at
Masjid Al Haram ,
Arabia has centuries-old attitudes and traditions, often
Arab civilization. This culture has been heavily
influenced by the austerely puritanical
Wahhabi form of Islam, which
arose in the eighteenth century and now predominates in the country.
Islam has been called "the predominant feature of Saudi
RELIGION IN SOCIETY
Main article: Religion in Saudi
Arabia See also:
Islam in Saudi
Freedom of religion in Saudi
Wahhabism , and
Stoning of the Devil at Mina during the Hajj
pilgrimage, following in the tradition of
Hejaz region and its cities
Medina are the cradle of
Islam, the destination of the hajj pilgrimage, the two holiest sites
Islam is the state religion of Saudi
Arabia and its law requires that
all citizens be Muslims. Neither Saudi citizens nor guest workers
have the right of freedom of religion . The official and dominant
Islam in the kingdom –
Wahhabism —arose in the central
Najd , in the eighteenth century. Proponents call the
Salafism ", and believe that its teachings purify the
Islam of innovations or practices that deviate from the
seventh-century teachings of
Muhammad and his companions. The Saudi
government has often been viewed as an active oppressor of Shia
Muslims because of the funding of the Wahabbi ideology which denounces
Shia faith. Prince
Bandar bin Sultan , Saudi ambassador to the
United States, stated: "The time is not far off in the Middle East
when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion
Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
Arabia is one of the few countries that have "religious police
" (known as Haia or Mutaween), who patrol the streets "enjoining good
and forbidding wrong " by enforcing dress codes , strict separation of
men and women , attendance at prayer (salat ) five times each day, the
ban on alcohol, and other aspects of
Sharia (Islamic law). (In the
privacy of the home behavior can be far looser, and reports from the
Daily Mail and
WikiLeaks indicate that the ruling Saudi Royal family
applies a different moral code to itself, indulging in parties, drugs
and sex. )
Until 2016, the kingdom used the lunar
Islamic calendar , not the
Gregorian calendar , but in 2016 the kingdom announced
its switch to the
Gregorian calendar for civil purposes.
Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. Businesses are closed
three or four times a day for 30 to 45 minutes during business hours
while employees and customers are sent off to pray . The weekend is
Friday-Saturday, not Saturday-Sunday, because Friday is the holiest
day for Muslims. For many years only two religious holidays were
publicly recognized –
ʿĪd al-Fiṭr and
ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā .
ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is "the biggest" holiday, a three-day period of
"feasting, gift-giving and general letting go". )
As of 2004 approximately half of the broadcast airtime of Saudi
state television was devoted to religious issues. 90% of books
published in the kingdom were on religious subjects, and most of the
doctorates awarded by its universities were in Islamic studies. In
the state school system, about half of the material taught is
religious. In contrast, assigned readings over twelve years of primary
and secondary schooling devoted to covering the history, literature,
and cultures of the non-
Muslim world comes to a total of about 40
pages. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the holy city of
"Fierce religious resistance" had to be overcome to permit such
innovations as paper money (in 1951), female education (1964), and
television (1965) and the abolition of slavery (1962). Public support
for the traditional political/religious structure of the kingdom is so
strong that one researcher interviewing Saudis found virtually no
support for reforms to secularize the state.
Because of religious restrictions, Saudi culture lacks any diversity
of religious expression, buildings, annual festivals and public
events. Celebration of other (non-Wahhabi) Islamic holidays, such as
the Muhammad\'s birthday and the
Day of Ashura , (an important holiday
for the 10–25% of the population that is Shīʿa Muslim), are
tolerated only when celebrated locally and on a small scale. Shia
also face systematic discrimination in employment, education, the
justice system according to
Human Rights Watch . Non-Muslim festivals
like Christmas and Easter are not tolerated at all, although there
are nearly a million Christians as well as
Hindus and Buddhists among
the foreign workers. No churches, temples or other non-Muslim houses
of worship are permitted in the country.
Proselytizing by non-Muslims
and conversion by Muslims to another religion is illegal, and as of
2014 the distribution of "publications that have prejudice to any
other religious belief other than Islam" (such as Bibles ), was
reportedly punishable by death. In legal compensation court cases
Diyya ) non-Muslim are awarded less than Muslims. Atheists are
legally designated as terrorists. And at least one religious
Ahmadiyya Muslims, had its adherents deported, as they
are legally banned from entering the country.
Islamic Heritage Sites
Medina , Destruction of early Islamic heritage
sites in Saudi
Arabia , and Tourism in Saudi
Arabia The Mosque
of the Prophet in
Medina containing the tomb of
Wahhabism is hostile to any reverence given to historical or
religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to
\'shirk\' (idolatry), and the most significant historic Muslim sites
Mecca and Medina) are located in the western Saudi region of Hejaz
. As a consequence, under Saudi rule, an estimated 95% of Mecca's
historic buildings, most over a thousand years old, have been
demolished for religious reasons. Critics claim that over the last 50
years, 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad, his family or companions
have been lost, leaving fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca
that date back to the time of Muhammad. Demolished structures include
the mosque originally built by Muhammad's daughter Fatima , and other
mosques founded by
Abu Bakr (Muhammad's father-in-law and the first
Caliph ), Umar (the second Caliph), Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law and the
fourth Caliph), and
Salman al-Farsi (another of Muhammad's
Four cultural sites in Saudi
Arabia are designated as
Heritage Sites : the archeological site at
Al Hijr (Kaaba) ; the
Turaif district in the city of Diriyah; Historic
Jeddah , the Gate to
Mecca ; and the cave art in the Ha\'il Region . Ten other sites
submitted requests for recognition to
UNESCO in 2015.
In June 2014, the Council of Ministers approved a law that gives the
Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage the means to
protect Saudi Arabia's ancient relics and historic sites. Within the
framework of the 2016 National Transformation Program, also known as
Saudi Vision 2030 , the kingdom allocated 900 million euros to
preserve its historical and cultural heritage. Saudi
participates in the International Alliance for the Protection of
Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), created in March 2017, with a
contribution of 18.5 million euros.
A local Hijazi man wearing a traditional dress of Madinah.
Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab (the
Islamic principle of modesty , especially in dress). The predominantly
loose and flowing, but covering, garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's
desert climate. Traditionally, men usually wear a white ankle length
garment woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb ), with a keffiyeh
(a large checkered square of cotton held in place by an agal ) or a
ghutra (a plain white square made of finer cotton, also held in place
by an agal ) worn on the head. For rare chilly days, Saudi men wear a
camel -hair cloak (bisht ) over the top. In public women are required
to wear a black abaya or other black clothing that covers everything
under the neck with the exception of their hands and feet, although
most women cover their head in respect for their religion. This
requirement applies to non-Muslim women too and failure to abide can
result in police action, particularly in more conservative areas of
the country. Women's clothes are often decorated with tribal motifs,
coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques.
Arabic : غتره) is a traditional headdress
typically worn by
Arab men. It is made of a square of cloth ("scarf"),
usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head.
It is commonly worn in areas with an arid climate, to provide
protection from direct sun exposure , and also protection of the mouth
and eyes from blown dust and sand .
Arabic : عقال) is an item of
constructed of cord which is fastened around the
Ghutrah to hold it in
place. The agal is usually black in colour.
Arabic : ثوب) is the standard
Arabic word for
garment. It is ankle-length, usually with long sleeves, similar to a
* Bisht (
Arabic : بشت) is a traditional
Arabic men's cloak
usually only worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings.
Arabic : عبائة) is a women's garment. It is a black
cloak which loosely covers the entire body except the head. Some women
choose to cover their faces with a niqāb and some do not. Some abayas
cover the top of the head as well.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Main articles: Cinema of Saudi
Arabia and Music of Saudi
King Abdullah practising falconry , a traditional pursuit in Saudi
During the 1970s, cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom although they
were seen as contrary to
Wahhabi norms. During the Islamic revival
movement in the 1980s, and as a political response to an increase in
Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in
Mecca , the government closed all cinemas and theaters. However, with
King Abdullah's reforms from 2005, some cinemas have re-opened,
including one in
From the 18th century onward,
Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged
artistic development inconsistent with its teaching. In addition,
Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have
limited the visual arts, which tend to be dominated by geometric ,
floral , and abstract designs and by calligraphy . With the advent of
oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences,
such as Western housing styles, furnishings, and clothes. Music and
dance have always been part of Saudi life. Traditional music is
generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. Instruments
include the rabābah, an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle,
and various types of percussion instruments, such as the ṭabl (drum)
and the ṭār (tambourine). Of the native dances, the most popular is
a martial line dance known as the ʿarḍah, which includes lines of
men, frequently armed with swords or rifles, dancing to the beat of
drums and tambourines. Bedouin poetry, known as nabaṭī, is still
Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature, although
several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular
acclaim in the
Arab world—albeit generating official hostility in
their home country. These include
Ghazi Algosaibi , Abdelrahman Munif
Turki al-Hamad and
Rajaa al-Sanea .
Main article: Sport in Saudi
Arabia A panorama overview of the
King Abdullah Sports City on 12 September 2014 in a Saudi Professional
League match between Al-Ittihad and Al-Orobah .
Football is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabia
national football team is considered as one of Asia's most successful
national teams, having reached a joint record 6
AFC Asian Cup finals,
winning three of those finals (1984, 1988, and 1996) and having
qualified for the World Cup four consecutive times ever since debuting
at the 1994 tournament. In the
1994 FIFA World Cup
1994 FIFA World Cup under the
leadership of Jorge Solari, Saudi
Arabia beat both Belgium and Morocco
in the group stage before falling to defeat Sweden in the round of 16.
During the 1992 FIFA Confederations Cup , which was played in Saudi
Arabia, the country reached the final , losing 1–3 to
Scuba diving , windsurfing , sailing and basketball are also popular,
played by both men and women, with the Saudi Arabian national
basketball team winning bronze at the 1999 Asian Championship . More
traditional sports such as horse racing and camel racing are also
popular. A stadium in
Riyadh holds races in the winter. The annual
Camel Race, begun in 1974, is one of the sport's most important
contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region.
Falconry , another traditional pursuit, is still practiced.
Saudi Arabian cuisine
Saudi Arabian cuisine
Arabic coffee is a
traditional beverage in Arabian cuisine. Examples of various Saudi
Saudi Arabian cuisine
Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding countries
Arabian Peninsula and the wider
Arab world, and has influenced
and been influenced by Turkish, Indian, Persian, and African food.
Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not allowed and other
animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal .
Kebabs and falafel
are popular, as is shāwarmā (shawarma ), a marinated grilled meat
dish of lamb , mutton , or chicken. As in other
Arab countries of the
Arabian Peninsula, machbūs (kabsa ), a rice dish with lamb, chicken,
fish or shrimp , is among the national dishes as well as the dish
mandi (food) . Flat, unleavened taboon bread is a staple of virtually
every meal, as are dates , fresh fruit, yoghurt and hummus . Coffee,
served in the
Arabic style , is the traditional beverage but tea and
various fruit juices are popular as well.
Arabic coffee is a
traditional beverage in Arabian cuisine. The earliest substantiated
evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is
from the 15th century, in the
Sufi monasteries of
See also: Women\'s rights in Saudi
Arabia and Women\'s education in
Arabia A woman wearing a niqāb . Under Saudi law, women
are required to wear hijab but niqab is optional.
Women do not have equal rights to men in the kingdom. The US State
Department considers Saudi government's discrimination against women a
"significant problem" in Saudi
Arabia and notes that women have few
political rights due to the government's discriminatory policies. The
World Economic Forum 2010
Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia
129th out of 134 countries for gender parity. Other sources had
complained of an absence of laws criminalizing violence against women.
In August 2013, a law was passed that criminalized domestic violence
against women. The ban includes penalties of a 12-month jail sentence
and fines of up to 50,000 riyals ($13,000).
Under Saudi law, every adult female must have a male relative as her
"guardian" (wali ), As of 2008, a woman was required to have
permission from her male guardian in order to travel, study, or work.
A royal decree passed in May 2017 allowed them to avail government
services such as education and healthcare without the need of a
consent of a male guardian. The order however also stated that it
should only be allowed if it doesn't contradict the
According to a leading Saudi feminist and journalist, Wajeha
al-Huwaider , "Saudi women are weak, no matter how high their status,
even the 'pampered' ones among them, because they have no law to
protect them from attack by anyone."
Women face discrimination in the courts, where the testimony of one
man equals that of two women in family and inheritance law . Polygamy
is permitted for men, and men have a unilateral right to divorce
their wives (talaq ) without needing any legal justification. A woman
can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband or
judicially if her husband has harmed her. In practice, it is very
difficult for a Saudi woman to obtain a judicial divorce. With regard
to the law of inheritance, the
Quran specifies that fixed portions of
the deceased's estate must be left to the Qur'anic heirs and
generally, female heirs receive half the portion of male heirs.
The average age at first marriage among Saudi females is 25 years in
Saudi Arabia, with child marriage no longer common. As of 2015 ,
Saudi women constitute 13% of the country's native workforce despite
being 51% of all university graduates. Female literacy is estimated
to be 81%, lower than male literacy.
Obesity is a problem among middle and upper class Saudis who have
domestic servants to do traditional work but are forbidden to drive
and so are limited in their ability to leave their home. As of April
2014, Saudi authorities in the education ministry have been asked by
the Shoura Council to consider lifting a state school ban on sports
for girls with the proviso that any sports conform to
Sharia rules on
dress and gender segregation, according to the official SPA news
The religious police , known as the mutawa, impose many restrictions
on women in public in Saudi Arabia. The restrictions include forcing
women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in
restaurants, to wear an abaya and to cover their hair. Women are also
forbidden to drive.
Arabia imposes a strict dress code on women throughout
the country by using religious police , female anchors working for
Arabia news network which is partly owned by Prince Abdulaziz , the
son of the late King Fahad , are prohibited from wearing a veil and
are encouraged to adopt a Western dress code .
A few Saudi women have risen to the top of the medical profession;
for example, Dr. Ghada Al-Mutairi heads a medical research center in
California and Dr.
Salwa Al-Hazzaa is head of the ophthalmology
King Faisal Specialist Hospital in
Riyadh and was the
late King Fahad's personal ophthalmologist .
On 25 September 2011, King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would
gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections,
provided that a male guardian grants permission. Women were finally
allowed to vote on 12 December 2015.
Main article: Education in Saudi
Arabia Laboratory buildings at
Al-Yamamah Private University in
Education is free at all levels. The school system is composed of
elementary, intermediate, and secondary schools. A large part of the
curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam, and, at the secondary
level, students are able to follow either a religious or a technical
track. The rate of literacy is 90.4% among males and is about 81.3%
among females. Classes are segregated by sex. Higher education has
expanded rapidly, with large numbers of Universities and colleges
being founded particularly since 2000 . Institutions of higher
education include the country's first university, King Saud University
founded in 1957, the Islamic University at
Medina founded in 1961, and
King Abdulaziz University in
Jeddah founded in 1967. King Abdullah
University of Science and Technology , known as KAUST, founded
recently in 2009. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula
in sciences and technology, military studies, religion, and medicine.
Institutes devoted to Islamic studies, in particular, abound. Women
typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions.
UIS literacy rate Saudi
Arabia population, 15 plus, 1990–2015
Academic Ranking of World Universities
Academic Ranking of World Universities , known as Shanghai
Ranking, ranked 4 of Saudi Arabian institutions among its 2016–2017
list of the 980 top universities in the world. Also, the QS World
University Rankings has ranked nineteen Saudi universities among the
Arab institutions, on its 13th edition.
According to critics, Saudi curriculum is not just dominated by Islam
but suffers from
Wahhabi dogma that propagates hatred towards
non-Muslim and non-Wahhabis and lacks technical and other education
useful for productive employment.
Memorization by rote of large parts of the Qur'an, its interpretation
and understanding (
Tafsir ) and the application of Islamic tradition
to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum. Religion taught in
this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students.
As a consequence, Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and
technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA.
The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in 2010 that "the
country needs educated young Saudis with marketable skills and a
capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. That's not generally
what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers, steeped as it is in
rote learning and religious instruction."
The religious sector of the Saudi national curriculum was examined in
a 2006 report by
Freedom House which concluded that "the Saudi public
school religious curriculum continues to propagate an ideology of hate
toward the 'unbeliever', that is, Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis,
Sunni Muslims who do not follow
Hindus , atheists
and others". The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside
the Kingdom via Saudi-linked madrasah , schools, and clubs throughout
the world. Critics have described the education system as "medieval"
and that its primary goal "is to maintain the rule of absolute
monarchy by casting it as the ordained protector of the faith, and
Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures".
Arabia sponsors and promotes the teaching of
which is adopted by
Jihadist groups such as ISIS ,
the Nusra Front . This radical teaching takes place in Saudi funded
mosques and madrasas across the Islamic world from
Morocco to Pakistan
According to the educational plan for secondary (high school)
education 1435–1438 Hijri , students enrolling in the "natural
sciences" path are required to take five religion subjects which are:
Fiqh , Tafseer ,
Hadith and Islamic Education and
Quran . In
addition, students are required to take six science subjects which are
Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Computer.
The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of
Islamic terrorism , leading to reform efforts. Following
9/11 attacks, the government aimed to tackle the twin problems of
encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university
education for a modern economy, by slowly modernising the education
system through the "Tatweer" reform program. The Tatweer program is
reported to have a budget of approximately US$2 billion and focuses on
moving teaching away from the traditional Saudi methods of
memorization and rote learning towards encouraging students to analyze
and problem-solve. It also aims to create an education system which
will provide a more secular and vocationally based training.
Main article: Health care in Saudi
* Book: Saudi
Index of Saudi Arabia-related articles
* Outline of Saudi
* ^ The shahada (statement of faith) is sometimes translated into
English as "There is no god but Allah", using the romanization of the
Arabic word "
Allah " instead of its translation. The
"Allah" literally translates as the God, as the prefix "Al-" is the
* ^ Legislation is by king\'s decree . The Consultative Assembly
exists to advise the king.
Arabic : السعودية as-Su‘ūdiyyah or
Arabic : المملكة العربية السعودية
al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah as-Su‘ūdiyyah,
(help ·info )
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Islam and Christianity", Encyclopedia of
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Arabia\'s Labor Problem, Starting With Women". Bloomberg Businessweek.
Saudi citizens account for two-thirds of employment in the
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of around 12 percent notwithstanding: Angus McDowall (19 January
Arabia doubles private sector jobs in 30-month period".
* ^ A B Tripp, Culture Shock, 2009 : p.206
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* ^ Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg (29 September 2014). "When privatization
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* ^ House , p. 161: "Over the past decade, the government has
announced one plan after another to 'Saudize' the economy, but to no
avail. The foreign workforce grows, and so does unemployment among
Saudis. .... The previous plan called for slashing unemployment to
2.8% only to see it rise to 10.5% in 2009, the end of that plan
period. Government plans in Saudi are like those in the old Soviet
Union, grandiose but unmet. (Also, as in the old Soviet Union, nearly
all Saudi official statistics are unreliable, so economists believe
the real Saudi unemployment rate is closer to 40%)"
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Arabia and the UAE". tdctrade.com.
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* "Mal3ob 3alena : Poverty in Saudi
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air their frustrations". McClatchy Newspapers.
* Amelia Hill (23 October 2011). "Saudi film-makers enter second
week of detention". The Guardian. London.
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Lebanon Spring. 19 October 2011. Archived from the original on
3 January 2012.
* ^ "Poverty exists in Saudi
Arabia too The Observers". France
24. 28 October 2008.
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Bloom: an Assessment of Saudi Arabia\'s Experiment in Desert
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National Geographic". Retrieved 16 September 2015.
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Archived 6 October 2014 at the
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Arabia on the Dole". The Economist. 20 April 2000.
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11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2013.
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most populated, and most culturally and religiously diverse region of
Saudi Arabia, in large part because it was the traditional host area
of all the pilgrims to Mecca, many of whom settled and intermarried
* House , p. 69: "Most Saudis only two generations ago eked out a
subsistence living in rural provinces, but ... urbanization over the
past 40 years .... fully 80% of Saudis now live in one of the
country's three major urban centers – Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam."
* Harvey Tripp (2003). Culture Shock, Saudi Arabia. Singapore:
Portland, Oregon: Times Media Private Limited. p. 31.
* ^ One journalist states that 51% of the Saudi population is
under the age of 25: Caryle Murphy (7 February 2012). "Saudi Arabia\'s
Youth and the Kingdom\'s Future". Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars' Environmental Change and Security Program. Two other
sources state that 60% is under the age of 21: "Out of the comfort
zone". The Economist. 3 March 2012. , House , p. 221
The Economist magazine lists an estimated 9 million: "Go home,
but who will replace you?". The Economist. 16 November 2013. out of a
population of 30 million: "Saudi
Arabia No satisfaction". The
Economist. 1 February 2014.
* ^ A B جريدة الرياض. "جريدة الرياض :
سكان المملكة 27 مليوناً بينهم 8 ملايين
* ^ Willem Adriaan Veenhoven and Winifred Crum Ewing (1976) Case
studies on human rights and fundamental freedoms: a world survey,
BRILL, p. 452. ISBN 90-247-1779-5
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Islam and slavery: Abolition". BBC.
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on 1 February 2012.
* ^ Arabic, Hijazi Spoken . Ethnologue
* ^ Arabic, Najdi Spoken . Ethnologue
* ^ Arabic, Gulf Spoken . Ethnologue
* ^ Saudi Arabia. Ethnologue
* ^ Mapping the World Muslim Population Archived 8 November 2009 at
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Mapping the World Muslim Population(October 2009), Pew Forum on
Religion & Public Life. p. 16 (p. 17 of the PDF).
* ^ Data for Saudi
Arabia comes primarily from general population
surveys, which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale
demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority
* ^ "Demography of Religion in the Gulf".
Mehrdad Izady . 2013.
Shia ... Saudi
Arabia ... 24.8%
* ^ A B "Mapping the Global Muslim Population. Countries with More
Shia Muslims". Pew Forum. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 12
March 2015. Saudi
Arabia ... Approximate Percentage of Muslim
Population that is
Shia .... 10–15
* ^ A B al-Qudaihi, Anees (24 March 2009). "Saudi Arabia\'s Shia
press for rights". bbc. Although they only represent 15% of the
overall Saudi population of more than 25 million ...
* ^ A B Beehner, Lionel (16 June 2006). "
Shia Muslims in the
Mideast". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 12 March 2015. Small
but potentially powerful Shiite are found throughout the Gulf States
Arabia (15 percent)
* ^ Nasr,
Shia Revival, (2006) p.236
* ^ Esposito, John L. (13 July 2011). What Everyone Needs to Know
about Islam: Second Edition. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 54. ISBN
* ^ A B The Daily Star Lamine Chikhi 27 November 2010.
* ^ "Saudi Arabia: Treat
Shia Equally". Human Rights Watch. 3
September 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
* ^ House, Karen Elliott (2012). On Saudi
Arabia : Its People,
past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future. Knopf. p. 235.
Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency (28 April 2010). "Saudi Arabia".
The World Factbook. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
* Cookson, Catharine (2003). Encyclopedia of religious freedom.
Taylor & Francis. p. 207. ISBN 0-415-94181-4 .
* ^ "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global
Census". Academia.edu. Retrieved 2017-09-27.
* ^ Table: Religious Composition by Country, in Numbers Pew
Research Center, Washington D.C. (December 2012)
* ^ WIN-Gallup 2012 Global Index of Religion and atheism Archived
12 August 2012 at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Fisher, M. & Dewey, C. (2013) A surprising map of where the
world\'s atheists live. Washington Post, online
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Arabia declares". The
Independent. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
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6 November 2015.
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* ^ "
Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries" (PDF).
* ^ Articles 12.4 and 14.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi
Citizenship System: "1954 Saudi Arabian Citizenship System" (PDF).
* ^ 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers.
"Expatriates Can Apply for Saudi Citizenship in Two-to-Three Months".
Arabnews.com. 14 February 2005.
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Arabia says criticism of
Syria refugee response \'false
The Guardian . 12 September 2015.
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sent out gradually". Archived from the original on 8 November 2011.
Retrieved 7 December 2016. Nearly three million expatriate workers
will have to leave the Kingdom in the next few years as the Labor
Ministry has put a 20% ceiling on the country's guest workers
* ^ "Yemen\'s point of no return". The Guardian. 1 April 2009.
* ^ Mohammed al-Kibsi (12 January 2008). "Saudi authorities erect
barriers on Yemeni border".
* ^ "Saudi Arabia:
Amnesty International calls for end to arrests
and expulsions « Persecution of
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community".
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Arabia Accused of Mass
Abuses During Migrant Worker Crackdown".
Vice News . 11 May 2015.
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Wahhabism and Salafiyya\', US
Congressional Research Service Report, 2008, by Christopher M.
Blanchard available from the Federation of American Scientists website
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Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia".
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Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia".
4 August 2013.
CNN Report. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
* ^ "
Iraq crisis: How Saudi
Arabia helped Isis take over the north
of the country,"
The Independent , 13 July 2014.
WikiLeaks cables: Saudi princes throw parties boasting drink,
drugs and sex World news.
The Guardian (7 December 2010). Retrieved
on 9 May 2012. quote: "Royals flout puritanical laws to throw parties
for young elite while religious police are forced to turn a blind
* ^ the start of each lunar month determined not ahead of time by
astronomical calculation, but only after the crescent moon is sighted
by the proper religious authorities. (source: Tripp, Culture Shock,
2009 : p.154-5)
* "KSA switches to Gregorian calendar". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
Arabia adopts the Gregorian calendar". Retrieved 22
* ^ the time varying according to sunrise and sunset times
* ^ Tripp, Culture Shock, 2009 : p.214
* Sulaiman, Tosin.
Bahrain changes the weekend in efficiency drive,
The Times, 2 August 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
Turkey has a weekend
on Saturday and Sunday
* Prior to 29 June 2013, the weekend was Thursday-Friday, but was
shifted to better serve the Saudi economy and its international
commitments. (source: "Weekend shift: A welcome change",
SaudiGazette.com.sa, 24 June 2013 "Archived copy". Archived from the
original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014. )
* ^ Tripp, Culture Shock, 2009 : p.35
* ^ A B Rodenbeck, Max (21 October 2004). "Unloved in
Review)". The New York Review of Books. 51 (16). Almost half of Saudi
state television's airtime is devoted to religious issues, as is about
half the material taught in state schools" (source: By the estimate of
an elementary schoolteacher in Riyadh, Islamic studies make up 30
percent of the actual curriculum. But another 20 percent creeps into
textbooks on history, science, Arabic, and so forth. In contrast, by
one unofficial count the entire syllabus for twelve years of Saudi
schooling contains a total of just thirty-eight pages covering the
history, literature, and cultures of the non-Muslim world.)
* ^ Rodenbeck, Max (21 October 2004). "Unloved in
Review)". The New York Review of Books. 51 (16). Nine out of ten
titles published in the kingdom are on religious subjects, and most of
the doctorates its universities awards are in Islamic studies.
* ^ Review. "Unloved in Arabia" By Max Rodenbeck. The New York
Review of Books, Volume 51, Number 16 · 21 October 2004.
* ^ from p.195 of a review by Joshua Teitelbum, Middle East
Studies, Vol. 38, No. 4, Oct. 2002, of Changed Identities: The
Challenge of the New Generation in Saudi
Arabia by anthropologist Mai
Yamani, quoting p.116 quote=Saudis of all stripes interviewed
expressed a desire for the kingdom to remain a Muslim society ruled by
an overtly Muslim state. Secularist are simply not to be found.
though the certainties of religion.
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U.S. State Department. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
* ^ "Saudi
Arabia – Culture".
Country Stats. Retrieved 23
Human Rights Watch (2009). Denied dignity: systematic
discrimination and hostility toward Saudi
Shia citizens. p. 1. ISBN
Human Rights Watch (2009). Denied dignity: systematic
discrimination and hostility toward Saudi
Shia citizens. pp. 2,
8–10. ISBN 1-56432-535-0 .
* Islamic Political Culture, Democracy, and Human Rights: A
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2010". U.S. State Department. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 27 July
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Death Sentence for
Bible Smugglers?". Christian Post.
Arabia Imposes Death Sentence for
Bible Smuggling" Archived 8
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Wayback Machine .. handsoffcain.info. 28 November
2014. * ^ Saudi
Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new
law to crack down on political dissidents, The Independent, 4 March
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Human Rights Watch. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
* ^ Maria Grazia Martino (28 August 2014). The State as an Actor in
Religion Policy: Policy Cycle and Governance. ISBN 9783658069452 .
Retrieved 19 March 2015.
* ^ \'The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out
their own heritage\', The Independent, 6 August 2005. Retrieved 17
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* ^ \'Shame of the House of Saud: Shadows over Mecca\', The
Independent, 19 April 2006
* ^ Destruction of Islamic Architectural Heritage in Saudi Arabia:
A Wake-up Call, The American Muslim. Retrieved 17 January 2011 Other
historic buildings that have been destroyed include the house of
Khadijah , the wife of Muhammad, the house of
Abu Bakr , now the site
of the local
Hilton hotel ; the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of
Muhammad, and the Mosque of abu-Qubais, now the location of the King's
palace in Mecca. (source: \'Shame of the House of Saud: Shadows over
Mecca\', The Independent, 19 April 2006)
* ^ KSA Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (4),
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EU, 30 June 2016
* ^ Destruction du patrimoine : une résolution historique du
Conseil de Sécurité, Sciences et Avenir, 28 March 2017
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The Guardian. London.
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Arab News. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012.
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Championship 1999 Fukuoka (JPN)- 28.08–05.09 Winner China".
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