Saudi Arabia From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"KSA" redirects here. For other uses, see KSA (disambiguation).
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
ةك，مملا ة?برعلا ةيدوعسلا
al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya
Motto: "? ه?إ ?إ لا , ；?حم ?وسر لا "
"There is no God but Allah: Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah"
Anthem: "Aash Al Maleek"
"Long live the King"
(and largest city) 24?39′N 46?46′E
Arabic Official language(s)
Arabic, English Spoken languages
Saudi Arabian, Saudi (informal) Demonym
Islamic absolute monarchy Government
- King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
- Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz
None - legislation by royal decree. Legislature
(Consultative Assembly has no legislative
- Kingdom founded 23 September 1932
2 - Total 2,149,690 km (14th)
830,000 sq mi
- Water (%) 0.7
- 2010 estimate 27,136,977 (46th)
2 - Density 12/km (215th)
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 - Total $618.744 billion
 - Per capita $23,701.260 GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 - Total $438.009 billion
 - Per capita $16,778.112
HDI (2010) 0.752 (high) (55th)
Saudi riyal (SR) (SAR) Currency
AST (UTC+3) Time zone
- Summer (DST) (not observed) (UTC+3)
Right Drives on the
SA ISO 3166 code
Internet TLD .sa, ةيدوع~?ا.
+966 Calling code
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic: ةك(???ا ة，ب：ع?ا ???????? Al Mamlaka al ʻArabiyya as Suʻū
ii), commonly known as Saudi Arabia ( /ˌsaʊdi əˈreɪbiə/ or /ˌsɔːdi əˈreɪbiədiyya
/, Arabic: ة，ب：ع?ا ???????? Al ʻArabiyya as Suʻūdiyya) is the third-largest country in the Middle
East by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the third-largest Arab country. It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq on the north and northeast,Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. It is also connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Seato
its west. Saudi Arabia has an estimated population of 25.7 million of which 5.5 million are
non-citizens,and its size is approximately 2,149,690 square kilometres (830,000 sq mi).
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud (known in the West as Ibn Saud)
in 1932, although the conquests which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom began in 1902
when he capturedRiyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud (Al Saud). Saudi Arabia's government takes the form of an Islamic absolute monarchy. The kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. The two mosques are Masjid al-Haram (inMecca), and Al-Masjid
al-Nabawi (in Medina).
Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves and is the world's largest oil exporter. Oil accounts
for more than 90% of exports and nearly 75% of government revenues, facilitating the creation of
a welfare state.However, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch have repeatedly expressed concern about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia.
; 1 Etymology
; 2 History
o 2.1 From the earliest times to the foundation of Saudi Arabia
o 2.2 From the foundation of the State to the present ; 3 Politics
o 3.1 Government and political process
; 3.1.1 Monarchy and royal family
; 3.1.2 Political role of the Ulema and the Al ash-Sheikh
; 3.1.3 Politics, opposition to the regime and Islamist terrorism
o 3.2 Law
o 3.3 Foreign relations
o 3.4 Military
; 4 Geography
o 4.1 Climate
o 4.2 Biodiversity
o 4.3 Administrative divisions
; 5 Economy
; 6 Demographics
o 6.1 Population and language
o 6.2 Cities
o 6.3 Social issues
o 6.4 Religion
o 6.5 Women in Saudi society
o 6.6 Education
; 7 Culture
o 7.1 Islamic heritage sites
o 7.2 Dress
o 7.3 Entertainment, the arts, sport and cuisine
; 8 See also
o 8.1 Lists
; 9 References
; 10 Further reading
; 11 External links
Following the unification of the Kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd, the new state was named ةك(???ا
ة，ب：ع?ا ةيدوع~?ا (transliterated as "al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya") by royal decree on
23 September 1932 by its founder, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud. This is normally translated as "the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English,although it literally means "the Saudi Arab Kingdom".
The word "Saudi" is derived from the element "as-Suʻūdiyya" in the Arabic name of the country,
which is a type of adjective known as a nisba, formed from the King's dynastic name of Al Saud (?آ
دوعس) . Its inclusion indicated that the Kingdom was to be considered the possession of the royal
family. "Al Saud" is a type ofArabic name, known as a nisbat, formed by adding the word "Al" (not
to be confused with the definite article "al-") 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 (Muhammad,
son of Saud).
For the etymology of ‗Arabia‘, see Arabian Peninsula and Arab (etymology).
Main article: History of Saudi Arabia
From the earliest times to the foundation of Saudi Arabia
See also: Unification of Saudi Arabia
The Ottoman Empire in 1914, including nominal and vassal Ottoman territories - the position in Arabia had largely been the same for the previous 400 years
In pre-Islamic Arabia, apart from a small number of urban trading settlements, such as Mecca and Medina, located in the Hejaz in the west of the Arabian Peninsula, most of what was
to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies or uninhabitable
desert. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was born in Mecca in about 570. 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 swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula to India) in a
matter of decades. In so doing, Arabia soon became a politically peripheral region of the Muslim
world as the focus shifted to the more developed conquered lands.From the 10th century to
the early 20th century Mecca and Medina were under the control of a local Arab ruler known as the Sharif of Mecca, but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empiresbased in Baghdad, Cairo or Istanbul. Most of the remainder of what became
Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule.
In the 16th century, the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts
(the Hejaz, Asir and Al-Hasa) to their Empire and claimed suzerainty over the interior. The degree
of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or
weakness of the Empire's central authority. The emergence of what was to become the Saudi
royal family, known as the House of Saud, began in Nejd in central Arabia in 1744,
whenMuhammad bin Saud, founder of the dynasty, joined forces with the religious
leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement. 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, 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.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire continued to control or
have suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers (including the House of Saud who had returned from exile in
1902) with the Sharif of Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz. In 1916, with the
encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I), theSharif
of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united
Arab state. Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective, Arabia was freed
from Ottoman suzerainty and control by the latter's defeat in World War I.
Arabia about 1923. Expandable map: Abdul Aziz'sdomain is in blue with dates of conquest. The Kingdom
of the Hejaz, conquered in 1925, is in light green. (The other Hashemite kingdoms
of Iraq and Transjordan are also in shades of green)
In 1902, Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, leader of the House of Saud, had seized Riyadh in Nejd from the Al
Rashid - the first of a series of conquests ultimately leading to the creation of the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The main weapon for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan,
theWahhabist-Bedouin tribal army led by Sultan Bin Najad Al Otaibi and Faisal
al-Dwaish.From the Saudi core in Nejd, and aided by the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire after World War I, the Ikhwan had completed the conquest of the territory that was to become Saudi Arabia by the end of 1925. On 10 January 1926 Abdul-Aziz declared himself King of
the Hejaz and, then, on 27 January 1927 he took the title of King of Nejd (his previous title having
been 'Sultan'). After the conquest of the Hejaz, the Ikhwan leaders wanted to continue the
expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan, Iraq and Kuwait,
performing several Ikhwan raids. Abdul-Aziz, however, refused to agree to this, recognizing the
danger of a direct conflict with the British. The Ikhwan therefore revolted but were defeated in
the Battle of Sabilla in 1930, where the Ikhwan leadership were massacred.
In 1932, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the 'Kingdom of Saudi
From the foundation of the State to the present
Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in 1938 in the Al-Hasa region along the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Development began in 1941 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of political leverage in the international community. The sudden wealth from increased production was a mixed blessing. Cultural life rapidly developed,
primarily in the Hejaz, which was the centre for newspapers and radio, but the large influx of foreigners increased the pre-existing propensity forxenophobia. At the same time, the government
became increasingly wasteful and lavish. Despite the new wealth, extravagant spending led to
governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing in the 1950s.
Abdul Aziz bin Saud first king of Saudi Arabia
King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother, Prince Faisal emerged, fueled by doubts in
the royal family over Saud's competence. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964. The major event of King Faisal's reign was the 1973 oil crisis, when Saudi Arabia,
and the other Arab oil producers, tried to put pressure on the US to withdraw support from Israel through an oil embargo. Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew, Prince Faisal
Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid during whose reign economic and social
development continued at an extremely rapid rate, revolutionizing the infrastructure and educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with the US were developed. In 1979, two events occurred which the Al Saud perceived as threatening the regime, and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian 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. In fact, there were several anti-government riots in the region in 1979 and 1980. The second event, was the seizure of the
Grand Mosque 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 regime. Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of Islamic and traditional Saudi norms in the country (for example, the closure of cinemas) and to give theUlema a greater
role in government. Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength.
Desert Storm, the 1991 liberation of Kuwait, was launched from Saudi territory and Saudi forces
participated in the operation
Khalid was succeeded by his brother King Fahd in 1982, who maintained Saudi Arabia‘s foreign
policy of close cooperation with the United States and increased purchases of sophisticated military equipment from the United States and Britain. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the country had become the largest oil producer in the world. Oil revenues were crucial to Saudi society as its economy was changed by the extraordinary wealth it generated and which was channeled through the government. Urbanization, mass public education, the presence of numerous foreign workers, and access to new media all affected the Saudi population and their values. While society changed profoundly, political processes did not. Real power continued to be held almost exclusively by the royal family, leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 Saudi Arabia joined the anti-Iraq Coalition and King
Fahd, fearing an attack from Iraq, invited American and Coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. This action was one of the issues that has led to an increase in Islamic terrorism in Saudi
Arabia, as well as Islamic terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals -
the 9/11 attacks in New York being the most prominent example. But also many Saudis who did not
support the Islamist terrorists were deeply unhappy with the government stance.
Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the regime. Although now extremely wealthy, the country's economy was near stagnant, which, combined with a growth in unemployment, contributed to disquiet in the country, and was reflected in a subsequent rise in civil unrest, and discontent with the royal family. In response, a number of limited 'reforms' were initiated (such as the Basic Law). However, the royal family's dilemma 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 [approves of]
government by consultation [shūrā].‖
In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince, Prince Abdullah assumed
day-to-day responsibility for the government, albeit his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers, the Sudairi 'clan'. Abdullah continued the policy of mild reform and greater
openness, but in addition, adopted a foreign policy distancing the kingdom from the US. In 2003,
Saudi Arabia refused to support the US and its allies in the invasion of Iraq. However, terrorist
activity increased dramatically in 2003, with the Riyadh compound bombings and other attacks,
which prompted the government to take much more stringent action against terrorism.
In 2005, King Fahd died and his half-brother, Abdullah ascended to the throne. The king
subsequently introduced a new program of moderate reform. The country‘s continued reliance on oil revenue was of particular concern, and among the economic reforms he introduced were limited deregulation, foreign investment, and privatization. He has taken much more vigorous action to deal with the origins of Islamic terrorism, and has ordered the use of force for the first time by the security services against some extremists. In February 2009, Abdullah introduced a series of
governmental changes to the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions. Notable among his decisions were the replacement of senior individuals within the judiciary and theMutaween (religious police) with more moderate candidates and the appointment
of the country‘s first female deputy minister.
In early 2011, King Abdullah indicated his opposition to the protests and revolutions affecting the
Arab world by giving asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and by
telephoning President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support. Saudi
Arabia has also been affected by its own protests. In response, King Abdullah announced a
series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10.7 billion. These included funding to offset high inflation and to aid young unemployed people and Saudi citizens studying abroad, as well the writing off some loans. State employees will see their incomes increase by 15 per cent, and additional cash has also been made available for housing loans. No political reforms were announced as part of the package, though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were
Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia
Government and political process
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, although, according to the Basic Law of Saudi
Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992, the king must comply with Sharia(that is, Islamic law) and
the Quran. No political parties or national elections are permitted and according to The
Economist's 2010 Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian
regime from among the 167 countries rated.