Saudi Arabia Country Facts

المملكة العربية – Arabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya
Capital city Riyadh
Surface 2,149,690 km²
Population 34,218,000
Road network length 45,461 km
Length of highway network ~9,000 km
First highway ?
Motorway name آزادراks
Traffic drives Right
License plate code KSA

Saudi Arabia (Arabic: السعودية ‎ as -Saʿūdīyah ), in full Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA (Arabic: المملكة العربية السعودية ‎ al -Mamlakah ʿArabīyah as-Saʿūdīyah ) is a large country in the Middle East in Asia, occupying a much of the Arabian Peninsula. The country is more than 50 times the size of the Netherlands and has 34 million inhabitants. The capital is Riyadh.

Geography

Saudi Arabia is a large country on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The country measures a maximum of 1,700 kilometers from east to west and 1,800 kilometers from north to south. It is bordered to the north by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, to the east by Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and to the south by Yemen and Oman. It also borders Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea via the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. The capital Riyadh is centrally located in the country. Other major cities are Makkah (Mecca), Jeddah, Medinah, Buraydah, Damman and Hufuf. The population is strongly concentrated in the cities. Saudi Arabia is a desolate desert country, with various mountain ranges and sandy deserts. The Rub Al Khali desert in the southeast is one of the world’s emptiest areas. The borders with Oman and Yemen are not marked in this area and the exact borders are often not clearly defined. The Jabal Sawda is the highest point with a height of 3133 meters. The highest mountains are found along the Red Sea coast and in the center of the country. The north and east is flatter and consists mainly of sandy deserts. There are no permanent rivers in Saudi Arabia. Sandstorms are frequent and can paralyze public life.

Much of Saudi Arabia has a dry and hot desert climate. The southwest has a bit more precipitation, agriculture is possible here. Elsewhere, circular irrigation is required for agriculture. The average maximum temperature in Riyadh is 20°C in January to 43°C in summer. The temperatures in the mountains in the southwest are less high, several cities in this region are at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters and temperatures above 35°C are rare.

Demographics

The population of Saudi Arabia has grown strongly during the second half of the 20th century, in 1960 the country had only 4 million inhabitants, which had grown to 20 million in 2000 and 31.5 million in 2010. About 37% of the population consists of migrants looking for work. Before the 1960s a large part of the population was nomadic, since then urbanization has increased enormously.

The capital Riyadh is by far the largest city in the country with approximately 7.6 million inhabitants. Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Hofuf, Damman and Ta’if all have more than 1 million inhabitants.

The country has very important cities of Islam, Makkah and Medinah. These cities are not accessible to non-Muslims. Very strict Islamic laws apply within the country. Women have few rights. For example, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where driving has been banned for women for a long time.

Economy

Saudi Arabia’s economy is largely based on oil production, which accounts for 90% of exports and 75% of the government budget. The operating costs of oil in Saudi Arabia are at the lowest level in the world, allowing the government to make large profits from oil extraction. This allows the country to pursue a welfare state and the country is therefore quite highly developed. Saudi Arabia has a much larger population than the small oil states on the Persian Gulf, which means that the income per capita is considerably less than in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

However, the Saudi population is often unemployed and lives on benefits that are possible because of the large oil revenues. Saudis often work for the government, in the private sector an estimated 80% of the staff is of foreign origin. The level of prosperity is therefore rather dependent on fluctuating oil revenues.

History

The Arabian Peninsula is one of the cradles of modern civilization. In the 7th century, the prophet Muhammad united the Arab peoples under one religion: Islam. Arab dynasties ruled the peninsula and beyond, in Africa, southern Europe, and parts of Asia. Today’s Saudi Arabia was formed from four regions, the western Hejaz and Najd, eastern Arabia and southern Arabia. In 1932, Ibn Saud established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a series of conquests in the early 20th century. Oil was discovered in 1938, which brought great prosperity to Saudi Arabia and made it one of the most important countries in the world as an energy superpower. The country has the world’s second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves.

The oil was exploited by Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco), the huge oil revenues allowed the government to spend huge amounts of money, especially in the 50’s-60’s when the country had a small population. In the 1970s, Aramco was partly nationalized, reducing American influence on Saudi territory. In 1973, Saudi Arabia led an oil boycott against the West over Israel’s Yom Kippur War. In 1976, Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest oil producer. Huge sums of money were invested in infrastructure and the military. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran and Saudi Arabia became rivals. In 1980, the Saudi government bought out the last shares of Saudi Aramco, making the company completely in Saudi hands.

In the 1980s, the Saudi government spent $25 billion in aid for Iraq because of the Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1988. However, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was denounced and the Iraqis were expelled from Saudi territory by a coalition led by the Americans.. However, the US and Western presence in Saudi Arabia sparked discontent among the conservative population. 15 of the 19 terrorists in the September 11, 2001 attacks were Saudis. In the 21st century, the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran intensified, both countries fought proxy wars in Syria and Yemen and Saudi Arabia created one of the largest and most precious armies in the world.

 

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