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"KSA" redirects here. For other uses, see KSA (disambiguation). Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
المملكة العربية السعودية
Al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah as-Su‘ūdiyyah
Motto: محمد رسول الله،ل إله إل الله "Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-lāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu l-lāh" "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God."[a] (Shahada) Anthem: as-Salām al-Malakiyy Speed for Glory MENU0:00
Capital and largest city 24°39′N 46°46′E Official languages Arabic Demonym Saudi Arabian Saudi (informal) Government Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Riyadh
Crown Prince None[a]
Salman bin Abdul Aziz
Establishment Area Total 2,149,690 km2 (13th) Kingdom founded 23 September 1932
870,000 sq mi Water (%) 0.7
Population 2012 estimate Density 29,195,895 (43rd)
31/sq mi GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
Total $906.806 billion (19th) Per capita $31,275 (28th) 2012 estimate
GDP (nominal) -
Total $727.307 billion (19th) Per capita $25,085 (30th)
HDI (2013) high · 57th Currency Time zone
Saudi riyal (SR) (SAR) AST (UTC+3) right
Drives on the Calling code +966 ISO 3166 code Internet TLD
a. king. ^ Legislation is by king's decree. The Consultative Assembly exists to advise the
Saudi Arabia (i/ˌsaʊdi əˈreɪbi.ə/ or i/ˌsɔːdiː əˈreɪbi.ə/; Arabic: السعوديةas-Su‘ūdiyyah or as-Sa‘ūdiyyah), officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic:
المملكة العربية السعوديةal-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah as-Su‘ūdiyyah, Arabic
pronunciation (help·info)), is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area (approximately 2,250,000 km2 (870,000 sq mi), constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula) and the second-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria). It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, Yemen in the south, the Red Sea to the west and Persian Gulf to the east. Its population is estimated to consist of 16 million citizens and an additional 9 million registered foreign expatriates and 2 million illegal immigrants. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud (known for most of his career as Ibn Saud) in 1932, although the conquests which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom began in 1902 when he captured Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud, referred to in Arabic as Al Saud. The Saudi Arabian government has been an absolute monarchy since its inception, and it describes itself as being Islamic. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the kingdom is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves which are concentrated largely in the Eastern Province. Oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue, although the share of the non-oil economy has been growing recently. This has facilitated the transformation of an underdeveloped desert kingdom into one of the world's wealthiest nations. Vast oil revenues have permitted rapid modernisation, such as the creation of a welfare state. It has also the world's sixth largest natural gas reserves. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which bans women from driving.  Etymology
Its inclusion indicated that the country's ruler viewed it as the personal possession of the royal family. the new state was named al-Mamlakah al-ʻArabīyah as-Suʻūdīyah (a transliteration of المملكة العربية السعوديةin Arabic) by royal decree on 23 September 1932 by its founder. which is a type of adjective known as a nisba. was born in Mecca in about 571. The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Suʻūdīyah in the Arabic name of the country. his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia. In so doing. such as Mecca and Medina. conquering huge swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in west to modern day Pakistan in east) in a matter of decades. History Main article: History of Saudi Arabia Before the foundation of Saudi Arabia See also: Ottoman era in the history of Saudi Arabia and Unification of Saudi Arabia The Arabian peninsula in 1914 Apart from a small number of urban trading settlements. Following his death in 632. 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. This is normally translated as "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English. Most of the remainder of what became Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule. located in the Hejaz in the west of the Arabian Peninsula. Cairo or Istanbul. . king Abdul Aziz Al Saud. meaning "family of" or "House of". The Prophet of Islam. although it literally means "the Saudi Arab Kingdom". this is the father of the dynasty's 18th century founder. In the case of the Al Saud. In the early 7th century. formed from the dynastic name of Al Saud ()آل سعود. but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empires based in Baghdad. to the personal name of an ancestor. Muhammad united the various tribes of the peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity. Muhammad bin Saud (Muhammad.See also: Arab (etymology) Following the unification of the kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd. most of what was to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies in the inhospitable desert. son of Saud). Muhammad. Arabia soon became a politically peripheral region of the Muslim world as the focus shifted to the more developed conquered lands. Al Saud is an Arabic name formed by adding the word Al.
 founder of the Wahhabi movement. Ibn Saud avoided involvement in the Arab Revolt. the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz. the Al Saud contested control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia with another Arabian ruling family. the Al Rashid. Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers. Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective. joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. and which had grown quickly after its foundation in 1912. the Ikhwan leadership's objective switched to expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan. Mohammed Ali Pasha. In 1902. Subject to this suzerainty. In 1916. This met with Ibn Saud's opposition. The first "Saudi state" established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh. and instead continued his struggle with the Al Rashid. the Hejaz was conquered in 1924-25 and on 10 January 1926. Hussein bin Ali. a tribal army inspired by Wahhabism and led by Sultan ibn Bijad and Faisal Al-Dawish. Ibn Saud captured Hasa from the Ottomans in 1913. Throughout the rest of the 19th century. known as the Al Saud. was established in 1824. At the beginning of the 20th century. Ibn Saud took control of Riyadh in Nejd and brought the Al Saud back to Nejd. with the Sharif of Mecca having preeminence and ruling the Hejaz. Following the latter's final defeat.  The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family.In the 16th century. With the aid of the Ikhwan.) Ibn Saud gained the support of the Ikhwan. he took the title Sultan of Nejd in 1921. By 1891. founder of the dynasty. . A much smaller second "Saudi state". when Muhammad bin Saud. A year later. the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud were driven into exile in Kuwait. as he recognized the danger of a direct conflict with the British. the Allied victory in World War I resulted in the end of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia. led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state. Asir and Al-Hasa) to the Empire and claimed suzerainty over the interior. At the same time. with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I). the Sharif of Mecca. began in Nejd in central Arabia in 1744. With the help of the Ikhwan. rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia. After the conquest of the Hejaz. but was destroyed by 1818 by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt. he added the title of King of Nejd. located mainly in Nejd. This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. a strict puritanical form of Sunni Islam. Iraq and Kuwait. the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have a suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. and began raiding those territories. 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. 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. Ibn Saud declared himself King of the Hejaz.
 Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew. But the large influx of foreigners to work in the oil industry increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia. Prince Faisal emerged. Post-unification Main article: Modern history of Saudi Arabia The new kingdom was one of the poorest countries in the world. they turned against Ibn Saud and. In 1932 the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 1979. fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. However.  By 1976 Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world. In fact. and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Khalid's reign saw economic and social development progress at an extremely rapid rate. there were several anti-government uprisings in the region in 1979 and 1980. Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and substantial political leverage internationally. By the 1950s this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing. Cultural life rapidly developed. close ties with the US were developed. Oil prices quadrupled. thereby decreasing US control over Saudi oil. after a two-year struggle. were defeated in 1930 at the Battle of Sabilla. which was the center for newspapers and radio. transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country. primarily in the Hejaz. In 1973. two events occurred which greatly concerned the Al Saud regime.As a result. However. Saudi Arabia led an oil boycott against the Western countries that supported Israel in the October War against Egypt and Syria. first king of Saudi Arabia King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. Prince Faisal bin Musaid and was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid. 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. an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother. in 1938 vast reserves of oil were discovered in the Al-Hasa 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). reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage revenues. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and . Abdul Aziz bin Saud. The second event. was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists. in foreign policy. Saudi Arabia gained control of a proportion (20%) of Aramco in 1972. As a consequence. Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964. At the same time. where their leaders were massacred. the government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant.
He invited the Kuwaiti government and many of its citizens to stay in Saudi Arabia. Although now extremely wealthy. Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the regime. High taxes and a growth in unemployment have contributed to discontent. and was succeeded by his brother. King Fahd allowed American and coalition troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. Fahd continued to develop close relations with the United States and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment. The Saudi regime'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 Islamic terrorism in Saudi Arabia. who added the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" to his name in 1986. This and the presence of increasingly large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. Saudi Arabian forces were involved both in bombing raids on Iraq and in the land invasion that helped to liberate Kuwait. Saudi Arabia's economy was near stagnant. It led to rapid modernisation. Washington and Virginia were Saudi nationals. However. Many Saudis. urbanization. the Saudi regime spent $25 billion in support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. but expelled citizens of Yemen and Jordan because of their governments' support of Iraq.un-Islamic nature of the Saudi regime. The government regained control of the mosque after 10 days and those captured were executed. and the creation of new media. In the 1980s. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after unification in 1932 In 1980 Saudi Arabia took full control of Aramco from the US. Saudi Arabia condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and asked the US to intervene. In 1991. as well as Islamic terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals. and has been reflected in a rise in civil . mass public education. the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government. King Khalid died of a heart attack in June 1982. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi national (until stripped of his nationality in 1994). who did not in any way support the Islamist terrorists were nevertheless deeply unhappy with the Saudi regime's policies. Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength. The vast wealth generated by oil revenues was beginning to have an even greater impact on Saudi society. 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. Although there was dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country. 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 attacks on New York. King Fahd. 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.
armed forces." Oil and gas pipelines in the Middle-East In 1995. 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. In December 1993 the Consultative Council was inaugurated. In February–April 2005. signs of discontent continued and included. King Fahd died and was succeeded by Abdullah. Abdullah assumed the role of de facto regent. Women were not allowed to take part in the poll. though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were pardoned. killing eleven people. King Abdullah announced a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10. 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. with Fahd. and discontent with the royal family. The king introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation. Jeddah. he introduced the "Basic Law)" which emphasised the duties and responsibilities of a ruler. It is composed of a chairman and 60 members . a series of bombings and armed violence in Riyadh. From the 1990s.7 billion. and privatization. Abdullah announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary. who continued the policy of minimum reform and clamping down on protests.  In response. Although male-only municipal elections were held on 29 September 2011  Abdullah announced that women will be able to . No political reforms were announced as part of the package. In 2005. The King's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible. However.unrest. On 29 January 2011. In 2011 and 2012 Saudi Arabia was affected by its own Arab Spring protests. In response.all chosen by the king. In February 2009. as the "Sudairi Seven"). in 2003 and 2004. which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā]. taking on the day-to-day running of the country. Fahd made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: "A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed. the first-ever nationwide municipal elections were held in Saudi Arabia. Yanbu and Khobar. a number of limited "reforms" were initiated by King Fahd. encouragement of foreign investment. his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers (known. Police stopped the demonstration after about 15 minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people. Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince. In March 1992.
the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated. politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family. In many ways the approach to government differs little from the traditional system of tribal rule. tribal sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major decisions. and Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab nation where no national elections have ever taken place. according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992. the Islamic activists have been the most prominent threat to the regime and have in recent years perpetrated a number of violent or terrorist acts in the country. Politics Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. the Shi'ite minority – particularly in the Eastern Province. and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society. political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation. In the absence of national elections and political parties. Of these. No political parties or national elections are permitted and according to The Economist's 2010 Democracy Index. the king must comply with Sharia (that is. is not tolerated. The Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the country's constitution. with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events. open protest against the government. This process is not reported by the Saudi media. although. Tribal identity remains strong and. liberal critics. and long-standing tribal and regional particularistic opponents (for example in the Hejaz). outside of the royal family. Outside of the Al-Saud. By custom. even if peaceful. Islamic law) and the Quran. 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. The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism. all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis. As mentioned earlier. but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia. . and also to be nominated to the Shura Council. However. 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.vote and be elected in the 2015 municipal elections. since its creation.
comprising the late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants. the lines between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are blurred. Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of reform. have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes. When prince Sultan died before ascending to the throne on 21 October 2011. The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties. The Saudi government and the royal family have often.On 25 September 2011. Prince Nayef also died before ascending to the throne in 2012. Monarchy and royal family The king combines legislative. and its existence was acknowledged and defended by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (a senior . who was Governor of the Riyadh Province from 1962 to 2011. 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. In a country that is said to "belong" to the royal family and is named for them. who had been Commander of the National Guard since 1963 (until 2010. executive. former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from 1975 to his death in 2012. The number of princes is estimated to be at least 7.000. The king is also the prime minister. been accused of corruption. Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 to his death in 2011. There were divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan. The extent of corruption has been described as systemic and endemic. Long term political and government appointments. which comprises the first and second deputy prime. The royal family dominates the political system. such as those of King Abdullah. Prince Saud who has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1975 and current Minister of Defence and Aviation Prince Salman. personal ambitions and ideological differences. The most powerful clan faction is known as the 'Sudairi Seven'. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has announced that women will have the right to stand and vote in future local elections and join the advisory Shura council as full members. and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or reduced. King Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef as crown prince. when he appointed his son to replace him)). The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family. as are the thirteen regional governorships. and presides over the Council of Ministers (Majlis al-Wuzarāʾ). with most power and influence being wielded by the 200 or so male descendants of King Abdul Aziz. former Crown Prince Sultan. over many years. and judicial functions and royal decrees to form the basis of the country's legislation.
 the only other example being Iran. Prince Bandar denied the allegations. as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal. 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. The creation of the Consultative Council in the early 1990s did not satisfy demands for political participation. an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and after his accession in 2005. the first municipal elections were held. important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline. Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted.7 (on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean"). for example the imposition of the oil embargo in 1973 and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990. the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. 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.member of the royal family) in an interview in 2001. In 2005. an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues. However. in 2003. In 2009. specific allegations were made in 2007. In addition. in plea bargain agreements with the company. for instance transferring their control . the king made significant personnel changes to the government by appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a ministerial post. this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 by Islamist radicals. within certain prescribed parameters. and. Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad undocumented accusations. Al ash-Sheikh and role of the ulema Saudi Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema (the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists) a direct role in government. However. in 2010.  Since his accession to the throne in 2005. The government's response to the crisis included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their financial support: in particular. the changes have been criticized as being too slow or merely cosmetic. King Abdullah has taken steps to rein back the powers of the ulema. by which it paid $447 million in fines but did not admit to bribery. By the 1970s. There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule. The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions. In 2007. Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 gave Saudi Arabia a score of 4. they were given greater control over the education system and allowed to enforce stricter observance of Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour.
traditional tribal law and custom remain significant. Royal decrees supplement Sharia in areas such as labor. The Sharia court system constitutes the basic judiciary of Saudi Arabia and its . commercial and corporate law. The Al ash-Sheikh are the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Legal system Main article: Legal system of Saudi Arabia Verses from the Quran. which persists to this day. Additionally. 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 Qu'ran and hadith. The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh. the 18th century founder of the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam which is today dominant in Saudi Arabia. they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely linked to the Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage. is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Wahhabi doctrine. In return. The pact. the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.over girls' education to the Ministry of Education. because the judge is empowered to disregard previous judgments (either his own or of other judges) and will apply his personal interpretation of Sharia to any particular case. Nevertheless. divergent judgements arise even in apparently identical cases. The Quran is the official constitution of the country and a primary source of law. Although the Al ashSheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades. Sharia is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent. 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 Qu'ran and the Sunnah (the traditions of the Prophet). the country's leading religious family. 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. 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 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. In 2007. repeated drug use. Human Rights Watch. the country's religious leadership. apostasy. it is the location of public beheadings. had been routinely ignored by judges. central Riyadh. The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder. The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for being slow. The capabilities and reactionary nature of the judges have. stoning or firing squad. followed by crucifixion. noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in 2002. in a 2008 report. but it lacked some basic protections and. stoning. there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense. support the system and say that it maintains a low crime rate. adultery. the King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger generation. such as beheading. Western-based organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its severe punishments. Most trials are held in secret. The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts. "ordinary Saudis". 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. However. amputation and lashing. according to a BBC report. lacking in some of the safeguards of justice and unable to deal with the modern world. There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. King Abdullah issued royal decrees reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system. armed robbery. rape. in particular. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in June 2012 and three recent convictions for witchcraft did not result in . there are also extra-Sharia government tribunals which handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees. witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword. in any case. although the reforms have yet to be implemented. Known locally as "Chop-chop square". However. been criticized and. in 2009.judges and lawyers form part of the ulema. and the number of executions have been strongly criticized. Final appeal from both Sharia courts and government tribunals is to the King and all courts and tribunals follow Sharia rules of evidence and procedure. arcane. Deera Square.
only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between 2007 and 2010. Saudi Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. by the perpetrator. to monitor their implementation. Saudi Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and. Foreign relations Main article: Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia Saudi-born Osama bin Laden (right) with a journalist Hamid Mir in 1997 Saudi Arabia joined the UN in 1945 and is a founder member of the . the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence. Retaliatory punishments. Human rights Main article: Human rights in Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights record. Human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women (see Women in Saudi society below). the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country. or Qisas.execution. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death. Gay rights are not recognised. the government approved the establishment of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order. are practised: for instance. religious discrimination. Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand. In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record. in 2004. staffed by government employees. an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye. To date. or blood money. 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. Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a payment of diyya. Between 1996 and 2000. the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police (see Religion below).
for example.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003." . American politicians and media accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a jihadist culture. In the Arab and Muslim worlds. However. troops on Saudi soil from 1991. Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and pro-American. Former CIA director James Woolsey described it as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing. distanced itself from the U. as announced at the 2009 Arab League summit. It plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Gulf Cooperation Council.S. the Taliban.  According to the U. in fact. LeT and other terrorist groups. spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam.. to some extent. As a founding member of OPEC. Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism. Bush.  Saudi Arabia supports the intended formation of the Arab Customs Union in 2015 and an Arab common market by 2020.. there is evidence that the vast majority was. and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States.S. particularly the stationing of U.Arab League. Relations with the United States became strained following 9/11. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). Saudi Arabia has. However. this and Saudi Arabia's role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.S. King Abdullah with former US President George W. and. Osama bin Laden and fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. prompted the development of a hostile Islamist response internally. Muslim World League. by its nature. the Saudi government strenuously denies these claims or that it exports religious or cultural extremism. Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. refused to support or to participate in the U. "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida. As a result. 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." However. There has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and Wahhabism has fomented extremism in recipient countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Indeed. The two main allegations are that. Between the mid-1970s and 2002 Saudi Arabia expended over $70 billion in "overseas development aid". and in 2005 joined the World Trade Organization.
000 marines). The SANG is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force.000.000.000.4 billion in 2005. the Minister of Defense and Aviation. 75.000 active-duty personnel. unlike the rest of the armed forces. is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. Following the Arab Spring Saudi Arabia offered asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and King Abdullah telephoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support. totaling nearly 200. the Royal Saudi Air Defense. however. Saudi Arabia ranks among . the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG. the air force.  In addition. The Saudi military consists of the Royal Saudi Land Forces.000 active soldiers and 25. Military Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia Further information: Al-Yamamah arms deal Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon. an Al Riyadh class frigate. and the SANG had 75. the Royal Saudi Navy.000 tribal levies. 15. an independent military force). Its modern existence. 18.500 (including 3. Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict. there is an Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah military intelligence service. the Ikhwan.Saudi Arabia's increasing alarm at the rise of Iran is reflected in the reported private comments of King Abdullah urging the US to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake". Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since the mid-'90s and was about US$25. The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: Prince Sultan. and originated out of Abdul Aziz's tribal military-religious force. In 2005 the armed forces had the following personnel: the army. the Royal Saudi Air Force. 16. HMS Makkah. is one of the so-called 'Sudairi Seven' and controls the remainder of the armed forces. the navy. air defense. is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah's private army since the 1960s and. periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians and condemning Hezbollah. and paramilitary forces.
Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world's most densely armed nations. 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. 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. The UK has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since 1965.250. a number of linked deserts and includes the 647. Saudi Arabia occupies about 80% of the Arabian peninsula.500 km2 (250. East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands and two other smaller desert areas. It is.  Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert and associated semidesert and shrubland (see satellite image to right). Since 1985. The few fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis. the exact size of the country remains unknown. British defence giant BAE signed a £1. The yellow line encloses the ecoregions Arabian Desert. On the Red Sea .the top 10 in the world in government spending for its military. There are virtually no rivers or lakes in the country. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.001 sq mi) Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") in the southern part of the country. and oases. Geography Main article: Geography of Saudi Arabia Ecoregions as delineated by the WWF.000 km2 (868.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military. Because the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not precisely defined or marked. The CIA World Factbook's estimate is 2. In May 2012.9bn ($3bn) deal to supply Hawk trainer jets to Saudi Arabia.S. but wadis are numerous. the U. with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US. and longitudes 34° and 56° E. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60. France and Britain. lying between latitudes 16° and 33° N. in fact. representing about 7% of gross domestic product in 2005. the world's largest contiguous sand desert. On 20 October 2010.730 sq mi) and lists Saudi Arabia as the world's 13th largest state. basins.
). Province Capital . Reflecting the country's desert conditions.133 m (10. mongooses. In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 32 °F (0 °C). – singular mintaqah idariyya). when hunting from motor vehicles reduced these animals almost to extinction. Saudi Arabia's plant life mostly consists of small herbs and shrubs requiring little water. Birds include falcons (which are caught and trained for hunting). No. which have a different status as municipalities (amanah) headed by mayors (amin). There are a few small areas of grass and trees in southern Asir. The provinces are further divided into 118 governorates (Arabic: manatiq idāriyya. Animal life includes wolves. and chickens. The Nejd landscape: desert and the Tuwaiq Escarpment near Riyadh Except for the southwestern province of Asir. An average of 300 mm (12 in) of rainfall occurs during this period. There is a wide variety of marine life in the Persian Gulf. usually occurring between October and March.279 ft) Mount Sawda. and numerous types of lizards. known as the Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment. and contains the 3. The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (marakiz. that is about 60% of the annual precipitation. hyenas. This number includes the 13 provincial capitals. there is a narrow coastal plain. Domesticated animals include camels. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is widespread. Average summer temperatures are around 113 °F (45 °C). goats. markaz). oryx. hawks. There are several species of snakes. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous. but can be as high as 129 °F (54 °C). منطقةإدارية. sing. many of which are venomous. baboons. Administrative divisions Main articles: Provinces of Saudi Arabia and Governorates of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces (manatiq idāriyya. sheep. hares. and leopards were relatively numerous until the 1950s. Larger animals such as gazelles. which is the highest point in the country. eagles. sand grouse and bulbuls. The Asir region differs in that it is influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoons. vultures.coast. temperatures average around 84 °F (29 °C). and jerboas. Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night. donkeys. Annual rainfall is extremely low. In the spring and autumn the heat is temperate. sand rats.
compared with 40% from the private sector (see below).Provinces of Saudi Arabia 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Al Jawf (or Jouf) Northern Borders Tabuk Tabuk city Ha'il Ha'il city Medina Buraidah Mecca Riyadh city Dammam Al Bahah city Sakaka city Arar Al Madinah Al Qasim Makkah Al Riyadh Eastern Province Al Bahah (or Baha) Asir Abha Jizan Jizan city Najran Najran city Economy Main article: Economy of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Export Treemap Skyline of Riyadh. The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia's nominal gross domestic product. Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves. Saudi Arabia's command economy is petroleum-based. roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry. comprising about one-fifth of the world's proven total petroleum .
 The cities will be spread around Saudi Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their economy. These six new industrialized cities are intended to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia. . Market capitalization was up 110. Increases in oil prices since 2000 have helped boost per capita GDP to $17. Per capita income fell from a high of $11. The King of Saudi Arabia has announced that the per capita income is forecast to rise from $15.93SR billion). Matthew Simmons has suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil). Saudi Arabia's published reserves have shown little change since 1980. and the cities are projected to contribute $150 billion to the GDP.3 billion (589. pushing Saudi Arabia's budget surplus to $28 billion (110SR billion) in 2005. Oil price increases of 2008–2009 have triggered a second oil boom. Tadawul (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76. the more OPEC allows them to produce. Taking into account the impact of the real oil price changes on the Kingdom's real gross domestic income." The higher their reserves. Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world Saudi Arabia is one of only a few fast-growing countries in the world with a relatively high per capita income of $24.23% to close at 4437.g.381 billion 1999 USD in 2010. Saudi Arabia experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth.14% from a year earlier to stand at $157. Shortages of water and rapid population growth may constrain government efforts to increase self-sufficiency in agricultural products. In the 1990s.500 in 2020. with the main exception being an increase of about 100 billion barrels (1.000 in 2007 dollars. Saudi Arabia announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies in 1999.300 in 1998.000 in 2006 to $33. and are expected to increase the per capita income. the real command-basis GDP was computed to be 330. which followed the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company.200 (2010). Saudi Arabia will be launching six "economic cities" (e. King Abdullah Economic City) which are planned to be completed by 2020.58 points.reserves.400 adjusted for inflation.6×1010 m3) between 1987 and 1988. OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its members' oil production based on their "proven reserves.700 at the height of the oil boom in 1981 to $6. which makes it the biggest stock market in the Middle East. The government is attempting to promote growth in the private sector by privatizing industries such as power and telecommunications. or about $7.
 About 31% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Indian: 1. Sri Lankan: 350.000.3 million. days after the Arab Spring uprisings. Syrian: 100. the Saudi Arabia's slave population was estimated at 300. Saudi Arabian stores suffered a significant decrease in Gold sales in 2012. Filipino: 500. The ethnic composition of Saudi nationals is 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Arab.000. Yemeni: 800.000.731. the Saudi interior ministry detained reporter Feros Boqna and two colleagues and held them for almost two weeks for questioning after they uploaded a video on the topic to YouTube. Hussam al-Drewesh and Khaled alRasheed were detained after posting 10-minute film 'Mal3ob 3alena'. Bangladeshi: 500. Pakistani: 900. most of whom live .000 and Turkish: 100. Please see the talk page for more information. Jordanian/Palestinian: 260. Egyptian: 900. Gold mining is carried out in the Mahd adh Dhahab region (also known as the "Cradle of Gold"). Authors of the video claim that 22% of Saudis are considered to be poor (2009) and 70% of Saudis do not own their houses.000. Demographics Main article: Demographics of Saudi Arabia This section appears to contradict itself. As recently as the early 1960s. There are around 100. Reporting of poverty remains a state taboo.576.000. (February 2012) Saudi Arabia population density (person per km2) The population of Saudi Arabia as of July 2010 is estimated to be 25. but presently more than 95% of the population is settled. Slavery was officially abolished in 1962. Until the 1960s. Saudi Arabia had a population of 3 million.000. a majority of the population was nomadic.776 including 5.000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia. Sudanese: 250.076 non-nationals In 1950. Three journalists: Feras Boqna.000. or 'We are being cheated' on Saudis living in poverty to YouTube.000. Indonesian: 250. In December 2011. due to rapid economic and urban growth. Observers researching the issue prefer to stay anonymous because of the risk of being arrested.However the urban areas of Riyadh and Jeddah are expected to contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020. Statistics on the issue are not available through the UN resources because the Saudi government does not issue poverty figures.000.000.000.
 Religion Main article: Religion in Saudi Arabia See also: Islam in Saudi Arabia and Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. An estimated 240.000).000). The official and dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia is commonly known as Wahhabism (a name which some of its proponents consider derogatory. The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages. Data for Saudi Arabia comes primarily from general population surveys.000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia expelled 800.5 million speakers).000). while Shias represent around 10–15% of the Muslim population. which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios. preferring the term Salafism). Arab News reported. is often described as 'puritanical'. "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. The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic (about 6 million speakers). Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers. In a 2011 news story. However. because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi Citizenship System can be interpreted as requiring applicants to be Muslim. and Egyptian Arabic (300.000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991. proponents consider that its teachings seek to purify the practise of Islam of any innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh-century teachings of the Islamic Prophet . Rohingya (400. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship. and Salafism The "Mosque of the Prophet" in Medina containing the tomb of Muhammad. founded in the Arabian Peninsula by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. About 85–90% of Saudis are Sunni. 'intolerant' or 'ultra-conservative'." Languages The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. Wahhabism.000).4 and 14. the most numerous being Tagalog (700. Nejdi Arabic (about 8 million speakers) and Gulf Arabic (about 1. or 97% of the total population. The Articles 12.in compounds or gated communities. Urdu (380. which entitles expatriates of all nationalities who have resided in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship with priority being given to holders of degrees in various scientific fields. There are about 25 million people who are Muslim.
Riyadh Jeddah 1 Mecca Riyadh Riyadh 5.  Restrictions are imposed on the public celebration of Shia festivals such as Ashura and on the Shia taking part in communal public worship. Compensation in court cases discriminates against non-Muslims: once fault is determined. According to Human Rights Watch. State Department stated that in Saudi Arabia "freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice" and that "government policies continued to place severe restrictions on religious freedom". According to a 2012 poll. There are no churches or other non-Muslim houses of worship permitted in the country. Even private prayer services are forbidden in practice and the Saudi religious police reportedly regularly search the homes of Christians. the justice system and especially religious freedom.  No faith other than Islam is permitted to be practiced. In 2010. although there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years. although there are nearly a million Christians – nearly all foreign workers – in Saudi Arabia. Largest cities v t e Largest cities or towns of Saudi Arabia Central Department of Statistics & Information  Rank City name Province Pop. a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined. the U. and the last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985.Muhammad and his companions Shias face persecution in employment and religious ceremonies. Rank City name Province Pop.S.228 11 Tabuk Tabuk 569. There are some Hindus and Buddhists in Saudi Arabia.328. Proselytizing by non-Muslims is illegal.797 . the Shia minority face systematic discrimination from the Saudi government in education. a Jew or Christian half. and all others a sixteenth. 5% of Saudis are atheists. Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter. Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) carries the death penalty.
112 Yanbu Al Madinah Al-Qassim KhobarEastern 272. which arose in the eighteenth century and now predominates in the country. within the Saudi royal family homosexuality is permitted so long as it is not the subject of public attention (Daily Mail: "A gay Saudi prince has been jailed for beating and strangling his servant.456. as reported by the UK Mail.949 Al-Ahsa 376."). and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.424 578.914 Dammam Eastern 'Asir 903.325 Ta'if 1.093 20 Khamis Mushait Buraidah 298.551 Al Madinah Eastern 1.368 Hafar Al-Batin Eastern 14 15 Qatif 17 18 19 Jubail Eastern Al-Kharj Eastern Abha 'Asir Riyadh 371.182 366.758 Mecca Makkah 389.770 1. drugs and sex.180.") Public expression of opinion about .675. This culture has been bolstered by the austerely puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam.Medina 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Culture Jeddah Makkah 3. the Daily Mail and Wikileaks indicate that the Saudi Royal family applies a different moral code to itself ("WikiLeaks cables: Saudi princes throw parties boasting drink. Nevertheless. for example.112 16 Makkah 987. often derived from Arab tribal civilization.597 630. The many limitations on behaviour and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially. However. Royals flout puritanical laws to throw parties for young elite while religious police are forced to turn a blind eye.675 Najran Najran 329.993 Medina 378.259 13 12 Ha'il Ha'il 412.500 Al Qunfudhah Makkah Main article: Culture of Saudi Arabia Stoning of the Devil in Mina Saudi Arabia has centuries-old attitudes and traditions.063.000 614.
and Salman al-Farsi (another of Muhammad's companions). the house of Ali-Oraid. Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph). and Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram. as the cradle of Islam. Five times each day. only two religious holidays are publicly recognized. ʿĪd al-Fiṭr and ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā. Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques scattered throughout the country. In accordance with Wahhabi doctrine. These include the mosque originally built by Muhammad's daughter Fatima. As a consequence. have been demolished. Saudi Wahhabism is hostile to any reverence given to historical or religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to 'shirk' (that is. Mecca Saudi Arabia. now the location of the King's palace in Mecca.domestic political or social matters is discouraged. it has been estimated that about 95% of Mecca's historic buildings. Public observance of nonIslamic religious holidays is prohibited. and other mosques founded by Abu Bakr (Muhammad's father-in-law and the first Caliph). Celebration of other Islamic holidays. under Saudi rule. has many of the most significant historic Muslim sites including the two holiest sites of Mecca and Medina. which commemorates the unification of the kingdom. such as the Prophet's birthday and ʿĀshūrāʾ (an important holiday for Shīʿites). Other historic buildings that have been destroyed include the house of Khadijah. One of the King's titles is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. the grandson of the Prophet. and the Mosque of abuQubais. now the site of the local Hilton hotel. the two mosques being Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Medina. Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. There are no organizations such as political parties or labour unions to provide public forums. for example. the wife of the Prophet. Critics have described this as "Saudi vandalism" and claim that over the last . idolatry). are tolerated only when celebrated locally and on a small scale. with the exception of 23 September. However. the weekend begins on Thursday. most over a thousand years old. Because Friday is the holiest day for Muslims. which contains Islam's most sacred place. Islamic heritage sites See also: Mecca. the Hejaz cities have suffered from considerable destruction of their physical heritage and. the Kaaba. the house of Abu Bakr. and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina which contains Muhammad's tomb. Umar (the second Caliph). and specifically the Hejaz.
Saudi Arabian cuisine. and also protection of the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand. metallic thread. especially in dress). Entertainment. garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert climate. and appliques. It is a black cloak which loosely covers the entire body except the head. For rare chilly days. Thawb (Arabic: )ثوبis the standard Arabic word for garment. usually with long sleeves similar to a robe. men usually wear an ankle length garment woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb). and Sport in Saudi Arabia During the 1970s. 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. cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom and were not considered un-Islamic.50 years 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad. Agal (Arabic: )عقالis an item of Arab headgear constructed of cord which is fastened around the Ghutrah to hold it in place. his family or companions have been lost. Ghutrah (Arabic: )غترهis a traditional headdress typically worn by Arab men. It is made of a square of cloth ("scarf"). It is ankle length. usually cotton. Some women choose to cover their faces with a niqāb and some do not. the arts. folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. Bisht (Arabic: )بشتis a traditional Arabic men's cloak usually only worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings. It has been reported that there now are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad. to provide protection from direct sun exposure. Abaya (Arabic: )عبايةis a women's garment. Saudi men wear a camel-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. sequins. sport and cuisine Main articles: Cinema of Saudi Arabia. Music of Saudi Arabia. Women are required to wear an abaya or modest clothing when in public. The predominantly loose and flowing. Traditionally. although they were seen as contrary to Arab tribal . Dress Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty. It is commonly worn in areas with an arid climate. The agal is usually black in colour. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs. also held in place by an agal) worn on the head. but covering. coins.
 Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature. furnishings. and has been heavily influenced by Turkish. However. In addition. and African food. A dish consisting of a stuffed lamb. some cinemas have re-opened. dancing to the beat of drums and tambourines. With the advent of oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences. The annual King's Camel Race. mutton. an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle. Falconry. Music and dance have always been part of Saudi life. Of the native dances. with the Saudi Arabian national basketball team winning bronze at the 1999 Asian Championship. Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not consumed and other animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal. windsurfing. During the Islamic revival movement in the 1980s. Flat. as is shāwarmā (shawarma). known as nabaṭī. Scuba diving. is one of the sport's most important contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region. machbūs (kabsa). such as the ṭabl (drum) and the ṭār (tambourine). which includes lines of men. Persian. From the 18th century onward. with King Abdullah's reforms from 2005. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have limited the visual arts. another traditional pursuit. These include Ghazi Algosaibi. Abdelrahman Munif. Turki al-Hamad and Rajaa alSanea. although several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular acclaim in the Arab world – albeit generating official hostility in their home country. floral. Bedouin poetry. the most popular is a martial line dance known as the ʿarḍah. Kebabs are popular. a marinated grilled meat dish of lamb. begun in 1974. and as a political response to an increase in Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. More traditional sports such as camel racing became more popular in the 1970s. and various types of percussion instruments. the government closed all cinemas and theaters. frequently armed with swords or rifles. is still very popular. A stadium in Riyadh holds races in the winter. Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged artistic development inconsistent with its teaching. Football (soccer) is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. Instruments include the rabābah. unleavened bread is a . is still practiced. played by both men and women. or chicken.norms. and clothes. is popular. a rice dish with fish or shrimp. which tend to be dominated by geometric. such as Western housing styles. sailing and basketball are also popular. known as khūzī. As in other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. and abstract designs and by calligraphy. is the traditional national dish. Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.
and the failure of the government to satisfy this sense of entitlement has led to considerable dissatisfaction. Although many charities are genuine. (disclosed as part of the Wikileaks U. has created deep social tensions. serve as fronts for money laundering and terrorist financing operations. Some Saudis feel they are entitled to well-paid government jobs. director of the family safety program at the National Guard Hospital. Crime is not a significant problem. The National Society for Human Rights reports that almost 45% of the country's children are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence.5% of their income. Part of this funding arises through the zakat (an act of charity dictated by Islam) paid by all Saudis to charities. others. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes.S. it has been alleged that others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be applied. Others want a reformed and more open government and to have more influence in the political process. located primarily in the Eastern Province. United States Secretary of State. . coupled with economic difficulties. On the other hand. Coffee. served in the Turkish style. and loopholes in the system cause many to fall victim to abuse and torture. It has also been claimed that trafficking of women is a particular problem in Saudi Arabia as the country's large number of female foreign domestic workers. Nura Al-Suwaiyan. Saudi Arabia's objective of being both a modern and Islamic country. have created civil disturbances in the past. the Shiite minority. one in four children are abused in Saudi Arabia. According to a 2009 U. Connections to the West have caused some Saudis to desire the overthrow of the Al Saud. Society Saudi society has a number of issues and tensions. drug-use and use of alcohol are getting worse. High unemployment and a generation of young males filled with contempt toward the Royal Family is a significant threat to Saudi social stability. juvenile delinquency.S.staple of virtually every meal. and amounting to at least 2. Terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have made it clear that Saudi Arabia does harbor indigenous terrorists. 'cables leaks' controversy in 2010) "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide". A rare independent opinion poll published in 2010 indicated that Saudis' main social concerns were unemployment (at 10% in 2010). and who often complain of institutionalized inequality and repression. as are dates and fresh fruit. corruption and religious extremism. State Department communication by Hillary Clinton. is the traditional beverage. However. it is alleged. Additionally. According to a study conducted by Dr.
 The World Economic Forum 2010 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 129th out of 134 countries for gender parity." Even where a guardian's approval is not legally required.S. has produced high levels of several genetic disorders including thalassemia. where the testimony of one man equals that of two women. with little authority over their own lives. deafness and muteness. resulting from the traditional practice of encouraging marriage between close relatives. sickle cell anemia. The guardian is entitled to make a number of critical decisions on a woman's behalf. the UN special reporter on violence against women noted the lack of women's autonomy and the absence of a law criminalizing violence against women. The residue is divided between agnatic heirs. Women A woman wearing a niqāb See also: Women's rights in Saudi Arabia The U. A woman can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband or judicially if her husband has harmed her. After her 2008 visit. some officials will still ask for it. and in family and inheritance law. spinal muscular atrophy. . Human Rights Watch has described the position of Saudi women as like that of a minor. to hold some types of business licenses. With regard to the law of inheritance. to study at a university or college and to work if the type of business is not "deemed appropriate for a woman. Polygamy is permitted for men. As a result. State department considers that "discrimination against women is a significant problem" in Saudi Arabia and that women have few political or social rights.Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia. Women are also said to have faced discrimination in the courts. and men have a unilateral right to divorce their wives (talaq) without needing any legal justification. the Quran specifies that fixed portions of the deceased's estate must be left to the Qu'ranic heirs. Generally. A Sunni Muslim can bequeath a maximum of a third of his property to non-Qu'ranic heirs. Every adult woman has to have a close male relative as her "guardian". female heirs receive half the portion of male heirs. In practice. it is very difficult for a Saudi woman to obtain a judicial divorce. These include giving approval for the woman to travel.
and in 2005–2006. King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections. heads a medical research center in California and Dr. Even many advocates of reform reject foreign critics. . to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting.  Education Main article: Education in Saudi Arabia Laboratory buildings at KAUST Education is free at all levels. Child marriage is believed to hinder the cause of women's education. There is also effectively a ban on women driving. no matter how high their status. Female literacy is estimated to be around 70% compared to male literacy of around 85%. because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. for "failing to understand the uniqueness of Saudi society. Roughly 25% of college-aged young women do not attend college." A number of Saudi women have risen to the top of some professions or otherwise achieved prominence. a male guardian's permission is required in order to vote. Wajeha al-Huwaider. Leading Saudi feminist and journalist. They include requiring women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in restaurants. and these are enforced by the religious police. the mutawa. Men marry girls as young as ten in Saudi Arabia. following the next round of these elections. as they exchange education for marriage. The school system is composed of elementary. The drop-out rate of girls increases around puberty." Although many Saudis would like more freedom in Saudi Arabia. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia. Salwa Al-Hazzaa. women had a 60% dropout rate. for example Dr. However. head of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh and was the late King Fahad's personal ophthalmologist. On 25 September 2011. even the 'pampered' ones among them. Ghada Al-Mutairi. has said "Saudi women are weak. full-length black cloak covering the entire body) and to conceal their hair. there is evidence that many women do not want radical change.Cultural norms impose restrictions on women when in public.
Sufis. 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.intermediate. military studies. Classes are segregated by gender. in particular. religion. the government is aiming to slowly modernise the education system through the "Tatweer" reform . King Saud University founded in 1957. Similarly. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology. its interpretation and understanding (Tafsir) and the application of Islamic tradition to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum. In particular. Jews. and secondary schools. atheists and others". and that Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures". with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since 2000. that is. Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine. which exceeds 85% among males and is about 70% among females. Shiites." A further criticism of the religious focus of the Saudi education system is the nature of the Wahhabi-controlled curriculum. Higher education has expanded rapidly. Christians. leading to reform efforts. The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism. Religion taught in this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students. The Islamic aspect 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'. The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world. Hindus. abound. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers. To tackle the twin problems of encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university education for a modern economy. and. This disproportion is reflected in the rate of literacy. The study of Islam dominates the Saudi educational system. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam. Girls are able to attend school. the memorization by rote of large parts of the Qu'ran. Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions. steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction. Institutions of higher education include the country's first University. and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah founded in 1967. at the secondary level. 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. Institutes devoted to Islamic studies. As a consequence. and medicine. the Islamic University at Medina founded in 1961. students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track. Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA.
 See also Geography portal Asia portal Middle East portal Saudi Arabia portal Book: Saudi Arabia Outline of Saudi Arabia Index of Saudi Arabia-related articles List of Arabian Houses List of Ambassadors from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia .program. It also aims to create an education system which will provide a more secular and vocationally based training. 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.
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