Saudi Arabia

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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
‫المملكة العربية السعودية‬
al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah as-Su‘ūdiyyah



Motto: "‫ محمد رسول ال‬، ‫"ل إله إل الم‬
"Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-lāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu l-lāh"
"There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God." (Shahada)[1]

Anthem: "as-Salām al-Malakiyy"

"Long live the King"



(and largest city)

Official language(s)


24°39′N 46°46′E


Saudi Arabian, Saudi (informal)


Unitary Islamic
absolute monarchy



Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz


Crown Prince

Salman bin Abdul Aziz


None – legislation byking's decree.[a]



Kingdom founded

23 September 1932[3]



2,250,000 km2 (12th)


870,000 sq mi


Water (%)




2010 estimate

28,376,355[4] (42th)



12/km2 (216th)
31/sq mi


2012 estimate



$733.143 billion[5]


Per capita


GDP (nominal)

2012 estimate



$651.652 billion[5]


Per capita


0.770[6] (high) (56th)

HDI (2011)


Saudi riyal (SR) (


Time zone


Summer (DST)


(not observed) (UTC+3)

Drives on the


ISO 3166 code


Internet TLD


Calling code



a.^ Consultative Assembly exists only with an advisory role to the king.

Saudi Arabia ( /ˌsaʊdi əˈreɪbi.ə/ or


/ˌsɔːdiː əˈreɪbi.ə/; Arabic: ‫ السعودية‬as-Su‘ūdiyyah or as-

Sa‘ūdiyyah), officially known as theKingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic: ‫ المملكة العربية السعودية‬alMamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah as-Su‘ūdiyyah

Arabic pronunciation (help·info)), is the largest Arab state in

Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in
the Arab world, after Algeria. It is bordered by Jordan, and Iraq on the north and
northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirateson the east, Oman on the southeast,
and Yemen on the south. The Red Sea lies to its west, and the Persian Gulf lies to the east. Saudi Arabia
has an area of approximately 2,250,000 km2 (870,000 sq mi), and it has an estimated population of 27
million, of which 9 million are registered foreign expatriates and an estimated 2 million are illegal
immigrants. Saudi nationals comprise an estimated 16 million people.[7]
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, which has been an absolute monarchysince its inception, refers to
its system of government as being Islamic, though this is contested by many due to its strong basis
inWahhabism and Salafism, which are minority schools of thought in Islam. 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 second largest oil reserves which are concentrated largely in the Eastern
Province.[8][9] and oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue. This
facilitates the creation of a welfare state[10] although the share of the non-oil economy is growing recently. It
has also the world's sixth largest natural gas reserves.

6 Military 4 Geography 5 Administrative divisions 6 Economy 7 Demographics o 7.5 Foreign relations o 3.4 Religion o 7.3 Social issues o 7.1 From the earliest times to the foundation of Saudi Arabia o 2.5 Women in Saudi society o 7.2 From the foundation of the State to the present 3 Politics o 3.1 Monarchy and royal family o 3.1 Largest cities o 7.2 Population and language o 7.6 Education .1 Etymology 2 History o 2.2 Al ash-Sheikh and role of the ulema o 3.4 Law and human rights o 3.3 Political process and opposition o 3.

[16] For the etymology of Arabia. In the case of the Al Saud. the arts. formed from the dynastic name of Al Saud (‫)آل سعود‬. meaning "family of" or "House of". Muhammad bin Saud (Muhammad. King Abdul Aziz Al Saud.[12] The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Suʻūdīyah in the Arabic name of the country.[13][14] Al Saud is an Arabic name formed by adding the word Al. This is normally translated as "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English.8 Culture o 8. [edit]History Main article: History of Saudi Arabia [edit]From the earliest times to the foundation of Saudi Arabia See also: Unification of Saudi Arabia . son of Saud). which is a type of adjective known as anisba. Its inclusion indicated that the country's ruler viewed it as the personal possession of the royal family.[15]to the personal name of an ancestor.1 Islamic heritage sites o 8.3 Entertainment. see Arabian Peninsula and Arab (etymology).[11] although it literally means "the Saudi Arab Kingdom". sport and cuisine 9 See also 10 References 11 Further reading 12 External links [edit]Etymology Following the unification of the Kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd.2 Dress o 8. this is the father of the dynasty's 18th century founder. the new state was named al-Mamlakah alʻArabīyah as-Suʻūdīyah (a transliteration of ‫ المملكة العربية السعودية‬in Arabic) by royal decree on 23 September 1932 by its founder.

Muhammad united the various tribes of the peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity.[25] The first 'Saudi State' established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh. Most of the remainder of what became Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule. [17] The Prophet of Islam. Arabia soon became a politically peripheral region of the Muslim world as the focus shifted to the more developed conquered lands. Asir and Al-Hasa) to their Empire and claimedsuzerainty over the interior.[24] 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 degree of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the Empire's central authority. but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empires based in Baghdad.The Ottoman Empire in 1914. located mainly in Nejd. Mohammed Ali Pasha. a strict puritanical form of Sunni Islam. began in Nejd in central Arabia in 1744.[19] . rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia. Muhammad. the Al Saud contested control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia with another Arabian ruling family.[26] but was destroyed by 1818 by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt. In so doing.[27] A much smaller second ‘Saudi state’. located in the Hejaz in the west of the Arabian Peninsula. conquering huge swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in west to modern day Pakistan in east) in a matter of decades.[18] 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. By 1891. Throughout the rest of the 19th century.[19][20] In the 16th century. the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz. his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia. known as the Al Saud. the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud were driven into exile. the Al Rashid. most of what was to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies in the inhospitable desert. was born in Mecca in about 571. Cairo or Istanbul. [21][22] The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family.[23] founder of the Wahhabi movement. when Muhammad bin Saud. such as Mecca and Medina. Following his death in 632. including nominal and vassal Ottoman territories – the position in Arabia had largely been the same for the previous 400 years Apart from a small number of urban trading settlements. was established in 1824. joined forces with the religious leaderMuhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. In the early 7th century. founder of the dynasty.

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. on 27 January 1927 he took the title of King of Nejd (his previous title having been 'Sultan').At the beginning of the 20th century. the Allied victory in World War I resulted in the end of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia. where the Ikhwan leadership were massacred. the Ikhwanhad completed the conquest of the territory that was to become Saudi Arabia by the end of 1925. reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage revenues. the Sharif of Mecca. is in light green. then.[30] In 1916.[31] Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective. the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. conquered in 1925. led a pan-Arab revoltagainst the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state. however. Subject to this suzerainty. Oil provided Saudi . Iraq and Kuwait. the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. and began raiding those territories. Hussein bin Ali. 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. the Wahhabist-Bedouin tribal army led by Sultan ibn Bijad and Faisal Al-Dawish.[19] The main weapon for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan. The Kingdom of Hejaz. and aided by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Abdul-Aziz. [34] On 10 January 1926Abdul-Aziz declared himself King of the Hejaz and.[36]However.[33] From the Saudi core in Nejd. Abdul-Aziz bin Saud. recognizing the danger of a direct conflict with the British. The Ikhwan therefore revolted but were defeated in the Battle of Sabilla in 1930.[32] Arabia about 1923.[19] [edit]From the foundation of the State to the present The new kingdom was one of the poorest countries in the world. refused to agree to this. Expandable map: Abdul Aziz's domain is in blue with dates of conquest.[35] In 1932. (The other Hashemitekingdoms of Iraq and Transjordan are also in shades of green) In 1902. leader of the House of Saud.[19] After the conquest of the Hejaz. the Ikhwan leaders wanted to continue the expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan. with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I). Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers[28][29] (including the House of Saud who had returned from exile in 1902 [19]) with the Sharif of Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling theHejaz.

Prince Faisal bin Musaid. [37] In 1979.[41] . The second event. But the large influx of foreigners to work in the oil industry increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia. primarily in the Hejaz.Arabia with economic prosperity and substantial political leverage internationally. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution. It was feared that the country's Shi'ite minority in the Eastern Province (which is also the location of the oil fields) might rebel under the influence of their Iranian co-religionists.[37] Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid during whose reign economic and social development progressed at an extremely rapid rate. when Saudi Arabia. Prince Faisalemerged. tried to put pressure on the US to withdraw support from Israel through an oil embargo.[40] Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength. close ties with the US were developed. the government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant.[19] in foreign policy. By the 1950s this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing. At the same time. there were several anti-government uprisings in the region in 1979 and 1980. the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government. two events occurred which greatly concerned the Al Saud regime. The major event of King Faisal's reign was the 1973 oil crisis. fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence.[39] Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of traditional religious and social norms in the country (for example. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi regime. Cultural life rapidly developed. was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists. and the other Arab oil producers. [19] Abdul Aziz bin Saud first king of Saudi Arabia King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. As a consequence. However. In fact.[38] and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother. which was the center for newspapers and radio.[19] Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew. transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country. Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964.

combined with high taxes and a growth in unemployment. the country's economy was near stagnant.[48] but in addition. mass public education. It led to urbanization. Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince. [19] From 1976 Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world. Fahd made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: “A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed. However. a number of limited 'reforms' were initiated (such as the Basic Law). political power continued to be monopolized by the royal family [19] leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government. and the creation of new media. Although now extremely wealthy.” [19] In 1995. with Fahd.[43] The vast wealth generated by oil revenues and channeled through the government had a profound impact on Saudi society. [45] But also many Saudis who did not necessarily support the Islamist terrorists were deeply unhappy with the government stance. This and the presence of large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. the royal family's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible. which.[46] Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the regime. [42] The Saudi regime spent $25 billion in support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. and was reflected in a subsequent rise in civil unrest. Although there was dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country. as well as Islamic terrorist attacksin Western countries by Saudi nationals – the 9/11 attacks in New York being the most prominent example. which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā]. [19] This action concerned 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. fearing an attack from Iraq. King Fahd. In response. albeit his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers (known. . [44] Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 Saudi Arabia joined the anti-Iraq Coalition.[47] Abdullah continued the policy of mild reform and greater openness. contributed to disquiet in the country. Prince Abdullah assumed the role of acting King. as the "Sudairi Seven").The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after unification in 1932 Khalid was succeeded by his brother King Fahd in 1982 who continued the close relationship with the United States and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment. and discontent with the royal family. invited American and coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia.

[54] No political parties or national elections are permitted[53] and according to The Economist's 2010 Democracy Index. In 2003. 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. as well as the writing off of some loans.adopted a foreign policy distancing the kingdom from the US.7 billion.[51] In response. the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated. State employees will see their incomes increase by 15 per cent. 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. King Abdullah announced a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10. [55] On 25 September 2011.[49] In 2005. with theRiyadh compound bombings and other attacks. and various ministries to modernize these institutions including the replacement of senior appointees in the judiciary and the Mutaween (religious police) with more moderate indiviuals and the appointment of the country’s first female deputy minister.[19] In early 2011. and has ordered the use of force for the first time by the security services against some extremists. He has taken much more vigorous action to deal with the origins of Islamic terrorism.[53] although.[50] Saudi Arabia has also been affected by its own protests. encouragement of foreign investment.[52] [edit]Politics Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. In February 2009. and Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab Nation where no national elections have ever taken place. but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia. The Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the country's constitution. which prompted the government to take much more stringent action against terrorism. Saudi Arabia refused to support the US and its allies in the invasion of Iraq. [56] [edit]Monarchy and royal family . The king subsequently introduced a new program of moderate reform which included a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation. Abdullah ascended to the throne.Abdullah announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary. according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992. the king must comply with Sharia (that is.[19] However. though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were pardoned. King Fahd died and his half-brother. and additional cash has also been made available for housing loans. and privatization. terrorist activity increased dramatically in 2003. Islamic law) and the Quran. These included funding to offset high inflation and to aid young unemployed people and Saudi citizens studying abroad. No political reforms were announced as part of the package. armed forces. since its creation.

the changes have been criticized as being too slow or merely cosmetic. Prince Saud who has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1975[63] and current Minister of Defence and Aviation Prince Salman.[79] However. such as those of King Abdullah. within certain prescribed parameters. [61] Long term political and government appointments. by which it paid $447 million in fines but did not admit to bribery. which comprises the first and second deputy prime.[78] In 2009. an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues. when he appointed his son to replace him)[62]).7 (on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean"). [73] specific allegations were made in 2007.[14] the lines between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are blurred. the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. 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. and.[53] as are the thirteen regional governorships. been accused of corruption.000.[80] and the royal family is reportedly divided on the speed and direction of reform. [65] The Saudi government and the royal family have often. former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from 1975 to his death in 2012. and presides over the Council of Ministers (Majlis al-Wuzarāʾ).[64]have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes. former Crown Prince Sultan. in 2003.[74] Prince Bandar denied the allegations.[76] Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 gave Saudi Arabia a score of 4. In 2005.[68] and its existence was acknowledged[69] and defended[70] by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (a senior member of the royal family[71]) in an interview in 2001. [66] In a country that is said to "belong" to the royal family and is named for them. executive. 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.[77] There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule. Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 to his death in 2011.The king combines legislative. In 2007. in plea bargain agreements with the company. [59] The number of princes is estimated to be at least 7.[58] The king is also the prime minister. who was Governor of the Riyadh Province from 1962 to 2011.[72] Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad undocumented accusations. the first municipal elections were held. the king made significant personnel changes to the government by appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a ministerial post. who had been Commander of the National Guard since 1963 (until 2010. in 2010.[60] The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family. [75] Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted. and judicial functions [57] and royal decrees to form the basis of the country's legislation. [60] The extent of corruption has been described as systemic[67] and endemic. [81] [edit]Al ash-Sheikh and role of the ulema . with most power and influence being wielded by the 200 or so male descendants of King Abdul Aziz. The family’s vast numbers allow it to control most of the kingdom’s important posts and to have an involvement and presence at all levels of government. The royal family dominates the political system. over many years.

as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal. [90] The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh. [86] [edit]Political process and opposition See also: Terrorism in Saudi Arabia. this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 by Islamist radicals. [53] politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family. List of militant incidents in Saudi Arabia. [86] Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh. the Al Saud. for example the imposition of the oil embargo in 1973 and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990. [89] The government's response to the crisis included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their financial support:[40] in particular.[92] The family is second in prestige only to the Al Saud (the royal family) [93] with whom they formed a "mutual support pact"[94] and power-sharing arrangement nearly 300 years ago.[84]In addition. for instance transferring their control over girls' education to the Ministry of Education.[97] they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely linked to the Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage.Saudi Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema (the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists) a direct role in government. the country's most senior religious authority.[91] the country's leading religious family. King Abdullah has taken steps to rein back the powers of the ulema. [84] The pact. important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline. and 2011 Saudi Arabian protests In the absence of national elections and political parties. and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi .[82] the only other example being Iran. the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority [95] thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.[94] is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Wahhabi doctrine.[83] The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions.[40] Since his accession to the throne in 2005. the 18th century founder of the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam which is today dominant in Saudi Arabia.[96] Although the Al ash-Sheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades. they have had a major role in the judicial and education systems[85] and a monopoly of authority in the sphere of religious and social morals. they were given greater control over the education system [89] and allowed to enforce stricter observance of Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour.[86] The Al ash-Sheikh are the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.[87] By the 1970s. which persists to this day.Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. In return. [88] However.

political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation. the Shi'ite minority – particularly in the Eastern Province. 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. outside of the royal family. the underground Green Party of Saudi Arabia.[99][100] When prince Sultan died before ascending to the throne on October 21. 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.[103] In theory.[104] In many ways the approach to government differs little from the traditional system of tribal rule.[105] Of these. a number of incidents and protests occurred in Saudi Arabia. 2011. On 29 January 2011. Tribal identity remains strong and. open protest against the government. 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.[106] Police stopped the demonstration after about 15 minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people.[102] Outside of the Al-Saud.[57] This process is not reported by the Saudi media. comprising the late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants.[81] and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or reduced. King Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef as crown prince.[57] As mentioned earlier. liberal critics. [edit]Law and human rights Main article: Legal system of Saudi Arabia See also: Human rights in Saudi Arabia . and long-standing tribal and regional particularistic opponents (for example in the Hejaz). 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. personal ambitions and ideological differences. all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis. is not tolerated.[49] However. tribal sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major decisions.society. with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events.[78] The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism. There were divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan. killing eleven people.[98] The most powerful clan faction is known as the 'Sudairi Seven'.[98] The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties. even if peaceful.[107] As part of the wave of protests and revolutions affecting the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011.[101] Price Nayef also died before ascending to the throne in 2012. [99] Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of reform.

most Saudis reportedly support the system and say that it maintains a low crime rate. the King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger generation. there are also extra-Sharia government tribunals which handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees. the country's religious leadership.[58] Sharia is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent. divergent judgements arise even in apparently identical cases.[110]Nevertheless. Additionally. [58] Royal decrees supplement Sharia in areas such as labor.[111] The capabilities and reactionary nature of the judges have. in any case. [116] In 2007. in 2009. commercial and corporate law.[111] 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. However. [113] 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.[114] The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for being slow. 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 .[112] The Sharia court system constitutes the basic judiciary of Saudi Arabia and its judges and lawyers form part of the ulema. been criticized[117] and. [118] There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. in particular. in a 2008 report.[119] Human Rights Watch.[115] Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights record. The Quran is the official constitution of the country and a primary source of law. but it lacked some basic protections and. with Western-based organisations such asAmnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemning both the criminal justice system and its severe punishments. arcane. noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in 2002. [115] lacking in some of the safeguards of justice and unable to deal with the modern world. traditional tribal law and custom remain significant. had been routinely ignored by judges. 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. Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbalischool of jurisprudence (or fiqh) found in pre-modern texts[109] and noted for its literalist interpretation of the Qu'ran and hadith. Arabia is unique in enshrining a religious text as a political document [108] 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).Verses from the Quran. King Abdullah issued royal decrees reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system. although the reforms have yet to be implemented. However.

and the number of executions have been strongly criticized. witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword. in 2004. At trial.[122] Between 1996 and 2000. Most trials are held in secret. there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death. adultery. amputationand lashing. [121] A road sign for a bypass used to restrict non-Muslims from Mecca The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts. are practised: for instance. stoning or firing squad. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in June 2012 [125] and three recent convictions for witchcraft did not result in execution. not confess. rape. religious discrimination. or Qisas. the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence. Gay rights are not recognised. an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye. only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between 2007 and 2010. such as beheading. Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand.[128] Other human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women (see Women in Saudi society below).[117] Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a payment of diyya. Saudi Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and. to monitor their implementation. [123] Retaliatory punishments. [120] Deera Square.[122] The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder. Known locally as "Chop-chop square". central Riyadh. it is the location of public beheadings. the government approved the establishment of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR).[129] Saudi Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the . or blood money. staffed by government employees. [123][126] Lashings are a common form of punishment[127] and are often imposed for offences against religion and public morality such as drinking alcohol and neglect of prayer and fasting obligations. armed robbery. by the perpetrator. the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police (seeReligion below). followed by crucifixion. apostasy.[123][124] The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. repeated drug use. To date.

troops on Saudi soil from 1991. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). . the Saudi government strenuously denies these claims or that it exports religious or cultural extremism.[140] In the Arab and Muslim worlds. for example."[139] However. and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order. Muslim World League. distanced itself from the U. the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country.UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bush.[144] As a result. to some extent. Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism.[136] There has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and Wahhabism has fomented extremism in recipient countries. as announced at the 2009 Arab League summit.[57]Relations with the United States became strained following 9/11. Saudi Arabia has. [137]The two main allegations are that. this[143] and Saudi Arabia's role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. its oil pricing policy has been generally to stabilize the world oil market and try to moderate sharp price movements so as to not jeopardise the Western economies. Between the mid-1970s and 2002 Saudi Arabia expended over $70 billion in "overseas development aid". [135] However.S. there is evidence that the vast majority was.S. particularly the stationing of U. In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record. prompted the development of a hostile Islamist response internally . Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and pro-American. by its nature.[130] [edit]Foreign relations Main article: Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia joined the UN in 1945[11][131] and is a founder member of the Arab League.[11] King Abdullah with former US PresidentGeorge W. Persian Gulf Cooperation Council.[132] It plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.S.[145] American politicians and media accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a jihadist culture.[134] As a founding member of OPEC. [141] and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States. spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam. and in 2005 joined theWorld Trade Organization.[142] However. in fact. and. refused to support or to participate in the U.[11] Saudi Arabia supports the intended formation of the Arab Customs Union in 2015 and an Arab common market[133] by 2020. [138] Former CIA directorJames Woolsey described it as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In 2005 the armed forces had the following personnel: the army. Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. an Al Riyadh class frigate. the Minister of Defense and Aviation. [147] According to the U. Its modern existence.500 (including 3.4 billion in 2005. the Saudi Arabian National Guard – the 'SANG' (an independent military force).000. periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians and condemning Hezbollah. and paramilitary forces.[50] [edit]Military Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia Further information: Al-Yamamah arms deal The Saudi military consists of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. 75. . air defense. totaling nearly 200. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.000 marines).[151] Following the wave of protests and revolutions affecting the Arab world in early 2011 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.000 active-duty personnel. Osama bin Laden and fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. . "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida. is one of the so-called ‘Sudairi Seven’ and controls the remainder of the armed forces. there is a Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah military intelligence service. unlike the rest of the armed forces. and originated out of Abdul Aziz’s tribal military-religious force.000.000. LeT and other terrorist groups. theIkhwan. and the SANG had 75.000 tribal levies. The SANG is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force. [152] In addition. [150] Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict. . Royal Saudi Air Force. is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah’s private army since the 1960s and. Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 10 in the world in government spending for its military. 15. 16. HMS Makkah.S. the Royal Saudi Air Defense." [148] Saudi Arabia's increasing alarm at the rise of Iran is reflected in the reported private comments of King Abdullah[149] urging the US to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake". the Royal Saudi Navy. however. the Taliban. .[153] Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since the mid-‘90s and was about US$25. Royal Saudi Navy. 18. The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: Prince Sultan. the Royal Saudi Air Force.[146] Indeed. And Saudi Special Forces.000 active soldiers and 25.

the UK has supplied military aircraft – notably the Tornadoand 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. and longitudes 34°and 56° E. Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world’s most densely armed nations. with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US. in fact.[155] The UK has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since 1965. the exact size of the country remains unknown.[154] On 20 October 2010. [160] The CIA World Factbook's estimate is 2. the world’s largest contiguous sand desert.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[156] Since 1985.[158] [edit]Geography Ecoregions as delineated by the WWF. British defence giant BAE signed a £1.[161] Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert and associated semi-desert and shrubland (see satellite image to right).000 km2 (868. but wadis are numerous.001 sq mi) Rub' al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) in the southern part of the country. Because the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not precisely defined or marked.250.[152] The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military. It is. The few fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis.[57][162] There are virtually no rivers or lakes in the country. [57] The main . The yellow line encloses the ecoregions Arabian Desert. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.500 km2 (250. U.9bn ($3bn) deal to supply Hawk trainer jets to Saudi Arabia. and oases.730 sq mi) and lists Saudi Arabia as the world's 13th largest state. basins.[157] In May 2012.[160] lying between latitudes 16° and 33° N. East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands and two other smaller desert areas [159] Main article: Geography of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula.representing about 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2005. France and Britain. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60. a number of linked deserts and includes the 647.S.

sand grouse and bulbuls. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous.279 ft) Mount Sawda. [57] The Nejd landscape: desert and theTuwaiq Escarpment near Riyadh Except for the south western province of Asir. and chickens. There is a wide variety of marine life in the Persian Gulf. The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (marakiz. sheep. In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 0 °C. This number includes the 13 provincial capitals. but can be as high as 54 °C. Average summer temperatures are around 45 °C. hares. temperatures average around 29 °C. hyenas. many of which are venomous. – singular mintaqah idariyya). Annual rainfall is extremely low. and contains the 3. Larger animals such as gazelles.topographical feature is the central plateau which rises abruptly from the Red Sea and gradually descends into the Nejd and toward the Persian Gulf. eagles. known as the Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment. donkeys. vultures. ‫منطقةإدارية‬. Birds include falcons (which are caught and trained for hunting). . when hunting from motor vehicles reduced these animals almost to extinction. The Asir region differs in that it is influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoons. The provinces are further divided into 118 governorates (Arabic: manatiq idāriyya.133 m (10. mongooses. which is the highest point in the country. usually occurring between October and March. hawks. markaz). There are several species of snakes. On the Red Sea coast. and numerous types of lizards.[163] Animal life includes wolves. there is a narrow coastal plain. goats. An average of 300 mm of rainfall occurs during this period. Saudi Arabia’s plant life mostly consists of small herbs and shrubs requiring little water. that is about 60% of the annual precipitation. oryx. In the spring and autumn the heat is temperate.[57] [edit]Administrative divisions Main articles: Provinces of Saudi Arabia and Governorates of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces[164] (manatiq idāriyya. Reflecting the country's desert conditions. Domesticated animals include camels. baboons. and leopards were relatively numerous until the 1950s. and jerboas. sing. There are a few small areas of grass and trees in southern Asir. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is widespread. Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely high daytime temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night. which have a different status as municipalities (amanah) headed by mayors (amin). sand rats. ).

Province Capital Al Bahah (or Baha) Al Bahah city Northern Borders Arar Al Jawf (or Jouf) Sakaka city Al Madinah Medina Al Qasim Buraidah Ha'il Ha'il city Asir Abha Eastern Province Dammam Al Riyadh Riyadh city Tabuk Tabuk city Najran Najran city Makkah Makkah Jizan Jizan city Provinces of Saudi Arabia [edit]Economy Main article: Economy of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world Saudi Arabia's command economy is petroleum-based. Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.[165] . roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves. comprising about one-fifth of the world's proven total petroleum reserves. compared with 40% from the private sector (see below). The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia's nominal gross domestic product.

[citation needed] Saudi Arabia's published reserves have shown little change since 1980. Saudi Arabia announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies in 1999. Saudi Arabia experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth.[166] Increases in oil prices since 2000 have helped boost per capita GDP to $17.[173] [edit]Demographics Main article: Demographics of Saudi Arabia Further information: Bedouin and Tribes of Arabia [edit]Largest cities .000 in 2007 dollars.381 billion 1999 USD in 2010.14% from a year earlier to stand at $157. the real command-basis GDP was computed to be 330. [167] Taking into account the impact of the real oil price changes on the Kingdom's real gross domestic income.[170] Saudi Arabia is one of only a few fast-growing countries in the world with a relatively high per capita income of $24. OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its members' oil production based on their "proven reserves. Saudi Arabia will be launching six "economic cities" (e.200 (2010)." The higher their reserves. and the cities are projected to contribute $150 billion to the GDP.93SR billion). Tadawul (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76.g. and are expected to increase the per capita income. King Abdullah Economic City) [171] which are planned to be completed by 2020.500 in 2020.400 adjusted for inflation. the more OPEC allows them to produce. with the main exception being an increase of about 100 billion barrels (1.700 at the height of the oil boom in 1981 to $6. or about $7. These six new industrialized cities are intended to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia.6×10 10 m3) between 1987 and 1988.58 points. Market capitalization was up 110. The King of Saudi Arabia has announced that the per capita income is forecast to rise from $15.The government is attempting to promote growth in the private sector by privatizing industries such as power and telecommunications.000 in 2006 to $33.[168] Oil price increases of 2008–2009 have triggered a second oil boom.3 billion (589. Per capita income fell from a high of $11.300 in 1998.23% to close at 4437. In the 1990s. However the urban areas of Riyadh and Jeddah are expected to contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020. pushing Saudi Arabia's budget surplus to $28 billion (110SR billion) in 2005.[172]The cities will be spread around Saudi Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their economy. which makes it the biggest stock market in the Middle East. Shortages of water and rapid population growth may constrain government efforts to increase selfsufficiency in agricultural products.[169] Matthew Simmonshas suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil). which followed the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company.

500. Please see the talk page for more information.800.000 and language This section appears to contradict itself.600.geonames.000 9 Abha 'Asir 500.300.000 2 Jeddah Makkah 3.900.000 10 Al-Khobar Eastern 1 Riyadh Riyadh 6. Saudi Arabia Tabuk 800.000 8 Khamis Mushait 'Asir 600.000 4 Medina Al Madinah 1.html Rank Riyadh Jeddah [edit]Population City name Province Pop.000 6 Tabuk.000 3 Mecca Makkah 1. (February 2012) Mecca Medina .000 5 Dammam Eastern 1. V  T  E Largest cities or towns of Saudi Arabia http://www.000 7 Buraidah Al-Qassim 700.

due to rapid economic and urban growth. the most numerous being Malayalam (1 million). Jordanian/Palestinian: 260.000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991. Sudanese: 250.000).000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia. but presently more than 95% of the population is settled.4 and 14. [183] The Articles 12. "Nearly three million expatriate workers will have to leave the Kingdom in the next few years as the Labor Ministry has put a 20 percent ceiling on the country’s guest workers.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi Citizenship System can be interpreted as requiring applicants to be Muslim. Filipino: 500. Egyptian: 900. Saudi Arabia had a population of 3 million. [176] Slavery was officially abolished in 1962. Indonesian: 250.000. Pakistani: 900. Nejdi Arabic (about 8 million speakers) and Persian Gulf (about 1. Sri Lankan: 350.731.000). The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic (about 6 million speakers).000. 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. Tagalog (700.[181] There are around 100.000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia.076 nonnationals[2] In 1950. a majority of the population was nomadic. Bangladeshi: 500.[175] Until the 1960s.[174] The ethnic composition of Saudi nationals is 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Asian. most of whom live in compounds or gated communities.[179] About 31% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. and Egyptian Arabic (300.[177][178] The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic.000. Syrian: 100.776 including 5. The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages."[185] . They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship.000.000). Arab News reported.000.[184] In a 2011 news story.5 million speakers). because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship.000.000.3 million.000 and Turkish: 100.000. Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers. Urdu(380.000.000.000.Saudi Arabia population density (person per km2) The population of Saudi Arabia as of July 2010 is estimated to be 25. the Saudi Arabia’s slave population was estimated at 300.[182] An estimated 240. [180] Indian: 1. Yemeni: 800. As recently as the early 1960s. Saudi Arabia expelled 800.576.

High unemployment and a generation of young males filled with contempt toward the Royal Family is a significant threat to Saudi social stability. 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. it has been alleged that others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be applied. has produced high levels of several genetic disordersincluding thalassemia. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes. and amounting to at least 2. resulting from the traditional practice of encouraging marriage between close relatives.S. Others want a reformed and more open government and to have more influence in the political process. [198][199] Statistics on the issue are not available through the UN resources because the Saudi government does not issue poverty figures. others. Connections to the West have caused some Saudis to desire the overthrow of the Al Saud. corruption and religious extremism.[152] However. serve as fronts for money laundering and terrorist financing operations.[187][188] Crime is not a significant problem. sickle cell anemia. [189][190][191] Additionally. deafness and muteness.[edit]Social issues Saudi society has a number of issues and tensions. and loopholes in the system cause many to fall victim to abuse and torture. coupled with economic difficulties. drug-use and use of alcohol are getting worse. the Shiite minority. Hussam al-Drewesh and Khaled al-Rasheed were detained after posting . juvenile delinquency. director of the family safety program at the National Guard Hospital. [192] Part of this funding arises through the zakat (an act of charity dictated by Islam) paid by all Saudis to charities. Nura Al-Suwaiyan. Although many charities are genuine. In December 2011. A rare independent opinion poll published in 2010 indicated that Saudis’ main social concerns were unemployment (at 10% in 2010 [186]). and the failure of the government to satisfy this sense of entitlement has led to considerable dissatisfaction. have created civil disturbances in the past.5 percent of their income. spinal muscular atrophy. one in four children are abused in Saudi Arabia. days after the Arab Spring uprisings. [200] Observers researching the issue prefer to stay anonymous [201] because of the risk of being arrested.[139] According to a study conducted by Dr. [190] According to a 2009 U. it is alleged. On the other hand. State Department communication by Hillary Clinton. (disclosed as part of the Wikileaks U.[194] 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. 'cables leaks' controversy in 2010) "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide". located primarily in the Eastern Province.[195] Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia. including the following.[193]The National Society for Human Rights reports that almost 45% of the country's children are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence. and who often complain of institutionalized inequality and repression. has created deep social tensions. Saudi Arabia’s objective of being both a modern and Islamic country.S. Terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have made it clear that Saudi Arabia does harbor indigenous terrorists. Some Saudis feel they are entitled to well-paid government jobs. United States Secretary of State.[196][197] Reporting of poverty remains a state taboo. Three journalists: Feras Boqna.

[210] Proselytizing by non-Muslims is illegal. and Salafism The "Mosque of the Prophet" in Medinacontaining the tomb of Muhammad.[210] and the last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985. 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 ProphetMuhammad and his companions[208] Approximately 40% of Saudi nationals consider themselves Wahhabis. while Shias represent around 10–15% of the Muslim population. [211] Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter. or 97% of the total population. the U.[204] [edit]Religion See also: Religion in Saudi Arabia and Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. although there are nearly a million Christians – nearly all foreign workers – in Saudi Arabia.[206] 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.S. [211] Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) carries the death penalty. 'intolerant' or 'ultra-conservative'. founded in the Arabian Peninsula by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. Wahhabism. Compensation in court cases discriminates against non-Muslims: once fault . 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". is often described as 'puritanical'. or 'We are being cheated'[202] on Saudis living in poverty to YouTube. [203] Authors of the video claim that 22% of Saudis are considered to be poor (2009) and 70% of Saudis do not own their houses.[209] In 2010.10-minute film 'Mal3ob 3alena'. [205] Data for Saudi Arabia comes primarily from general population surveys. [210] No faith other than Islam is permitted to be practised. There are about 25 million people who are Muslim. However. [205] About 85–90% of Saudis are Sunni. preferring the term Salafism[207]).[210] Even private prayer services are forbidden in practice and the Saudi religious police reportedly regularly search the homes of Christians. [211] There are no churches or other non-Muslim houses of worship permitted in the country. although there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years. which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios. [211] There are some Hindus and Buddhists in Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Watch has described the position of Saudi women as like that of a minor. a Jew or Christian half.[220] In practice. [217] Women also face discrimination in the courts. where the testimony of one man equals that of two women.S. with little authority over their own lives.[219] A woman can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband or judicially if her husband has harmed her.[215] Every adult woman has to have a close male relative as her "guardian".[214] The World Economic Forum 2010 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 129th out of 134 countries for gender parity. to hold some types of business licenses.[214]Polygamy is permitted for men. some officials will still ask for it. and in family and inheritance law. State department considers that “discrimination against women is a significant problem” in Saudi Arabia and that women have few political or social rights. a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined.[211] According to Human Rights determined.[213] [edit]Women in Saudi society A woman wearing a niqāb See also: Women's rights in Saudi Arabia The U. 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. [212] Restrictions are imposed on the public celebration of Shia festivals such as Ashura and on the Shia taking part in communal public worship. [214] As a result. it is very difficult for . [216] These include giving approval for the woman to travel. the Shia minority face systematic discrimination from the Saudi government in education." [214] Even where a guardian’s approval is not legally required. and all others a sixteenth.[214] After her 2008 visit.[218] and men have a unilateral right to divorce their wives (talaq) without needing any legal justification. to study at a university or college and to work if the type of business is not "deemed appropriate for a woman.[216] The guardian is entitled to make a number of critical decisions on a woman's behalf. the justice system and especially religious freedom.

" [229][230] A number of Saudi women have risen to the top of some professions or otherwise achieved prominence. Girls are able to attend school. The residue is divided between agnatic heirs.[226] Female literacy is estimated to be around 70% compared to male literacy of around 85%. head of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh and was the late King Fahad’s personal ophthalmologist. the Quran specifies that fixed portions of the deceased's estate must be left to the Qu'ranic heirs. and secondary schools. with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since 2000. Ghada Al-Mutairi. at the secondary level. Wajeha al-Huwaider. Higher education has expanded rapidly. King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections. no matter how high their status. even the 'pampered' ones among them. for "failing to understand the uniqueness of Saudi society. However. The school system is composed of elementary. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam. because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. has said "Saudi women are weak. but fewer girls attend than boys. for example Dr. women had a 60% dropout rate. [214] and these are enforced by the religious police. following the next round of these elections.[233][234] [edit]Education Main article: Education in Saudi Arabia Education is free at all levels. and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah founded in . and in 2005–2006.[214] There is also effectively a ban on women driving. [2] Classes are segregated by gender. Institutions of higher education include the country's first University. as they exchange education for marriage. heads a medical research center in California[231] and Dr. and. This disproportion is reflected in the rate of literacy. The drop-out rate of girls increases around puberty. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia. female heirs receive half the portion of male heirs. the Islamic University at Medina founded in 1961.[232] On 25 September 2011. the mutawa.[222] They include requiring women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in restaurants. Salwa Al-Hazzaa. there is evidence that many women do not want radical change. a male guardian's permission is required in order to vote.a Saudi woman to obtain a judicial divorce.[228] Even many advocates of reform reject foreign critics.[223] Men marry girls as young as ten in Saudi Arabia[224][225] Child marriage is believed to hinder the cause of women's education. which exceeds 85 percent among males and is about 70 percent among females.[221] Cultural norms impose restrictions on women when in public. intermediate.[2] Leading Saudi feminist and journalist. to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting. Roughly 25% of college-aged young women do not attend college.[220] With regard to the law of inheritance. students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track.[221] A Sunni Muslim can bequeath a maximum of a third of his property to non-Qu'ranic heirs. King Saud University founded in 1957. full-length black cloak covering the entire body) and to conceal their hair."[227] Although many Saudis would like more freedom in Saudi Arabia.[221] Generally.

Christians. Hindus. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Sufis. Shiites. its interpretation and understanding (Tafsir) and the application of Islamic tradition to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum. [236][241] [edit]Culture Main article: Culture of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has centuries-old attitudes and traditions. 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. as reported by the UK Mail. the government is aiming to slowly modernise the education system through the ‘Tatweer’ reform program. Jews. [240] 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.[235] As a consequence. Institutes devoted to Islamic studies. the Daily Mail and Wikileaks . In particular. the memorization by rote of large parts of the Qu'ran. steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction. The many limitations on behaviour and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially. It also aims to create an education system which will provide a more secular and vocationally-based training. [242] However. Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA. for example. leading to reform efforts. Nevertheless. This culture has been bolstered by the austerely puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam. religion. [2] Similarly."[236] A further criticism of the religious focus of the Saudi education system is the nature of the Wahhabicontrolled curriculum. and medicine. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers."). Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions. 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. military studies. in particular. and that Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures’.” that is. Religion taught in this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students. often derived from Arab tribal civilization. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology. [239] The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism.[240] To tackle the twin problems of encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university education for a modern economy. and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films. 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. Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine. which arose in the eighteenth century and now predominates in the country. [57] The study of Islam dominates the Saudi educational system. abound. atheists and others"[237][238] The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world. 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.1967.

the weekend begins on Thursday. Because Friday is the holiest day for Muslims. and specifically the Hejaz. As a consequence. drugs and sex. Celebration of other Islamic holidays. and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina which contains Muhammad's tomb. the Kaaba. 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. has many of the most significant historic Muslim sites including the two holiest sites of Mecca and Medina. Public observance of non-Islamic religious holidays is prohibited.") [243] Public expression of opinion about domestic political or social matters is discouraged. the Hejaz cities have suffered from considerable destruction of their physical heritage and. and other mosques founded byAbu Bakr (Muhammad's father-in-law and the first Caliph). and Salman al-Farsi (another of Muhammad's companions). Mecca Saudi Arabia. There are no organizations such as political parties or labour unions to provide public forums. Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques scattered throughout the country. Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance.[245] One of the King's titles is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. only two religious holidays are publicly recognized. which contains Islam's most sacred place.[57][244] In accordance with Wahhabi doctrine. are tolerated only when celebrated locally and on a small scale. such as the Prophet’s birthday and ʿĀshūrāʾ (an important holiday for Shīʿites). under Saudi rule. most over a thousand years old. with the exception of 23 September. idolatry). which commemorates the unification of the kingdom. the wife of the Prophet. now the site of the local Hilton hotel. as the cradle of Islam. the house . Five times each day. Umar (the second Caliph). ʿĪd al-Fit rṭ and ʿĪd al-Adṭh ṭā.[249] Other historic buildings that have been destroyed include the house ofKhadijah. and Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram. have been demolished.indicate that the Saudi Royal family applies a different moral code to itself ("WikiLeaks cables: Saudi princes throw parties boasting drink. the two mosques being Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.[57] [edit]Islamic heritage sites See also: Mecca. it has been estimated that about 95% of Mecca's historic buildings. Medina. Royals flout puritanical laws to throw parties for young elite while religious police are forced to turn a blind eye. for example.[248] These include the mosque originally built by Muhammad's daughter Fatima. Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph). the house of Abu Bakr.[246][247] However.

[edit]Entertainment. Music of Saudi Arabia. Saudi men wear a camel-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. It is ankle length. sport and cuisine Main articles: Cinema of Saudi Arabia. Some women choose to cover their faces with a niqāb and some do not. men usually wear an ankle length garmet woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb). and as a political response to an increase in Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque . The predominantly loose and flowing. the arts. [250] [edit]Dress Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty. Abaya (Arabic: ‫ )عباية‬is a women's garment. Ghutrah (Arabic: ‫ )غتره‬is a traditional headdress typically worn by Arab men. and Sport in Saudi Arabia During the 1970s. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs. now the location of the King's palace in Mecca. with a keffiyeh (a large checkered square of cotton held in place by a cord coil) or a ghutra (a plain white square made of finer cotton. Agal (Arabic: ‫ )عقال‬is an Arab headdress constructed of cord which is fastened around  the Ghutrah to hold it in place.[251] It has been reported that there now are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad. Saudi Arabian cuisine. Bisht (Arabic: ‫ )بشت‬is a traditional Arabic men’s cloak usually only worn for prestige on special  occasions such as weddings. It is commonly worn in areas with an arid climate. Traditionally. The agal is usually black in colour. Thawb (Arabic: ‫ )ثوب‬is the standard Arabic word for garment. [252] During the Islamic revival movement in the 1980s. especially in dress). and appliques. usually with long  sleeves similar to a robe. cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom and were not considered un-Islamic. to provide protection from direct sun exposure. It is a black cloak which loosely covers the entire body  except the head. folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. metallic thread. Women are required to wear anabaya or modest clothing when in public. also held in place by a cord coil) worn on the head. his family or companions have been lost. but covering. It is made of a square  of cloth ("scarf"). and also protection of the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand. garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert climate.of Ali-Oraid. coins. the grandson of the Prophet. usually cotton.[250] Critics have described this as "Saudi vandalism" and claim that over the last 50 years 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad. and the Mosque of abu-Qubais. For rare chilly days. although they were seen as contrary to Arab tribal norms. sequins.

and clothes. played by both men and women. Flat. However. an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle. and various types of percussion instruments. is the traditional national Mecca. the government closed all cinemas and theaters. as is shāwarmā (shawarma). is popular. Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have limited the visual arts. Music and dance have always been part of Saudi life. As in other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. a marinated grilled meat dish of lamb. and abstract designs and by calligraphy. although several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular acclaim in the Arab world – albeit generating official hostility in their home country. In addition. such as Western housing styles. a rice dish with fish or shrimp. is still practiced. served in the Turkish style. windsurfing. These include Ghazi Algosaibi. some cinemas have re-opened. machbūs (kabsa). or chicken. the most popular is a martial line dance known as the ʿardṭah. which tend to be dominated by geometric. Persian. known as nabat īṭ .[254] [255][256] Football (soccer) is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. as are dates and fresh fruit. and African food. Bedouin poetry. begun in 1974. such as the t a ṭ bl (drum) and the t ā ṭ r (tambourine). The annual King's Camel Race. floral. frequently armed with swords or rifles. unleavened bread is a staple of virtually every meal. known as khūzī. which includes lines of men. furnishings.[253] From the 18th century onward. Turki al-Hamad and Rajaa al-Sanea. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. and has been heavily influenced by Turkish.[57] . Abdelrahman Munif. Instruments include the rabābah. with theSaudi Arabian national basketball team winning bronze at the 1999 Asian Championship. mutton.[257][258][259] More traditional sports such as camel racing became more popular in the 1970s. Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged artistic development inconsistent with its teaching. another traditional pursuit. Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not consumed and other animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal.[57] Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature. is one of the sport’s most important contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region. Kebabs are popular.[57] Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. dancing to the beat of drums and tambourines. Falconry. With the advent of oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences. is the traditional beverage. A dish consisting of a stuffed lamb. Coffee. sailing and basketball are also popular. is still very popular. A stadium in Riyadh holds races in the winter. with King Abdullah's reforms from 2005.[citation needed] Scuba diving. Of the native dances.

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