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, Muhḥammadun rasūlu l-lāh"
"There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God."[1][a] (Shahada)
Anthem: as-Salām al-Malakiyy
Speed for Glory

and largest city


24°39′N 46°46′E
Official languages


Saudi Arabian
Saudi (informal)

Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy



Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz


Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz




Kingdom founded

23 September 1932[6]



2,149,690[5] km2 (13th)

870,000 sq mi

Water (%)



2012 estimate 29,195,895[7] (43rd)



12.3/km2 (216th)

31/sq mi

2012 estimate



$906.806 billion[8] (19th)


Per capita

GDP (nominal)

$31,275[8] (28th)
2012 estimate



$727.307 billion[8] (19th)


Per capita

HDI (2013)

$25,085[8] (30th)


high · 57th

Saudi riyal (SR) (SAR)

Time zone


Drives on the right
Calling code


ISO 3166 code
Internet TLD



^ 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 asSa‘ūdiyyah), officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic: ‫المملكة العربية السعودية‬
al-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.[10]
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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

See also: Arab (etymology)
Following the unification of the kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd, 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, king Abdul Aziz Al Saud. This is
normally translated as "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English,[15] although it literally
means "the Saudi Arab Kingdom".[16]
The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Suʻūdīyah in the Arabic name of the

Arabia soon became a politically peripheral region of the Muslim world as the focus shifted to the more developed conquered lands.[25] 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. 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.[28] founder of the Wahhabi movement.[17][18] Al Saud is an Arabic name formed by adding the word Al. meaning "family of" or "House of". Muhammad bin Saud (Muhammad.[21] The Prophet of Islam. Following his death in 632. known as the Al Saud. located in the Hejaz in the west of the Arabian Peninsula. formed from the dynastic name of Al Saud (‫)آل سعود‬. this is the father of the dynasty's 18th century founder. One reason was to thwart Portuguese attempts to attack the Red Sea (hence the Hejaz) and the Indian Ocean. the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz.[26] [27] The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family. conquering huge swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in west to modern day Pakistan in east) in a matter of decades. Most of the remainder of what became Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule. founder of the[20] 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. joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia. began in Nejd in central Arabia in 1744. In the early 7th century. Its inclusion indicated that the country's ruler viewed it as the personal possession of the royal family. a strict puritanical form of Sunni Islam. Asir and Al-Hasa) to the Empire and claimed suzerainty over the interior. Cairo or Istanbul. In so doing. Muhammad united the various tribes of the peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity. son of Saud).[19] to the personal name of an ancestor. which is a type of adjective known as a nisba. when Muhammad bin Saud. such as Mecca and Medina.[22] From the 10th century to the early 20th century Mecca and Medina were under the control of a local Arab ruler known as the Sharif of Mecca. but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empires based in Baghdad.[23][24] In the 16th century. Muhammad.[29] This . In the case of the Al Saud.

as he recognized the danger of a direct conflict with the British. was established in 1824. where their leaders were massacred. the Al Rashid. the Allied victory in World War I resulted in the end of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia. By 1891.[30] The first "Saudi state" established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh. Ibn Saud declared himself King of the Hejaz. and instead continued his struggle with the Al Rashid.[32] A much smaller second "Saudi state".[31] but was destroyed by 1818 by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt. the Ikhwan leadership's objective switched to expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan. Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers. the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have a suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Ibn Saud took control of Riyadh in Nejd and brought the Al Saud back to Nejd. a tribal army inspired by Wahhabism and led by Sultan ibn Bijad and Faisal Al-Dawish. This met with Ibn Saud's opposition. they turned against Ibn Saud and. the Al Saud contested control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia with another Arabian ruling family.[40] In 1932 the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[35] In 1902. he added the title of King of Nejd.alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Mohammed Ali Pasha. Throughout the rest of the 19th century.[33][34] with the Sharif of Mecca having preeminence and ruling the Hejaz.[23]) Ibn Saud gained the support of the Ikhwan. located mainly in Nejd. rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia. In 1916.[23] At the beginning of the 20th century.[36] With the aid of the Ikhwan. were defeated in 1930 at the Battle of Sabilla. As a result. Iraq and Kuwait.[37] Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective. and began raiding those territories. Following the latter's final defeat. the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud were driven into exile in Kuwait. At the same time. the Ikhwan became disenchanted with Ibn Saud's domestic policies which appeared to favor modernization and the increase in the number of non-Muslim foreigners in the country. with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I). the Sharif of Mecca. Hussein bin Ali.[23] After the conquest of the Hejaz. led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state. Ibn Saud captured Hasa from the Ottomans in 1913.[38] Ibn Saud avoided involvement in the Arab Revolt.[39] A year later. reliant on limited . Subject to this suzerainty. after a two-year struggle. he took the title Sultan of Nejd in 1921.[23] Post-unification Main article: Modern history of Saudi Arabia The new kingdom was one of the poorest countries in the world. the Hejaz was conquered in 1924-25 and on 10 January 1926. With the help of the Ikhwan. and which had grown quickly after its foundation in 1912.

[43] Khalid's reign saw economic and social development progress at an extremely rapid rate. At the same time. In 1973.[23] Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi regime.[46] Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength. transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country.agriculture and pilgrimage revenues.[41] However. which was the center for newspapers and radio. there were several anti-government uprisings in the region in 1979 and 1980. primarily in the Hejaz.[47] .[42] In 1979.[44] and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy.[23] in foreign policy. By the 1950s this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing. fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. As a consequence. the government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant. Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and substantial political leverage internationally. In fact. close ties with the US were developed. Saudi Arabia led an oil boycott against the Western countries that supported Israel in the October War against Egypt and Syria.[45] The government regained control of the mosque after 10 days and those captured were executed. However. 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).[23] Abdul Aziz bin Saud. 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. thereby decreasing US control over Saudi oil. But the large influx of foreigners to work in the oil industry increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia. 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. was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists. [42] By 1976 Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world. Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964. first king of Saudi Arabia King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. two events occurred which greatly concerned the Al Saud regime. The second event. Saudi Arabia gained control of a proportion (20%) of Aramco in 1972. Cultural life rapidly developed. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Prince Faisal bin Musaid and was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid. Prince Faisal emerged. the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government. Oil prices quadrupled.

In December 1993 the Consultative Council was inaugurated. who did not in any way support the Islamist terrorists were nevertheless deeply unhappy with the Saudi regime's policies. In 1991. Fahd continued to develop close relations with the United States and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment. Although now extremely wealthy. and discontent with the royal family.[51] Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the regime.The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after unification in 1932 In 1980 Saudi Arabia took full control of Aramco from the US. Saudi Arabia's economy was near stagnant. Washington and Virginia were Saudi nationals. In March 1992. Although there was dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country.all chosen by the king. King Fahd. and has been reflected in a rise in civil unrest.[49] However.[23] King Fahd allowed American and coalition troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. The King's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible. Fahd made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: "A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed. It is composed of a chairman and 60 members .[23] The vast wealth generated by oil revenues was beginning to have an even greater impact on Saudi society. He invited the Kuwaiti government and many of its citizens to stay in Saudi Arabia. mass public education. and the creation of new media. who added the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" to his name in 1986. Saudi Arabia condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and asked the US to intervene. In response.[50] Many Saudis. and was succeeded by his brother. the Saudi regime spent $25 billion in support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. 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. King Khalid died of a heart attack in June 1982. High taxes and a growth in unemployment have contributed to discontent."[23] . Saudi Arabian forces were involved both in bombing raids on Iraq and in the land invasion that helped to liberate Kuwait. It led to rapid modernisation. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi national (until stripped of his nationality in 1994). 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 attacks on New York. political power continued to be monopolized by the royal family[23] leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government. This and the presence of increasingly large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. as well as Islamic terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals. urbanization. which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā].[48] In the 1980s. a number of limited "reforms" were initiated by King Fahd. he introduced the "Basic Law)" which emphasised the duties and responsibilities of a ruler. but expelled citizens of Yemen and Jordan because of their governments' support of Iraq.

the first-ever nationwide municipal elections were held in Saudi Arabia. Abdullah assumed the role of de facto regent. Women were not allowed to take part in the poll. However. armed forces. No political reforms were announced as part of the package. though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were pardoned.[23] In 2005. signs of discontent continued and included. killing eleven people. encouragement of foreign investment. taking on the day-to-day running of the country. in 2003 and 2004. Abdullah announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary. according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992.[57] Although male-only municipal elections were held on 29 September 2011 [58][59] Abdullah announced that women will be able to vote and be elected in the 2015 municipal elections.[60] Politics Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.[55] In 2011 and 2012 Saudi Arabia was affected by its own Arab Spring protests.[56] In response. who continued the policy of minimum reform and clamping down on protests. King Abdullah announced a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10.[54] Police stopped the demonstration after about 15 minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people. Jeddah.[53] In February–April 2005. the king must comply with Sharia (that is. Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince. as the "Sudairi Seven"). The Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the country's constitution. but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia. his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers (known. with Fahd. King Fahd died and was succeeded by Abdullah. In February 2009.[61] although. The king introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation.[23] On 29 January 2011. hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah in a rare display of criticism against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city. and Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab nation where no . and privatization. Yanbu and Khobar. Islamic law) and the Quran. a series of bombings and armed violence in Riyadh.[52] From the 1990s.7 billion.Oil and gas pipelines in the Middle-East In 1995. and also to be nominated to the Shura Council. 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.

[64] Outside of the Al-Saud. executive. even if peaceful. with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events. The royal family dominates the political system. and judicial functions[65] and royal decrees to form the basis of the country's legislation.[61] politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family.[67] In many ways the approach to government differs little from the traditional system of tribal rule. and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society.[70] Monarchy and royal family The king combines legislative. and presides over the Council of Ministers (Majlis al-Wuzarāʾ). is not tolerated. Tribal identity remains strong and. 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. 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. tribal sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major decisions. 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 2003.000. outside of the royal family.[53] However.[65] As mentioned earlier. with most power and influence being wielded by the 200 or so male descendants of King Abdul Aziz.[74] Long term political and government . open protest against the government. political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation. the Al Saud.[71] The king is also the prime minister. 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.[61] as are the thirteen regional governorships. the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated. which comprises the first and second deputy prime.national elections have ever taken place.[68] The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism. and long-standing tribal and regional particularistic opponents (for example in the Hejaz). since its creation.[73] The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family. liberal critics.[72] The number of princes is estimated to be at least 7.[69] Of these.[65] This process is not reported by the Saudi media. On 25 September 2011.[63] In the absence of national elections and political parties. the Shi'ite minority – particularly in the Eastern Province. all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis.[66] By custom.[62] No political parties or national elections are permitted[61] and according to The Economist's 2010 Democracy Index. 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.

within certain prescribed parameters. the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues. and. in 2010.[93] Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted.[73] The extent of corruption has been described as systemic[85] and endemic. in plea bargain agreements with the company.[78] The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties.[79][81] When prince Sultan died before ascending to the throne on 21 October 2011. when it was claimed that the British defence contractor BAE Systems had paid Prince Bandar US$2 billion in bribes relating to the AlYamamah arms deal. In 2007. who had been Commander of the National Guard since 1963 (until 2010. comprising the late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants.[82] Prince Nayef also died before ascending to the throne in 2012. an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and after his accession in 2005. when he appointed his son to replace him)[75]). the king made significant personnel changes to the government by appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a ministerial post. former Crown Prince Sultan. [86] and its existence was acknowledged[87] and defended[88] by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (a senior member of the royal family[89]) in an interview in 2001.7 (on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean"). the changes have been criticized as being too slow or merely cosmetic.[80] and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or reduced. The creation of the Consultative Council in the early 1990s did not satisfy demands for political participation. personal ambitions and ideological differences. Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 to his death in 2011.[18] the lines between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are blurred.[64] The most powerful clan faction is known as the 'Sudairi Seven'. by which it paid $447 million in fines but did not admit to bribery.[95] There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule. Prince Saud who has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1975[76] and current Minister of Defence and Aviation Prince Salman.[90] Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad undocumented accusations.[68] In 2009. who was Governor of the Riyadh Province from 1962 to 2011. over many years.[79] Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of reform.[92] Prince Bandar denied the allegations. King Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef as crown prince. such as those of King Abdullah.[77] have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes.[97] . former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from 1975 to his death in 2012. been accused of corruption.[91] specific allegations were made in 2007.[83] The Saudi government and the royal family have often. There were divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan. in 2003. In 2005.[96] However.[94] Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 gave Saudi Arabia a score of 4. the first municipal elections were held.[84] In a country that is said to "belong" to the royal family and is named for them.appointments.

[98] the only other example being Iran.[100] In addition.[105] The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh. In return.[71] Sharia is not codified and there is no . they have had a major role in the judicial and education systems[101] and a monopoly of authority in the sphere of religious and social morals. [102] By the 1970s. the 18th century founder of the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam which is today dominant in Saudi Arabia. for instance transferring their control over girls' education to the Ministry of Education. The Quran is the official constitution of the country and a primary source of law.[103] However.[99] The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions. King Abdullah has taken steps to rein back the powers of the ulema.[100] The pact. they were given greater control over the education system[104] and allowed to enforce stricter observance of Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour.[112] they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely linked to the Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage. important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline.[107] The family is second in prestige only to the Al Saud (the royal family)[108] with whom they formed a "mutual support pact"[109] and powersharing arrangement nearly 300 years ago.[102] Legal system Main article: Legal system of Saudi Arabia Verses from the Quran.[111] Although the Al ash-Sheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades. the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority[110] thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule. as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal. for example the imposition of the oil embargo in 1973 and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990. [109] is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Wahhabi doctrine.[106] the country's leading religious family. Arabia is unique in enshrining a religious text as a political document[113] 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).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. [46] Since his accession to the throne in 2005. which persists to this day. this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 by Islamist radicals.[102] The Al ash-Sheikh are the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd alWahhab.[104] The government's response to the crisis included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their financial support: [46] in particular.

there are also extra-Sharia government tribunals which handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees. divergent judgements arise even in apparently identical cases. support the system and say that it maintains a low crime rate. in 2009. and the number of executions have been strongly criticized. King Abdullah issued royal decrees reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system.[126] The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts.[120] lacking in some of the safeguards of justice and unable to deal with the modern world. commercial and corporate law. At trial.[120] Deera Square.[116] The capabilities and reactionary nature of the judges have. Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence (or fiqh) found in pre-modern texts[114] and noted for its literalist interpretation of the Qu'ran and hadith.[117] The Sharia court system constitutes the basic judiciary of Saudi Arabia and its judges and lawyers form part of the ulema.[123] Western-based organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its severe punishments.system of judicial precedent. Additionally. amputation and lashing.[119] The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for being slow. However.[71] Royal decrees supplement Sharia in areas such as labor. but it lacked some basic protections and. in particular. However.[118] 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. in any case. Known locally as "Chop-chop square". it is the location of public beheadings. noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in 2002. the country's religious leadership. such as beheading. stoning.[115] Nevertheless.[124] There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. arcane. although the reforms have yet to be implemented. there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense. Most trials are held in secret. been criticized[122] and.[116] 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 King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger generation. central Riyadh. in a 2008 report. according to a BBC report. traditional tribal law and custom remain significant. had been routinely ignored by judges.[121] In 2007. . 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. "ordinary Saudis". 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.[125] Human Rights Watch.

to monitor their implementation.[128][131] Lashings are a common form of punishment[132] and are often imposed for offences against religion and public morality such as drinking alcohol and neglect of prayer and fasting obligations.[128][129] The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. To date. followed by crucifixion.[127] The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder. by the perpetrator. Gay rights are not recognised. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in June 2012[130] and three recent convictions for witchcraft did not result in execution. Human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women (see Women in Saudi society below). staffed by government employees. stoning or firing squad. the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence.[133] Human rights Main article: Human rights in Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights record. only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between 2007 and 2010. and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order. or blood money. the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country.[134] Saudi Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand. are practised: for instance.[128] Retaliatory punishments.[122] Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a payment of diyya. the government approved the establishment of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). Saudi Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and. an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye. rape. or Qisas. adultery. in 2004. repeated drug use. religious discrimination. armed robbery. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death. witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword.[135] 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[15][136] and is a founder member of the Arab . In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record. the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police (see Religion below).[127] Between 1996 and 2000. apostasy.

[146] and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States.[155] Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict. periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians and condemning Hezbollah.[152] According to the U. as announced at the 2009 Arab League summit.[15] Saudi Arabia supports the intended formation of the Arab Customs Union in 2015 and an Arab common market[138] by 2020. this[148] and Saudi Arabia's role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and proAmerican. Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism."[153] Saudi Arabia's increasing alarm at the rise of Iran is reflected in the reported private comments of King Abdullah[154] urging the US to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake".[140] However. and in 2005 joined the World Trade Organization.S. "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida. Muslim World League. to some extent..[15] King Abdullah with former US President George W. Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."[144] However. particularly the stationing of U. Between the mid-1970s and 2002 Saudi Arabia expended over $70 billion in "overseas development aid".S. in fact.[137] It plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. distanced itself from the U. Saudi Arabia has.[139] As a founding member of OPEC.[150] American politicians and media accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a jihadist culture. prompted the development of a hostile Islamist response internally. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Bush.[65] Relations with the United States became strained following 9/11. spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam. troops on Saudi soil from 1991..[141] There has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and Wahhabism has fomented extremism in recipient countries.[151] Indeed. there is evidence that the vast majority was.S.[142] The two main allegations are that.League.S.[145] In the Arab and Muslim worlds. the Taliban. 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.[156] Following the Arab Spring Saudi Arabia offered asylum . by its nature.[149] As a result. Osama bin Laden and fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. for example. and.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.[147] However.[143] Former CIA director James Woolsey described it as "the soil in which AlQaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing. LeT and other terrorist groups. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). refused to support or to participate in the U. the Saudi government strenuously denies these claims or that it exports religious or cultural extremism. Gulf Cooperation Council.

The SANG is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force. the U. the navy. the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG. In 2005 the armed forces had the following personnel: the army.S.[159] HMS Makkah.[160] On 20 October 2010. 75. Its modern existence. 18. 16. the Royal Saudi Navy. unlike the rest of the armed forces. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces. air defense. Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world's most densely armed nations.[158] The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military. totaling nearly 200. representing about 7% of gross domestic product in 2005. an Al Riyadh class frigate. an independent military force). 15.500 (including 3.000 active-duty personnel. the air 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. the Royal Saudi Air Defense. and originated out of Abdul Aziz's tribal military-religious force.000 marines). the Royal Saudi Air Force.000 tribal levies. The Saudi military consists of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation.000 active soldiers and 25. and paramilitary forces.000. The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: Prince Sultan. is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah's private army since the 1960s and. the Minister of Defense and Aviation. with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US. France and Britain.000. the Ikhwan.[161] The UK has also been a major supplier of military equipment .4 billion in 2005.000. [158] In addition.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. there is an Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah military intelligence service. Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since the mid-'90s and was about US$25. is one of the so-called 'Sudairi Seven' and controls the remainder of the armed forces. Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 10 in the world in government spending for its military. and the SANG had 75. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60. however.[157] Military Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia Further information: Al-Yamamah arms deal Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon.

but wadis are numerous. Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at Saudi Arabia since 1965.[165] Saudi Arabia occupies about 80% of the Arabian peninsula.133 m (10.[65] The Nejd landscape: desert and the Tuwaiq Escarpment near Riyadh Except for the southwestern province of Asir.250. there is a narrow coastal plain. in fact.[65][168] There are virtually no rivers or lakes in the country. known as the Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment. The few fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis. a number of linked deserts and includes the 647.9bn ($3bn) deal to supply Hawk trainer jets to Saudi Arabia. the world's largest contiguous sand desert. East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands and two other smaller desert areas. 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. which is the highest point in the country. On the Red Sea coast.[65] 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.[166] lying between latitudes 16° and 33° N. [167] Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert and associated semidesert and shrubland (see satellite image to right). basins.[164] Geography Main article: Geography of Saudi Arabia Ecoregions as delineated by the WWF. Because the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not precisely defined or marked. The yellow line encloses the ecoregions Arabian Desert. and longitudes 34° and 56° E. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous. and oases.730 sq mi) and lists Saudi Arabia as the world's 13th largest state. the exact size of the country remains unknown. Average .001 sq mi) Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") in the southern part of the country.279 ft) Mount Sawda.[163] In May 2012. and contains the 3.[166] The CIA World Factbook's estimate is 2. It is. British defence giant BAE signed a £1.500 km2 (250.000 km2 (868.[162] Since 1985.

[169] Animal life includes wolves. oryx. hyenas. ). many of which are venomous. An average of 300 mm (12 in) of rainfall occurs during this period. There are a few small areas of grass and trees in southern Asir. Domesticated animals include camels. that is about 60% of the annual precipitation. In the spring and autumn the heat is temperate. Larger animals such as gazelles. Reflecting the country's desert conditions. mongooses. temperatures average around 84 °F (29 °C). The provinces are further divided into 118 governorates (Arabic: manatiq idāriyya. and leopards were relatively numerous until the 1950s. eagles. donkeys. ‫منطقةإدارية‬. goats. baboons.summer temperatures are around 113 °F (45 °C). – singular mintaqah idariyya). The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is widespread. The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (marakiz. The Asir region differs in that it is influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoons. hares. sand grouse and bulbuls. when hunting from motor vehicles reduced these animals almost to extinction. In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 32 °F (0 °C). hawks. Saudi Arabia's plant life mostly consists of small herbs and shrubs requiring little water. and numerous types of lizards.[65] Administrative divisions Main articles: Provinces of Saudi Arabia and Governorates of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces[170] (manatiq idāriyya. Annual rainfall is extremely low. but can be as high as 129 °F (54 °C). and chickens. vultures. usually occurring between October and March. which have a different status as municipalities (amanah) headed by mayors (amin). and jerboas. Birds include falcons (which are caught and trained for hunting). sand rats. There is a wide variety of marine life in the Persian Gulf. This number includes the 13 provincial capitals. There are several species of snakes. sheep. sing. Province Capital Provinces of Saudi Arabia 1 Al Jawf (or Jouf) Sakaka city 2 Northern Borders Arar 3 Tabuk Tabuk city 4 Ha'il 5 Al Madinah Medina 6 Al Qasim Buraidah Ha'il city . No. markaz).

[171] The government is attempting to promote growth in the private sector by privatizing industries such as power and telecommunications. 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 reserves. In the 1990s.000 in 2007 dollars.7 Makkah Mecca 8 Al Riyadh Riyadh city 9 Eastern Province Dammam 10 Al Bahah (or Baha) Al Bahah city 11 Asir 12 Jizan Jizan city 13 Najran Najran city Abha 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 experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth.300 in 1998.700 at the height of the oil boom in 1981 to $6. which followed the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company. Saudi Arabia announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies in 1999. or . compared with 40% from the private sector (see below). Per capita income fell from a high of $11. Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.[172] Increases in oil prices since 2000 have helped boost per capita GDP to $17.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves. Shortages of water and rapid population growth may constrain government efforts to increase self-sufficiency in agricultural products. Saudi Arabia's command economy is petroleum-based.

and are expected to increase the per capita income. with the main exception being an increase of about 100 billion barrels (1.3 billion (589.[179] Gold mining is carried out in the Mahd adh Dhahab region (also known as the "Cradle of Gold"). The King of Saudi Arabia has announced that the per capita income is forecast to rise from $15.200 (2010).[180] Reporting of poverty remains a state taboo. OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its members' oil production based on their "proven reserves.000 in 2006 to $33.[183] Observers researching the issue prefer to stay anonymous[184] because of the risk of being arrested.[173] Taking into account the impact of the real oil price changes on the Kingdom's real gross domestic income.g.400 adjusted for inflation.93SR billion).500 in 2020. Saudi Arabian stores suffered a significant decrease in Gold sales in 2012. 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. and the cities are projected to contribute $150 billion to the GDP. the real command-basis GDP was computed to be 330. However the urban areas of Riyadh and Jeddah are expected to contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020. In December 2011. Hussam al-Drewesh and Khaled al- .[175] Matthew Simmons has suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil). Saudi Arabia will be launching six "economic cities" (e. days after the Arab Spring uprisings. These six new industrialized cities are intended to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia. pushing Saudi Arabia's budget surplus to $28 billion (110SR billion) in 2005.[citation needed] Saudi Arabia's published reserves have shown little change since 1980.[176] 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. which makes it the biggest stock market in the Middle East. Three journalists: Feras Boqna. Market capitalization was up 110.[178] The cities will be spread around Saudi Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their economy.about $7.6×1010 m3) between 1987 and 1988.[181][182] Statistics on the issue are not available through the UN resources because the Saudi government does not issue poverty figures. King Abdullah Economic City)[177] which are planned to be completed by 2020." The higher their reserves.381 billion 1999 USD in 2010.14% from a year earlier to stand at $157. the more OPEC allows them to produce.58 points.23% to close at 4437. Tadawul (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76.[174] Oil price increases of 2008–2009 have triggered a second oil boom.

They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship. Yemeni: 800.Rasheed were detained after posting 10-minute film 'Mal3ob 3alena'.576. (February 2012) Saudi Arabia population density (person per km2) The population of Saudi Arabia as of July 2010 is estimated to be 25.000. a majority of the population was nomadic. Saudi Arabia had a population of 3 million.000. Arab News reported. "Nearly three million expatriate workers will .[194] There are around 100.731.[193] Indian: 1.[187] Demographics Main article: Demographics of Saudi Arabia This section appears to contradict itself. Pakistani: 900.776 including 5.000.000.[197] In a 2011 news story. Sudanese: 250.[195] An estimated 240.000. Saudi Arabia expelled 800.4 and 14.000. Filipino: 500.000. Egyptian: 900. due to rapid economic and urban growth. because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship.3 million. Bangladeshi: 500. most of whom live in compounds or gated communities.[189] Until the 1960s. but presently more than 95% of the population is settled.000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia.[188] The ethnic composition of Saudi nationals is 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Arab.[191][192] About 31% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia.000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991.[190] Slavery was officially abolished in 1962. Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers.000.000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia. Sri Lankan: 350. As recently as the early 1960s.[196] The Articles 12.000.000 and Turkish: 100.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi Citizenship System can be interpreted as requiring applicants to be Muslim.076 non-nationals[5] In 1950. 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.[186] Authors of the video claim that 22% of Saudis are considered to be poor (2009) and 70% of Saudis do not own their houses. Please see the talk page for more information. or 'We are being cheated'[185] on Saudis living in poverty to YouTube.000. the Saudi Arabia's slave population was estimated at 300. Jordanian/Palestinian: 260. Indonesian: 250. Syrian: 100.000.

the most numerous being Tagalog (700.[204] In 2010.5 million speakers).000). The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic (about 6 million speakers).[200] Data for Saudi Arabia comes primarily from general population surveys. although there are nearly a million Christians – nearly all foreign workers – in Saudi Arabia.[199] Religion Main article: Religion in Saudi Arabia See also: Islam in Saudi Arabia and Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia.[206] Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter. However. or 97% of the total population. 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 Muhammad and his companions[203] Shias face persecution in employment and religious ceremonies. which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios. and Egyptian Arabic (300. 'intolerant' or 'ultra-conservative'.[201] 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. There are about 25 million people who are Muslim. Wahhabism. while Shias represent around 10–15% of the Muslim population.S.[200] About 85–90% of Saudis are Sunni. is often described as 'puritanical'. Rohingya (400. founded in the Arabian Peninsula by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. preferring the term Salafism[202]).[205] Even private prayer services are forbidden in practice and the Saudi religious police reportedly regularly search the homes of Christians.[206] There are no churches or other non-Muslim houses of worship permitted in the country.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.000). The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages.000). the U."[198] Languages The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. and Salafism The "Mosque of the Prophet" in Medina containing the tomb of Muhammad. [205] No faith other than Islam is permitted to be practiced.[206] . Urdu (380. Nejdi Arabic (about 8 million speakers) and Gulf Arabic (about 1. 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".000).

Rank City name Province 11 Tabuk Tabuk 569.Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) carries the death penalty.[205] Proselytizing by non-Muslims is illegal.368 987. a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined.675. the justice system and especially religious freedom.228 Mecca Medina 2 Jeddah Makkah 3 Mecca Makkah 389.[206] There are some Hindus and Buddhists in Saudi Arabia. a Jew or Christian half.182 Makkah 3.180.914 13 16 12 Ha'il Ha'il 412. although there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years.[205] and the last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985.063.797 Pop.993 4 Medina 378. Compensation in court cases discriminates against non-Muslims: once fault is determined. [207] Restrictions are imposed on the public celebration of Shia festivals such as Ashura and on the Shia taking part in communal public worship.758 Hafar Al-Batin Eastern . the Shia minority face systematic discrimination from the Saudi government in education. Riyadh Jeddah 1 Riyadh Riyadh 5.[206] According to Human Rights Watch.112 15 Al-Kharj Riyadh 6 Ta'if Qatif Eastern 371.456. 5% of Saudis are atheists. and all others a sixteenth.259 1.325 Eastern 1.[208] According to a 2012 poll.328.949 Al Madinah 1.770 14 Jubail Eastern 5 Al-Ahsa 376.[209] Largest cities v t e Largest cities or towns of Saudi Arabia Central Department of Statistics & Information [1] Rank City name Province Pop.

often derived from Arab tribal civilization. the weekend begins on Thursday. Nevertheless. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited. as reported by the UK Mail. The many limitations on behaviour and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially.[65] Islamic heritage sites . which arose in the eighteenth century and now predominates in the country.112 614. Because Friday is the holiest day for Muslims. drugs and sex. Five times each day.551 Al Qunfudhah Makkah Culture Main article: Culture of Saudi Arabia Stoning of the Devil in Mina Saudi Arabia has centuries-old attitudes and traditions. There are no organizations such as political parties or labour unions to provide public forums. Public observance of non-Islamic religious holidays is prohibited.000 18 Najran Najran 329.")[211] Public expression of opinion about domestic political or social matters is discouraged.[65][212] In accordance with Wahhabi doctrine.675 10 KhobarEastern 272. such as the Prophet's birthday and ʿĀshūrāʾ (an important holiday for Shīʿites).093 19 Yanbu Al Madinah 578. for example. which commemorates the unification of the kingdom. This culture has been bolstered by the austerely puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam. only two religious holidays are publicly recognized. are tolerated only when celebrated locally and on a small scale. and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films. Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. ʿĪd al-Fit rḥ and ʿĪd al-Adḥh ḥā. Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques scattered throughout the country.424 'Asir Al-Qassim 903. Royals flout puritanical laws to throw parties for young elite while religious police are forced to turn a blind eye. with the exception of 23 September.7 Dammam Eastern 8 Khamis Mushait 9 Buraidah 298. 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.500 20 366. Celebration of other Islamic holidays. 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.[210] However.").597 17 Abha 'Asir 630.

has many of the most significant historic Muslim sites including the two holiest sites of Mecca and Medina. it has been estimated that about 95% of Mecca's historic buildings. coins. Ghutrah (Arabic: ‫ )غتره‬is a traditional headdress typically worn by Arab men. most over a thousand years old. sequins.[216] These include the mosque originally built by Muhammad's daughter Fatima. the Hejaz cities have suffered from considerable destruction of their physical heritage and. the wife of the Prophet.[217] Other historic buildings that have been destroyed include the house of Khadijah. now the location of the King's palace in Mecca. the Kaaba. now the site of the local Hilton hotel. Umar (the second Caliph). As a consequence. the grandson of the Prophet. for example.[219] It has been reported that there now are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad. men usually wear an ankle length garment woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb).[218] Dress Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty. and the Mosque of abu-Qubais. his family or companions have been lost. also held in place by an agal) worn on the head. 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. 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. the house of AliOraid.[214][215] However.See also: Mecca. the house of Abu Bakr. Medina. folded and wrapped in various styles around . The predominantly loose and flowing. especially in dress). but covering. and AlMasjid al-Nabawi in Medina which contains Muhammad's tomb. which contains Islam's most sacred place. and appliques. and other mosques founded by Abu Bakr (Muhammad's father-in-law and the first Caliph). Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph). garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert climate. Women are required to wear an abaya or modest clothing when in public. Traditionally. and specifically the Hejaz. have been demolished.[213] One of the King's titles is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. under Saudi rule. metallic thread. as the cradle of Islam. Saudi men wear a camel-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. For rare chilly days. and Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram.[218] Critics have described this as "Saudi vandalism" and claim that over the last 50 years 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad. usually cotton. idolatry). It is made of a square of cloth ("scarf"). and Salman al-Farsi (another of Muhammad's companions). Mecca Saudi Arabia. the two mosques being Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs.

with King Abdullah's reforms from 2005. Thawb (Arabic: ‫ )ثوب‬is the standard Arabic word for garment. Agal (Arabic: ‫ )عقال‬is an item of Arab headgear constructed of cord which is fastened around the Ghutrah to hold it in place.the head. The agal is usually black in colour. Bisht (Arabic: ‫ )بشت‬is a traditional Arabic men's cloak usually only worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings. and Sport in Saudi Arabia During the 1970s. Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged artistic development inconsistent with its teaching. Bedouin poetry. floral.[220] During the Islamic revival movement in the 1980s. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. Turki al-Hamad and Rajaa al-Sanea. although they were seen as contrary to Arab tribal norms. known as nabat ḥī. such as Western housing styles. It is commonly worn in areas with an arid climate.[222][223][224] .[65] Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature. In addition. With the advent of oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences. the arts. Entertainment. However. the most popular is a martial line dance known as the ʿardḥah. usually with long sleeves similar to a robe. which includes lines of men. frequently armed with swords or rifles. which tend to be dominated by geometric. some cinemas have re-opened. the government closed all cinemas and theaters. Some women choose to cover their faces with a niqāb and some do not. Saudi Arabian cuisine. cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom and were not considered unIslamic. Abaya (Arabic: ‫ )عباية‬is a women's garment. Abdelrahman Munif. Instruments include the rabābah. It is a black cloak which loosely covers the entire body except the head. Music and dance have always been part of Saudi life. and as a political response to an increase in Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. and abstract designs and by calligraphy. Of the native dances. It is ankle length. and various types of percussion instruments. dancing to the beat of drums and tambourines. These include Ghazi Algosaibi. to provide protection from direct sun exposure. sport and cuisine Main articles: Cinema of Saudi Arabia. such as the t a ḥ bl (drum) and the t ā ḥ r (tambourine). an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle. Music of Saudi Arabia.[221] From the 18th century onward. and clothes. is still very popular. and also protection of the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand. furnishings. although several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular acclaim in the Arab world – albeit generating official hostility in their home country. Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have limited the visual arts.

A stadium in Riyadh holds races in the winter.[65] Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. [231][232][233] Additionally. State Department communication by Hillary Clinton. Flat. juvenile delinquency.[158] However. has created deep social tensions. as is shāwarmā (shawarma). Connections to the West have caused some Saudis to desire the overthrow of the Al Saud. played by both men and women. as are dates and fresh fruit. is the traditional beverage. known as khūzī. windsurfing. is the traditional national dish.[232] According to a 2009 U. High unemployment and a generation of young males filled with contempt toward the Royal Family is a significant threat to Saudi social stability. Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not consumed and other animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal.S. drug-use and use of alcohol are getting worse. corruption and religious extremism. and who often complain of institutionalized inequality and repression. Falconry. mutton. Saudi Arabia's objective of being both a modern and Islamic country. with the Saudi Arabian national basketball team winning bronze at the 1999 Asian Championship. served in the Turkish style. a rice dish with fish or shrimp.[65] Society Saudi society has a number of issues and tensions. Coffee.5% of their income. Some Saudis feel they are entitled to well-paid government jobs. sailing and basketball are also popular. a marinated grilled meat dish of lamb. A rare independent opinion poll published in 2010 indicated that Saudis' main social concerns were unemployment (at 10% in 2010[228]). Terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have made it clear that Saudi Arabia does harbor indigenous terrorists. another traditional pursuit. A dish consisting of a stuffed lamb. machbūs (kabsa). 'cables leaks' controversy in 2010) "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide". (disclosed as part of the Wikileaks U. begun in 1974. The annual King's Camel Race. unleavened bread is a staple of virtually every meal. As in other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. located primarily in the Eastern Province. and has been heavily influenced by Turkish. have created civil disturbances in the past. Although many charities are genuine. is still practiced.[citation needed] Scuba diving. United States Secretary of State. coupled with economic difficulties. and amounting to at least 2. On the other hand. the Shiite minority. it is alleged. Kebabs are popular. Persian. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes . others.Football (soccer) is the national sport in Saudi Arabia.S. and African food. Others want a reformed and more open government and to have more influence in the political process. is one of the sport's most important contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region. and the failure of the government to satisfy this sense of entitlement has led to considerable dissatisfaction.[229][230] Crime is not a significant problem. is popular.[234] Part of this funding arises through the zakat (an act of charity dictated by Islam) paid by all Saudis to charities. or chicken. serve as fronts for money laundering and terrorist financing operations.[225][226][227] More traditional sports such as camel racing became more popular in the 1970s.

deafness and muteness. it is . State department considers that "discrimination against women is a significant problem" in Saudi Arabia and that women have few political or social rights.[144] According to a study conducted by Dr. Nura Al-Suwaiyan. to study at a university or college and to work if the type of business is not "deemed appropriate for a woman. resulting from the traditional practice of encouraging marriage between close relatives.[236] 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."[240] Even where a guardian's approval is not legally required. director of the family safety program at the National Guard Hospital. Human Rights Watch has described the position of Saudi women as like that of a minor. some officials will still ask for it.[241] Every adult woman has to have a close male relative as her "guardian".[238][239] Women A woman wearing a niqāb See also: Women's rights in Saudi Arabia The U. one in four children are abused in Saudi Arabia.[246] In practice.[240] As a result. sickle cell anemia.[244] and men have a unilateral right to divorce their wives (talaq) without needing any legal justification.[245] A woman can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband or judicially if her husband has harmed her. where the testimony of one man equals that of two women.[242] The guardian is entitled to make a number of critical decisions on a woman's behalf.[240] The World Economic Forum 2010 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 129th out of 134 countries for gender parity.S.[240] After her 2008 visit. and in family and inheritance law. to hold some types of business licenses. 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. and loopholes in the system cause many to fall victim to abuse and torture.[243] Women are also said to have faced discrimination in the courts. has produced high levels of several genetic disorders including thalassemia.[242] These include giving approval for the woman to travel. spinal muscular atrophy. with little authority over their own lives. [235] The National Society for Human Rights reports that almost 45% of the country's children are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence.toward good causes. it has been alleged that others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be applied.[237] Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia.[240] Polygamy is permitted for men.

for "failing to understand the uniqueness of Saudi society."[255][256] A number of Saudi women have risen to the top of some professions or otherwise achieved prominence. has said "Saudi women are weak.[252] Female literacy is estimated to be around 70% compared to male literacy of around 85%. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia.[249] Men marry girls as young as ten in Saudi Arabia. even the 'pampered' ones among them. Wajeha al-Huwaider. because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. to wear an abaya (a loosefitting. The residue is divided between agnatic heirs.[5] Leading Saudi feminist and journalist.[250][251] Child marriage is believed to hinder the cause of women's education.very difficult for a Saudi woman to obtain a judicial divorce. following the next round of these elections. head of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh and was the late King Fahad's personal ophthalmologist. heads a medical research center in California[257] and Dr.[254] Even many advocates of reform reject foreign critics. the Quran specifies that fixed portions of the deceased's estate must be left to the Qu'ranic heirs.[247] A Sunni Muslim can bequeath a maximum of a third of his property to nonQu'ranic heirs.[258] On 25 September 2011. Ghada Al-Mutairi. full-length black cloak covering the entire body) and to conceal their hair. Salwa Al-Hazzaa. However.[240] There is also effectively a ban on women driving. The drop-out rate of girls increases around puberty. no matter how high their status.[247] Cultural norms impose restrictions on women when in public.[248] They include requiring women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in restaurants. the mutawa.[240] and these are enforced by the religious police."[253] Although many Saudis would like more freedom in Saudi Arabia. a male guardian's permission is required in order to vote.[246] With regard to the law of inheritance. Roughly 25% of college-aged young women do not attend college. women had a 60% dropout rate.[259][260] Education Main article: Education in Saudi Arabia Laboratory buildings at KAUST . there is evidence that many women do not want radical change. as they exchange education for marriage. for example Dr. King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections. and in 2005–2006.[247] Generally. female heirs receive half the portion of male heirs.

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.[5] Classes are segregated by gender. Jews. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers. 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. in particular.[266] 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. Shiites. military studies. atheists and others". religion. the memorization by rote of large parts of the Qu'ran. Higher education has expanded rapidly.[261] As a consequence. the Islamic University at Medina founded in 1961. This disproportion is reflected in the rate of literacy. students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track. Girls are able to attend school. intermediate. that is."[262] A further criticism of the religious focus of the Saudi education system is the nature of the Wahhabi-controlled curriculum. King Saud University founded in 1957. leading to reform efforts. with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since 2000. 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'. Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA.[5] Similarly. abound. at the secondary level. its interpretation and understanding (Tafsir) and the application of Islamic tradition to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum. Religion taught in this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students. Hindus. The school system is composed of elementary.[266] To tackle the twin problems of encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university education for a modern economy. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam. and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah founded in 1967. Institutes devoted to Islamic studies. and.[265] The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism. It also aims to create an education system which will provide a more secular and vocationally based training. Sufis. and medicine. Institutions of higher education include the country's first University. steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction. which exceeds 85% among males and is about 70% among females. Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology. and secondary schools.[65] The study of Islam dominates the Saudi educational system. Christians. In particular.[262][267] . the government is aiming to slowly modernise the education system through the "Tatweer" reform program. and that Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures".Education is free at all levels.[263][264] The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world. Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions.

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Sufis. Christians. Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions. military studies. the Islamic University at Medina founded in 1961. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam. Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine. Hindus. and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah founded in 1967.[263][264] The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world. and medicine. the government is aiming to slowly modernise the education system through the "Tatweer" reform . Institutions of higher education include the country's first University. Girls are able to attend school. the memorization by rote of large parts of the Qu'ran. Institutes devoted to Islamic studies. 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'. and that Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures".[5] Similarly. Shiites.[265] The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism. its interpretation and understanding (Tafsir) and the application of Islamic tradition to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology. Jews. Higher education has expanded rapidly. and. atheists and others". leading to reform efforts. in particular. abound.[266] To tackle the twin problems of encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university education for a modern economy. and secondary schools.intermediate. students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track. This disproportion is reflected in the rate of literacy. In particular. steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction. Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA."[262] A further criticism of the religious focus of the Saudi education system is the nature of the Wahhabi-controlled curriculum.[261] As a consequence. at the secondary level.[65] The study of Islam dominates the Saudi educational system. King Saud University founded in 1957. which exceeds 85% among males and is about 70% among females. Religion taught in this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students.[5] Classes are segregated by gender. that is. religion. 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. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers. 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. with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since 2000.