Saudi Arabia

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2011
Flag of Saudi Arabia
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Saudi Arabia
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Map of Saudi Arabia
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Photos of Saudi Arabia
 
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OF SAUDI ARABIA
 

Introduction

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Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide from February through April 2005 for half the members of 179 municipal councils. In December 2005, King ABDALLAH completed the process by appointing the remaining members of the advisory municipal councils. The king instituted an Inter-Faith Dialogue initiative in 2008 to encourage religious tolerance on a global level; in February 2009, he reshuffled the cabinet, which led to more moderates holding ministerial and judicial positions, and appointed the first female to the cabinet. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns. The 2010-11 uprising across Middle Eastern and North African countries sparked modest incidents in Saudi cities, predominantly by Shia demonstrators calling for the release of detainees and the withdrawal from Bahrain of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Peninsula Shield Force. Other relatively minor, non-Shia demonstrations focused on labor, prisoner, and infrastructure complaints. Protests in general were met by a strong police presence, with some arrests, but not the bloodshed seen in protests elsewhere in the region. King ABDALLAH in February and March 2011 announced a series of benefits to Saudi citizens including funds to build affordable housing, salary increases for government workers, and unemployment benefits. The King also announced that Riyadh would begin preparations for a second round of municipal elections in September 2011.
 
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Geography

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Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
 
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25 00 N, 45 00 E
 
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total: 2,149,690 sq km
country comparison to the world: 13
land: 2,149,690 sq km
water: 0 sq km
 
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slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US
 
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total: 4,431 km
border countries: Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km
 
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2,640 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: not specified
 
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harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
 
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mostly uninhabited, sandy desert
 
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lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m
 
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petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
 
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arable land: 1.67%
permanent crops: 0.09%
other: 98.24% (2005)
 
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17,310 sq km (2008)
 
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2.4 cu km (1997)
 
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total: 17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)
per capita: 705 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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frequent sand and dust storms
volcanism: Despite Saudi Arabia's many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar
 
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desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
 
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party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
 
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People and Society

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noun: Saudi(s)
adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian
 
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Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%
 
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Arabic (official)
 
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Muslim 100%
 
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26,131,703 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals
 
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0-14 years: 29.4% (male 3,939,377/female 3,754,020)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 9,980,253/female 7,685,328)
65 years and over: 3% (male 404,269/female 368,456) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 25.3 years
male: 26.4 years
female: 23.9 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.536% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
 
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19.34 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
 
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3.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 215
 
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-0.64 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
 
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urban population: 82% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 2.2% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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RIYADH (capital) 4.725 million; Jeddah 3.234 million; Mecca 1.484 million; Medina 1.104 million; Ad Dammam 902,000 (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.27 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female
total population: 1.17 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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24 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 122
 
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total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 111
male: 18.54 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 74.11 years
country comparison to the world: 109
male: 72.15 years
female: 76.16 years (2011 est.)
 
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2.31 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 98
 
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5% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 139
 
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0.939 physicians/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 105
 
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2.2 beds/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 95
 
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improved:
urban: 97% of population
rural: 63% of population
total: 89% of population
unimproved:
urban: 3% of population
rural: 37% of population
total: 11% of population (1990)
 
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0.01% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
 
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NA
 
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NA
 
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35.6% (2000)
country comparison to the world: 5
 
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5.3% (2005)
country comparison to the world: 82
 
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5.6% of GDP (2008)
country comparison to the world: 40
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.8%
male: 84.7%
female: 70.8% (2003 est.)
 
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total: 14 years
male: 14 years
female: 13 years (2009)
 
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total: 28.2%
country comparison to the world: 17
male: 23.6%
female: 45.8% (2008)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form: Saudi Arabia
local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
 
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monarchy
 
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name: Riyadh
geographic coordinates: 24 38 N, 46 43 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah (Medina), Al Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jizan, Makkah (Mecca), Najran, Tabuk
 
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23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)
 
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Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)
 
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governed according to Islamic law; the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was promulgated by royal decree in 1992
 
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Islamic (sharia) legal system with some elements of Egyptian, French, and customary law; note - several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
 
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21 years of age; male
 
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chief of state: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Heir Apparent Crown Prince; note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Deputy Prime Minister NAYIF bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch every four years and includes many royal family members
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elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; note - an Allegiance Commission created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes that will play a role in selecting future Saudi kings, but the system will not take effect until after Crown Prince SULTAN becomes king
 
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Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch to serve four-year terms); note - though the Council of Ministers announced in October 2003 its intent to introduce elections for a third of the Majlis al-Shura incrementally over a period of four to five years, to date no such elections have been held or announced
 
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Supreme Council of Justice
 
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none
 
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Ansar Al Marah (supports women's rights)
other: gas companies; religious groups
 
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ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, FAO, G-20, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Adil al-Ahmad al-JUBAYR
chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800
FAX: [1] (202) 944-3113
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, New York
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador James B. SMITH
embassy: Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh
mailing address: American Embassy, Unit 61307, APO AE 09803-1307; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693
telephone: [966] (1) 488-3800
FAX: [966] (1) 488-7360
consulate(s) general: Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)
 
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green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932; the flag is manufactured with differing obverse and reverse sides so that the Shahada reads - and the sword points - correctly from right to left on both sides
note: one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay
 
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palm tree surmounting two crossed swords
 
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name: "Aash Al Maleek" (Long Live Our Beloved King)
lyrics/music: Ibrahim KHAFAJI/Abdul Rahman al-KHATEEB
note: music adopted 1947, lyrics adopted 1984
 
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Economy

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Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 20% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 80% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy and to employ more Saudi nationals. Diversification efforts are focusing on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemical sectors. Almost 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors, while Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population, which generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, most recently with the opening of the King Abdallah University of Science and Technology - Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in December 2005 after many years of negotiations. The government has begun establishing six "economic cities" in different regions of the country to promote foreign investment and plans to spend $373 billion between 2010 and 2014 on social development and infrastructure projects to advance Saudi Arabia's economic development.
 
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$622 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
$599.5 billion (2009 est.)
$596 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$443.7 billion (2010 est.)
 
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3.7% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
0.6% (2009 est.)
4.2% (2008 est.)
 
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$24,200 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
$23,700 (2009 est.)
$23,900 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 2.6%
industry: 61.8%
services: 35.6% (2010 est.)
 
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7.337 million
country comparison to the world: 61
note: about 80% of the labor force is non-national (2010 est.)
 
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agriculture: 6.7%
industry: 21.4%
services: 71.9% (2005 est.)
 
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10.8% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
10.5% (2009 est.)
note: data are for Saudi males only (local bank estimates; some estimates range as high as 25%)
 
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NA%
 
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
 
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22.9% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
 
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revenues: $197.3 billion
expenditures: $167.1 billion (2010 est.)
 
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44.5% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
 
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6.8% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
 
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16.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 115
22.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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5.4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
5.1% (2009 est.)
 
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2.5% (31 December 2008)
 
 
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7.2% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
7.2% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$166.8 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
$139.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$288.1 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$274.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$2.693 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
$2.248 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$353.4 billion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 23
$318.8 billion (31 December 2009)
$246.3 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk
 
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crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction
 
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3.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 107
 
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194.4 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
 
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174.5 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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10.52 million bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1
 
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2.643 million bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
 
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7.635 million bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1
 
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83,150 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 71
 
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262.6 billion bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1
 
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83.94 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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83.94 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
 
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0 cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170
 
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0 cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121
 
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7.807 trillion cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
 
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$70.1 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$21.43 billion (2009 est.)
 
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$237.9 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
$192.3 billion (2009 est.)
 
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petroleum and petroleum products 90%
 
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Japan 14.3%, China 13.1%, US 13%, South Korea 8.8%, India 8.3%, Singapore 4.5% (2010)
 
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$88.35 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 32
$87.08 billion (2009 est.)
 
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machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles
 
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US 12.4%, China 11.1%, Germany 7.1%, Japan 6.9%, France 6.1%, India 4.7%, South Korea 4.2% (2010)
 
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$445.1 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
$410.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$80.95 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
$72.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$187.7 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
$159.6 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$14.29 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
$10.38 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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Saudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar -
3.75 (2010)
3.75 (2009)
3.75 (2008)
3.745 (2007)
3.745 (2006)
 
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Communications

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4.166 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 39
 
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51.564 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 24
 
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general assessment: modern system including a combination of extensive microwave radio relays, coaxial cables, and fiber-optic cables
domestic: mobile-cellular subscribership has been increasing rapidly
international: country code - 966; landing point for the international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) and for both the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable networks providing connectivity to Asia, Middle East, Europe, and US; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region) (2008)
 
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broadcast media are state-controlled; state-run TV operates 4 networks; Saudi Arabia is a major market for pan-Arab satellite TV broadcasters; state-run radio operates several networks; multiple international broadcasters are available (2007)
 
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.sa
 
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488,598 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 51
 
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9.774 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 30
 
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Transportation

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217 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 27
 
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total: 81
over 3,047 m: 33
2,438 to 3,047 m: 15
1,524 to 2,437 m: 27
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 4 (2010)
 
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total: 136
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
1,524 to 2,437 m: 71
914 to 1,523 m: 41
under 914 m: 16 (2010)
 
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9 (2010)
 
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condensate 212 km; gas 2,846 km; liquid petroleum gas 1,183 km; oil 4,232 km; refined products 1,151 km (2010)
 
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total: 1,378 km
country comparison to the world: 81
standard gauge: 1,378 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2010)
 
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total: 221,372 km
country comparison to the world: 23
paved: 47,529 km (includes 3,891 km of expressways)
unpaved: 173,843 km (2006)
 
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total: 74
country comparison to the world: 58
by type: cargo 2, chemical tanker 22, container 4, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 11, petroleum tanker 22, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 8
foreign-owned: 15 (Egypt 1, Greece 4, Kuwait 4, UAE 6)
registered in other countries: 55 (Bahamas 16, Dominica 3, Liberia 24, Norway 3, Panama 8) (2010)
 
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Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Jeddah, Yanbu al Bahr
 
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Military

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Ministry of Defense and Aviation Forces: Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes Marine Forces and Special Forces), Royal Saudi Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Malakiya as-Sa'udiya), Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Rocket Forces, Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG)
 
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18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2004)
 
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males age 16-49: 8,644,522
females age 16-49: 6,601,985 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 7,365,624
females age 16-49: 5,677,819 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 261,105
female: 244,763 (2010 est.)
 
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10% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
 
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Transnational Issues

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Saudi Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of the now fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir
 
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refugees (country of origin): 240,015 (Palestinian Territories) (2007)
 
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current situation: Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and to a much lesser extent, forced prostitution; men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude; women, primarily from Asian and African countries, were believed to have been forced into prostitution in Saudi Arabia; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers; Yemeni, Nigerian, Pakistani, Afghan, Chadian, and Sudanese children were subjected to forced labor as beggars and street vendors in Saudi Arabia, facilitated by criminal gangs; some Saudi nationals travel to destinations including Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to solicit prostitution
tier rating: Tier 3 - Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; however, the government undertook some efforts to improve its response to the vast human trafficking problem in Saudi Arabia, including training government officials on its 2009 anti-trafficking law and conducting surprise visits to places where victims may be found; it also achieved its first conviction under its human trafficking law; nonetheless, the government did not prosecute and punish a significant number of trafficking offenders or significantly improve victim protection services (2011)
 
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death penalty for traffickers; improving anti-money-laundering legislation and enforcement
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