About Saudi Arabia

  • About Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, commonly known as Saudi Arabia, is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia's geography is diverse, with forests, grasslands, mountain ranges and deserts.

Capital: Riyadh

Population of Riyadh: 4,878,723 (2009 est.)

Population of Jeddah: 3,600,000 (2009 est.)

Facts & Figures

Location: Middle East

  • Land Boundaries: Saudi Arabia's surrounding countries are Jordan to the northwest, Iraq to the northeast, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar to the east, United Arab Emirates to the south east, Oman and Yemen to the south. 
  • Government: Saudi Arabia was an absolute monarchy until 1992, at which time the Saud royal family introduced the country's first constitution. The legal system is based on the sharia (Islamic law). 
  • Land area: 829,995 sq mi (2,149,690 sq km), slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US.
  • Population (2010 est.):  29,207,277 (growth rate: 1.7%); birth rate: 28.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 11.2/1000; life expectancy: 76.5; density per sq mi: 33
  • Language: The main language is Arabic. English is spoken in business circles. 
  • Religion: The majority of Saudi Arabians follow Islam, around 85% are Sunni Muslim, however Shia Muslims dominate in the Eastern Province. 
  • National Day: September 23, commemorating the foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
  • Electricity: 110/220 volts AC, 60 Hz. 
  • Telecom: country code 966; area codes Riyadh - 1, Jeddah/Makkah/Taif - 2, Dammam/Dhahran - 3, Madinah/Tabuk/Yanbu - 4.
  • Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time plus three (GMT+3) = Eastern Standard Time plus eight (seven during Daylight Savings Time).
  • Calendar: Islamic (Hijrah), dating from emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah; weekend, Thursday and Friday.
  • Holidays: closure of all offices and schools on Eid Al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast, from the evening of the twenty-fifth day of Ramadan through the fifth day of Shawwal; Eid Al-Adha, the culmination of the Hajj, from the fifth through fifteenth day of Dhu Al-Hajjah; and September 23, National Day. 
  • Business: Government offices Saturday through Wednesday from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm; private businesses from 8:00 am to noon and 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm; general banking from 8:00 am until noon and from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm and markets and shops from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm.
  • Currency: Saudi Riyal (SR) pegged to U.S. dollar ($1=SR3.745); bank notes, in Arabic and English, in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyals; coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 halalahs, with 100 halalahs equal to one riyal; metric system in use.

Brief History of Saudi Arabia

The history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dates back to about 1747 when the ruler of the central Arabian Peninsula, Muhammad Bin Saud, formed an alliance with the Muslim scholar and reformer Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab, a partnership that led to the founding of the modern state.

The Al-Saud family ruled much of the Arabian Peninsula throughout the 19th century. In 1902, Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud succeeded in recapturing Riyadh from the Al-Rashid and in the following thirty years united the numerous and disparate tribes into one nation.

The foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took place on September 23, 1932, a day that is commemorated as National Day.

Divisions of the kingdom

The kingdom is divided into 13 provinces governed by princes or close relatives of the royal family. All governors are appointed by the King.


The climate of the Kingdom varies from region to region, according to its location, with wide fluctations in day and night temperature.

From June through August, midday temperatures in the desert can soar to 50 C (122 F). Humidity in the coastal regions may approach 100 percent at times. In contrast, weather in other areas of the country may be mild throughout the year. Winter temperatures in the northern and central regions may drop to below freezing.

The shamal, sand-laden winds from the northern deserts, is most frequent in early summer and can blow for days at 25-30 miles an hour. Rainfall ranges from none at all for up to 10 years in the Rub Al-Khali, to 20 inches a year in the mountains of Asir Province.


For centuries the people of the Arabian Peninsula have possessed a strong identity based upon the tenets of Islam. Saudi Arabia is a modern nation that adheres to Islam, honors its Arab heritage and tradition, and presses vigorously forward in the service of Islam while securing the welfare of its people.

Islam, one of the world's great monotheistic religions, has Saudi Arabia as its heartland. The followers of Islam, called Muslims, believe in God - in Arabic, Allah - and that Muhammad is His Prophet. Today, the worldwide community of Muslims, which embraces the people of many races and cultures, numbers well over one billion.

Historically, Saudi Arabia has occupied a special place in the Islamic world, for it is towards Makkah and Islam's most sacred shrine, the Ka'abah, located in the Holy Mosque there, that Muslims throughout the world turn devoutly in prayer five times a day. An appreciation of Islamic history and culture is therefore essential for a genuine understanding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its Islamic heritage and its leading role in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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