About Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia means different things to different people. For millions of followers of Islam across the world, it is the ultimate Holy Land and pilgrimage destination. For a large number of expatriates from Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, Australia and a number of nearby Arabic speaking nations in the Middle East/North African region, especially Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, it is a land of opportunities. For the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia means oil – the lifeline of present and future economies. Saudi Arabia has so far lived up to all these definitions, and is now entering a new phase of its development.
On September 23, 1932, King Abdulaziz Al-
History of Saudi Arabia
The Arabian peninsula has supported agricultural, herding, and hunting cultures for thousands of years. Living on important ancient trade routes, the ancestors of the Saudi Arabians were touched by diverse civilizations, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, India, Persia, and China.
The Qur'an (Koran), the holy book of Islam, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the western Arabian cities of Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina) beginning about 610 A.D. The birth of the new faith of Islam was one of the most momentous events in history. Inspired by Islam, the Arabs expanded out of Arabia spreading Islam and the Arabic language. Their vast empire soon stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to central Asia in the east, embracing today's southern Italy, Spain, and parts of France.
The Muslim Arab civilization remained vigorous for centuries, providing stability and advancing human knowledge while Western civilization was in eclipse during the Middle Ages. The Arabs made extensive and original contributions to chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, literature, and philosophy. They invented algebra, whose name derives from an Arabic word. They also transmitted the number system, called Arabic numerals, to the West.
In the 13th century, the Mongol invasions dealt a devastating blow to the Arabs' eastern lands, and their empire began to decline. The history of modern Saudi Arabia begins with Abdul Aziz Al-
Geography of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, with an area of about 865,000 square miles, occupies the bulk of the Arabian peninsula. It is roughly one-
Saudi Arabia lies at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. It extends from the Red Sea on the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east. To the north it borders on Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait, and to the south, on Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman. To the east lie the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the island state of Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia's terrain is varied, but on the whole fairly barren and harsh with salt flats, gravel plains, and sand dunes, but few lakes or permanent streams. In the south is the Rub Al-
Abha Largest city in Asir Province
Buraydah Largest city in Qasim Province
Dammam Port city and commercial center
Dhahran Oil industry center and metropolitan area
Hafr Al Batin Home of King Khalid Military City
Hail Important trading center in the north
Jeddah Port city and entry point for pilgrims
Jubayl Industrial city on the east coast
Madinah Holy city and burial place of the Prophet Muhammad
Makkah Holiest city of Islam, toward which Muslims pray
Riyadh Capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Tabuk Large city near the Jordan border
Taif Summer capital and mountain resort
Yanbu Oil shipping terminal and industrial city on the west coast
Climate of Saudi Arabia
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-
Medical technology is continuously being upgraded in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has its own facilities to train doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, and Saudi Arabians rarely travel abroad to get specialized medical treatment. These services now extend to the most remote communities in the country. The private sector, which makes a vital contribution to health services, has expanded over the past several decades. It operates thousands of healthcare facilities including hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, pharmacies, medical laboratories, radiology centers and other facilities across the country making high-
Major hospitals provide a comprehensive range of sophisticated services including open-
Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications sector is growing at a remarkable rate. Facilities and services are constantly being expanded and upgraded to accommodate the Kingdom’s growing market. Currently three telecom operators provide competitive mobile phone services covering the entire country. Saudi Arabia’s mobile telephones operate on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), one of the leading digital cellular systems used all over the world. All three GSM-
Internet usage is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia. More and more fiber optic lines are being provisioned to provide broadband and high-
Religion of Saudi Arabia
Islam is one of the world's great monotheistic religions. The followers of Islam, called Muslims, believe in one God (Allah in Arabic) and that Muhammad is His Prophet. Today, the worldwide community of Muslims, which embraces the people of many races and cultures, numbers nearly 1.5 billion.
Historically, Saudi Arabia has occupied a special place in the Islamic world as the very heartland of Islam. Indeed, it is toward the sacred Ka'abah in Makkah that Muslims turn devoutly in prayer five times a day. The Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, was revealed and is universally recited in Arabic.
A Muslim has five obligations, called the Five Pillars of Islam. First is the profession of faith: "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." Second is praying five times a day, facing the holy city of Makkah. Third is zakat (alms giving), which prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim's possessions for the welfare of the entire community and, in particular, for its neediest members. Fourth is fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, at which time Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset. The fifth pillar is performing the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Makkah at least once in a lifetime. The hajj is a gathering of millions of Muslims from around the world.
The Kingdom continues to dedicate considerable financial and human resources to enable even more pilgrims to perform the hajj in comfort and safety. To Saudi Arabia, the holy cities of Makkah, the birthplace of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and Madinah, the Prophet's burial place, are a sacred trust exercised on behalf of all Muslims. Recognizing the unique and historic tradition these holy sites represent, King Fahd adopted the official title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as an expression of his deep sense of responsibility toward Islam.
Kingdom Center -
The Rub al-