Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Overview
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ( ), commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia (  or in American English as ) and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, and the second-largest in the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

. It is bordered by Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, and Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 on the north and northeast, Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

 and the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 on the east, Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 on the southeast, and Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 on the south.The Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 lies to its west, and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 lies to the northeast.
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Timeline

1926   Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud becomes the King of Hejaz and renames it Saudi Arabia.

1927   Treaty of Jedda: the United Kingdom recognizes the sovereignty of King Ibn Saud in the Kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd, which later merge to become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

1932   The Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd is renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

1938   Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.

1945   President Franklin D. Roosevelt meets with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia aboard the USS ''Quincy'', officially starting the U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relationship.

1948   Following the demise of the British Mandate of Palestine, Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia invade the territory partitioned for the Arab state by the British Mandate of Palestine thus starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

1964   King Saud of Saudi Arabia is deposed by a family coup, and replaced by his half-brother King Faisal.

1973   Black September storms the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, resulting in the assassination of three Western hostages.

1979   Grand Mosque Seizure: About 200 Sunni Muslims revolt in Saudi Arabia at the site of the Kaaba in Mecca during the pilgrimage and take about 6000 hostages. The Saudi government receives help from French special forces to put down the uprising.

1980   Saudia Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar burns after making an emergency landing at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing 301 people.

 
Encyclopedia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ( ), commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia (  or in American English as ) and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, and the second-largest in the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

. It is bordered by Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, and Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 on the north and northeast, Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

 and the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 on the east, Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 on the southeast, and Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 on the south.The Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 lies to its west, and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 lies to the northeast. Saudi Arabia has an area of approximately 2149690 km² (829,999.9 sq mi), and it has an estimated population of 27 million, of which 8.8 million are registered foreign expatriates and an estimated 1.5 million are illegal immigrants. Saudi nationals comprise an estimated 16 million people.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn 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
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud
House of Saud
The House of Saud , also called the Al Saud, is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties in the world. The family holds thousands of members...

, referred to in Arabic as the Al Saud. The Saudi Arabian government, which has been an absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 since its inception, refers to its system of government as being Islamic, though this is contested by many due to its strong basis in Salafism, a minority school of thought in Islam. The kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

), and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi , often called the Prophet's Mosque, is a mosque situated in the city of Medina. As the final resting place of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, it is considered the second holiest site in Islam by Muslims and is one of the largest mosques in the world...

 (in Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

), the two holiest places in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

.

Saudi Arabia has the world's second largest oil reserves and is the world's second largest oil exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of exports and nearly 75% of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

. However, human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 groups such as Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 and Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 have repeatedly expressed concern about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia
Human rights in Saudi Arabia
Human rights in Saudi Arabia are intended to be based on Islamic religious laws under rule of the Saudi royal family. The government of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi legal system, has been criticized for its treatment of religious and political minorities, homosexuals, apostates, and women...

.

Etymology


Following the unification of the Kingdoms of Hejaz
Kingdom of Hejaz
The Kingdom of Hejaz was a state in the Hejaz region, ruled by the Hashemite family. The kingdom was annexed by Nejd and merged into the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz in the mid 1920s, which would eventually be known as Saudi Arabia in 1932.-Kings of Hejaz:...

 and Nejd, the new state was named al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Saʻūdiyya (a transliteration of المملكة العربية السعودية in 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, although it literally means "the Saudi Arab Kingdom".

The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Saʻūdiyya in the Arabic name of the country, which is a type of adjective known as a nisba, formed from the dynastic name of Al Saud (آل سعود). Its inclusion indicated that the country's ruler viewed it as the personal possession of the royal family. Al Saud is an Arabic name
Arabic name
Long ago, Arabic names were based on a long naming system; most Arabs did not simply have given/middle/family names, but a full chain of names. This system was in use throughout the Arab world. Today however, Arabic names are similar in structure to those of Modern and Western names...

 formed by adding the word Al, meaning "family of" or "House of", to the personal name of an ancestor. In the case of the Al Saud, this is the father of the dynasty's 18th century founder, Muhammad bin Saud
Muhammad bin Saud
*Abdul Aziz*Faysal*Saud*Ali*AbdallahMuhammad ibn Saud , also known as Ibn Saud, was the emir of Al-Dir'iyyah and is considered the founder of the first Saudi dynasty, which is technically named for his father – Saud ibn Muhammad ibn Migrin...

 (Muhammad, son of Saud). For the etymology of Arabia, see Arabian Peninsula and Arab (etymology).

From the earliest times to the foundation of Saudi Arabia


In Pre-Islamic Arabia
Pre-Islamic Arabia
Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to the Arabic civilization which existed in the Arabian Plate before the rise of Islam in the 630s. The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies as it provides the context for the development of Islam.-Studies:...

, apart from a small number of urban trading settlements, such as Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

, located in the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 in the west of the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, most of what was to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies or uninhabitable desert. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, was born in Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 in about 571. In the early 7th century, Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 united the various tribes of the peninsula
Tribes of Arabia
Tribes of Arabia refers to Arab clans hailing from the Arabian Peninsula.Much of the lineage provided before Ma'ad relies on biblical genealogy and therefore questions persist concerning the accuracy of this segment of Arab genealogy...

 and created a single Islamic religious polity. Following his death in 632, his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge swathes of territory
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 (from the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

) in a matter of decades. In so doing, Arabia soon became a politically peripheral region of the Muslim world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

 as the focus shifted to the more developed conquered lands
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

. From the 10th century to the early 20th century Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 were under the control of a local Arab ruler known as the Sharif of Mecca
Sharif of Mecca
The Sharif of Mecca or Hejaz was the title of the former governors of Hejaz and a traditional steward of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empires
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 based in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 or Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

. Most of the remainder of what became Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule
Tribes of Arabia
Tribes of Arabia refers to Arab clans hailing from the Arabian Peninsula.Much of the lineage provided before Ma'ad relies on biblical genealogy and therefore questions persist concerning the accuracy of this segment of Arab genealogy...

.

In the 16th century, the Ottomans added the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, Asir and Al-Hasa
Al-Hasa
Al-Ahsa is the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, named after Al-Ahsa oasis. The name Al-Ahsa is also given to the biggest city in the region, Hofuf. In classic Arabic, Ahsa means the sound of water underground. It has one of the largest oases in the world with Date Palms of...

) to their Empire and claimed suzerainty
Suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

 over the interior. The degree of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the Empire's central authority. The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family, known as the Al Saud
House of Saud
The House of Saud , also called the Al Saud, is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties in the world. The family holds thousands of members...

, began in Nejd in central Arabia in 1744, when Muhammad bin Saud
Muhammad bin Saud
*Abdul Aziz*Faysal*Saud*Ali*AbdallahMuhammad ibn Saud , also known as Ibn Saud, was the emir of Al-Dir'iyyah and is considered the founder of the first Saudi dynasty, which is technically named for his father – Saud ibn Muhammad ibn Migrin...

, founder of the dynasty, joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, movement a strict puritanical form of Sunni Islam. This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. The first 'Saudi State' established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

, rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia, but was destroyed by 1818 by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Mohammed Ali Pasha. A much smaller second ‘Saudi state’, located mainly in Nejd, was established in 1824. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Al Saud
House of Saud
The House of Saud , also called the Al Saud, is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties in the world. The family holds thousands of members...

 contested control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia with another Arabian ruling family, the Al Rashid. By 1891, the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud were driven into exile.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 continued to control or have suzerainty
Suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

 (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers(including the House of Saud who had returned from exile in 1902) with the Sharif of Mecca
Sharif of Mecca
The Sharif of Mecca or Hejaz was the title of the former governors of Hejaz and a traditional steward of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

. In 1916, with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

), the Sharif of Mecca
Sharif of Mecca
The Sharif of Mecca or Hejaz was the title of the former governors of Hejaz and a traditional steward of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, Hussein bin Ali
Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca
Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, GCB was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself King of Hejaz, which received international recognition. He initiated the Arab Revolt in 1916 against the increasingly nationalistic Ottoman Empire during the course of the...

, led a pan-Arab revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 to create a united Arab state. Although the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective, Arabia was freed from Ottoman suzerainty and control by the latter's defeat in World War I.


In 1902, Abdul-Aziz bin Saud
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn Saud....

, leader of the House of Saud, had seized Riyadh
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

 in Nejd from the Al Rashid – the first of a series of conquests ultimately leading to the creation of the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The main weapon for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

, the Wahhabist-Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 tribal army led by Sultan ibn Bijad
Sultan bin Najad
Sultan Bin Bajad Al-Otaibi was a leader of the Ikhwan movement in Saudi Arabia. This movement was the virtual army that supported King Abdul Aziz to build his kingdom between 1910 and 1927...

 and Faisal Al-Dawish
Faisal Al-Dawish
Faisal bin Sultan al-Dawish or commonly known as Faisal al-Dawish was a prince of Mutair tribe and one of the Ikhwan leaders, who assisted Ibn Saud in the unification of Saudi Arabia....

. From the Saudi core in Nejd, and aided by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
The Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was a political event that occurred after World War I. The huge conglomeration of territories and peoples formerly ruled by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new nations.The partitioning was planned from the early days of the war,...

 after World War I, the Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

 had completed the conquest of the territory that was to become Saudi Arabia by the end of 1925. On 10 January 1926 Abdul-Aziz
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn Saud....

 declared himself King of the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 and, then, on 27 January 1927 he took the title of King of Nejd (his previous title having been 'Sultan'). After the conquest of the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, the Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

 leaders wanted to continue the expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan
Transjordan
The Emirate of Transjordan was a former Ottoman territory in the Southern Levant that was part of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, and began raiding those territories. Abdul-Aziz
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn Saud....

, however, refused to agree to this, recognizing the danger of a direct conflict with the British. The Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

 therefore revolted but were defeated in the Battle of Sabilla
Battle of Sabilla
The Battle of Sabilla was the main battle of the Ikhwan Revolt in northern Arabia between the rebellious Ikhwan forces and the army of Ibn Saud. It was the last major battle, where one side rode camels, as the Ikhwan emphasized radical conservatism, shunned technological modernization...

 in 1930, where the Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

 leadership were massacred.

In 1932, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

From the foundation of the State to the present


The new kingdom was one of the poorest countries in the world, reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage revenues. However, in 1938 vast reserves of oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 were discovered in the Al-Hasa
Al-Hasa
Al-Ahsa is the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, named after Al-Ahsa oasis. The name Al-Ahsa is also given to the biggest city in the region, Hofuf. In classic Arabic, Ahsa means the sound of water underground. It has one of the largest oases in the world with Date Palms of...

 region along the coast of the Persian Gulf and full-scale development of the oil fields began in 1941. Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and substantial political leverage internationally. Cultural life rapidly developed, primarily in the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, which was the centre for newspapers and radio. But the large influx of foreigners to work in the oil industry increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia
Xenophobia
Xenophobia is defined as "an unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange". It comes from the Greek words ξένος , meaning "stranger," "foreigner" and φόβος , meaning "fear."...

. At the same time, the government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant. By the 1950s this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing.
King Saud
Saud of Saudi Arabia
Saud bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1964. He was removed from power by Faisal because of Saud's mismanagement and waste. He was the eldest surviving son of Ibn Saud and became Crown Prince in 1933. He died in exile in Greece.-Early life:Saud was born in 1902 in Kuwait...

 succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother, Prince Faisal
Faisal of Saudi Arabia
Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. As king, he is credited with rescuing the country's finances and implementing a policy of modernization and reform, while his main foreign policy themes were pan-Islamic Nationalism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian...

 emerged, fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal
Faisal of Saudi Arabia
Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. As king, he is credited with rescuing the country's finances and implementing a policy of modernization and reform, while his main foreign policy themes were pan-Islamic Nationalism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian...

 in 1964. The major event of King Faisal's
Faisal of Saudi Arabia
Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. As king, he is credited with rescuing the country's finances and implementing a policy of modernization and reform, while his main foreign policy themes were pan-Islamic Nationalism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian...

 reign was the 1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

, when Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab oil producers, tried to put pressure on the US to withdraw support from Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 through an oil embargo. Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musaid.

Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid
Khalid of Saudi Arabia
Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1975 to 1982. He ruled during Saudi Arabia's oil boom years. In 1979, he had to deal with the Grand Mosque Seizure...

 during whose reign economic and social development progressed at an extremely rapid rate, transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with the US were developed. In 1979, two events occurred which profoundly threatened the Al Saud regime, and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

. 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. In fact, there were several anti-government uprisings in the region in 1979 and 1980. The second event, was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists
Grand Mosque Seizure
The Grand Mosque Seizure on November 20, 1979, was an armed attack and takeover by Islamist dissidents of the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest place in Islam...

. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi regime. Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of traditional religious and social norms in the country (for example, the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 a greater role in government. Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 continued to grow in strength.

Khalid was succeeded by his brother King Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

 in 1982 who continued the close relationship with the United States and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment. From 1976 Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world. The vast wealth generated by oil revenues and channeled through the government had a profound impact on Saudi society. It led to urbanization, mass public education, and the creation of new media. This and the presence of large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. Although there was dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country, political power continued to be monopolized by the royal family leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990
Invasion of Kuwait
The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which subsequently led to direct military intervention by United States-led forces in the Gulf...

 Saudi Arabia joined the anti-Iraq Coalition and King Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

, fearing an attack from Iraq, invited American and Coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. This action was one of the issues that has led to an increase in Islamic terrorism in Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamic terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals – the 9/11 attacks in New York being the most prominent example. But also many Saudis who did not necessarily support the Islamist terrorists were deeply unhappy with the government stance.

Islamism
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 was not the only source of hostility to the regime. Although now extremely wealthy, the country's economy was near stagnant, which, combined with a growth in unemployment, contributed to disquiet in the country, and was reflected in a subsequent rise in civil unrest, and discontent with the royal family. In response, a number of limited 'reforms' were initiated (such as the Basic Law
Basic Law of Saudi Arabia
The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia is a constitution-like charter divided into nine chapters, consisting of 83 articles...

). However, the royal family's dilemma was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible. Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

 made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: “A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed, which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā].”

In 1995, Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

 suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince, Prince Abdullah
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 assumed the role of acting King, albeit his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

 full brothers (known, with Fahd, as the "Sudairi Seven
Sudairi Seven
The Sudairi Seven, also spelled Sudairy or Sudayri, is the commonly used name for a powerful alliance of seven full brothers and their descendants within the royal family of Saudi Arabia. They are also known as the Al Fahd . They are sometimes referred to as the Sudairi Clan or the Sudairi faction...

"). Abdullah
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 continued the policy of mild reform and greater openness, but in addition, adopted a foreign policy distancing the kingdom from the US. In 2003, Saudi Arabia refused to support the US and its allies in the invasion of Iraq. However, terrorist activity increased dramatically in 2003, with the Riyadh compound bombings
Riyadh compound bombings
The Riyadh compound bombings took place on May 12, 2003, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Altogether, 35 people were killed, and over 160 wounded. A smaller campaign of insurgency in Saudi Arabia had started in November 2000 when car bombings were carried out targeting and killing individual expatriates in...

 and other attacks, which prompted the government to take much more stringent action against terrorism.

In 2005, King Fahd died and his half-brother, Abdullah
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 ascended to the throne. The king subsequently introduced a new program of moderate reform which included a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation, encouragement of foreign investment, and privatization. He has taken much more vigorous action to deal with the origins of Islamic terrorism, and has ordered the use of force for the first time by the security services against some extremists. In February 2009, Abdullah
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions including the replacement of senior appointees in the judiciary and the Mutaween
Mutaween
The word mutaween most literally means "volunteers" in the Arabic language, and is commonly used as a casual term for the government-authorized or government-recognized religious police of Saudi Arabia....

 (religious police) with more moderate indiviuals and the appointment of the country’s first female deputy minister.

In early 2011, King Abdullah indicated his opposition to the protests and revolutions affecting the Arab world
2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

 by giving asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is a Tunisian political figure who was the second President of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister in October 1987, and he assumed the Presidency on 7 November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état that ousted President Habib Bourguiba, who was...

 of Tunisia and by telephoning President Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....

 of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support. Saudi Arabia has also been affected by its own protests
2011 Saudi Arabian protests
The 2011 Saudi Arabian protests have been influenced by the Arab Spring that started with the 2011 Tunisian revolution. One of the main online organisers of a planned 11 March "Day of Rage", Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahad , was alleged to have been killed by Saudi security forces on 2 March, by which time...

. In response, King Abdullah announced a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10.7 billion. These included funding to offset high inflation and to aid young unemployed people and Saudi citizens studying abroad, as well as the writing off of some loans. State employees will see their incomes increase by 15 per cent, and additional cash has also been made available for housing loans. No political reforms were announced as part of the package, though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were pardoned.

Politics


Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

, although, according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia
Basic Law of Saudi Arabia
The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia is a constitution-like charter divided into nine chapters, consisting of 83 articles...

 adopted by royal decree in 1992, the king must comply with Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 (that is, Islamic law) and the Quran. The Quran and the Sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the country's constitution, but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab Nation where no national elections have ever taken place, since its creation. No political parties or national elections are permitted and according to The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

's
2010 Democracy Index
Democracy Index
The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit that claims to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states...

, the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated.

On 25 September 2011, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
King Abdullah
-Current monarchs:*Abdullah of Saudi Arabia , regent of Saudi Arabia since 1999 and king since 2005*Abdullah II of Jordan , king of Jordan since 1999-Previous monarchs:*Abdullah I of Jordan , king of Transjordan...

 has announced that women will have the right to stand and vote in future local elections and join the advisory Shura council as full member and be able to run as candidates in the municipal election.

Monarchy and royal family


The king combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions and royal decrees to form the basis of the country's legislation. The king is also the prime minister, and presides over the Council of Ministers (Majlis al-Wuzarāʾ)
Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Council of Ministers is the Cabinet of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is led by the King who is Prime Minister. The Council consists of the Prime Minister, the Crown Prince, who is Deputy Prime Minister, the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers...

, which comprises the first and second deputy prime.

The royal family dominates the political system. The family’s vast numbers allow it to control most of the kingdom’s important posts and to have an involvement and presence at all levels of government. The number of princes is estimated to be anything from 7,000 upwards, with most power and influence being wielded by the 200 or so male descendants of King Abdul Aziz
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn Saud....

. The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family, as are the thirteen regional governorships. Long term political and government appointments, such as those of King Abdullah, who had been Commander of the National Guard
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard is a separate military force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the Saudi Arabian Defence Forces, due to its specific role as a counterbalance to the regular military. It serves both as defence force against external threats and as a security force...

 since 1963 (until 2010, when he appointed his son to replace him), Crown Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence & Aviation since 1962, Prince Nayef
Nayef bin Abdul Aziz
Born = Ta'if, Saudi ArabiaNayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, also spelled Naif, is the Crown Prince , First Deputy Prime Minister and long time Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia. He is a half-brother of King Abdullah. He is one of the five surviving members of the Sudairi Seven.-Early life and...

 who has been the Minister of Interior since 1975, Prince Saud
Saud bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz
Saud bin Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud , also known as Saud Al Faisal, has been the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia since 1975. He is the world's longest-serving Foreign Minister....

 who has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1975 and Prince Salman
Salman bin Abdul Aziz
Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud is the Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia since November 5th, 2011. He was the Governor of the Riyadh Province from 1962 - 2011, and is a prince of House of Saud. He is the fifth of the Sudairi Seven. He has a reputation for arbitrating disputes within the royal...

, who has been Governor of the Riyadh
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

 Region since 1962, have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes.

The Saudi government and the royal family have often, over many years, been accused of corruption. In a country that is said to "belong" to the royal family and is named for them, the lines between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are blurred. The extent of corruption has been described as systemic and endemic, and its existence was acknowledged and defended by Prince Bandar bin Sultan
Bandar bin Sultan
Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud is a prince of the Saudi royal family and was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. He was appointed Secretary-General of the National Security Council by King Abdullah on 16 October 2005...

 (a senior member of the royal family) in an interview in 2001. Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad undocumented accusations, specific allegations were made in 2007, when it was claimed that the British defence contractor BAE Systems
BAE Systems
BAE Systems plc is a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company headquartered in London, United Kingdom, that has global interests, particularly in North America through its subsidiary BAE Systems Inc. BAE is among the world's largest military contractors; in 2009 it was the...

 had paid Prince Bandar US$2 billion in bribes relating to the Al-Yamamah arms deal. Prince Bandar denied the allegations. Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted, in 2010, in plea bargain
Plea bargain
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case whereby the prosecutor offers the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge or to the original criminal charge with a recommendation of a lighter than the maximum sentence.A plea bargain allows criminal defendants to...

 agreements with the company, by which it paid $447 million in fines but did not admit to bribery. Transparency International
Transparency International
Transparency International is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. It publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, a comparative listing of corruption worldwide...

 in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index
Corruption Perceptions Index
Since 1995, Transparency International publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index annually ranking countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private...

 for 2010 gave Saudi Arabia a score of 4.7 (on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean").

Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, there has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule, an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and after his accession in 2005. The creation of the Consultative Council in the early 1990s did not satisfy demands for political participation, and, in 2003, an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues, within certain prescribed parameters. In 2005, the first municipal elections were held. In 2007, the Allegiance Council
Allegiance Council
The Allegiance Council is the body responsible for determining future succession to the throne of Saudi Arabia. It was formed in 2006 by King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. At the time of its formation, the Council's intended function was to appoint a Crown Prince once a new King succeeds to the...

 was created to regulate the succession. In 2009, the king made significant personnel changes to the government by appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a ministerial post. However, the changes have been criticized as being too slow or merely cosmetic, and the royal family is reportedly divided on the speed and direction of reform.

The Al ash-Sheikh and the political role of the ulema


Saudi Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 (the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists) a direct role in government, the only other example being Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions, for example the imposition of the oil embargo in 1973
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

 and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990. In addition, they have had a major role in the judicial and education systems and a monopoly of authority in the sphere of religious and social morals.
By the 1970s, as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal, important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline. However, this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979
Grand Mosque Seizure
The Grand Mosque Seizure on November 20, 1979, was an armed attack and takeover by Islamist dissidents of the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest place in Islam...

 by Islamist radicals. The government's response to the crisis included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their financial support: in particular, they were given greater control over the education system and allowed to enforce stricter observance of Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour. Since his accession to the throne in 2005, King Abdullah
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 has taken steps to rein back the powers of the ulema, for instance transferring their control over girls' education to the Ministry of Education.

The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh
Al ash-Sheikh
The Al ash-SheikhIt is incorrect to use the term the Al ash-Sheikh family as the word Al already means family. See Etymology. It would, in theory, be correct to use the term House of the Sheikh, but, unlike House of Saud, in practice this is rarely done...

, the country's leading religious family. The Al ash-Sheikh are the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th century founder of the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 which is today dominant in Saudi Arabia. The family is second in prestige only to the Al Saud (the royal family) with whom they formed a "mutual support pact" and power-sharing arrangement nearly 300 years ago. The pact, which persists to this day, is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Wahhabi doctrine. In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule. Although the Al ash-Sheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades, they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely linked to the Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage.

Political process and opposition


In the absence of national elections and political parties, politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family, the Al Saud, and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society. The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties, personal ambitions and ideological differences. The most powerful clan faction is known as the 'Sudairi Seven', comprising the late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants. Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of reform, and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or reduced. There are also divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan (the current Crown Prince) has occurred.

Outside of the Al Saud, 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, tribal sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major decisions. This process is not reported by the Saudi media. In theory, all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis
Majlis
' , is an Arabic term meaning "a place of sitting", used in the context of "council", to describe various types of special gatherings among common interest groups be it administrative, social or religious in countries with linguistic or cultural connections to Islamic countries...

. In many ways the approach to government differs little from the traditional system of tribal rule. Tribal identity remains strong and, outside of the royal family, political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation, with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events. As mentioned earlier, 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.

The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism; liberal critics; the underground Green Party of Saudi Arabia; the Shi'ite minority
Shia Islam in Saudi Arabia
Approximately 15 percent of citizens in Saudi Arabia are Shia Muslims, most of whom belong to the Baharna Twelver Shia community living in the Eastern Province, with the largest concentrations in Qatif, Al-Hasa, and Dammam...

 – particularly in the Eastern Province; and long-standing tribal and regional particularistic opponents (for example in the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

). Of these, 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. However, open protest against the government, even if peaceful, is not tolerated. On 29 January 2011, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah
Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

 in a rare display of criticism against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city, killing eleven people. Police stopped the demonstration after about 15 minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people. As part of the wave of protests and revolutions affecting the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011, a number of incidents and protests occurred in Saudi Arabia. See 2011 Saudi Arabian protests
2011 Saudi Arabian protests
The 2011 Saudi Arabian protests have been influenced by the Arab Spring that started with the 2011 Tunisian revolution. One of the main online organisers of a planned 11 March "Day of Rage", Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahad , was alleged to have been killed by Saudi security forces on 2 March, by which time...

 for further details.

Law and human rights



The primary source of law is the Islamic Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 derived from the teachings of the Qu'ran and the Sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 (the traditions of the Prophet). Sharia is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent. Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbali
Hanbali
The Hanbali school is one the schools of Fiqh or religious law within Sunni Islam. The jurisprudence school traces back to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal but was institutionalized by his students. Hanbali jurisprudence is considered very strict and conservative, especially regarding questions of dogma...

 school of jurisprudence (or fiqh
Fiqh
Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence. Fiqh is an expansion of the code of conduct expounded in the Quran, often supplemented by tradition and implemented by the rulings and interpretations of Islamic jurists....

) found in pre-modern texts and noted for its literalist interpretation of the Qu'ran and hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

. Nevertheless, 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, divergent judgements arise even in apparently identical cases. 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. Royal decrees supplement Sharia in areas such as labor, commercial and corporate law. Additionally, traditional tribal law and custom remain significant.

The Sharia court system constitutes the basic judiciary of Saudi Arabia and its judges and lawyers form part of the ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

, the country's religious leadership. However, there are also extra-Sharia government tribunals which handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees. 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. The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for being slow, arcane, lacking in some of the safeguards of justice and unable to deal with the modern world. In 2007, King Abdullah issued royal decrees reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system, although the reforms have yet to be implemented. The capabilities and reactionary nature of the judges have, in particular, been criticized and, in 2009, the King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger generation.

Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights record, with Western-based organisations such as Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 and Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 condemning both the criminal justice system and its severe punishments. However, most Saudis reportedly support the system and say that it maintains a low crime rate. There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. Human Rights Watch, in a 2008 report, noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in 2002, but it lacked some basic protections and, in any case, had been routinely ignored by judges. 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. At trial, 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.

The physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as beheading, stoning
Stoning
Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until the person dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject, yet everyone involved plainly bears some degree of moral culpability. This is in contrast to the...

, amputation
Amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

 and lashing, and the number of executions have been strongly criticized. The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy
Apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

, adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

, witchcraft
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 and sorcery
Sorcery
Sorcery may refer to:* Magic * Maleficium * Witchcraft* Sorcery , a video game for the PlayStation 3 utilizing the PlayStation Move* Sorcery , 1995* Sorcery , 1974...

 and can be carried out by beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by crucifixion. The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in 2011 and three subsequent convictions for witchcraft did not result in execution. Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand, only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between 2007 and 2010. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death. Lashings are a common form of punishment and are often imposed for offences against religion and public morality such as drinking alcohol and neglect of prayer and fasting obligations. Retaliatory punishments, or Qisas
Qisas
Qisas is an Islamic term meaning "retaliation," and follows the principle of an eye for an eye, or lex talionis, first set forth by Hammurabi, and subsequently included in the Old Testament and later legal codes...

, are practised: for instance, an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye. Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a payment of diyya
Diyya
Diyya is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim. In Arabic, the word means both blood money and ransom.-Islamic and Arab tradition:The Qur'an specifies the principle of Qisas Diyya (plural: Diyyat; ) is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim. In Arabic, the word means both blood money and...

, or blood money, by the perpetrator.

Other human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women (see Women in Saudi society below), religious discrimination, the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police
Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia)
The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or HAIA is the Saudi Arabian government bureaucracy employing "religious police" or mutaween to...

 (see Religion below). Between 1996 and 2000, Saudi Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and, in 2004, the government approved the establishment of the National Society for Human Rights
National Society for Human Rights
The National Society for Human Rights is a Saudi Arabian human rights organisation closely associated with the Saudi government and established on 10 March 2004, two years after the Human Rights First Society applied unsuccessfully for a licence...

 (NSHR), staffed by government employees, to monitor their implementation. To date, the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence. Saudi Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

. In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record, the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country, and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order.

Foreign relations



Saudi Arabia joined the UN in 1945 and is a founder member of the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, Gulf Cooperation Council
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

, Muslim World League
Muslim World League
The Muslim World League is one of the largest Islamic non-governmental organizations. Muslim religious figures from 22 states founded it in Makkah in 1962.-Structure:...

, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). It plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 and the World Bank, and in 2005 joined the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

. Saudi Arabia supports the intended formation of the Arab Customs Union
Arab Customs Union
The Arab customs union is a customs union announced at the Arab League's 2009 Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Kuwait in order to achieve a functional customs union by 2015 and an Arab common market by 2020 and to increase inter-Arab trade and integration.The announcement was made by...

 in 2015 and an Arab common market
Single market
A single market is a type of trade bloc which is composed of a free trade area with common policies on product regulation, and freedom of movement of the factors of production and of enterprise and services. The goal is that the movement of capital, labour, goods, and services between the members...

 by 2020, as announced at the 2009 Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 summit. As a founding member of OPEC
OPEC
OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings...

, its oil pricing policy has been generally to stabilize the world oil market and try to moderate sharp price movements so as to not jeopardise the Western economies.

Between the mid-1970s and 2002 Saudi Arabia expended over $70 billion in "overseas development aid". However, there is evidence that the vast majority was, in fact, spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism
Wahhabism
Wahhabism is a religious movement or a branch of Islam. It was developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian from Najd, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Abdul Al-Wahhab advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations...

 at the expense of other forms of Islam. There has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and Wahhabism has fomented extremism in recipient countries. The two main allegations are that, by its nature, Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism. Former CIA director James Woolsey described it as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing." However, the Saudi government strenuously denies these claims or that it exports religious or cultural extremism.

In the Arab and Muslim worlds, Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and pro-American, and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States. However, this and Saudi Arabia's role in the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, particularly the stationing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil from 1991, prompted the development of a hostile Islamist response internally. As a result, Saudi Arabia has, to some extent, distanced itself from the U.S. and, for example, refused to support or to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Relations with the United States became strained following 9/11. American politicians and media accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a jihadist culture. Indeed, Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 and fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. According to the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT
Let
Let or LET may refer to:* -let, an English diminutive suffix* Let, a shot or point that must be replayed in certain racquet sports* Let, a name binding construct in computer programming languages...

 and other terrorist groups. . . . Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

Saudi Arabia's increasing alarm at the rise of Iran is reflected in the reported private comments of King Abdullah urging the US to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake". Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict, periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the Palestinians
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 and condemning Hezbollah. Following the wave of protests and revolutions affecting the Arab world in early 2011
2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

 Saudi Arabia offered asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is a Tunisian political figure who was the second President of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister in October 1987, and he assumed the Presidency on 7 November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état that ousted President Habib Bourguiba, who was...

 of Tunisia and King Abdullah telephoned President Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....

 of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support.

Military


The Saudi military consists of the Saudi Army
Saudi Arabian Army
The Saudi Arabian Army , also called Royal Saudi Land Force . Is a branch of the Saudi Armed Forces. The total number of active troops is estimated to be 233,500The current Chief of the Saudi General Staff is Field Marshal Saleh Al-Muhaya....

, the Royal Saudi Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
The Royal Saudi Air Force , is the aviation branch of the Saudi Arabian armed forces. The RSAF has developed from a largely defensive military force into one with an advanced offensive capability...

, the Royal Saudi Navy
Royal Saudi Navy
The Royal Saudi Navy is the Naval force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Royal Saudi Navy is sometimes referred to as the RSNF . The Navy has about 15,000 officers and men, including 3,000 Marines. The Naval headquarters is in Riyadh. The Western Fleet is based in the Red Sea with the main base...

, the Royal Saudi Air Defense
Royal Saudi Air Defense
Royal Saudi Air Defence is the fourth branch of Saudi Armed Forces. It was a part of the Army until 1981, when it was made independent by Field Marshal Khalid bin Sultan...

, the Saudi Arabian National Guard – the 'SANG'
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard is a separate military force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the Saudi Arabian Defence Forces, due to its specific role as a counterbalance to the regular military. It serves both as defence force against external threats and as a security force...

 (an independent military force), and paramilitary forces, totaling nearly 200,000 active-duty personnel. In 2005 the armed forces had the following personnel: the army
Saudi Arabian Army
The Saudi Arabian Army , also called Royal Saudi Land Force . Is a branch of the Saudi Armed Forces. The total number of active troops is estimated to be 233,500The current Chief of the Saudi General Staff is Field Marshal Saleh Al-Muhaya....

, 75,000; Royal Saudi Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
The Royal Saudi Air Force , is the aviation branch of the Saudi Arabian armed forces. The RSAF has developed from a largely defensive military force into one with an advanced offensive capability...

, 18,000; air defense
Royal Saudi Air Defense
Royal Saudi Air Defence is the fourth branch of Saudi Armed Forces. It was a part of the Army until 1981, when it was made independent by Field Marshal Khalid bin Sultan...

, 16,000; Royal Saudi Navy
Royal Saudi Navy
The Royal Saudi Navy is the Naval force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Royal Saudi Navy is sometimes referred to as the RSNF . The Navy has about 15,000 officers and men, including 3,000 Marines. The Naval headquarters is in Riyadh. The Western Fleet is based in the Red Sea with the main base...

, 15,500 (including 3,000 marines); and the SANG
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard is a separate military force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the Saudi Arabian Defence Forces, due to its specific role as a counterbalance to the regular military. It serves both as defence force against external threats and as a security force...

 had 75,000 active soldiers and 25,000 tribal levies. In addition, there is a military intelligence service
Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah
The Ri'āsat Al-Istikhbārāt Al-'Āmah , or the General Intelligence Presidency , is the primary intelligence agency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.- History :...

.

The SANG
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard is a separate military force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the Saudi Arabian Defence Forces, due to its specific role as a counterbalance to the regular military. It serves both as defence force against external threats and as a security force...

 is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force, and originated out of Abdul Aziz’s
Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia
King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was the first monarch of the Third Saudi State known as Saudi Arabia. He was commonly referred to as Ibn Saud....

 tribal military-religious force, the Ikhwan
Ikhwan
The Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of the Arabian ruler Ibn Saud and played a key role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula, in his new state of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan were made up of Bedouin tribes...

. Its modern existence, however, is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah’s
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is the King of Saudi Arabia. He succeeded to the throne on 1 August 2005 upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. When Crown Prince, he governed Saudi Arabia as regent from 1998 to 2005...

 private army since the 1960s and, unlike the rest of the armed forces, is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The SANG
Saudi Arabian National Guard
The Saudi Arabian National Guard is a separate military force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the Saudi Arabian Defence Forces, due to its specific role as a counterbalance to the regular military. It serves both as defence force against external threats and as a security force...

 has been a counter-balance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defense and Aviation, is one of the so-called ‘Sudairi Seven
Sudairi Seven
The Sudairi Seven, also spelled Sudairy or Sudayri, is the commonly used name for a powerful alliance of seven full brothers and their descendants within the royal family of Saudi Arabia. They are also known as the Al Fahd . They are sometimes referred to as the Sudairi Clan or the Sudairi faction...

’ and controls the remainder of the armed forces.

Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since the mid-‘90s and was about US$25.4 billion in 2005. Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 10 in the world in government spending for its military, representing about 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2005. Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world’s most densely armed nations, with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US, France and Britain. The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military. On 20 October 2010, U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces. The UK has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since 1965. Since 1985, the UK has supplied military aircraft – notably the Tornado
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

 and Eurofighter Typhoon
Eurofighter Typhoon
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole combat aircraft, designed and built by a consortium of three companies: EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems; working through a holding company, Eurofighter GmbH, which was formed in 1986...

 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.

Geography




Saudi Arabia occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, lying between latitudes 16°
16th parallel north
The 16th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 16 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 33° N
33rd parallel north
The 33rd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 33 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes 34°
34th meridian east
The meridian 34° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Turkey, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 56° E
56th meridian east
The meridian 56° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. Because the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 and Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 are not precisely defined or marked, the exact size of the country remains unknown. The CIA World Factbook's estimate is 2149690 km² (830,000 sq mi) and lists Saudi Arabia as the world's 13th largest state.

Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert
Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of...

 and associated semi-desert and shrubland (see satellite image to right). It is, in fact, a number of linked deserts and includes the 647500 km² (250,001 sq mi) Rub' al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) in the southern part of the country, the world’s largest sand desert. There are virtually no permanent rivers or lakes in the country, but wadis are numerous. The few fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis, basins, and oases. 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. On the Red Sea coast, there is a narrow coastal plain, known as the Tihamah
Tihamah
Tihamah or Tihama is a narrow coastal region of Arabia on the Red Sea. It is currently divided between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In a broad sense, Tihamah refers to the entire coastline from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Bab el Mandeb Strait but it more often refers only to its southern half, starting...

 parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous, and contains Mount Sawda
Jabal Sawda
Jabal Sawda is a peak located in Saudi Arabia, with an altitude of around 3,000 metres .Most authorities claim that the peak, with a questioned altitude of 3,133 m, is the highest point in Saudi Arabia, but SRTM data indicates an elevation of 2,985m, with higher elevations elsewhere in the...

, which is generally considered the highest point in the country. Estimates of its elevation range from 3133 to 3207 m (10,278.9 to 10,521.7 ft).

Except for the south western province of Asir, Saudi Arabia has a desert climate
Desert climate
A desert climate , also known as an arid climate, is a climate that does not meet the criteria to be classified as a polar climate, and in which precipitation is too low to sustain any vegetation at all, or at most a very scanty scrub.An area that features this climate usually experiences less than...

 with extremely high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night. Average summer temperatures are around 45 °C, but can be as high as 54 °C. In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 0 °C. In the spring and autumn the heat is temperate, temperatures average around 29 °C. Annual rainfall is extremely low. The Asir region differs in that it is influenced by the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 monsoons, usually occurring between October and March. An average of 300 mm of rainfall occurs during this period, that is about 60% of the annual precipitation.

Animal life includes wolves, hyenas, mongooses, baboons, hares, sand rats, and jerboas. Larger animals such as gazelles, oryx
Oryx
Oryx is one of four large antelope species of the genus Oryx. Three of the species are native to arid parts of Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. Their pelage is pale with contrasing dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight...

, and leopards were relatively numerous until the 1950s, when hunting from motor vehicles reduced these animals almost to extinction. Birds include falcons (which are caught and trained for hunting), eagles, hawks, vultures, sand grouse and bulbul
Bulbul
Bulbuls are a family, Pycnonotidae, of medium-sized passerine songbirds. Many forest species are known as greenbuls. The family is distributed across most of Africa and into the Middle East, tropical Asia to Indonesia, and north as far as Japan. A few insular species occur on the tropical islands...

s. There are several species of snakes, many of which are venomous, and numerous types of lizards. There is a wide variety of marine life in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. Domesticated animals include camels, sheep, goats, donkeys, and chickens. Reflecting the country's desert conditions, Saudi Arabia’s plant life mostly consists of small herbs and shrubs requiring little water. There are a few small areas of grass and trees in southern Asir. The date palm
Date Palm
The date palm is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around the Persian Gulf. It is a medium-sized plant, 15–25 m tall, growing singly or forming a clump with...

 (Phoenix dactylifera) is widespread.

Administrative divisions



Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces (manatiq idāriyya, – singular mintaqah
Mintaqah
Minţaqah is a term for a first-level administrative division in Saudi Arabia and Chad, and for a second-level administrative division in several other Arab countries. It is often translated as region, district, or, in Saudi Arabia, as province...

 idariyya
). The provinces are further divided into governorates (Arabic: muhafazat, محافظات‎, singular muhafazah), 118 in total. This number contains the provincial capitals, which have a different status as municipalities (amanah) headed by mayors (amin). The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (marakiz, sing. markaz).
Province Capital
Al Bahah (or Baha) Al Bahah city
Al Bahah
Al Bahah is a city in the south west of Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of Al Bahah Province nestled between the resorts of Taif and Abha, Al Baha is one of the Kingdom’s prime tourist attractions. It enjoys a pleasant climate and is surrounded by more than forty forests, including Raghdan, al...

Northern Border Arar
Arar
Mustafa Wahbi Al-Tal, better known as Arar , was a Jordanian poet, lawyer, teacher, judge, political agitator and philosopher....

Al Jawf (or Jouf)
Al Jawf Province
Al-Jawf , also spelled Al-Jouf, is a province of Saudi Arabia, located in the north of the country, bordering Jordan. It has an area of 100,212 km² and a population of 440,009 at the 2010 Census...

Sakaka city
Al Jawf, Saudi Arabia
Skaka is a city in the north of Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of Al Jawf Province.See Sakakah for full description-External links:* , Splendid Arabia: A travel site with photos and routes...

Al Madinah Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

Al Qasim Buraidah
Buraidah
Buraidah is the capital of Al-Qassim Province in northcentral Saudi Arabia in the heart of the Arabian peninsula. Buraidah lies equidistant from the Red Sea to the west and the Persian Gulf to the east...

Ha'il Ha'il city
Ha'il
Ha'il , also spelled Hail, Ha'yel, or Hayil, is an oasis city in Nejd in northwestern Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of the Ha'il Province. The city has a population of 356,876 according to Ha'il Province....

Asir Abha
Abha
Abha is the capital of Asir province in Saudi Arabia. It is situated at 2,200 metres above sea level in the fertile mountains of south-western Saudi Arabia near the National Park of Asir. Its mild climate makes it a popular tourist destination for Saudis...

Eastern Province Dammam
Dammam
Dammam is the capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the most oil-rich region in the world. The judicial and administrative bodies of the province and several government departments are located in the city. Dammam is the largest city in the Eastern Province and third largest in Saudi...

Al Riyadh Riyadh city
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

Tabuk Tabuk city
Najran Najran city
Najran
Najran , formerly known as Aba as Sa'ud, is a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. It is the capital of Najran Province. Designated a New town, Najran is one of the fastest-growing cities in the kingdom; its population has risen from 47,500 in 1974 and 90,983 in 1992 to...

Makkah Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

Jizan Jizan city
Jizan
-Ethnography:The inhabitants of Jazan, are made up of Arabs. Islam is the religion of almost the totality of the inhabitants of the city and the province.-External links:*http://www.jazan.gov.sa* *http://krwetatnt.com/vb/...


Economy



Saudi Arabia's command economy
Planned economy
A planned economy is an economic system in which decisions regarding production and investment are embodied in a plan formulated by a central authority, usually by a government agency...

 is petroleum-based; roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry. The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

, compared with 40% from the private sector (see below). Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 Goilbbl of oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

, comprising about one-fifth of the world's proven total petroleum reserves.

The government is attempting to promote growth in the private sector by privatizing industries such as power and telecommunications. Saudi Arabia announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies in 1999, which followed the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company. Shortages of water and rapid population growth may constrain government efforts to increase self-sufficiency in agricultural products.

In the 1990s, Saudi Arabia experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth. Per capita income fell from a high of $11,700 at the height of the oil boom in 1981 to $6,300 in 1998. Increases in oil prices since 2000 have helped boost per capita GDP to $17,000 in 2007 dollars, or about $7,400 adjusted for inflation.

Oil price increases of 2008–2009 have triggered a second oil boom, pushing Saudi Arabia's budget surplus to $28 billion (110SR billion) in 2005. Tadawul
Tadawul
Saudi Stock Exchange or Tadawul is the only stock exchange in Saudi Arabia. It is supervised by the Capital Market Authority. The Tadawul All-Share Index reached its highest point at 20,634.86 on 25 February 2006. It lists 144 publicly traded companies...

 (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76.23% to close at 4437.58 points. Market capitalization
Market capitalization
Market capitalization is a measurement of the value of the ownership interest that shareholders hold in a business enterprise. It is equal to the share price times the number of shares outstanding of a publicly traded company...

 was up 110.14% from a year earlier to stand at $157.3 billion (589.93SR billion), which makes it the biggest stock market in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

.‏

OPEC
OPEC
OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings...

 (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its members' oil production based on their "proven reserves." The higher their reserves, the more OPEC allows them to produce. Saudi Arabia's published reserves have shown little change since 1980, with the main exception being an increase of about 100 Goilbbl between 1987 and 1988. Matthew Simmons
Matthew Simmons
Matthew Roy Simmons was founder and chairman emeritus of Simmons & Company International, and was a prominent advocate of peak oil. Simmons was motivated by the 1973 energy crisis to create an investment banking firm catering to oil companies. In his previous capacity, he served as energy...

 has suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

).

Saudi Arabia is one of only a few fast-growing countries in the world with a relatively high per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 of $24,200 (2010). Saudi Arabia will be launching six "economic cities" (e.g. King Abdullah Economic City
King Abdullah Economic City
King Abdullah Economic City is a megaproject announced in 2005 by Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia.-Overview:...

) which are planned to be completed by 2020. These six new industrialized cities are intended to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia, and are expected to increase the per capita income. The King of Saudi Arabia has announced that the per capita income is forecast to rise from $15,000 in 2006 to $33,500 in 2020. The cities will be spread around Saudi Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their economy, and the cities are projected to contribute $150 billion to the GDP.

However the urban area
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

s of Riyadh
Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

 and Jeddah
Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

 are expected to contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020.

Population and language



Saudi Arabia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its population as of July 2010 is estimated to be 25,731,776 including 5,576,076 non-nationals Until the 1960s, a majority of the population was nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic; but presently more than 95% of the population is settled, due to rapid economic and urban growth. As recently as the early 1960s, the Saudi Arabia’s slave population was estimated at 300,000. Slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 was officially abolished in 1962. The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic
Hejazi Arabic
Hejazi Arabic is a variety of the Arabic language spoken in the western region of Saudi Arabia...

 (about 6 million speakers), Nejdi Arabic
Najdi Arabic
Najdi Arabic is a variety of the Arabic language spoken in the desert and oases of central Saudi Arabia.There are four major groups of Najdi Arabic.1. Northern Najdi, spoken in Zulfi, Qaseem and Jabal Shammar regions of Najd....

 (about 8 million speakers) and Gulf Arabic
Gulf Arabic
Gulf Arabic is a variety of the Arabic language spoken around the shore of the Persian Gulf such as in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman...

 (about 1.5 million speakers). The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages, the most numerous being Tagalog
Tagalog language
Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a third of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by most of the rest. It is the first language of the Philippine region IV and of Metro Manila...

 (700,000), Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

 (380,000), and Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....

 (300,000).

About 31% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Indian
Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin
A Non-Resident Indian is an Indian citizen who has migrated to another country, a person of Indian origin who is born outside India, or a person of Indian origin who resides permanently outside India. Other terms with the same meaning are overseas Indian and expatriate Indian...

: 1.1 million, Pakistani: 1 million Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

i: 500,000, Filipino
Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

: 500,000, Egyptian
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

: 800,000, Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

i: 800,000, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n: 250,000, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

n: 350,000, Sudanese: 250,000, Syrian
Demographics of Syria
Syrians today are an overall indigenous Levantine people. While modern-day Syrians are commonly described as Arabs by virtue of their modern-day language and bonds to Arab culture and history...

: 100,000 and Turkish
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

: 100,000. There are around 100,000 Westerners
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in compounds
Compound (enclosure)
Compound when applied to a human habitat refers to a cluster of buildings in an enclosure, having a shared or associated purpose, such as the houses of an extended family...

 or gated communities
Gated community
In its modern form, a gated community is a form of residential community or housing estate containing strictly-controlled entrances for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles, and often characterized by a closed perimeter of walls and fences. Gated communities usually consist of small residential...

.

Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991. An estimated 240,000 Palestinians
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 are living in Saudi Arabia. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship, because of Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship. Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers, which entitles expatriate
Expatriate
An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing...

s 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. The Articles 12.4 and 14.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi Citizenship System can be interpreted as requiring applicants to be Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

.

In a 2011 news story, Arab News reported, "Nearly three million expatriate workers will have to leave the Kingdom in the next few years as the Labor Ministry has put a 20 percent ceiling on the country’s guest workers."

Social issues


Saudi society has a number of issues and tensions. A rare independent opinion poll published in 2010 indicated that Saudis’ main social concerns were unemployment (at 10% in 2010), corruption and religious extremism. Crime is not a significant problem. However, Saudi Arabia’s objective of being both a modern and Islamic country, coupled with economic difficulties, has created deep social tensions, including the following. Connections to the West have caused some Saudis to desire the overthrow of the Al Saud. Others want a reformed and more open government and to have more influence in the political process. On the other hand, juvenile delinquency, drug-use and use of alcohol are getting worse. High unemployment and a generation of young males filled with contempt toward the Royal Family is a significant threat to Saudi social stability. Some Saudis feel they are entitled to well-paid government jobs, and the failure of the government to satisfy this sense of entitlement has led to considerable dissatisfaction. Additionally, the Shiite minority, located primarily in the Eastern Province, and who often complain of institutionalized inequality and repression, have created civil disturbances in the past. Terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have made it clear that Saudi Arabia does harbor indigenous terrorists.

According to a 2009 U.S. State Department communication by Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

, (disclosed as part of the Wikileaks U.S. 'cables leaks' controversy in 2010
United States diplomatic cables leak
The United States diplomatic cables leak, widely known as Cablegate, began in February 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates,...

) "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide". Part of this funding arises through the zakat
Zakat
Zakāt , one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a fixed portion of one's wealth to charity, generally to the poor and needy.-History:Zakat, a practice initiated by Muhammed himself, has played an important role throughout Islamic history...

 (or religious tax) required to be paid by all Saudis to charities, and amounting to at least 2.5 percent of their income. Although many charities are genuine, others, it is alleged, serve as fronts for money laundering and terrorist financing
Terrorist Financing
Terrorist financing came into limelight after the events of terrorism on 9/11. The US passed the USA PATRIOT Act to, among other reasons, attempt thwarting the financing of terrorism and anti-money laundering making sure these were given some sort of adequate focus by US financial institutions...

 operations. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes, it has been alleged that others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be applied.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Nura Al-Suwaiyan, director of the family safety program at the National Guard Hospital
National Guard Health Affairs
National Guard Health Affairs is a leading medical complex in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It consists of sophisticated medical cities that are scattered in many regions of Saudi Arabia...

, one in four children are abused
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

 in Saudi Arabia. The National Society for Human Rights
National Society for Human Rights
The National Society for Human Rights is a Saudi Arabian human rights organisation closely associated with the Saudi government and established on 10 March 2004, two years after the Human Rights First Society applied unsuccessfully for a licence...

 reports that almost 45% of the country's children are facing some sort of abuse and domestic violence. 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 and loopholes in the system cause many to fall victim to abuse and torture.

Widespread inbreeding
Inbreeding
Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is...

 in Saudi Arabia, resulting from the traditional practice of encouraging marriage between close relatives, has produced high levels of several genetic disorders including thalassemia
Thalassemia
Thalassemia is an inherited autosomal recessive blood disease that originated in the Mediterranean region. In thalassemia the genetic defect, which could be either mutation or deletion, results in reduced rate of synthesis or no synthesis of one of the globin chains that make up hemoglobin...

, sickle cell anemia, spinal muscular atrophy
Spinal muscular atrophy
Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a neuromuscular disease characterized by degeneration of motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscular atrophy and weakness. The clinical spectrum of SMA ranges from early infant death to normal adult life with only mild weakness...

, deafness and muteness.

Religion




There are about 25 million people who are Muslim
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, or 97% of the total population. Data for Saudi Arabia comes primarily from general population surveys, which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios. About 85–90% of Saudis are Sunni, while Shias represent around 10–15% of the Muslim population. The official and dominant form of Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 in Saudi Arabia is commonly known as Wahhabism (a name which some of its proponents consider derogatory, preferring the term Salafism), founded in the Arabian peninsular by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century, is often described as 'puritanical', 'intolerant' or 'ultra-conservative'. However, proponents consider that its teachings seek to purify the practise of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 of any innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh-century teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 and his companions

As noted earlier (see Politics) Saudi Arabia is a source of Sunni Islamist activity, including violent or terrorist Islamist activity and "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide".

In 2010, the U.S. 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". No faith other than Islam is permitted to be practised, although there are nearly a million Christians - nearly all foreign workers - in Saudi Arabia. There are no churches or other non-Muslim houses of worship permitted in the country. Even private prayer services are forbidden in practice and the Saudi religious police reportedly regularly search the homes of Christians. Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter. Conversion by Muslims to another religion
Apostasy in Islam
Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined in Islam as the rejection in word or deed of one's former religion by a person who was previously a follower of Islam...

 (apostasy
Apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

) carries the death penalty, although there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years. Proselytizing by non-Muslims is illegal, and the last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985. Compensation in court cases discriminates against non-Muslims: once fault is determined, a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined, a Jew or Christian half, and all others a sixteenth.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Shia minority face systematic discrimination from the Saudi government in education, the justice system and especially religious freedom. Restrictions are imposed on the public celebration of Shia festivals such as Ashura
Ashura
Ashura may refer to:* Ashura, meaning "tenth" in Arabic** The Day of Ashura, , day of mourning in Shi'a Islam* King Ashura, character from the manga series Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle...

 and on the Shia taking part in communal public worship.

Women in Saudi society


The U.S. State department considers that “discrimination against women is a significant problem” in Saudi Arabia and that women have few political or social rights. After her 2008 visit, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women noted the lack of women's autonomy and the absence of a law criminalizing violence against women. The World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland....

 2010 Global Gender Gap Report
Global Gender Gap Report
The Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006 by the World Economic Forum. The 2010 report covers 134 major and emerging economies....

 ranked Saudi Arabia 129th out of 134 countries for gender parity.

Every adult woman has to have a close male relative as her "guardian". As a result, Human Rights Watch has described the position of Saudi women as no different to being a minor
Minor (law)
In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18...

, with little authority over their own lives. The guardian is entitled to make a number of critical decisions on a woman's behalf. These include giving approval for the woman to travel, to hold some types of business licenses, to study at a university or college and to work if the type of business is not "deemed appropriate for a woman." Even where a guardian’s approval is not legally required, some officials will still ask for it.

Women also face discrimination in the courts, where the testimony of one man equals that of two women, and in family and inheritance law. Polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 is permitted for men, and men have a unlilateral right to divorce their wives (talaq
Divorce (Islamic)
In Islam there are separate rules for divorce for men and women under the terms of Islamic law . When a man has initiated a divorce the procedure is called . When a woman has initiated a divorce it is called khula ....

) without needing any legal justification. A woman can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband or judicially if her husband has harmed her. In practice, it is very difficult for a Saudi woman to obtain a judicial divorce. With regard to the law of inheritance, the Quran specifies that fixed portions of the deceased's estate must be left to the Qu'ranic heirs. Generally, female heirs receive half the portion of male heirs. A Sunni Muslim can bequeath a maximum of a third of his property to non-Qu'ranic heirs. The residue
Residuary estate
A residuary estate, in the law of wills, is any portion of the testator's estate that is not specifically devised to someone in the will, or any property that is part of such a specific devise that fails. It is also known as a residual estate or simply residue. The will may identify the taker of...

 is divided between agnatic heirs.

Cultural norms impose restrictions on women when in public, and these are enforced by the religious police, the mutawa. They include requiring women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in restaurants, to wear an abaya
Abaya
The abaya "cloak" , sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world including in Turkey, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula....

 (a loose-fitting, full-length black cloak covering the entire body) and to conceal their hair. There is also effectively a ban on women driving.

Female literacy is estimated to be around 70% compared to male literacy of around 85%. Men can marry girls as young as ten in Saudi Arabia and, quite apart from the other considerable damage to the children involved, child marriage
Child marriage
Child marriage and child betrothal customs occur in various times and places, whereby children are given in matrimony - before marriageable age as defined by the commentator and often before puberty. Today such customs are fairly widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America: in...

 is believed to hinder the cause of women's education. The drop-out rate of girls increases around puberty, as they exchange education for marriage. Roughly 25% of college-aged young women do not attend college, and in 2005–2006, women had a 60% dropout rate.

Leading Saudi feminist and journalist, Wajeha al-Huwaider
Wajeha al-Huwaider
Wajeha al-Huwaider is a female Saudi activist and writer. She is a co-founder of The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia....

, has said "Saudi women are weak, no matter how high their status, even the 'pampered' ones among them, because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia."

Although many Saudis would like more freedom in Saudi Arabia, there is evidence that many women do not want radical change. Even many advocates of reform reject foreign critics, for "failing to understand the uniqueness of Saudi society." A number of Saudi women have risen to the top of some professions or otherwise achieved prominence, for example Dr. Ghada Al-Mutairi, heads a medical research center in California and Dr. Salwa Al-Hazzaa, head of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital
King Faisal Specialist Hospital
The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center is a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which operates 850 beds with approximately 8,500 employees. In all there are 63 different nationalities making up the staff. The hospital is the national referral center for oncology, organ...

 in Riyadh and was the late King Fahad’s personal ophthalmologist.
On 25 September 2011, King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections, following the next round of these elections. However, a male guardian's permission is required in order to vote.

Education



Education is free at all levels. The school system is composed of elementary, intermediate, and secondary schools. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam, and, at the secondary level, students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track. Girls are able to attend school, but fewer girls attend than boys. This disproportion is reflected in the rate of literacy, which exceeds 85 percent among males and is about 70 percent among females. Classes are segregated by gender. Higher education has expanded rapidly, with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since 2000. Institutions of higher education include the country's first University, King Saud University
King Saud University
King Saud University is a public university located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was founded in 1957 by King Saud bin Abdul Aziz as Riyadh University, as the first university in the kingdom not dedicated to religious subjects. The university was created to meet the shortage of skilled workers in...

 founded in 1957, the Islamic University
Islamic University of Madinah
The Islamic University of al-Madinah al-Munawarah was founded by the government of Saudi Arabia by a royal decree in the year 1961 AD in the Islamic holy city of Medina.-History:...

 at Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 founded in 1961, and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah
Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

 founded in 1967. Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology, military studies, religion, and medicine. Institutes devoted to Islamic studies, in particular, abound. Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions.

The study of Islam dominates the Saudi educational system. In particular, the memorization by rote of large parts of the Qu'ran, its interpretation and understanding (Tafsir
Tafsir
Tafseer is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary, usually of the Qur'an. Ta'wīl is a subset of tafsir and refers to esoteric or mystical interpretation. An author of tafsir is a mufassir .- Etymology :...

) 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. As a consequence, Saudi youth "generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs" according to the CIA. Similarly, The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education is a newspaper and website that presents news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty, staff members and administrators....

wrote in 2010 that "the country needs educated young Saudis with marketable skills and a capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers, steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction."

A further criticism of the religious focus of the Saudi education system is the nature of the Wahhabi-controlled curriculum. The Islamic aspect of the Saudi national curriculum was examined in a 2006 report by Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 which concluded that "the Saudi public school religious curriculum continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the “unbeliever,” that is, Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine, Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

s, atheists and others" The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah
Madrasah
Madrasah is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious...

 throughout the world. 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, and that Islam is at war with other faiths and cultures’.

The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism, leading to reform efforts. To tackle the twin problems of encouraging extremism and the inadequacy of the country's university education for a modern economy, the government is aiming to slowly modernise the education system through the ‘Tatweer’ reform program. 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. It also aims to create an education system which will provide a more secular and vocationally-based training.

Culture



Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country with centuries-old attitudes and traditions, often derived from Arab tribal culture. This conservative tendency has been bolstered by the austerely puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam, which arose in the eighteenth century and now predominates in the country. The many limitations on behaviour and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, for example, and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films. Public expression of opinion about domestic political or social matters is discouraged. There are no organizations such as political parties or labour unions to provide public forums.

Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. Five times each day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques scattered throughout the country. Because Friday is the holiest day for Muslims, the weekend begins on Thursday. In accordance with Wahhabi doctrine, only two religious holidays are publicly recognized, ʿĪd al-Fiṭr and ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā. Celebration of other Islamic holidays, such as the Prophet’s birthday and ʿĀshūrāʾ (an important holiday for Shīʿites), are tolerated only when celebrated locally and on a small scale. Public observance of non-Islamic religious holidays is prohibited, with the exception of September 23, which commemorates the unification of the kingdom.

Islamic heritage sites


Saudi Arabia, and specifically the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, as the cradle of Islam, has many of the most significant historic Muslim sites including the two holiest sites of Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

. One of the King's titles is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques , a historical term, was a pious title taken by the Ayyubids, the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt, and the Ottoman Sultans; it has been revived by modern Saudi kings.-Saudi monarchy:...

, the two mosques being Masjid al-Haram
Masjid al-Haram
Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām is the largest mosque in the world. Located in the city of Mecca, it surrounds the Kaaba, the place which Muslims worldwide turn towards while performing daily prayers and is Islam's holiest place...

 in Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, which contains Islam's most sacred place, the Kaaba
Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

, and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi , often called the Prophet's Mosque, is a mosque situated in the city of Medina. As the final resting place of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, it is considered the second holiest site in Islam by Muslims and is one of the largest mosques in the world...

 in Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 which contains Muhammad's tomb.

However, Saudi Wahhabism
Wahhabism
Wahhabism is a religious movement or a branch of Islam. It was developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian from Najd, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Abdul Al-Wahhab advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations...

 is hostile to any reverence given to historical or religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to 'shirk' (that is, idolatry). As a consequence, under Saudi rule, the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 cities have suffered from considerable destruction of their physical heritage and, for example, it has been estimated that about 95% of Mecca's
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 historic buildings, most over a thousand years old, have been demolished. These include the mosque originally built by Muhammad's daughter Fatima, and other mosques founded by Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

 (Muhammad's father-in-law and the first Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

), Umar (the second Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

), Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

), and Salman al-Farsi (another of Muhammad's companions). Other historic buildings that have been destroyed include the house of Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet, the house of Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

, now the site of the local Hilton hotel; the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of the Prophet, and the Mosque of abu-Qubais, now the location of the King's palace in Mecca.

Critics have described this as "Saudi vandalism" and claim that over the last 50 years 300 historic sites linked to Muhammad, his family or companions have been lost. It has been reported that there now are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad.

Dress


Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 (the Islamic principle of modesty
Modesty
Standards of modesty are aspects of the culture of a country or people, at a given point in time, and is a measure against which an individual in society may be judged....

, especially in dress). The predominantly loose and flowing, but covering, garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 climate. Traditionally, men usually wear an ankle length shirt woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb
Thawb
A thawb or thobe , dishdasha , kandura , or suriyah in Libya, is an ankle-length garment, usually with long sleeves, similar to a robe. It is commonly worn in Arab countries. An Izaar is commonly worn underneath.-Background:...

), with a keffiyeh
Keffiyeh
The keffiyeh/kufiya , also known as a ghutrah , ' , mashadah , shemagh or in Persian chafiye , Kurdish cemedanî and Turkish puşi, is a traditional Arab headdress fashioned from a square, usually cotton, scarf. It is typically worn by Arab men, as well as some Kurds...

 (a large checkered square of cotton held in place by a cord coil) or a ghutra
Keffiyeh
The keffiyeh/kufiya , also known as a ghutrah , ' , mashadah , shemagh or in Persian chafiye , Kurdish cemedanî and Turkish puşi, is a traditional Arab headdress fashioned from a square, usually cotton, scarf. It is typically worn by Arab men, as well as some Kurds...

 (a plain white square made of finer cotton, also held in place by a cord coil) worn on the head. For rare chilly days, Saudi men wear a camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

-hair cloak (bisht
Bisht (clothing)
Bisht is a traditional Arabic men’s cloak popular in Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries. It is essentially a flowing outer cloak made of wool, worn over the thobe. Unlike the thobe, the bisht is soft, and it is usually black, brown, beige, cream or grey in colour...

) over the top. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs, coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques. Women are required to wear an abaya
Abaya
The abaya "cloak" , sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world including in Turkey, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula....

 or modest clothing when in public.
  • Ghutrah  is a traditional headdress typically worn by Arab
    Arab
    Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

     men. It is made of a square of cloth ("scarf
    Scarf
    A scarf is a piece of fabric worn around the neck, or near the head or around the waist for warmth, cleanliness, fashion or for religious reasons. They can come in a variety of different colours.-History:...

    "), usually cotton
    Cotton
    Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

    , folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. It is commonly worn in areas with an arid
    Arid
    A region is said to be arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or even preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life...

     climate, to provide protection from direct sun exposure, and also protection of the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand
    Sand
    Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

    .
  • Agal
    Agal
    The agal , also spelled iqal, egal or igal, is an accessory constructed of cord which is fastened around the Keffiyeh to hold it in place. The agal is usually black in colour....

      is an Arab
    Arab
    Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

     headdress constructed of cord which is fastened around the Ghutrah to hold it in place. The agal is usually black in colour.
  • Thawb
    Thawb
    A thawb or thobe , dishdasha , kandura , or suriyah in Libya, is an ankle-length garment, usually with long sleeves, similar to a robe. It is commonly worn in Arab countries. An Izaar is commonly worn underneath.-Background:...

      is the standard Arabic word for garment. It is ankle length, usually with long sleeves similar to a robe
    Robe
    A robe is a loose-fitting outer garment. A robe is distinguished from a cape or cloak by the fact that it usually has sleeves. The English word robe derives from Middle English robe , borrowed from Old French robe , itself taken from the Frankish word *rouba , and is related to the word rob...

    .
  • Bisht
    Bisht (clothing)
    Bisht is a traditional Arabic men’s cloak popular in Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries. It is essentially a flowing outer cloak made of wool, worn over the thobe. Unlike the thobe, the bisht is soft, and it is usually black, brown, beige, cream or grey in colour...

      is a traditional Arabic men’s cloak
    Cloak
    A cloak is a type of loose garment that is worn over indoor clothing and serves the same purpose as an overcoat; it protects the wearer from the cold, rain or wind for example, or it may form part of a fashionable outfit or uniform. Cloaks are as old as human history; there has nearly always been...

     usually only worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings.
  • Abaya
    Abaya
    The abaya "cloak" , sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world including in Turkey, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula....

      is a women's garment. It is a black cloak which loosely covers the entire body except the head. Usually, the sleeves are decorated with stitched embroidery and different bright colors or even crystals, and the rest of the cloak is plain. Some women choose to cover their faces with a niqāb and some do not. Recently, there's a move towards Abaya colors other than black especially in the Makkah Province in the west of the Kingdom.
  • Kameez/Kurta Shalwar
    Kurta
    A kurta is a traditional item of clothing worn in Afghanistan, Pakistan , Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It is a loose shirt falling either just above or somewhere below the knees of the wearer, and is worn by both men and women...

     is a men's and women's garment. It is worn by Pakistani people in Saudi Arabia.

Entertainment, the arts, sport and cuisine



During the 1970s, cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom and were not considered un-Islamic, although they were seen as contrary to Arab tribal norms. During the Islamic revival
Islamic revival
Islamic revival refers to a revival of the Islamic religion throughout the Islamic world, that began roughly sometime in 1970s and is manifested in greater religious piety, and community feeling, and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture, dress, terminology, separation of the sexes, and values...

 movement in the 1980s, and as a political response to an increase in Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
Grand Mosque Seizure
The Grand Mosque Seizure on November 20, 1979, was an armed attack and takeover by Islamist dissidents of the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest place in Islam...

, the government closed all cinemas and theaters. However, with King Abdullah's reforms from 2005, some cinemas have re-opened.

From the 18th century onward, Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged artistic development inconsistent with its teaching. In addition, Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have limited the visual arts, which tend to be dominated by geometric, floral, and abstract designs and by calligraphy. With the advent of oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences, such as Western housing styles, furnishings, and clothes. Music and dance have always been part of Saudi life. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. Instruments include the rabābah, an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle, and various types of percussion instruments, such as the ṭabl (drum) and the ṭār (tambourine). Of the native dances, the most popular is a martial line dance known as the ʿarḍah, which includes lines of men, frequently armed with swords or rifles, dancing to the beat of drums and tambourines. Bedouin poetry, known as nabaṭī, is still very popular.

Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature, although several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular acclaim in the Arab world – albeit generating official hostility in their home country. These include Ghazi Algosaibi, Abdelrahman Munif, Turki al-Hamad
Turki al-Hamad
Turki al-Hamad is a Saudi-Arabian political analyst, journalist, and novelist, best known for his trilogy about the coming-of-age of Hisham al-Abir, a Saudi Arabian teenager, the first installment of which, Adama, was published in 1998...

 and Rajaa al-Sanea
Rajaa al-Sanea
Rajaa al-Sanea is a Saudi writer who became famous through her novel Girls of Riyadh, or Banat al-Riyadh. The book was first published in Lebanon in 2005 and in English in 2007. The book was long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award in 2009...

.

Football (soccer) is extremely popular, as is scuba diving, windsurfing, and sailing. Basketball
Basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

 is popular with both men and women, with the national team
Saudi Arabia national basketball team
The Saudi Arabia national basketball team is the national basketball team representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is administrated by the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation...

 winning bronze at the 1999 Asian Championship. More traditional sports such as camel racing became more popular in the 1970s. A stadium in Riyadh holds races in the winter. The annual King’s Camel Race, begun in 1974, is one of the sport’s most important contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region. Falconry
Falconry
Falconry is "the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor". There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk or an eagle...

, another traditional pursuit, is still practiced.

Cuisine in Saudi Arabia is similar to that of the surrounding Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, and has been heavily influenced by Turkish, Persian, and African food. Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not consumed and other animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal
Halal
Halal is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law...

. A dish consisting of a stuffed lamb, known as khūzī, is the traditional national dish
National dish
A national dish is a dish, food or a drink that is considered to represent a particular country, nation or region.A dish can become a national dish for a variety of reasons. It can be the national dish because it is a staple daily food for the majority of the population. It can also be the national...

. Kebabs are popular, as is shāwarmā (shawarma
Shawarma
Shawarma is a Levantine Arab sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. It is eaten with pita bread, tabbouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus,...

), a marinated grilled meat dish of lamb, mutton, or chicken. As in the countries of the Gulf, machbūs (kabsa
Kabsa
Kabsa is a family of rice dishes that are served mostly in Saudi Arabia — where it is commonly regarded as a national dish — and the other Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Kabsa, though, is believed to be indigenous to Yemen...

), a rice dish with fish or shrimp, is popular. Flat, unleavened bread is a staple of virtually every meal, as are dates and fresh fruit. Coffee, served in the Turkish style
Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee is a method of preparing coffee where finely powdered roast coffee beans are boiled in a pot , with sugar according to taste, before being served into a cup where the dregs settle...

, is the traditional beverage.

See also



Further reading


  • Al Farsy, Fouad (2004) Modernity and Tradition: The Saudi Equation: Panarc International Ltd: ISBN 0954874013
  • Gardner, Andrew (2004) The Political Ecology of Bedouin Pastoralism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales, and Social Groups, Lisa Gezon and Susan Paulson, eds. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press.
  • Jones, John Paul. If Olaya Street Could Talk: Saudi Arabia- The Heartland of Oil and Islam. The Taza Press (2007). ISBN 0-9790436-0-3
  • Lippman, Thomas W. "Inside the Mirage: America's Fragile Partnership with Saudi Arabia" (Westview 2004) ISBN 0-8133-4052-7
  • Mackey, Sandra, The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom (Houghton Mifflin, 1987) ISBN 0-395-41165-3
  • Matthew R. Simmons, Twilight in the Desert The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, John Wiley & Sons
    John Wiley & Sons
    John Wiley & Sons, Inc., also referred to as Wiley, is a global publishing company that specializes in academic publishing and markets its products to professionals and consumers, students and instructors in higher education, and researchers and practitioners in scientific, technical, medical, and...

    , 2005, ISBN 0-471-73876-X
  • Ménoret, Pascal, The Saudi Enigma: A History (Zed Books, 2005) ISBN 1-84277-605-3
  • al-Rasheed, Madawi, A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge University Press, 2002) ISBN 0-521-64335-X
  • Robert Lacey
    Robert Lacey
    Robert Lacey is a British historian and biographer. He is the author of a number of bestselling biographies, including those of Henry Ford and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as works of popular history....

    , THE KINGDOM: Arabia & The House of Sa'ud, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1981 (Hard Cover) and Avon Books
    Avon (publishers)
    Avon Publications was an American paperback book and comic book publisher. As of 2010, it is an imprint of HarperCollins, publishing primarily romance novels.-History:...

    , 1981 (Soft Cover). Library of Congress: 81-83741 ISBN 0-380-61762-5
  • Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, 3rd Edition (Routledge, 2006) ISBN 0-415-29713-3
  • T R McHale, A Prospect of Saudi Arabia, International Affairs
    International Affairs (journal)
    International Affairs is Britain's leading peer-reviewed academic journal of international relations founded by Chatham House in 1924. It is published bi-monthly by Wiley-Blackwell . Currently its editor-in-chief is Caroline Soper...

    Vol. 56 No 4 Autumn 1980 pp622–647
  • Turchin, P. 2007. Scientific Prediction in Historical Sociology: Ibn Khaldun meets Al Saud. History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies. Moscow: KomKniga, 2007. ISBN 5-484-01002-0
  • Carmen Bin Laden, Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia, Grand Central Publishing, 2005, SBN 0446694886
  • Robert Lacey
    Robert Lacey
    Robert Lacey is a British historian and biographer. He is the author of a number of bestselling biographies, including those of Henry Ford and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as works of popular history....

    , Inside the Kingdom, Hutchinson
    Hutchinson (publisher)
    Hutchinson & Co. was an English book publisher, founded in 1887. The company merged with Century Publishing in 1985 to form Century Hutchinson, and was folded into the British Random House Group in 1989, where it remains as an imprint in the Cornerstone Publishing division...

    , 2009.
  • Weston, Mark, "Prophets and Princes," Wiley, 2008.
  • Haghshenas, Seyyed Ali
    Seyeed Ali Haghshenas
    Seyeed Ali Haghshenas Kamyab , born 10/9/1975 in Tehran, is an Iranian writer and journalist.Haghshenas is also Founder & Chairman of Iran Taekwondo Association, ,Iran martial arts Professionals union and G.S of Iran N.G.Os Sport Society.- Books :*Lebanon social and political structure and...

    , Saudi Arabia social
    Social
    The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

     and political structure and religious minorities.Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    , Tehran
    Tehran
    Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

    , Ettelaat newspaper
    Newspaper
    A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

    , June 2010.


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