Saudi Arabia lies at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. It borders with Jordan and Iraq to the North, Kuwait to the Northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the East, Oman to the Southeast, Yemen to the South the Red Sea to the West and Persian Gulf to the East. The terrain is diverse with shrubland, grassland, mountain ranges and deserts, but the dominant terrain is the Arabian Desert. There are virtually no permanent rivers or lakes in Saudi Arabia. The climate changes from region to region and temperatures can reach 54 degrees centigrade in the desert in the summer but in the winter the temperature can drop below freezing in the northern and central parts of the country.
About Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Abdul Aziz bin Saud. Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy, although since 1992 the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia requires the King to comply with Sharia (Islamic) law. The legal system is based on Sharia law. The King is given the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”. In January 2015 a new King came to power – King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – he took over after the death of his half brother King Abdullah who had reigned since 2005.
Saudi Arabia is officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By land area it’s the second largest Arab state and the 13th largest in the World. Its estimated population consists of nearly 22 million citizens plus 5.5 million foreign expatriates. Half of the Saudi Arabian population is under 40 years of age. The capital city is Riyadh and it’s the most densely populated city with a population of over 4 million people. It’s a huge commercial and industrial city. Also it includes a number of historical centres, museums, archaeological sites as well as Qasr Al Hukum , the government palace, the ministries and diplomatic missions. Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest producer of crude oil and it also produces large quantities of natural gas too.
Visitors should be aware that Sharia law is enforced strongly in Saudi Arabia by the religious police (called Mutaween). They police the dress code and non-Islamic behaviour or observance. In public all women including foreigners should observe the strict Saudi dress code and wear loose fitting conservative clothes, including the Abaya (full length cloak) and keep a scarf with them in case they are asked to cover their heads by the Mutaween. Men should wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers. The Mutaween ensure that businesses close 5 times a day during prayer times and that women do not drive or socialise with unrelated men. They also have the power to arrest including foreigners. During the holy month of Ramadan visitors must abide by the restrictions of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and not be seen eating, drinking or smoking in public.
At the December 2015 elections, women were allowed to vote and also to stand for election. This is the first time they will have ever been given this right. The result was that 4 women were elected, although some news agencies reported that there were as many as 17 women elected on this landmark occasion.
At a glance facts about Saudi Arabia
- The main spoken language is Arabic (in fact several varieties of Arabic are spoken) but Tagalog, Rohingya, and Urdu are also spoken by the many guest workers
- International dialling code is +966.
- Time: 3 hours ahead of the UK (2 in summer as its clocks never change).
- Population: 33,554,343 (2018)