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Saudi Arabia (officially Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also called simply Arabia or Saudi), is an Arab country and the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula ----. It is bordered by Jordanmarker on the northwest, Iraqmarker on the north and northeast, Kuwaitmarker, Qatarmarker, Bahrainmarker, and the United Arab Emiratesmarker on the east, Omanmarker on the southeast, and Yemenmarker on the south. The Persian Gulfmarker lies to the northeast and the Red Seamarker to its west. It has an estimated population of 28.7 million, and its size is approximately .

The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Meccamarker and Medinah, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia ( or ). The current Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadhmarker, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, though its national origins go back as far as 1744 with the establishment of the First Saudi Statemarker.

Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter. Petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices.

History

Although the region in which the country stands today has an ancient history, the emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. That year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of the town of Ad-Dir'iyyahmarker near Riyadhmarker, joined forces with a cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. This alliance formed in the 18th century remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egyptmarker, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula (see First Saudi Statemarker and Second Saudi State). The third and current Saudi state was founded in the early 20th century by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (known internationally as Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud).

First Saudi State (1744–1818)

The first Saudi State was established in 1744 when Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab settled in Diriyahmarker and Prince Muhammed Ibn Saud agreed to support and espouse his cause in the hope of cleansing Islamic practices of heresy. The House of Saud and its allies rose to become the dominant state in Arabia controlling most of the Nejd, but neither coast. This Saudi state lasted for about seventy-five years.

Concerned at the growing power of the Saudis, the Ottoman Sultan instructed Mohammed Ali Pasha to reconquer the area. Ali sent his sons Tusun Pasha and Ibrahim Pasha who were successful in routing the Saudi forces in 1818. It would only be a few years before the Sauds would return to power, forming the Second Saudi State.

Second Saudi State (1824–1891)

After a rebuilding period following the ending of the First Saudi Statemarker, the House of Saud returned to power in the Second Saudi State in 1824. The state lasted until 1891 when it succumbed to the Al Rashid and Al Sabhan both the dynasty of Ha'ilmarker.

1900s to present day



The Third Saudi state was founded by the late King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. In 1902 Ibn Saud captured Riyadhmarker, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasamarker, the rest of Nejd, and the Hejaz between 1913 and 1926.

Boundaries with Jordanmarker, Iraqmarker, andKuwaitmarker were established by a series of treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two "neutral zones" created, one with Iraqmarker and the other with Kuwaitmarker. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 67, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdommarker recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz's realm (then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd). In 1932, these regions were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The discovery of oil on March 3, 1938 transformed the country. The country's southern boundary with Yemen was partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Taif, which ended a brief border war between the two states.

Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938. Development programmes, which were delayed due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939, began in earnest in 1946 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community.

Prior to his death in 1953, Abdul Aziz, aware of the difficulties facing other regional absolute rulers reliant on extended family networks, attempted to regulate the succession.

Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s the Kingdom was in jeopardy due to Saud's economic mismanagement and failure to deal effectively with a regional challenge from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favour of Faisal in 1964.

Intra-family rivalry was one of the factors that led to the assassination of Faisal by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa'id, in 1975. He was succeeded by King Khalid until 1982 and then by King Fahd. When Fahd died in 2005, his half-brother, Abdullah, ascended to the throne.

Geography

The Kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula. In 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemenmarker signed an agreement to settle their long-running border dispute. A significant length of the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emiratesmarker, and Omanmarker, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government's estimate is . Other reputable estimates vary between 1,960,582 km2 (756,934 mi) and . The kingdom is commonly listed as the world's 14th largest state.

Saudi Arabia's geography is varied. From the western coastal region (Tihamah), the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center. The southwestern 'Asirmarker region has mountains as high as and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abhamarker in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulfmarker. The geographically hostile Rub' al Khalimarker ("Empty Quarter") desert along the country's imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.
Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation's landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Less than two percent of the kingdom's total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofufmarker and Buraydahmarker. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub' al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry is constructing a few planned communities there. Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for and, along the Red Seamarker, harbors world-class coral reefs, including the Gulf of Aqabamarker.

Native animals include the ibex, wildcats, baboons, wolves, and hyenas in the mountainous highlands. Small birds are found in the oases. The coastal area on the Red Sea with its coral reefs has a rich marine life.

Climate

Extreme heat and aridity are characteristic of most of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the few places in the world besides Northern Africa, United Statesmarker, and Mexicomarker where summer temperatures above 50 °C (122 °F) have been recorded, with being the highest temperature ever recorded in Saudi Arabia at Dhahran in 1956. In winter, frost or snow can occur in the interior and the higher mountains, although this only occurs once or twice in a decade. The lowest recorded temperature is , recorded at Turaif. The average winter temperature ranges from in January in interior cities such as Riyadhmarker and 19°C to 29°C (66°F to 83°F) in Jeddahmarker, on the Red Seamarker coast. The average summer temperature range (in July) is in Riyadh and in Jeddah. Nighttime temperatures in the central deserts can be famously chilly even in summer, as the sand gives up daytime heat rapidly once the sun has set. Annual precipitation is usually sparse (up to in most regions), although sudden downpours can lead to violent flash floods in wadis. Annual rainfall in Riyadh averages and falls almost exclusively between January and May; the average in Jeddah is and occurs between November and January.

Government



The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to The Economist's Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated.

There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. The king's powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The Saudi government spreads Islam by funding construction of mosques and Qur'an schools around the world. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

The combination of relatively high oil prices and exports led to a revenues windfall for Saudi Arabia during 2004 and early 2005. For 2004 as a whole, Saudi Arabia earned about $116 billion in net oil export revenues, up 35 percent from 2003 revenue levels. Saudi net oil export revenues are forecast to increase in 2005 and 2006, to $150 billion and $154 billion, respectively, mainly due to higher oil prices. Increased oil prices and consequent revenues since the price collapse of 1998 have significantly improved Saudi Arabia's economic situation, with real GDP growth of 5.2 percent in 2004, and forecasts of 5.7% and 4.8% growth for 2005 and 2006, respectively.

For fiscal year 2004, Saudi Arabia originally had been expecting a budget deficit. However, this was based on an extremely conservative price assumption of $19 per barrel for Saudi oil and an assumed production of . Both of these estimates turned out to be far below actual levels. As a result, as of mid-December 2004, the Saudi Finance Ministry was expecting a huge budget surplus of $26.1 billion, on budget revenues of $104.8 billion (nearly double the country's original estimate) and expenditures of $78.6 billion (28 percent above the approved budget levels). This surplus is being used for several purposes, including: paying down the Kingdom's public debt (to $164 billion from $176 billion at the start of 2004); extra spending on education and development projects; increased security expenditures (possibly an additional $2.5 billion dollars in 2004; see below) due to threats from terrorists; and higher payments to Saudi citizens through subsidies (for housing, education, health care, etc.). For 2005, Saudi Arabia is assuming a balanced budget, with revenues and expenditures of $74.6 billion each.

Law

The Basic Law, in 1992, declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the progeny of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also declared the Qur'an as the constitution of the country, governed on the basis of Islamic law.

Criminal cases are tried under Sharia courts in the country. These courts exercise authority over the entire population including foreigners (regardless of religion). Cases involving small penalties are tried in Shari'a summary courts. More serious crimes are adjudicated in Shari'a courts of common pleas. Courts of appeal handle appeals from Shari'a courts.

Civil cases may also be tried under Sharia courts with one exception: Shia may try such cases in their own courts. Other civil proceedings, including those involving claims against the Government and enforcement of foreign judgments, are held before specialized administrative tribunals, such as the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes and the Board of Grievances.

Main sources of Saudi law are Hanbali fiqh as set out in a number of specified scholarly treatises by authoritative jurists, other schools of law, state regulations and royal decrees (where these are relevant), and custom and practice.

The Saudi legal system prescribes capital punishment or corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for certain crimes such as murder, robbery, and rape. The courts may impose less severe punishments, such as floggings, for less serious crimes against public morality such as drunkenness.

Human rights

Several international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have issued reports critical of the Saudi legal system and its human rights record in various political, legal, and social areas, especially its severe limitations on the rights of women. The Saudi government typically dismisses such reports as being outright lies or asserts that its actions are based on its adherence to Islamic law.

In 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under the Shari'a. The Saudi delegation responded defending its legal traditions held since the inception of Islam in the region 1400 years ago and rejected "interference" in its legal system.

Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are banned from driving on public roads. Women may drive off-road and in private housing compounds. The ban may be lifted soon, although with certain conditions.

The Government views its interpretation of Islamic law as its sole source of guidance on human rights. In 2000, the Government approved the October legislation, which the Government claimed would address some of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The first independent human rights organization, the National Society for Human Rights was established in 2004.The Saudi Government is an active censor of Internet reception within its borders. A Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was jailed for five months in solitary confinement in December, 2007, without charges, after criticizing Saudi religious, business and media figures.

Emirates

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 emirates (manatiq, – singular mintaqah). The emirates are further divided into governorates.

Emirate Capital L. Map
Al Bahahmarker Al Bahah citymarker
Northern Bordermarker Ararmarker
Al Jawfmarker Al Jawf citymarker
Al Madinahmarker Medinamarker
Al Qasim Buraidahmarker
Ha'il Ha'il citymarker
Asirmarker Abhamarker
Eastern Provincemarker Dammammarker
Al Riyadhmarker Riyadh citymarker
Tabukmarker Tabuk citymarker
Najranmarker Najran citymarker
Makkahmarker Meccamarker
Jizanmarker Jizan citymarker

Cities

Largest Cities by Population
(2007)

mill.
Riyadhmarker 4.7
Jeddahmarker 3.6
Meccamarker 1.7
Medinamarker 1.3 Riyadhmarker Jeddahmarker Meccamarker
Dammammarker 1.3
Ta'ifmarker 0.9
Buraydahmarker 0.7
Tabukmarker 0.6
Khamis Mushaitmarker 0.5
Abhamarker 0.4
Al-Khubarmarker 0.4 Medinamarker Dammammarker Tabukmarker


Economy



Saudi Arabia's economy 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, compared with 40% from the private sector (see below). Saudi Arabia officially has about of oil reserves, comprising about 24% 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 telecom. 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. Recent oil price increases 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 (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76.23% to close at 4437.58 points. Market capitalization 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.‏

OPEC (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 between 1987 and 1988. Matthew Simmons has suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil).To diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia launched a new city on the western coast with investments exceeding $26.6 billion. The city, which is named "King Abdullah Economic Citymarker", will be built near al-Rabegh industrial city north to Jeddah. The new city, where construction work started in December 2005, includes a port which is the largest port of the kingdom. Extending along a coastline of 35 km, the city will also include petrochemical, pharmaceutical, tourism, finance and education and research areas. Saudi Arabia officially became a World Trade Organization member in December 2005.

Development

Saudi Arabia is one of only a few fast-growing countries in the world with a high per capita income of $20,700 (2007). Saudi Arabia will be launching six "economic cities" (e.g. King Abdullah Economic Citymarker) 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 areas of Riyadhmarker and Jeddahmarker are expected to contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020.

Foreign labour

Despite the government's efforts to promote Saudization, the country draws a significant portion of its labour force from foreign countries, especially from South and Southeast Asia (notably Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker, Bangladeshmarker, Indonesiamarker, the Philippinesmarker, Nepalmarker, Sri Lankamarker), East Asia, East Africa and from other Middle Eastern countries. There are also some people from North America, South America, and Europe. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers and skilled workers from regions of the developing world migrate to Saudi Arabia, sometimes only for a short period of time, to work. Although exact figures are not known, skilled experts in the banking and services professions seek work in the Kingdom.

Demographics

Saudi Arabia's population as of July 2006 is estimated to be about 27,019,731, including an estimated 5.5 million resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, a majority of the population was nomadic; but presently more than 95% of the population is settled, due to rapid economic and urban growth. The birth rate is 29.56 births per 1,000 people. The death rate is 2.62 deaths per 1,000 people. Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600/sq mi).

About 23% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia, although the actual percentage is not measured in state censes. Approximately 12% of the population is South Asian or of South Asian ancestry, including Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis. In addition, there are some citizens of Asian, Northeast African, and Sub-Saharan ancestry. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There are over eight million migrants from countries all around the world (including non-Muslims): Indian: 1.4 million, Bangladeshimarker: 1 million, Filipino: 950,000, Pakistanimarker: 900,000, Egyptian: 900,000, Yemenimarker: 800,000, Indonesianmarker: 500,000, Sri Lankanmarker: 350,000, Sudanesemarker: 250,000, Syrian: 100,000 and Turkish: 80,000. There are around 100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in compounds or gated communities.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was also a significant community of South Koreans, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but most have since returned home. Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991 to punish Yemenmarker for its opposition to the Gulf War against Iraqmarker. An estimated 240,000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship, because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship in order "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland". Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers, which entitles expatriates 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.

The Saudi royal family and official creed of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Salafism or Wahhabism, although other branches of Islam, like mainstream Sunnism and Shiism are strongly present in the Kingdom.

Culture

Saudi Arabian culture mainly revolves around the religion of Islam. Islam's two holiest sites, Meccamarker and Medinamarker, are located in the country. Five times every day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques which are scattered around the country. The weekend begins on Thursday due to Friday being the holiest day for Muslims. Most Muslim countries have a Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday weekend. Saudi Arabia's cultural heritage is celebrated at the annual Jenadriyah cultural festival.

Music and dance

One of Saudi Arabia's most compelling folk rituals is the Ardha|Al Ardha, the country's national dance. This sword dance is based on ancient Bedouin traditions: drummers beat out a rhythm and a poet chants verses while sword-carrying men dance shoulder to shoulder. Al-sihba folk music, from the Hejaz, has its origins in al-Andalus. In Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, dance and song incorporate the sound of the mizmar, an oboe-like woodwind instrument in the performance of the Mizmar (dance)|mizmar dance. The drum is also an important instrument according to traditional and tribal customs. Samri is a popular traditional form of music and dance in which poetry is sung especially in the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian Musical tradition depends heavily on the modern Arabian oud.
  • Ardha|Al Ardha ( ) is a type of folkloric dance performed by the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian peninsula, It was tradition only performed before going to war, but nowadays is performed at celebrations or cultural events, such as the Jenadriyah festival. The dance, which is performed by men carrying swords or canes, is accompanied by drums and spoken verse.
  • Mizmar ( ) is the name of a folkloric dance native to the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia. The dance involves moving while twirling a bamboo cane (tool)cane, to the music of drums.
  • Samri ( )is the name of a folkloric music and dance. It involves singing poetry while the daff drum is being played. Two rows of men, seated on the knees sway to the rhythm.


Dress

Saudi Arabian dress follows strictly the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty, especially in dress). The predominantly loose and flowing but covering garments are helpful in Saudi Arabia's desert climate. Traditionally, men usually wear an ankle-length shirt woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb), with a keffiyeh (a large checkered square of cotton held in place by a cord coil) or a ghutra (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-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs, coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques. Women are required to wear an abaya or modest clothing when in public.
  • Ghutrah ( )Is a traditional headdress typically worn by Arab men made of a square of cloth (“scarf”), usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. It is commonly found in arid climate areas to provide protection from direct sun exposure, as well as for occasional use in protecting the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand.
  • Agal ( ) Is an Arab headdress constructed of cord which is fastened around the Ghutrah to hold it in place. The agal is usually black in colour.
  • Thawb ( ) Thawb is the standard Arabic word for garment. Its an ankle-length usually with long sleeves, similar to a robe.
  • Bisht ( ) Is a traditional Arabic men’s cloak usually only worn for prestige on special occasions such as weddings


Food

Islamic dietary laws forbid the eating of pork and the drinking of alcohol, and this law is enforced strictly throughout Saudi Arabia. Arabic unleavened bread, or khobz, is eaten with almost all meals. Other staples include lamb, grilled chicken, falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), shawarma (spit-cooked sliced lamb), and Ful medames (a paste of fava beans, garlic and lemon). Traditional coffeehouses used to be ubiquitous, but are now being displaced by food-hall style cafes. Arabic tea is also a famous custom, which is used in both casual and formal meetings between friends, family and even strangers. The tea is black (without milk) and has herbal flavoring that comes in many variations.

Film and theatre

Public theatres and cinemas are prohibited, as some Muslims' views deem those institutions to be incompatible with Islam. However, lately, a reform is undergone in the country and several cinemas and movies had been shown under high tentions from radical Saudi groups. Also an IMAX theater is available, and in private compounds such as Dhahranmarker and Ras Tanuramarker public theaters can be found, but often are more popular for local music, arts, and theatre productions rather than the exhibition of motion pictures. DVDs, including American and British movies, are legal and widely available.

Literature

Religion

Due to the legal framework of the country, which does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion, the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. Though according to a 2009 Pew Forum report, there are about 25 million people who are Muslim, or 97 per cent of the total population. Indeed, the Government enforces a strict and conservative version of Salafi/Wahhabi Islam. Muslims who do not follow the official interpretation, can face severe repercussions at the hands of Mutawwa'in (religious police).

For this reason, Saudi culture lacks the diversity of religious expression, buildings, annual festivals and public events that is seen in countries where religious freedom is permitted. Christianity in Saudi Arabia faces persecution.

Education

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, education was not accessible to everyone and limited to individualized instruction at religious schools in mosques in urban areas. These schools taught Islamic law and basic literacy skills. By the end of the century, Saudi Arabia had a nationwide educational system providing free training from preschool through university to all citizens.

The primary education system began in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. By 1945, King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, the country's founder, had initiated an extensive program to establish schools in the Kingdom. Six years later, in 1951, the country had 226 schools with 29,887 students. In 1954, the Ministry of Education was established, headed by then Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz as the first Minister of Education. The first university, now known as King Saud University, was founded in Riyadh in 1957.

Today, Saudi Arabia's nationwide public educational system comprises twenty eight (28) universities, more than 24,000 schools, and a large number of colleges and other educational and training institutions. The system provides students with free education, books and health services and is open to every Saudi. Over 25 percent of the annual State budget is for education including vocational training. The Kingdom has also worked on scholarship programs to send students overseas to the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Francemarker, the United Kingdommarker, Australia, Japanmarker, Malaysiamarker and other nations. Currently thousands of students are being sent to higher-educations programs every year.

There is one university only in Mecca, the Umm Al Qura University which was founded in 1981.

The study of Islam remains at the core of the Saudi educational system. The Islamic aspect of the Saudi national curriculum is examined in a 2006 report by Freedom House. The report found that in religious education classes (in any religious school), children are taught to deprecate other religions, in addition to other branches of Islam. The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world.

Sports

Men can often be found playing sports. Women rarely participate in sports, and always away from the presence of men; this often leads to indoor gyms. Even though football is the most popular sport, Saudi Arabia has recently participated in the Summer Olympic Games and in international competitions in volleyball and other sports. The Saudi Arabian national youth baseball team has also participated in the Little League World Series. The Saudi Arabia national football team is often most known for being in four consecutive times in the FIFA World Cup and six times in the AFC Asian Cup, which the team won three times and was runner-up three times. Some popular football players include Majed Abdullah, Mohamed Al-Deayea, Sami Al-Jaber, Saeed Al-Owairan, and Yousuf Al-Thunayan.

Military



Saudi military was founded as the Ikhwan army, the tribal army of Ibn Saud. The Ikhwan had helped King Ibn Saud conquer the Arabian peninsula during the First World War. By expanding the military forces years later, Saudi Arabia today has many military branches.





  • Military branches of Ministry of Interior:
    • Saudi Arabian Police Force
    • Saudi Arabian Border Guard
      • Saudi Border Guard
      • Saudi Coast Guard
    • Al-Mujahidoon
    • Saudi Emergency Force


Foreign relations

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest contributors of development aid, both in term of volume of aid and in the ratio of aid volume to GDP.

Much of Saudi Arabia's aid has gone to poorer Islamic countries or Islamic communities in non-Islamic countries. This aid has contributed to the spreading of Islam of the sort found in Saudi Arabia, rather than fostering the traditions of the receiving ethnic groups. The effect has been the erosion of regional Islamic cultures through standardization. Examples of the acculturizing effect of Saudi aid can be seen among the Minangkabau and the Acehnesemarker in Indonesiamarker, as well as among the people of the Maldivesmarker.

On the 18 December 2008, the William J. Clinton Foundation released a list of all contributors. It included The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which gave between US$10–25 million.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 62 out of 157
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005 72 out of 111
The Economist Democracy Index 159 out of 167
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 161 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 70 out of 163
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 61 out of 177
A. T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalization Index 2005 45 out of 62
Fund for Peace Failed States Index 84 out of 177


See also

Lists



Notes and references

  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration - Saudi Arabia Country Energy Profile
  2. Social Services 2
  3. Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia-London: The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia - A Welfare State
  4. Yemen, Saudi Arabia sign border deal, BBC News, June 12, 2000. Accessed June 25, 2008.
  5. CIA World Factbook - Rank Order: Area
  6. http://books.google.com/books?q=Aramco+Dhahran+highest+temperature&btnG=Search+Books
  7. Saudi women barred from voting, BBC News, October 11, 2004. Accessed June 25, 2008.
  8. Saudi Arabia. JURIST
  9. Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of
  10. [1]
  11. Saudi 'torture' condemned by UN, BBC News, May 16, 2002. Accessed June 25, 2008.
  12. Hassan, Ibtihal; Hammond, Andrew. Car makers target Saudi women despite driving ban, Reuters, December 10, 2007. Accessed June 25, 2008.
  13. "Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Drive — With Conditions" by Assyrian International News Agency, March 17, 2008
  14. "Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia"
  15. Robertson, Nic; Drash, Wayne. "No freedom for 'dean of Saudi bloggers'", CNN, February 28, 2008. Accessed June 25, 2008.
  16. World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, Most Recent Estimates
  17. Country Profile Study on Poverty: Saudi Arabia (archived from the original on 2008-02-26)
  18. List of countries by GDP per capita
  19. CPI Inflation Calculator
  20. Crude Oil Reserves
  21. Six New Economic cities in Saudi Arabia
  22. Construction boom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE
  23. Riyadh's Urban area will contribute $ 167 B and Jeddah's will contribute $ 111 Billion
  24. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3584.htm
  25. Saudi Arabia
  26. Saudi Arabia: International Religious Freedom Report 2008
  27. Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries
  28. Expatriates Can Apply for Saudi Citizenship in Two-to-Three Months
  29. 1954 Saudi Arabian Citizenship System
  30. Sulaiman, Tosin. Bahrain changes the weekend in efficiency drive, The Times, August 2, 2006. Accessed June 25, 2008. Turkey has a weekend on Saturday and Sunday
  31. IMAX Arabic
  32. Mapping the World Muslim Population Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Retrieved on 2009-10-21.
  33. Press Release:
  34. Saudi Aid to the Developing World
  35. Arab Aid
  36. Ricklefs, M.C. A history of modern Indonesia since c.1200. Stanford. 2001 Stanford University Press.
  37. Abdullah, Taufik. Adat and Islam: An Examination of Conflict in Minangkabau. 1966.
  38. Indonesia's Population: Ethnicity and Religion in a Changing Political Landscape. 2003. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  39. Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom. 1999, ISBN 847254801 5
  40. Contributor Information to the William J. Clinton Foundation


Bibliography

  • 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, 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, THE KINGDOM: Arabia & The House of Sa'ud, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1981 (Hard Cover) and Avon Books, 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 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


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