Saudi Arabia, See : Flags, Maps

Saudi Arabia (Middle East)

Introduction ::Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide from February through April 2005 for half the members of 179 municipal councils. In December 2005, King ABDALLAH completed the process by appointing the remaining members of the advisory municipal councils. The king instituted an Inter-Faith Dialogue initiative in 2008 to encourage religious tolerance on a global level; in February 2009, he reshuffled the cabinet, which led to more moderates holding ministerial and judicial positions, and appointed the first female to the cabinet. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.

Geography ::Saudi Arabia

View Larger Map


Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of

Geographic coordinates:
25 00 N, 45 00 E

Map references:

Middle East


total: 2,149,690 sq km country comparison to the world: 14 land: 2,149,690 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US

Land boundaries:

total: 4,431 km

border countries: Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km


2,640 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 18 nm

continental shelf: not specified


harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes


mostly uninhabited, sandy desert

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m

highest point: Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m

Saudi Arabia 1.1

Natural resources:

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

Land use:

arable land: 1.67%

permanent crops: 0.09%

other: 98.24% (2005)

Irrigated land:

16,200 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:

2.4 cu km (1997)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)

per capita: 705 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards:

frequent sand and dust storms

volcanism: Despite Saudi Arabia's many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar

Environment - current issues:

desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills

Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:

extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

People ::Saudi Arabia


25,731,776 country comparison to the world: 46 note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2010 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 38% (male 5,557,453/female 5,340,614)

15-64 years: 59.5% (male 9,608,032/female 7,473,543)

65 years and over: 2.5% (male 363,241/female 343,750) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 24.9 years

male: 26 years

female: 23.4 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.548% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 80

Birth rate:

19.43 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 101

Death rate:

3.34 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 218

Net migration rate:

-0.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 145


urban population: 82% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.27 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female

total population: 1.17 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 16.73 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 112 male: 19.19 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 14.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 73.87 years country comparison to the world: 108 male: 71.93 years

female: 75.9 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.35 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 100

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.01% (2001 est.) country comparison to the world: 169

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

HIV/AIDS - deaths:


noun: Saudi(s)

adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian

Ethnic groups:

Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%


Muslim 100%


Arabic (official)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 78.8%

male: 84.7%

female: 70.8% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 14 years

male: 14 years

female: 13 years (2008)

Education expenditures:

5.7% of GDP (2008) country comparison to the world: 41

Government ::Saudi Arabia

Country name:

conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

conventional short form: Saudi Arabia

local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah

local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah

Government type:



name: Riyadh

geographic coordinates: 24 38 N, 46 43 E

time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions:

13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash
Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah (Medina), Al
Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il,
Jizan, Makkah (Mecca), Najran, Tabuk


23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)

National holiday:

Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)


governed according to Islamic law; the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was promulgated by royal decree in 1992

Legal system:

based on sharia law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


21 years of age; male

Executive branch:

chief of state: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Heir Apparent Crown Prince SULTAN bin Abd al- Aziz Al Saud (half brother of the monarch); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government

head of government: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Deputy Prime Minister SULTAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud; Second Deputy Prime Minister NAYIF bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch every four years and includes many royal family members (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; note - an Allegiance Commission created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes that will play a role in selecting future Saudi kings, but the system will not take effect until after Crown Prince Sultan becomes king

Legislative branch:

Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch to serve four-year terms); note - though the Council of Ministers announced in October 2003 its intent to introduce elections for a third of the Majlis al-Shura incrementally over a period of four to five years, to date no such elections have been held or announced

Judicial branch:

Supreme Council of Justice

Political parties and leaders:


Political pressure groups and leaders:

Ansar Al Marah (supports women's rights)

other: gas companies; religious groups

International organization participation:

ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, FAO, G-20, G-77,
ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO,

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Adil al-Ahmad al-JUBAYR

chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037

telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800
FAX: [1] (202) 944-3113

consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador James B. SMITH

embassy: Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh

mailing address: American Embassy, Unit 61307, APO AE 09803-1307; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693

telephone: [966] (1) 488-3800
FAX: [966] (1) 488-7360

consulate(s) general: Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)

Flag description:

green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932; the flag is manufactured with differing obverse and reverse sides so that the Shahada reads - and the sword points - correctly from right to left on both sides

note: one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay

National anthem:

name: "Aash Al Maleek" (Long Live Our Beloved King)

lyrics/music: Ibrahim KHAFAJI/Abdul Rahman al-KHATEEB

note: music adopted 1947, lyrics adopted 1984

Economy ::Saudi Arabia

Economy - overview:

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 20% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 80% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy and to employ more Saudi nationals. Diversification efforts are focusing on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemical sectors. Almost 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors, while Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population, which generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, most recently with the opening of the King Abdallah University of Science and Technology - Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in December 2005 after many years of negotiations. The government has begun establishing six "economic cities" in different regions of the country to promote foreign investment and plans to spend $373 billion between 2010 and 2014 on social development and infrastructure projects to advance Saudi Arabia's economic development.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$622.5 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 23 $599.7 billion (2009 est.)

$599.1 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$434.4 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 89 0.1% (2009 est.)

4.3% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$24,200 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 55 $23,700 (2009 est.)

$24,000 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 2.7%

industry: 61.9%

services: 35.4% (2010 est.)

Labor force:

7.337 million country comparison to the world: 62 note: about 80% of the labor force is non-national (2010 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 6.7%

industry: 21.4%

services: 71.9% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate:

10.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 119 10.5% (2009 est.)

note: data are for Saudi males only (local bank estimates; some estimates range as high as 25%)

Population below poverty line:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Investment (gross fixed):

24.5% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 46

Public debt:

16.7% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 114 22.6% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

5.7% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 156 5.1% (2009 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

2.5% (31 December 2008)

NA% (31 December 2007)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

Stock of narrow money:

$166.9 billion (31 December 2010 est) country comparison to the world: 20 $139.1 billion (31 December 2009 est)

Stock of broad money:

$286.9 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 29 $274.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$11.24 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 90 $2.248 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

$318.8 billion (31 December 2009) country comparison to the world: 23 $246.3 billion (31 December 2008)

$515.1 billion (31 December 2007)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk


crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction

Industrial production growth rate:

3.1% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 102

Electricity - production:

179.1 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 21

Electricity - consumption:

165.1 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 21

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2008 est.)

Oil - production:

9.764 million bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 2

Oil - consumption:

2.43 million bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 9

Oil - exports:

8.728 million bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 1

Oil - imports:

79,250 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 73

Oil - proved reserves:

264.6 billion bbl (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 1

Natural gas - production:

77.1 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 10

Natural gas - consumption:

77.1 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 11

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 130

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 135

Natural gas - proved reserves:

7.461 trillion cu m (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 5

Current account balance:

$52.03 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 6 $22.77 billion (2009 est.)


$235.3 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 19 $192.3 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum and petroleum products 90%

Exports - partners:

Japan 15.33%, South Korea 12.71%, US 12.2%, China 10.38%, India 7.12%, Taiwan 4.54%, Singapore 4.25% (2009)


$99.17 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 32 $87.1 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles

Imports - partners:

US 12.32%, China 12.06%, Germany 7.67%, Japan 6.15%, South Korea 5.32%, India 4.99%, UK 4.72%, France 4.05% (2009)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$456.2 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 3 $410.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - external:

$82.92 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 41 $72.77 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:

$204.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 21 $167 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:

$18 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 45 $11.41 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates:

Saudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar - 3.75 (2010), 3.75 (2009), 3.75 (2008), 3.745 (2007), 3.745 (2006)

Communications ::Saudi Arabia

Telephones - main lines in use:

4.171 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 36

Telephones - mobile cellular:

44.864 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 27

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern system including a combination of extensive microwave radio relays, coaxial cables, and fiber-optic cables

domestic: mobile-cellular subscribership has been increasing rapidly

international: country code - 966; landing point for the international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) and for both the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable networks providing connectivity to Asia, Middle East, Europe, and US; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region) (2008)

Broadcast media:

broadcast media are state-controlled; state-run TV operates 4 networks; Saudi Arabia is a major market for pan-Arab satellite TV broadcasters; state-run radio operates several networks; multiple international broadcasters are available (2007)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

488,598 (2010) country comparison to the world: 51

Internet users:

9.774 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 30

Transportation ::Saudi Arabia


217 (2010) country comparison to the world: 27

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 81

over 3,047 m: 33

2,438 to 3,047 m: 15

1,524 to 2,437 m: 27

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 4 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 136

2,438 to 3,047 m: 8

1,524 to 2,437 m: 71

914 to 1,523 m: 41

under 914 m: 16 (2010)


9 (2010)


condensate 212 km; gas 1,880 km; liquid petroleum gas 1,183 km; oil 4,241 km; refined products 1,148 km (2009)


total: 1,392 km country comparison to the world: 83 standard gauge: 1,392 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2008)


total: 221,372 km country comparison to the world: 23 paved: 47,529 km (includes 3,891 km of expressways)

unpaved: 173,843 km (2006)

Merchant marine:

total: 74 country comparison to the world: 58 by type: cargo 2, chemical tanker 22, container 4, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 11, petroleum tanker 22, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 8

foreign-owned: 15 (Egypt 1, Greece 4, Kuwait 4, UAE 6)

registered in other countries: 55 (Bahamas 16, Dominica 3, Liberia 24, Norway 3, Panama 8) (2010)

Ports and terminals:

Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Jiddah, Yanbu' al Sinaiyah

Military ::Saudi Arabia

Military branches:

Ministry of Defense and Aviation Forces: Royal Saudi Land Forces,
Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes Marine Forces and Special
Forces), Royal Saudi Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Malakiya
as-Sa'udiya), Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic
Rocket Forces, Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG)

Military service age and obligation:

18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2004)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 8,752,167

females age 16-49: 6,680,315 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 7,560,216

females age 16-49: 5,773,033 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 280,041

female: 269,580 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

10% of GDP (2005 est.) country comparison to the world: 3

Transnational Issues ::Saudi Arabia

Disputes - international:

Saudi Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of the now fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 240,015 (Palestinian Territories) (2007)

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Saudi Arabia is a destination country for workers from South and Southeast Asia who are subjected to conditions that constitute involuntary servitude including being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, confinement, and withholding of passports as a restriction on their movement; domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because some are confined to the house in which they work unable to seek help; Saudi Arabia is also a destination country for Nigerian, Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghan, Somali, Malian, and Sudanese children trafficked for forced begging and involuntary servitude as street vendors; some Nigerian women were reportedly trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation

tier rating: Tier 3 - Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government continues to lack adequate anti-trafficking laws and, despite evidence of widespread trafficking abuses, did not report any criminal prosecutions, convictions, or prison sentences for trafficking crimes committed against foreign domestic workers (2008)

Illicit drugs:

death penalty for traffickers; improving anti-money-laundering legislation and enforcement



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