Saudi Arabia

Flag of Saudi Arabia

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In 1902, ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud captured Riyadh and set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. A son of ABD AL-AZIZ rules the country today, and the country's Basic Law stipulates that the throne shall remain in the hands of the aging sons and grandsons of the kingdom's founder. 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 Operation Desert Storm remained a source of tension between the royal family and the public until the US military's near-complete withdrawal to neighboring Qatar in 2003. The first major terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in several years, which occurred in May and November 2003, prompted renewed efforts on the part of the Saudi government to counter domestic terrorism and extremism, which also coincided with a slight upsurge in media freedom and announcement of government plans to phase in partial political representation. As part of this effort, the government permitted elections - held nationwide from February through April 2005 - for half the members of 179 municipal councils. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.


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

Geographic coordinates:

25 00 N, 45 00 E


total: 1,960,582 sq km
land: 1,960,582 sq km
water: 0 sq km

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

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)

Natural hazards:

frequent sand and dust storms

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

Geography - note:

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


note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 38.2% (male 5,261,530/female 5,059,041)
15-64 years: 59.4% (male 9,159,519/female 6,895,616)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 342,020/female 302,005) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 21.4 years
male: 22.9 years
female: 19.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.18% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

29.34 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

2.58 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-4.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.33 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.13 male(s)/female
total population: 1.2 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.71 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 75.67 years
male: 73.66 years
female: 77.78 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

4 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.01% (2001 est.)


noun: Saudi(s)
adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian

Ethnic groups:

Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%


Muslim 100%




definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.8%
male: 84.7%
female: 70.8% (2003 est.)

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:




Administrative divisions:

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


23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)

National holiday:

Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)


governed according to Shari'a law; the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was introduced in 1993

Legal system:

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


adult male citizens age 21 or older
note: voter registration began in November 2004 for partial municipal council elections held nationwide from February through April 2005

Legislative branch:

Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (120 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch for four-year terms); note - in October 2003, Council of Ministers announced its intent to introduce elections for half of the members of local and provincial assemblies and a third of the members of the national Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura, incrementally over a period of four to five years; in November 2004, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs initiated voter registration for partial municipal council elections held nationwide from February through April 2005

Judicial branch:

Supreme Council of Justice

Economy - overview:

This is an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. Saudi Arabia possesses 25% 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 75% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 5.5 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly, in the oil and service sectors. The government is encouraging private sector growth to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population. The government has begun to permit private sector and foreign investor participation in the power generation and telecom sectors. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in 2005 after many years of negotiations. With high oil revenues enabling the government to post large budget surpluses, Riyadh has been able to substantially boost spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$340.6 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$273.9 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

6.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$12,900 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 74.7%
services: 21.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

6.76 million
note: more than 35% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 12%
industry: 25%
services: 63% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:

13% male only (local bank estimate; some estimates range as high as 25%) (2004 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

0.4% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

16.3% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $143.7 billion
expenditures: $89.65 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

41% of GDP (2005 est.)

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:

2.8% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

145.1 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

134.9 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

9.475 million bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

1.775 million bbl/day (2003)

Oil - exports:

7.92 million bbl/day (2003)

Oil - proved reserves:

262.7 billion bbl (2005 est.)

Natural gas - production:

60.06 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

60.06 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

6.544 trillion cu m (2005)

Current account balance:

$87.1 billion (2005 est.)


$165 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum and petroleum products 90%

Exports - partners:

US 18.2%, Japan 14.9%, South Korea 9.5%, China 6.1%, Taiwan 4.5%, Singapore 4.1% (2004)


$44.93 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

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

Imports - partners:

US 15.3%, Japan 9.8%, Germany 8.1%, China 6.6%, UK 5.7% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$30.55 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$34.55 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - donor:

pledged $100 million in 1993 to fund reconstruction of Lebanon; since 2000, Saudi Arabia has committed $307 million for assistance to the Palestinians; pledged $230 million to development in Afghanistan; pledged $1 billion in export guarantees and soft loans to Iraq; pledged $133 million in direct grant aid, $187 million in concessional loans, and $153 million in export credits for Pakistan earthquake relief

Currency (code):

Saudi riyal (SAR)

Fiscal year:

1 March - 28 February

Telephones - main lines in use:

3,695,100 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

9,175,800 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern system
domestic: extensive microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable systems
international: country code - 966; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; submarine cable to Djibouti, Egypt and Bahrain; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 43, FM 31, shortwave 2 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

117 (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

10,335 (2005)

Internet users:

2.54 million (2005)


202 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 73
over 3,047 m: 32
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 129
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 72
914 to 1,523 m: 39
under 914 m: 12 (2005)


6 (2005)


condensate 212 km; gas 1,780 km; liquid petroleum gas 1,191 km; oil 5,068 km; refined products 1,162 km (2004)


total: 1,392 km
standard gauge: 1,392 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2004)


total: 152,044 km
paved: 45,461 km
unpaved: 106,583 km (2000)

Merchant marine:

total: 64 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,266,332 GRT/1,895,002 DWT
by type: cargo 5, chemical tanker 15, container 4, passenger/cargo 8, petroleum tanker 20, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 9
foreign-owned: 9 (Egypt 1, Kuwait 6, Sudan 1, UAE 1)
registered in other countries: 57 (The Bahamas 12, Bangladesh 1, Comoros 3, Dominica 1, French Southern and Antarctic Lands 1, Liberia 24, Marshall Islands 1, Norway 7, Panama 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2, unknown 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

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

Military branches:

Land Forces (Army), Navy, Air Force, Air Defense Force, National Guard, Ministry of Interior Forces (paramilitary)

Disputes - international:

despite resistance from nomadic groups, the demarcation of the Saudi Arabia-Yemen boundary established under the 2000 Jeddah Treaty is almost complete; Saudi Arabia still maintains the concrete-filled pipe as a security barrier along sections of the border with Yemen in 2004 to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; the United Arab Emirate 2006 Yearbook published a map and text rescinding the 1974 boundary with Saudi Arabia, as stipulated in a treaty filed with the UN in 1993, on the grounds that the agreement was not formally ratified

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 240,000 (Palestinian Territories) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

death penalty for traffickers; increasing consumption of heroin, cocaine, and hashish; improving anti-money-laundering legislation and enforcement