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Saudi Arabia


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. Today, the monarchy is ruled by a son of ABD AL-AZIZ, 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. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.
Geography Saudi Arabia
Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Geographic coordinates:
25 00 N, 45 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 1,960,582 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 1,960,582 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 - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
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: 1.72%
permanent crops: 0.06%
other: 98.22% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
16,200 sq km (1998 est.)
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
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
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
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.3% (male 5,039,578; female 4,845,937)
15-64 years: 59.3% (male 8,810,705; female 6,494,770)
65 years and over: 2.3% (male 327,047; female 277,901) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 21.2 years
male: 22.8 years
female: 19.1 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.44% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
29.74 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
2.66 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
-2.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.36 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.18 male(s)/female
total population: 1.22 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 13.7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 15.72 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.23 years
male: 73.26 years
female: 77.3 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
4.11 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.01% (2001 est.)
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%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.8%
male: 84.7%
female: 70.8% (2003 est.)
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:
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 (Islamic law); the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was introduced in 1993
Legal system:
based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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
Executive branch:
chief of state: King and Prime Minister FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 13 June 1982, but largely incapacitated since late 1995); Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud since 13 June 1982, also Saudi Arabian National Guard Commander since 1963 and de facto ruler since early 1996; note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary
head of government: King and Prime Minister FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 13 June 1982, but largely incapacitated since late 1995); Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud since 13 June 1982, also Saudi Arabian National Guard Commander since 1963 and de facto ruler since early 1996; note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers is appointed by the monarch and includes many royal family members
Legislative branch:
Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (120 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch for four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Council of Justice
Political parties and leaders:
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador BANDAR bin Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, and New York
telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador James Curtis OBERWETTER (since 8 January 2004)
embassy: Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh
mailing address: American Embassy Riyadh, 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 with large white Arabic script (that may be 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); green is the traditional color of Islam
Economy Saudi Arabia
Economy - overview:
This is an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. Saudi Arabia has the largest reserves of petroleum in the world (25% of the proved 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 five and a half million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, for example, in the oil and service sectors. The government in 1999 announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies, which follows the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company. The government is encouraging private sector growth to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population. Priorities for government spending in the short term include additional funds for education and for the water and sewage systems. Economic reforms proceed cautiously because of deep-rooted political and social conservatism.
purchasing power parity - $286.2 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4.7% (2003 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $11,800 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 50.4%
services: 44.4% (2002 est.)
Population below poverty line:
NA% (2001)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
7 million
note: more than 35% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (1999)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 12%, industry 25%, services 63% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
25% (2003)
revenues: $78.7 billion
expenditures: $66.7 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2003 est.)
crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, cement, construction, fertilizer, plastics
Industrial production growth rate:
1% (1997 est.)
Electricity - production:
122.4 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
113.8 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
8.711 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
1.452 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
7.92 million bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
Oil - proved reserves:
261.7 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
53.69 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
53.69 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
6.339 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk
$86.53 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
petroleum and petroleum products 90%
Exports - partners:
US 18.9%, Japan 15.9%, South Korea 10.3%, Singapore 5.2%, China 4.7% (2002)
$30.38 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles
Imports - partners:
US 11.1%, Japan 8.7%, Germany 7.5%, UK 4.9%, France 4.8%, Italy 4% (2002)
Debt - external:
$24.2 billion (2003)
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 $240 million to development in Afghanistan; pledged $1 billion in export guarantees and soft loans to Iraq
Saudi riyal (SAR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Saudi riyals per US dollar - 3.75 (2003), 3.75 (2002), 3.75 (2001), 3.75 (2000), 3.75 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Saudi Arabia
Telephones - main lines in use:
3,317,500 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
5.008 million (2002)
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)
6.25 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
117 (1997)
5.1 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
14,788 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
22 (2003)
Internet users:
1,418,900 (2002)
Transportation Saudi Arabia
total: 1,392 km
standard gauge: 1,392 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2002)
total: 151,470 km
paved: 45,592 km
unpaved: 105,878 km (1999)
condensate 212 km; gas 837 km; liquid petroleum gas 1,187 km; oil 5,062 km; refined products 69 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Duba, Jiddah, Jizan, Rabigh, Ra's al Khafji, Mishab, Ras Tanura, Yanbu' al Bahr, Madinat Yanbu' al Sinaiyah
Merchant marine:
total: 66 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,306,706 GRT/1,963,191 DWT
by type: cargo 5, chemical tanker 11, container 4, livestock carrier 2, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 23, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 10, short-sea/passenger 6
foreign-owned: Egypt 3, Greece 4, Norway 2, Sudan 1, United Kingdom 3
registered in other countries: 54 (2003 est.)
204 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 71
over 3,047 m: 32
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2003 est.)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 23
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 133
under 914 m: 14 (2003 est.)
over 3047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 38
1,524 to 2,437 m: 75
5 (2003 est.)
Military Saudi Arabia
Military branches:
Land Force (Army), Navy, Air Force, Air Defense Force, National Guard, Ministry of Interior Forces (paramilitary)
Military manpower - military age:
17 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 8,240,714 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,725,514 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 246,343 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$18 billion (2002)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
10% (2002)
Transnational Issues Saudi Arabia
Disputes - international:
nomadic groups on border region with Yemen resist demarcation of boundary; Yemen protests Saudi erection of a concrete-filled pipe as a security barrier in 2004 to stem illegal cross-border activities in sections of the boundary; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; because the treaties have not been made public, the exact alignment of the boundary with the UAE is still unknown and labeled approximate
Illicit drugs:
death penalty for traffickers; increasing consumption of heroin, cocaine, and hashish; not a major money-laundering center, improving anti-money-laundering legislation