The Saudi Arabian Kingdom
Arabic: ‘al-mamlaka ‘al-¢arabiyya ‘as-sa¢ūdiyya
Independent monarchy in Asia with 24.9 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), covering a total area of 2,240,000 km˛ and divided into 13 provinces.
The capital of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh, situated in the interior and very center of the country.
About 5.8 million non-nationals also live in Saudi Arabia, making up 23% of the population.
Saudi Arabia is by no means a democracy, power rests with the royal family. Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz as-Saud is the king as well as prime minister. Several princes have a great influence on the politics of the nation, 5 out of 7 ministers of state are princes. There is minimal political freedom, and the royal family that effectively owns the country is facing opposition groups that work on overthrowing them.
Likewise, the climate is dry and hot. Riyadh, the capital, has an average temperature in July of 42ēC and in January of 14ēC, while Jeddah on the coast has 31ēC and 23ēC. Annual precipitation both places is below 100 mm. There are no permanent rivers and lakes in Saudi Arabia.
Vegetation is scant, consisting mostly of xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Animal life includes ibex, wildcats, baboons, wolves, and hyenas in the highlands. Small birds are found in the oases.
Considering its economic potentials, Saudi Arabia performs poorly on the Human Development Index where it comes in as no. 59 of the 182 states that are ranked in the world, and only 8 among the MENA countries. On a scale with 1.000 as maximum, Saudi Arabia gains 0.843 points.
The Saudi currency are Riyals (SAR), which has a fixed rate to the US $ dollar. 1 Riyal=US$0.27; and US$1=3.75 Riyals.
Saudi Arabia’s GDP per capita is at US$20,200 (2008), which is 90% above the world average. Contrary to the common idea, this places Saudi Arabia well behind most of its Arabian neighbors. Unemployment rates are officially at 12%, but unofficial estimates suggest that 25% is correct. There are no figures showing how many live below the poverty line. In short, Saudi Arabia has a large and wealthy elite, but it also has a large part of its population that benefits little from the nation’s wealth.
Saudi Arabia’s population growth rate is as high as 3.3%, reflecting that traditional values have survived well into the modern ages. Saudi Arabia’s health care system is very good in large towns and cities but limited in rural areas.
Whereas Saudi Arabia has some of the best universities in the Arab world, general access to education is more limited than in many other MENA countries.
Most of Saudi Arabia’s population are Arabs, a large minority are Bedouins. Nearly a quarter of the population are non-nationals, and Saudi Arabia has no policy of granting citizenship.
Among the indigenous population, only Arabic is spoken in Saudi Arabia. Non-nationals share a great number of languages, but between them, it is mainly English that is used.
Islam dominates in Saudi Arabia, then mainly in its Sunni form. There are large Shi’i communities too, as well as a large group of Isma’ilis. Christians are all in all non-nationals.
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