Saudi Arabia – 50 interesting facts about the country

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, located in Western Asia, is an amazing place to be at. Not just because of the religious devotion that we have with the country but also because of the amazing landscape and historic monuments (comprised of 1000 of years back) and its welcoming gesture towards tourism. Saudi Arabia’s Arabic name is Al-Mamlakah al-Arabiyah as-Sa’udiyah or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

Since I have already been there, without a doubt, I can say that it’s worth taking a closer look at the economic, demographic, and cultural factors that drive the oil-rich kingdom.

  1. With an area of 830,000 square miles, this country is the 13th largest in the world. 5th largest in Asia. And 2nd largest Arab country, falling second only to Algeria.
  2. The country has a population estimated to be 33 million. Making it the 40th largest country in the world based on population. According to the latest figures released by the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) at the beginning of January, Saudi Arabia’s population grew by 2.52 percent to 32.5 million by the end of 2017, up from 31.7 million the previous year. The Makkah region in the west of the kingdom is the most populated area with 8.6 million people, followed by the Riyadh region with 8.2 million, and the Eastern Province with 4.9 million people.
  3. Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy and has the last significant monarchy in the world. The country has been ruled by the Al Saud family since its inception as a nation on September 23, 1932.
  4. The Saudi king’s official title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.” 
  5. Mecca and Medina, located in Saudi Arabia, are considered to be Islam’s holiest places. Non-Muslims are not allowed to step foot on these sacred grounds.
  6. Non-Muslims are not allowed to have Saudi citizenship. Non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed in Saudi Arabia.
  7. Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia.
  8. Ninety-nine percent of Saudis practice Islam.
  9. During the country’s “salat” prayer, stores must remain closed until the prayer concludes. Patrons may remain in the store during the duration of the prayer but cannot shop.
  10. Performing Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It requires traveling to Mecca. Approximately two million people make the trip annually.
  11. The city of Mina contains 100,000 tents that are made of fire-retardant materials. They are equipped with kitchens, bathrooms, and air conditioning.
  12. The mosque that the Prophet Muhammad built in Medina, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (also known as the Prophet’s Mosque) is considered to be the second most holy mosque by Muslims. It is also where his tomb lies.
  13. The Hajar al-Aswad (The Black Stone) rates as Islam’s holiest icon in its holiest of temples, the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It resides upon a 43-feet high (13-m) plinth built into a stone structure called the Kaaba.
  14. Approximately 22% of the world’s oil reserves are located in Saudi Arabia.
  15. Almost half of the country’s GDP comes from oil which is estimated to be $646 billion. The nominal GDP per capita is $54,100, according to estimates from 2016.
  16. Saudi Arabia is building six “economic cities” that are expected to add an amount of 3.5 times as large as Kenya’s total GDP to Saudi Arabia’s GDP.
  17. The Ghawar oil field in the Eastern part of the country is the largest conventional oil field in the world. With estimated reserves that could fill up 4,770,897 Olympic swimming pools.
  18. Contrary to what many people in the world believe Saudia Arabia is not the one to hold the largest oil reserves because that title belongs to Venezuela.
  19. In 2012, Saudi Arabia banned smoking in government offices and most public places, which includes a ban on shishas (water pipes) and prohibits the selling of tobacco to minors. 
  20. Saudi Arabia is a prohibition state, and it is not legal to drink alcohol in the kingdom. However, amateur beer and winemaking in Saudi Arabia is a minor industry among the many expats living in the country. A full range of spirits is available through the black market. Various stills in the country also produce large quantities of hooch called sidiqui, which in Arabic means “my little friend.
  21. Riyadh’s camel market is one of the largest in the world and sells about 100 camels per day but 9. Saudi Arabia doesn’t have enough camels so it imports them from Australia.
  22. Most of the foreigners living in Saudi Arabia are nationals from Asian and Arab countries (majority from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) working mainly in the domestic and private sectors.
  23. There are no rivers located in Saudi Arabia. It is the largest country in the world that does not have a river.
  24. Beheading, stoning, and death by firing squad are all ways that Saudis use to punish people for crimes. A crucifixion typically follows.
  25. Diyya, commonly translated as “blood money,” is a system for criminals to compensate their victims’ families financially. Doing so allows the person that committed the crime to be let off from normal criminal justice. It’s a formalized way of buying one’s freedom.
  26. The death penalty is commonly used in Saudi Arabia—it’s fourth in the world in a number of executions, and people are killed for crimes including adultery and renouncing Islam. A large number of these executions are carried out by beheading, but at the start of 2013, Saudi Arabia was considering an alternative method because of a shortage of swordsmen.
  27. Saudi Arabia is considering ending beheadings as the national form of execution in favor of firing squads because of a lack of swordsmen to be found in the country.
  28. Saudi Arabia’s main export partner is China with a bulk of it being petroleum and petroleum products.
  29. Homosexual activity in Saudi Arabia is a criminal offense that can attract the death penalty. Or, at the very least, a long stretch in prison with the customary public flogging as an additional punishment.
  30. Other crimes like murder, armed robbery, drug use, adultery, and witchcraft are punishable by death.
  31. The conservative Islamic state has no written ban on women driving, but Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued license while in the country. Back in the day, such licenses weren’t issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive but that is changing gradually.
  32. Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest rates of females in the workplace in the world. Just 20% of females are in the workforce.
  33. Women can’t open bank accounts, travel, work, or go to school without permission from their male guardian.
  34. While cell phones have made it easier to snap photos easily, a camera should never be pointed at a woman in Saudi Arabia. It is also considered rude to take a picture of a male without first asking permission.
  35. Saudi Arabia’s growth has been fueled by increased resources, NOT by increased productivity.
  36. Saudi Arabia officially got the green light to build the world’s tallest building, the Jeddah Tower — aka the Kingdom Tower. It’s expected to reach 3,280 feet or 1 kilometer.
  37. Saudi Arabia is building a fence along its borders due to unrest in Yemen and to keep out members of ISIS.
  38. The King’s Cup, which pits up to 2,000 participants racing across a 19 km track, is an epic camel race which takes place annually during the Al-Jenandriyah National Festival in Saudi Arabia.
  39. Education, including college and post-graduate schooling, is free in Saudi Arabia.
  40. One thing that Saudis do for fun is to tilt a vehicle while driving, while another person stands on top of the vehicle as it is in motion. This is called Sidewalk Skiing.
  41. Saudi Arabian cities experienced an extraordinary boom in property prices between 2003 and 2008. In Mecca, land values close to the Grand Mosque reached US$106,700 per square meter.
  42. Over 95% of Saudi Arabia is desert or semi-desert. And the country is home to some of the largest desert areas in the world. Including Al Nafud (Nafud Desert) in the north and Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) in the south.
  43. Instead of an income tax, Saudi Arabia has the zakat. It is a 2.5% impost that is it is levied on assets rather than income. And is required of Muslims but not on guest workers.
  44. Not only does Saudi Arabia have a civil police force. But it also has a religious police force called the Mutaween, which is in charge of purifying thought and action in Saudi communities. Its full name is the “Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and for the Prevention of Vice.”
  45. The left hand is considered unclean. So shaking hands or accepting something from another individual must always be done with the right hand.
  46. Though the country is mainly known for exporting oil, it has been diversifying its manufacturing sector, producing concrete, steel, auto parts, and building materials.
  47. Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic Lunar Calendar, with a starting date of A.D. 622. It’s the year the Prophet Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina. The event is known as the hejira. Islamic years are noted as Anno Hejira, or AH.
  48. Around 58.5 percent of Saudis are under the age of 30.
  49. In 2011, King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to vote in 2015. Making Saudi Arabia the last nation on earth to allow women to vote.
  50. It is illegal in Saudi Arabia to practice any form of sorcery or magic. The Saudis have a police unit set up specifically for catching witches, and the people they catch end up in pretty serious trouble. AND Yes Harry Potter is banned in the region for the very reason.

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