Emirate of Diriyah

Annie Lee | Oct 12, 2022

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Saudi Arabia (obsolete also Saud Arabia or Saudi Arabia, Arabic المملكة العربية السعودية al-Mamlaka al-ʿarabīya as-saʿūdīya, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is an absolute monarchy in the Near East. It is located on the Arabian Peninsula and borders its littoral states (see country border below), the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. A resident of Saudi Arabia is called a Saudi or a Saudi Arabian.

Two of Islam's three holiest sites, the Kaaba in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, are located in Saudi Arabia. The country has existed in its current borders since 1932, and absolutism as a form of government was codified in the 1992 Basic Law. The capital and largest city of the country is Riyadh, the second largest is the port city of Jeddah.

Islam of the Hanbalite school of law in the special form of Wahhabism is the state religion in Saudi Arabia, the public image of religion in the country is fundamentalist religious Islamic conservative, and a conservative interpretation of Islamic law, the Sharia, prevails. Saudi Arabia supports and finances the spread of Islamist neo-fundamentalism. Thus, the views of the terrorist organization Islamic State were strongly influenced by the Saudi Arabian interpretation of Islam, of which they are a particularly violent extension. On the human rights situation, see Human Rights in Saudi Arabia; according to the Global Gender Gap Report, the country ranks among the world's last in terms of women's rights. Freedom of expression does not exist, and punishments such as amputation, stoning, flogging and the death penalty, the latter also for homosexuality, are carried out regularly. Under the de facto ruling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, however, a cautious "modernization" of society is underway.

Saudi Arabia's oil exports make it one of the richest countries in the world; it ranked 14th in the world by gross domestic product per capita (adjusted for purchasing power) in 2016. It was ranked 36th in the Human Development Index in 2019. Thanks to its wealth, the country can afford to provide its population with generous social benefits, and it thus ensures political stability at home. Increasing pressure on the national budget due to the drop in oil prices since the beginning of 2015 has forced the country to diversify its sources of revenue. The Vision 2030 reform project is intended to make this a reality.

The Arabian Peninsula consists largely of extensive highlands. In the west, the plateau forms a steep escarpment that runs parallel to the Red Sea coast. In the northwest, there is virtually no coastal plain. The highest peaks are in the southwest in the Asir Mountains. The highest mountain is probably the Jabal Ferwaʿ at 3002 meters.

East of the rim break, the inhospitable highlands gradually slope down to the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, whose coast is lined with marshes and salt flats. The highlands consist mainly of a vast sandy desert and stretches of bare volcanic rock. A broad band of desert, "the Empty Quarter" Rub al-Chali, stretches across the entire south of the country.

Country border

Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan (744 km common border), Iraq (814 km), Kuwait (222 km), Qatar (60 km), the United Arab Emirates (457 km), Oman (676 km) and Yemen (1458 km). Saudi Arabia and the island state of Bahrain are connected by the 26 km long King Fahd Causeway via bridges, causeways and an artificial island.

Saudi Arabia borders neighboring countries to the north, northeast and south, and is bounded by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to the east and west. Saudi Arabia has a total of 4431 kilometers of land border, the longest section being the border with Yemen.

The border with Yemen was secured by barriers in 2003 and 2004, which led to diplomatic disagreements between the two states. Border disputes also arose with other neighboring states, such as the United Arab Emirates (1974) and Kuwait (1975). Between 1981 and 1983, the Neutral Zone was divided between Saudi Arabia and Iraq; in 1971, the second Neutral Zone north of al-Hasa had already been divided between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

EADS, is involved in the construction of the border facilities and border security. Police officers from Germany were sent to the country to train the personnel.

Climate and geology

Saudi Arabia has a predominantly hot and dry climate. The continental climate in the interior of the country sometimes has considerable temperature differences, especially between day and night. In summer, maximum values of 50 °C are possible during the day, and in winter, temperatures can drop below freezing at night. The average annual temperature is 28 °C. Most of the sparse annual precipitation falls between December and February.

The supply of drinking water has always been ensured due to the country's wealth, although water scarcity is a growing problem because groundwater reserves are slowly depleting. Saudi Arabia has neither rivers nor lakes and is countering the water shortage by building deep wells and seawater desalination plants, which consume a significant amount of energy. The coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea are partially polluted with oil.

Geologically, Saudi Arabia lies on the Arabian Plate, which tilts to the east. In the west, it rises steeply from the Tihama Plain on the Red Sea with the exposed Precambrian rocks of the Arabian Shield, partly covered by younger volcanic rocks. While the northern landscapes, such as those of Hijaz, form more of a chain of mountains and hills along the coast, the more southerly Asir, similar to Yemen, is characterized by the rim break, which is more than 1,000 meters high over long stretches. From this coast-parallel edge, the land slopes gently to the east. From west to east, the monotonous landscape is initially formed by extensive scree deserts, covered in the west by many lava fields (harrat) or basalt boulders. Further to the east, younger strata have preserved, each with a scarp beginning to overlie the older strata. The largest of these escarpments, both in height and extent, is the escarpment of the Tuwaiq Escarpment, whose strata are of Jurassic age and are immediately preceded on the west side by a sand strip. In the central area, these sand strips bear names such as (from north to south) Nafud as-Sirr, Nafud Qunaifidha and Nafud ad-Dahi. On the plain east of the Tuwaiq are the localities around the wells of Khardzh and the capital Riyadh, while further north are the localities of Qasim west of the northern Tuwaiq foothills, which eventually submerge beneath the sands of the Great Nafud. This plain, which makes up a large part of the Najd landscape, is in turn accompanied for long stretches to the east by a steep escarpment, the Buwaib, whose strata belong to the Cretaceous period. On its plain runs the Dahna sand strip, which borders the entire central landscape to the east. This is over 100 kilometers wide in some places and feeds the Rub al-Chali in the south with sand from the Great Nafud Desert (an-Nafud al-Kabir) in the north. Further to the east follow more partially stepped plains, over which scree deserts extend on essentially limestone bedrock. Then, to the east, dried-up former lake basins and salt flats increase until one reaches the coast, which, measured in geological time, slowly rises from the Persian Gulf. Together with the gradual decrease in precipitation since a brief wet phase a few thousand years ago-around the beginning of the Neolithic (Neolithic subpluvial)-this conditions gradual siltation and desiccation along the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf. In the north and south of the country, the two great deserts of the Great Nafud and the Rub al-Chali characterize the landscape. Both reach the highlands of the Western Rim Mountains in the west. The central Tuwaiq Escarpment encompasses the Arabian Shield like a vast arc open to the west, from which it is generally separated by the narrow sand fields.

Flora and fauna

In most parts of the country, vegetation is limited to low grasses and small shrubs. Date palms grow in scattered oases. The Arabian oryx antelope was characteristic of the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the animals were wiped out by hunting in the recent past. Today, due to reintroduction programs, they live again in small numbers in their original habitats. One population lives in the western part of Saudi Arabia, in a huge fenced wildlife reserve, the Mahazat-as-Sayd Sanctuary. Saudi Arabia's native fauna also includes various gazelles, Arabian wolves, and Nubian ibex. Mantled baboons live in Asir National Park in the mountains in the southwest of the country. Some large animals of Arabia, such as the cheetah and the ostrich are now extinct, others like the leopard have become very rare. Some bird species are also threatened with extinction.

Wild cats, desert-dwelling flying fowl, burrowing rodents and desert rats, and various reptiles and insects are widespread. Bald Ibis, rediscovered in Syria a few years ago, also migrate to Saudi Arabia. The collared parakeet is found as a neozoon in many settlements. In the coastal waters of the Red Sea there are many marine animals, especially in the coral reefs.


Mada'in Salih, near the provincial town of al-Ula halfway between Medina and Ha'il in the north of the country, is by far the most famous ancient site in the country. It is a rock-cut burial site that is about 2000 years old. Remarkable about it are the rock inscriptions in Aramaic and Thamūdic, well preserved due to the dry weather. Very unusual in this area are the particularly numerous rock formations - due to weathering - which appear to the viewer like images of animal and human figures. Other places of interest include the Kingdom Centre and Al Faisaliyah Center skyscrapers in Riyadh, the old city of Jeddah, the holy sites of Islam, and the ruined quarter of Diriyya, which bears witness to the Ottoman-Saudi War. Jabal al-Qara is a sandstone formation in al-Hasa province. It is located west of the city of Hofuf and is a picturesque formation about two kilometers long and 1.2 kilometers wide.

Demographics and ethnic groups

Saudi Arabia had a population of 34.8 million in 2020. The annual population growth was + 1.6 %. The population has grown tremendously since 1960, when it was 4.1 million. The median age of the population was 31.8 years in 2020. The number of births per woman in 2020 was statistically 2.2. The life expectancy of Saudi Arabia's residents from birth in 2020 was 75.3 years).

The original inhabitants were almost exclusively Arabs. Today, 90 % of the population is of Arab descent, either native Saudis or people from the Arab region, mainly Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. The remaining 10% are mostly of African or Asian descent. Non-Arab foreigners are mostly guest workers. The kafala system applies to migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. The country is inhabited by about 400 tribes, and over one-tenth of the inhabitants are nomads or semi-nomads. The state social security system, GOSI, is available free of charge only to nationals, although millions of foreigners and guest workers live in the country.

The population of Saudi Arabia lives mainly in the cities and a few oases. Saudi Arabia has a population density of twelve inhabitants per km². In 2020, 84 percent of Saudi Arabia's inhabitants lived in cities.

High Arabic is the official language, English is considered the language of commerce; there are also some Arabic dialects that are restricted to oral use, such as Yemeni Arabic in the southwest.

Guest workers

Saudi Arabia employs nearly 11 million guest workers. They come mostly from the Asian region - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia - and the African region - Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Comoros, Chad, Mauritania and others. There are also a smaller number of highly skilled guest workers from Europe, North America and other regions. These guest workers from Western countries mostly live in compounds. These are hermetically sealed and guarded settlements. These compounds have an autonomous infrastructure with stores, swimming pools, sports facilities and the like. A "Western" way of life is tolerated in these compounds. In May 2004, 19 foreigners were killed in a terrorist attack on a compound. U.S. soldiers from the United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) in Saudi Arabia, which trains the country's armed forces, also live in such compounds. The USMTM is headquartered in Taif; there are also various field offices.

The guest workers work primarily in areas in which Saudis do not want to work or do not have the necessary qualifications. About 67 % of the five million working Saudis work in the public sector. A quota system ("Saudization") is to help increase the proportion of locals in the private sector in 2016; for example, a quota of five to seven percent is targeted for the construction industry, and 10-25 % for the retail sector.


The main and state religion is Hanbalite Islam in its Wahhabi form, to which 73 % of the population belongs, especially in Najd and the north.

Other Sunnis make up 12 % of the population, Shiites about 10 to 15 %. Shiites live primarily in the east of the country, Ismaili Shiites in the southern province of Najran. Since Ibn Saud conquered the eastern province of al-Hasa in 1913, the Shiites have had to be careful not to "harass" the Sunnis through their style of religious practice. Over the past decades, especially since 2009, tensions between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority have intensified. Because the Saudi ruling house sees itself as the guardian of pure (Sunni) Islam, the government tolerates anti-Shiite propaganda. Numerous Saudi Sunni theologians condemn Shiite beliefs and practices in their writings; some-such as Nasir al-Umar (The Situation of Deniers in the Lands of Monotheism, 1993)-even go so far as to call Shiites "deniers" and deny them being Muslim.

In 2012, in a Gallup poll, 19% of Saudi respondents described themselves as "non-religious" and another 5% as "staunch atheists."

Islam's two holiest sites, the Kaaba in Mecca and the Prophet Muhammad's resting place in Medina, are located in Saudi Arabia, making the country the destination of several million pilgrims each year, especially during the Hajj. Theft during the Hajj can be punished by forced amputation of a hand or death. The holy Zamzam water spring, the Minā Valley, and Mount ʿArafāt, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon, are also located in Saudi Arabia.

The influence of the clergy in the country is very great and has increased further in recent years. The lifestyle of a number of members of the Saudi royal family, which contradicts Islam, polarizes society. Commentators therefore consider a religiously motivated coup d'état by fundamentalist clerics conceivable one day.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia bear the title "sheikh" or "alim. The mufti or grand mufti is the supreme spiritual scholar of Saudi Arabia. The current mufti, Sheikh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Āl ash-Shaykh, preached against terrorism during the 2005 pilgrimage, calling its acts an "attack on and discredit to Islam." Well-known scholars of Saudi Arabia were Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz and Muhammad ibn al-Uthaymin.


In Saudi Arabia, there are on average 2.1 doctors per 1000 inhabitants and 3.3 beds in a state hospital. Infection by HIV is very low due to extremely strict sex regulations, moral guardians and prudery. A growing health problem is widespread obesity. In 2016, 69.7% of the adult population was overweight and 35.4% were obese. Both are among the highest rates in the world. There are 13 cases of infant mortality per 1,000 births, as well as a maternal mortality rate of 12 per 100,000 births. Thus, the Saudi Arabian population is growing by 1.5 % annually. Due to the low average age combined with a relatively high life expectancy, the country has one of the lowest death rates in the world (3.3 per 1000 population). Since most of the guest workers in the country are male, the country has a high surplus of men. In 2016, there were 116 men for every 100 women.

Since the beginning of historical tradition, the Arabian Peninsula, as Saudi Arabia used to be called, was inhabited by Semites. Because of the harsh desert climate, nomadism was the predominant form of economy. Again and again, Akkadians, Amorites and Arameans advanced from the desert into the fertile areas of Mesopotamia and Syria. The largest of these movements occurred in the 7th century with the spread of Islam by Muhammad. Within a few decades, Muslims conquered an empire that stretched from Spain to India.

As the center of the empire shifted, Arabia soon lost its political importance again. The holy sites of Mecca and Medina in the Hejaz (or Hijāz) were visited annually by Muslim pilgrims.

Origin of the country

Since the 18th century, the Arab tribe of Saud allied itself with the very strict Islamic reform movement of the Wahhabis in order to unify and subjugate the Arab Bedouin tribes in this way.

However, a first major attempt at expansion under Emir Saud I (1803-1814) provoked military intervention on behalf of the impotent Ottoman sultan by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, whose troops crushed Saud's son Abdallah I in 1818. Twice - in 1818-1822 and again in 1838-1843 - the Saudi dominions in the Nedshd were occupied by Egyptian troops. After these setbacks, the considerably weakened Saudis came under the suzerainty of other Arab tribal princes loyal to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire always watched the situation closely. (See: Ottoman-Saudi War)

Only Emir Abd al-Aziz II ibn Saud (ruling in Riyadh from 1902) freed his dynasty and its tribe from this subordination in the Ottoman Empire and again used Wahhabi fundamentalism for a victorious military expansion in Arabia. In 1921, he brought the Emirate of Āl Rashīd under his control and united it with his territory to form the Sultanate of Najd. In 1925, after the British withdrew from the Kingdom of Hijaz, Ibn-Saud achieved a military victory over the competing Hashemite dynasty, which in the process lost its ancestral kingdom of Hijaz, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

After further conquests, the different territories were united on September 23, 1932, to form the new unitary state of Saudi Arabia. That is why September 23 is a national holiday. In 1934, the Saudi-Yemeni war broke out, which ended with a victory for Saudi Arabia. Due to the rich oil deposits, Saudi Arabia gained prosperity and great importance for the economy of the industrialized nations from 1938.

History after 1945

Saudi Arabia was a founding member of the United Nations and the Arab League in 1945. The Arab League attempted to prevent the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 with the Palestine War, in which Saudi Arabia also became involved. In the 1950s, the king allowed a council of ministers, but it has only an advisory role. In 1960, the kingdom was a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi Arabia repeatedly supports individual parties in civil war states such as Yemen and thus comes into conflict with other Arab states (because Saudi Arabia supported the royalists in the Yemeni civil war, tensions flared with Egypt, which supported the republicans). Slavery was abolished in 1963, with slaves replaced by guest workers from neighboring Arab states and South and Southeast Asia and Africa. Guest workers remain an important pillar of the country's economy today. In the 1960s and 1970s, there were repeated border conflicts with South Yemen, which were settled with a peace treaty in 1976. The oil crisis of 1973 was triggered after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War by the oil embargo imposed by OAPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is a founding member.

In November 1979, disputes over relations with the United States culminated in the occupation of the Great Mosque in Mecca under the leadership of Juhaimān al-ʿUtaibī and Muhammad ibn Abdallah al-Qahtani. The main criticisms of the insurgents, who were descendants of an Ichwān tribe and active in the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood, were, in addition to the seizure of land from Saudi princes in the Hejaz, what they considered to be the un-Islamic behavior of the ruling family and relations with the United States. A total of 330 people, including hostages, hostage-takers, and operational forces, died as a result of the occupation. Sixty-three insurgents, including al-Utaibi, were publicly beheaded in a mass execution in various cities in Saudi Arabia on January 9, 1980.

Gulf Wars

In the First Gulf War (1980-1988), Saudi Arabia supported Iraq against Iran. As a result of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, under King Fahd ibn Abd al-Aziz, has been increasingly aligned with the United States since 1982, from which it had distanced itself somewhat in the meantime. This is associated with the development of an oil-independent industry, major investments in infrastructure, roads and airports, and the strengthening of relations with neighboring states through border agreements.

Saudi Arabia's precarious security situation became apparent during the Second Gulf War (1990-1991), when Iraq occupied Kuwait. Saudi Arabia had to form an alliance with the United States and other Western countries to protect itself and drive the Iraqis back out of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia bore nearly 40% of the cost of the war to do so. The kingdom participated in the first major infantry operation of the Second Gulf War, the Battle of Khafji, and was victorious over Iraqi forces. However, the stationing of U.S. troops in the country led to fierce criticism from some clerics and Islamic fundamentalists, which was increasingly directed against the royal family and, more recently, led to violent clashes and terrorist attacks on Western facilities.

In the Third Gulf War (2003), the kingdom initially joined the so-called coalition of the willing, but subsequently left it again and prohibited the United States from using its bases in Saudi Arabia. Toward the end of the war, this ban was relaxed.

Development since 2010

Protests against the government occurred in 2011 and 2012. The demonstrations were violently put down and a strict ban on demonstrations was imposed (see Protests in Saudi Arabia 2011

In 2015, Saudi Arabia intervened militarily on the government side in the Huthi conflict in Yemen and has been flying airstrikes against the Huthi rebels since March 2015. In December, under Saudi leadership, the Islamic Military Coalition was formed, a military alliance primarily of Middle Eastern and North African states. On October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul by a special commando. The act attracted widespread attention around the world.

Since the spring of 2020, Saudi Arabia has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pilgrimage tourism to Mecca and Medina, which had brought more than $20 billion (nearly 3% of annual GDP) to Saudi Arabia in 2019, plummeted. Oil prices dropped significantly. In 2019, Riyadh recorded a $35 billion shortfall in the state budget, and a shortfall of the equivalent of $79 billion has been forecast for 2020. The state was virtually debt-free until 2014, when oil prices fell from more than $100 to around $50 per barrel. Since then, the state has taken on debt; the public debt ratio is about 35 % of GDP.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy according to Articles 1 and 5 of its Basic Law. This makes the kingdom one of the last six remaining absolute monarchies in the world, along with Brunei, Vatican City, Qatar, Oman, and Eswatini.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as a state of God and has enshrined Sharia law in its constitution. The constitution does not provide for a separation of powers: According to Article 12 of the constitution, the monarch, who is the sole ruler, has the duty to strive for the unity of the nation and to keep discord, sedition and division at bay; according to Article 23, he is to enjoin what is right and forbid what is reprehensible. Based on Articles 12 and 50, he can intervene in the legislative, judicial and executive branches; the otherwise applicable independence of the courts under Article 46 is no longer protected by law in this case, since the king is above the law. Saudi Arabia is a full member of the Group of Twenty most important industrialized and emerging countries.

State and religion

Although the kingdom is not a theocracy, there is no separation between state and religion. According to the basic order, the state religion is Islam, with Salafism and Wahhabism as the dominant movements.

Since 1986, the king has called himself the guardian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, which is intended to elevate him and the royal family in the Islamic world. Therefore, the royal family attaches great importance to not separating politics from religion.

The king is supposed to maintain consensus between the royal House of Saud, the clerics and religious scholars (ulema) and other important elements of Saudi society. Because the ulema have a great deal of influence over the population, consensus with them is considered an important pillar of power for the royal family; in the past, the royal family's long-standing mutual ties with the Islamic clergy helped anchor the monarchy in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the relationship between the clergy and the government has deteriorated.

The alliance of monarchy and religion is internally burdened by religious opposition disloyal to the royal family and is also criticized externally, especially by the United States, as an obstacle to a pluralistic social order. In the face of revolutionary Islamist groups, the layer of religious scholars who support the state appears to be a stabilizing element. King Abdullah accordingly endeavored to present the traditional alliance of throne and religion as a particular strength of the system. On the other hand, this coalition repeatedly requires concessions to the religious establishment, which are becoming increasingly difficult to accept in the international context.

The reform steps were integrated into a Muslim-tinged discourse, so that in view of the need to defend the Muslim heritage against Islamist terror, it is unclear whether the Islamization of the discourse will bring about political moderation among other segments of the population. The government is counting on the concept of an Islamic government to regain the initiative against further radicalized critics and thus save its own Islamic legitimacy. For more than a few observers, however, the government's initiative appears to be a half-hearted approach that merely reveals the government's lack of legitimacy.

Royal House

Since Ibn Saud founded the state in 1932, the kingdom has been ruled by six monarchs:

Articles 9 to 13 of the Basic Law explicitly deal with the royal family. Succession to the throne follows the seniority principle, although it is possible for a prince to be skipped or appointed early (see Succession to the Throne in Saudi Arabia). According to Article 9, the royal family is the core of Saudi society.

The monarch (Malik) is both head of state and head of government, as well as the custodian of the two holy cities. He is legibus solutus (Latin for detached from the laws), which means that he is not subject to the laws he himself enacts. According to Articles 60 and 61 of the Basic Law, the king is the supreme security body and the supreme commander of the armed forces. He thus has sole and unlimited (absolute) authority over the police, the mutawwa, the intelligence service (al-Muchabarat al-'Amma) and the Saudi military.

From August 1, 2005 until his death on January 23, 2015, this was King and Prime Minister Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. His deputy and thus second head of government since June 2012 was Crown Prince Salman ibn Abd al-Aziz. who succeeded him on the throne. On April 29, 2015, King Salman ibn Abd al-Aziz replaced the previous crown prince, Muqrin ibn Abd al-Aziz, with his nephew Prince Mohammed ibn Naif, and he in turn later replaced him with his son Mohammed bin Salman. The rest of the royal family also holds important government posts. The 13 provinces are ruled by princes or close relatives of the royal family.

Since the founding of the Saudi state in 1932, seven kings, including Salman, have ruled over the kingdom, all from the House of Al Saud. If a new king must be appointed, the council of elders of the royal family meets to appoint him. The leading members of the royal family elect the new king from among themselves in the event of a vacancy. The king is the highest revising authority and has the right of pardon. The king's powers are theoretically limited by the rules of Sharia law and Saudi tradition, but in practice they are unlimited. He has sole state power and can rule with unlimited authority. The king can rely on Article 55 of the Basic Law, which grants him this role as "leader and supervisor of the nation's policy.


The government consists of the Council of Ministers, established in 1953 and chaired by the king, who also holds the post of prime minister. Key portfolios such as Interior and Defense are held by important members of the royal family. In total, there are the following ministries:

Since February 2009, women have also officially participated in the country's government, the first of whom was Nura bint Abdullah al-Fayez.

Consultative assembly

There is no parliament in Saudi Arabia, but since 1992 there has been a Consultative Assembly (also known as the Shūrā Council) with 150 members who are appointed to this position by the king for four years at a time. The Consultative Assembly advises the government, comments on proposed legislation and can introduce its own bills. It does not have budgetary authority. The basic features of the government system were regulated by several decrees issued by King Fahd in March 1992. The procedure for succession to the throne was codified for the first time on this occasion. In the course of the royal reform program, the Consultative Assembly was created at the same time. The reform program also included a framework plan for the establishment of provincial consultative bodies.

In September 1993, King Fahd issued further reform decrees, giving the consultative body rules of procedure and appointing its members. The king also promulgated reforms concerning the Council of Ministers, which included limiting the term of office to four years and also included regulations to prevent ministers and other senior officials from having conflicts of interest. The rules of procedure for the 13 provincial councils and their members were also announced in 1993.

In July 1997, the number of members of the advisory body was increased from 60 to 90. In May 2001, there was a further expansion to 120 members, and in 2005 to 150. Since many of the old members were not reappointed in the expansions, the composition of the body has changed significantly. The role of the council is also being expanded in stages as the panel's experience grows.

In June 2006, six women were appointed for the first time to the advisory assembly, which had previously only included men. Since January 2013, more than 30 women have been represented on the body for the first time. They thus make up one fifth of the delegates. They are the vice chairs of three committees. In the 2015 elections, women and men also had the right to vote and stand for election for the first time.


There are no legal political parties. Opposition, unions and strikes are officially banned by the king. Traditionally, every citizen has access to high officials on the occasion of public audiences and the right to address them directly with petitions.

There are three parties worth mentioning in Saudi Arabia, but they operate underground due to the ban on political parties and are subject to criminal prosecution:

The best-known opposition group, however, is the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), based in London. It advocates the separation of powers, freedom of expression, and women's rights, things MIRA denies the Saudi government. The group had called for a demonstration in Saudi Arabia in 2003, during which Saudi police made more than 350 arrests. The chairman of MIRA is Sa'ad al-Faqih, a physician. The Saudi government, as well as the U.S. government, which is allied with the Saudi government, classifies him and his group as terrorists and therefore refuses to allow any trial.

Political indices

Under King Fahd, a reform of the slow "democratic opening" began. But democratization of the country along Western lines was out of the question for Fahd, he justified this as follows: "The people of this region in the world are unsuited to the democratic understanding of the Western states of the world.

The reforms took place without the concepts of democracy and the rule of law being encountered in Saudi Arabia's political discourse. There are open concerns about the principles of popular sovereignty, separation of powers and human rights. Article 1 of the Basic Law states that the Koran and the tradition of the Prophet (Sunna) constitute the kingdom's constitution. Accordingly, it is not the task of politics to create consensus within the population, but rather-in the view of the "pure doctrine"-to bring God's commandments and prohibitions to bear in social life. Furthermore, since the tendency toward secular and worldly democracy would call the legitimacy of the government into question, the introduction of secular and democratic principles is unlikely.

Today, Saudi Arabia, along with Pakistan, is considered a global center of Islamic fundamentalism. The Muslim Brotherhood has existed in the kingdom since the 1930s. However, they appear neither as a reform movement nor as a party. Although their ideas differ from the state religion, Salafism, and there are differences of opinion, they are tolerated by the Saudi government. The Saudi interior minister has criticized the Muslim Brotherhood many times in the past. Their influence on the local population is rather limited. The works of Sayyid Qutb are permitted; they are sometimes praised and sometimes criticized by spiritual authorities. However, the works of some Islamic "hotheads" have been banned recently.

In the 1990s, there were repeated accidents during the annual pilgrimage, the Hajj, attacks on foreign troops and protests against the royal family. Top terrorists such as Ibn al-Chattab and Osama bin Laden hail from Saudi Arabia, and 15 of the 19 attackers on September 11, 2001, also came from the kingdom. The pro-Western foreign policy and, for some years now, domestic policy of the royal family have contributed significantly to the strengthening of fundamentalism. The terrorists' declared strategic goal is to overthrow the Saudi royal family. There have been serious attacks and hostage-taking with the goal of overthrowing the royal family before, including in the 1970s under Juhaiman al-Utaibi. Even after September 11, there have been repeated serious terrorist attacks in the kingdom. The targets are usually state institutions such as police buildings as well as facilities representing the West, especially the U.S., such as the U.S. Embassy in Jeddah, which was attacked in 2004.

After the wave of terror in 2003, a public discussion about extremism and fundamentalism in the country's own society began for the first time, and it is being conducted more and more openly in the country's media and within the framework of the institutionalized "National Dialogue. Many young people see religious fervor as a way of protesting against Western influence, especially against U.S. policy in the Near and Middle East, which is perceived as dominant and unjust.

According to Saudi Interior Minister Naif ibn Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, 22 terrorist attacks were carried out in the kingdom in 2003 and 2004, reportedly killing 90 civilians and 37 Saudi security forces. During the same period, 92 extremists were killed and 52 terrorist attacks were thwarted in clashes with police, he said. Increased security measures have tightened the ban on gatherings, and people often run into checks by heavily armed security forces.

Human Rights

In Saudi Arabia, human rights are recognized only if they are in accordance with sharia laws. The absolute ruling royal family consistently takes action against opposition voices and critics. Among other things, this leads to many human rights being disregarded or violated in Saudi Arabia.

The 2007 annual report of the organization Amnesty International lists, among others, the following facts:

According to Amnesty International, at least 158 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2015. Most executions are carried out by beheading. Since 1985 (until June 2015), at least 2208 people have fallen victim to the death penalty.

In 2004, the National Authority for Human Rights was founded. Its task should be to document and forward human rights violations. Its long-term goal is to improve the human rights situation. The authority was under the Ministry of the Interior. Today, there is a National Society for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

In its 2007 annual report, Amnesty International points out that international law was flouted on several occasions, particularly in the war on terror. Clashes between security forces and armed groups continued to occur in several parts of the country. Clashes with security forces in the al-Yarmuk district, Riyadh region, in February reportedly killed at least five men in a boarding house who were on the government's wanted list for suspected members of the al-Qaida network.

Numerous people suspected of having contacts with the al-Qaeda terror network were arrested. In March, June and August, more than 100 people were reportedly arrested in Mecca, Medina and the capital Riyadh alone.

Fouad Hakim, a suspect was apparently held without charge from December 2006 until his release in November 2007, according to Amnesty International. Muhiddin Mugne Haji Mascat, a doctor, was detained for several months for allegedly providing medical treatment to a terror suspect.

In July 2006, Abdullah Hassan, a Libyan, and Abdel Hakim Mohammed Jellaini, a British national, were released without charge, accused of providing funding to terrorist organizations. Their passports, however, were confiscated, preventing them from leaving the country.

In May and June 2006, 24 detainees with Saudi citizenship and one detainee with Chinese citizenship were released from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center and transferred to Saudi Arabia. Upon arrival, they were arrested and imprisoned by security forces. Some of them were sentenced to an additional year of imprisonment for forgery, while others were released.

The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders assesses the situation of press freedom in Saudi Arabia as "very serious". The main reason for this is the strict censorship and criminal prosecution of criticism of the royal family. For example, the Internet journalist Fouad Ahmad al-Fahrhan, who was critical of the government, was arrested on December 10, 2007, and was not released without charge until April 26, 2008.

Three journalists are in custody in Saudi Arabia. In addition, seven bloggers and citizen journalists are in custody.

Demonstrations are banned (as of 2008), and there is a general ban on assemblies. Approximately 2,000 people protested in July and August 2006 in several cities throughout the country against Israel's bombing of Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War. Several people were arrested in this context. In September, 300 Shiites demonstrated against the continued detention of several co-religionists who had been arrested in April 2000 in connection with protests and riots. Some demonstrators were arrested.

In February 2007, the daily newspaper Shams was not allowed to appear for six weeks. The newspaper had printed the Muhammad cartoons as part of its campaign for action against the cartoons.

In March 2007, Mohsen al-Awaji was arrested after publishing articles on the Internet criticizing the authorities and the Royal Family and calling for the abolition of censorship of Internet sites. He was released after eight days without being charged.

In the years before 2008, freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia improved somewhat. There were public discussions on topics that were previously considered taboo.

In July 2013, liberal Internet activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 strokes of the cane. Legal scholar Abd al-Rahman al-Barrak previously issued a legal opinion in March 2012 declaring Badawi an infidel "who must be tried and sentenced as he deserves." The court considered it proven that Badawi had insulted Islam. Further, he was convicted of disobeying his father. He escaped the death penalty by uttering the Islamic creed three times, confirming that he was a Muslim. In 2008, Raif Badawi founded the forum "Free Saudi Liberals," with which he wanted to initiate a debate about politics and religion in the conservative kingdom. According to the indictment, Badawi described Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists as equals in some of his contributions. The appeals court increased the sentence to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, to be carried out with 50 lashes each for 20 consecutive weeks after Friday prayers. On Friday, January 9, 2015, the serial torture of Raif Badawi began. The daily Kurier interviewed Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who has been living in Canada with children since 2013: the prison doctor is convinced that the flogging will continue on January 30, 2015. She calls for the closure of the Abdullah Center in Vienna and thanks all those who are working for it. She is afraid that his wounds will not heal because of diabetes that Badawi developed when he was arrested. He also suffers from unsanitary prison conditions and malnutrition.

On September 17, 2015, it became known that the plea for clemency of Ali Mohammed an-Nimr, a Shiite who as a 17-year-old had been sentenced in the last instance to death by beheading followed by post-mortem crucifixion, had been rejected. Amnesty International accuses the Saudi government that Ali Mohammed an-Nimr's confession was obtained under torture and that there was no evidence of an-Nimr's alleged use of violence. Ali Mohammed an-Nimr is a relative of the anti-government Shiite Friday preacher of the city of al-Awamia, Ayatollah Nimr an-Nimr, who was also sentenced to death - and executed on January 2, 2016.

The public practice of religions other than Wahhabi Islam is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, so the religious freedom of Shiites is also limited; they are not recognized as Muslims by the religious authorities. Shiites are not allowed to publicly practice customs that are incompatible with Sunni Islam, such as Mutʿa marriage or the commemoration of Imam Hussain (Ashura). They are allowed to operate mosques, but these are not officially considered mosques. Accordingly, only Wahhabi religious instruction is given in schools.

Those who openly profess another non-Sunni group, such as the Alevis, Ahmadiyya or Druze, can be punished. Especially Bahai (= believers of the post-Islamic world religion Bahai) suffer religious persecution.

According to the strict interpretation of the state religion, no non-Islamic place of worship may be located on the land on which the two holy sites are located. However, there are, for example, two German schools in Saudi Arabia where these laws do not apply; German laws apply within the school grounds. Negative religious freedom (the freedom of people not to belong to any religion) is severely restricted in Saudi Arabia.

Even for guest workers and diplomats, it is forbidden, under penalty, to celebrate a religious service, to receive baptism or anointing of the sick. Churches, synagogues, or other non-Islamic houses of worship do not exist, and the construction of such is prohibited. If the rules are broken, this can be punished by arrest, flogging, and torture. The 2017 World Christian Persecution Index, published by the mission and relief agency Open Doors, currently ranks the deprivation of Christianity in Saudi Arabia as the fourteenth highest in the world.

Apostasy - apostasy from Islam - is punishable by death, which has already been imposed and carried out for this offense. When Christians are punished for violations of the proscription on proselytizing, the penalty may vary depending on their nationality. Nationals of Western allies-for example, the United States, France, Germany, or Austria-are usually discreetly expelled from the country, while missionaries from other and, from Saudi Arabia's perspective, "lesser" countries-for example, the Philippines-are imprisoned and occasionally executed.

In Saudi Arabia, women do not have the same rights as men. All women must wear floor-length robes and headscarves in public. Men can be fined - some with archaic punishments such as lashes - if they show themselves in public with women. Saudi Arabia is ranked 138th out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report on gender equality.

Many professions were not accessible to women. Today, almost every profession is accessible to women, but under the condition of full veiling and strict gender segregation in the workplace. This severely restricts their freedom of movement. The consent of a male relative to study or work is now no longer required by law.

In Saudi Arabia, women's rights are restricted; the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Women on September 7, 2000, with reservations to Article 9 (1) and Article 29 (1), but has not yet ratified the Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Women.

The legal position of women is determined by the Wahhabi conservative interpretation of Islam. Local women are generally subject to legal male guardianship. They do not have legal capacity and cannot enter into legal transactions without the consent of their male guardian. Until marriage, the male guardian is usually the father, brothers or, if applicable, an uncle. From marriage, the husband is the male guardian. The male guardian is jointly responsible for the woman's offenses; in the case of minor offenses, it is often the case that the male guardian has to answer to the court; in the case of major offenses, it is usually both. Since 2004, women have been allowed to run their own companies, i.e. to bear their own responsibility for them.

Women can be released from their male guardian in court, but they must be able to prove that the male guardian abuses, rapes, tortures or forces them to do things that are not compatible with Islam (e.g. prostitution or anal sex). The male guardian will then be held accountable for these offenses unless there is an out-of-court settlement between the couple after delivery (e.g., compensation amount).

Meanwhile, although it is compulsory for every woman to have an identity or travel card, she was not allowed to renew it until August 2019 without the written consent of her male guardian, and was not allowed to leave the country until August 2019 without his permission. Since August 2019, women in Saudi Arabia have had freedom to travel. Since early 2008, women have been allowed to stay alone in a hotel; previously, they were only allowed to do so when accompanied by a "male legal guardian." Since 2021, women of legal age have also been allowed to live alone in an apartment without the consent of a male family member.

Because of this, areas reserved for one gender are often found in the kingdom, such as buses, shopping malls or restaurants. Hessah Al-Oun, the chairwoman of the city council of Rawda, a district of Jeddah, pushed through the construction of a public (state-run) recreational and sports park for women in March 2008. Until then, such facilities were only offered by private owners.

In the health care system, women are disadvantaged both as professionals and as patients. Women are not allowed to work outdoors as nurses. Treatment of a sick woman by male paramedics, even in urgent emergencies, is sometimes hindered by the process of veiling the woman before a rescue transport for treatment in a clinic. It happened that a paramedic was only allowed to look at a birth at home; when the umbilical cord was diagnosed as being pinched off by the head of the child pushing out and the prognosis of acute danger to life was declared, the paramedic in Riyadh was forbidden by the child's father to touch the woman and thus to intervene properly; the child died during transport. Two paramedics from Germany and Human Rights Watch complain about several specific deaths of women that were preventable according to European standards. For example, the death of a female student as a result of a heart attack became known after the emergency doctors called to help were prevented from entering the women's wing of the university by security personnel for over two hours. In March 2002, 15 girls died in Mecca after they were not allowed out of a burning school without being veiled.

A Philippine parliamentary committee on the working conditions of domestic workers speaks of "de facto slavery". This is because migrant workers need a guarantor (usually the employer) in the country. According to a 2008 HRW survey, one third of female domestic workers complain of sexual assault, and many are abandoned as a result of rape.

Although a 1977 law guaranteed all citizens the right to vote, it did not list any special restrictions for women. In 2000, Saudi Arabia signed an international treaty in which it pledged to ensure that women could vote in all elections under the same conditions as men. The electoral law of August 2004 guaranteed universal suffrage without restrictions. However, only men were allowed to vote in the 2005 partial municipal elections. Technical reasons, such as the difficulty of setting up a polling station for women, were used to explain why women did not participate. Based on a 2011 decree - issued during the upheavals of the Arab Spring - women in Saudi Arabia were finally admitted to local elections for the first time in December 2015.

Soraya Obaid became the first Saudi woman director of the United Nations Population Fund in 2001.

Women were not allowed to drive until 2018. Although there was no official ban, no driver's licenses had been issued to women since 1957. In October 2005, King Abdullah declared that this would not change in the near future. There have been several protests and acts of civil disobedience by women. The king himself supported the lifting of the driving ban, but made it conditional on the approval of the general public. On September 26, 2017, the Saudi state news agency SPA announced that the government would draft regulations on behalf of King Salman to lift the ban on women driving starting in mid-2018. On June 4, 2018, Saudi Arabia issued driver's licenses to women for the first time: Ten women who already had a driver's license from another state and took an additional test received their licenses that day. Since June 24, 2018, women with driver's licenses have been officially allowed to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle themselves. Saudi officials expected that about 2,000 women would have obtained driver's licenses by that date. In the longer term, hundreds of thousands to millions of new female road users were expected, and the automotive industry made clear in advance in advertisements its interest in the new potential female customers. In the longer term, economic growth was also expected to increase as a result of the increased participation of women in the economy.

Women have been allowed to ride bicycles since 2013, but only if they do so in recreational areas accompanied by a male relative and in compliance with legal dress codes.

Girls have only been allowed to attend schools since 1966. In the meantime, liberalization has progressed so far in the education sector that the majority of students are women. They have to watch lectures by male lecturers on the screen, because in the university, as in the entire public sphere, the principle applies that women may not have any personal contact with unrelated men and men may not have any personal contact with unrelated women. The consent of a male relative to take up a course of study is now no longer required.

In Riyadh, there is a very large women's university, Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University. Only through automatic driving could both conditions be fulfilled for an internal means of transport that women do not drive vehicles - and (without supervision) do not meet male driving personnel.

Saudi Arabia has a total population of around 33 million people, with around eleven million foreigners living there. According to estimates by the TV station al Jazeera in 2013, up to 1.5 million foreigners are in the country without valid residence permits. A large number of people from North and East African countries work in the service and construction industries in Saudi Arabia at wage rates far below those for Saudi workers. The Saudi state wants to curb the mostly illegal employment and in 2013 established its own 1,200-strong task force, which has since been combing stores, construction sites, restaurants and other workplaces. Saudi Arabia had given immigrants a seven-month deadline to legalize their stay in April 2013. Around one million people then left the country, and around four million more found permanent jobs and were allowed to stay.

According to police reports, people were killed during riots in a neighborhood of Riyadh inhabited mainly by foreigners in November 2013. In the Manfuhah district, locals and foreigners attacked the police with stones and knives, after which security forces intervened. A Saudi Arabian and another person of unknown identity were killed, he said. Another 68 people were injured and more than 560 people were detained by police. Hundreds of illegal immigrants surrendered to police after the riots and were bussed to a deportation center.

Foreign Relations

Saudi Arabia enjoys a special status among other Islamic countries because the two holiest cities of Islam are located in this country.

Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the United States. The good relationship with the United States is a central element of Saudi foreign policy. The United States and the Kingdom signed a treaty in February 1945 on a military base in the Persian Gulf, on the Palestine issue, and on a military alliance. Since then, the United States has been considered a close ally of the Kingdom. During the Third Gulf War, however, Saudi Arabia initially refused to allow the United States to use its military bases on Saudi soil.

The close relationship between the two countries can be described as an exchange of access to oil for security guarantees. For this reason, the U.S. is often described in global media as Saudi Arabia's American hegemonic and protective power, or big brother. In return, the U.S. has often demanded in the past that Saudi Arabia increase oil supplies to its refineries in order to lower the price and ease the economic situation in the country, most recently in March 2008 when Vice President Dick Cheney met with King Abdullah.

Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia are largely based on economic interests and arms and security exchanges. However, with regard to the hegemonic dispute with Iran (in the 2015 military intervention in Yemen, Syria and Iraq), the German foreign intelligence service BND warned of an increasingly destabilizing role for Saudi Arabia, with the actions of Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, in office since January 2015, being viewed particularly critically: "The previous cautious diplomatic stance of the senior members of the royal family" was being "replaced by an impulsive intervention policy".

Recently, Saudi Arabia's relations with Turkey and especially with the People's Republic of China have been increasing.

The kingdom did not participate in the military actions of the Arab-Israeli wars; however, it supported the common cause of the Arabs by providing massive financial aid to Palestinian organizations as well as temporarily reducing oil shipments to the Western world under King Faisal. See: Oil Crisis.

Saudi Arabia has been officially at war with Israel since 1948 (Palestine War), the state of Israel is still not recognized, and there are no political contacts between the two countries.

In recent years, the kingdom has been working for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. From the Saudi perspective, progress cannot be achieved without U.S. involvement in the peace process.

In 2002, Abdullah launched the so-called "Arab Peace Initiative," which many saw as the beginning of the Saudi attempt to make peace with Israel. The plan called for the handover of almost all of the Israeli-occupied territories to the Palestinians and recognition of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, Abdullah offered far-reaching concessions for the first time, including an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, a peace treaty, and recognition of Israel and the establishment of "normal relations" between the Arab states and Israel. The plan was abandoned after criticism from Israel as well as Arab states.

King Abdullah succeeded in persuading the hostile Palestinian leaders of the Fatah organization and the Islamist terrorist group Hamas to sign a peace treaty in the holy city of Mecca on February 8, 2007. However, this was to prove ineffective in the medium term as a means of finding a lasting solution to the Palestinians' internal conflicts. In the past, Hamas has often demanded that the Saudi government not participate in measures to promote peace with Israel, such as the Middle East Conference in the United States.

In order to defuse the nuclear dispute with Iran, Saudi Arabia relied on diplomacy and a peaceful solution, although it is unofficially engaged in a "cold religious war" with Shiite Iran. In late 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to the Hajj by King Abdullah; this had mainly symbolic value, as it was the first time in Saudi Arabia's history that a king officially invited a Shiite leader to the Hajj. Political issues were also reportedly discussed. Both countries subsequently made clear that they were committed to "peaceful coexistence." The Saudi government said it wanted to work with the other Gulf states to avoid a military strike against Iran and to mediate on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The kingdom made an earlier compromise proposal for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the Middle East: Uranium should be enriched in a neutral country and made available to Middle Eastern states. However, the Iranian government immediately rejected the idea as "meaningless."

Saudi Arabia also had its own nuclear program. In the course of the civil war in Syria, Saudi Arabia sided with the opposition, which it also supplies with weapons. It also supports a military strike against Assad.

There has been a serious diplomatic crisis with Iran since the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, 2016, along with 46 others, including terrorists but also peaceful opposition figures. On January 3, 2016, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and partially set it on fire. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, threatened the Saudi royal family with the "vengeance of God." That same day, the Saudi foreign minister then announced the severance of diplomatic relations with Iran. On January 4, Saudi Arabia also announced the termination of all economic relations with Iran, including air travel, and the expulsion of all Iranian nationals.

Salafist Islam, which is considered to be strictly dogmatic, is particularly widespread in the kingdom, and Saudi Arabia is considered its home. This current of Islam continues to spread around the world thanks to financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and the king in the construction of mosques and madrasas. The country is thus suspected of exporting Sunni extremism worldwide. Saudi Arabia also supports other conservative currents of Islam, including the Deobandis and the Ahl-i Hadīth.

In the fight of the Islamic militias in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen, against the Soviet army in the 1980s, the Kingdom provided about half of the finances, with the other half coming from the United States. Since 2000, the kingdom has provided more than $307 million in aid to the Palestinians and another $230 million to Afghanistan, including under Taliban rule.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the kingdom has distributed $1 billion in low-interest loans to the country and provided $187 million in direct aid. This is in addition to the private $10.3 million provided by Prince al-Walid ibn Talal.

Furthermore, the king pledged $500 million to Lebanon for the coming years to rebuild the country after the 2006 Lebanon War and another $250 million for the Palestinians. Other notable aid funds are flowing to Sudan.

Aid money also flows into the Pakistani arms industry. It is largely certain that Saudi Arabia has "financed a not inconsiderable part of Pakistan's nuclear program"; unofficially, the figure is said to be 50 %. After the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005, the kingdom also provided $153 million in aid.

Unofficial donations, which the government says it is not directly involved with, also flow to the radical Islamic Hamas and even to the Shiite terrorist organization of Hezbollah, among others. Of the millions donated to Saudi aid organizations, some are also said to go to Sunni resistance groups in Iraq and Southeast Asia.

The King Abdullah Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue was founded by King Abdullah in 2011, opened in Vienna in 2012 and is co-sponsored by Spain and Austria. The center sees itself as an inter-governmental organization that aims to strengthen global dialogue and cooperation as well as mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures.

In January 2015, Austria's politicians discussed dissolving the cooperation, as the organization's goals were seen as contradicting the country's human rights policy.

Saudi Arabia was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981 and is its leading power; it also belongs to the Non-Aligned Movement. It is the only Arab country at the G-20 meetings. The Kingdom is also a member of the following international organizations:

Armed Forces

The armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic القوات المسلحة الملكية العربية السعودية), with a total strength of approximately 230,000, are considered one of the most powerful in the Middle East after those of Israel. They consist of the five branches of the armed forces

There is no compulsory military service, the armed forces are a purely professional army, and the minimum age for entry is eighteen. Women can also serve in the Saudi armed forces. Due in part to strong population growth, the Saudi Arabian military has expanded considerably in recent decades. In the mid-1980s, troop strength was still around 60,000.

At $63 billion, the country had the world's fourth-highest military spending in 2016, behind the U.S., China and Russia. Saudi Arabia spent more than 10% of its economic output on its armed forces, one of the highest rates in the world and a burden on the country's national budget.

Bild am Sonntag reported that on January 21, 2015, the Federal Security Council decided to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia by rejecting or postponing export applications. In 2013, the Federal Security Council still approved arms exports to the FRG for 360 million euros. In a poll conducted by Emnid for Bild am Sonntag, 60% of Germans (503 respondents) refused to do any further business with Saudi Arabia at all in view of the human rights violations, and 78% rejected arms exports there. According to the arms export report, the German government nevertheless approved arms exports worth almost 500 million euros in 2016. The former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, spoke of a "restrictive and responsible arms export policy".

Although Saudi Arabia's arms imports increased sharply between 2011 and 2015, the main suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia are the United States (46%), the United Kingdom (30%), and Spain (5.9%).


The country is divided into 13 provinces (singular: minṭaqa, plural: manāṭiq). In addition, the provinces are divided into a total of 118 governorates.

All provincial governors are appointed by the king. Villages are usually governed by a village council or council of elders.

The largest cities in Saudi Arabia are Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Dammam, Hofuf and Ta'if. Mecca and Medina are completely closed to non-Muslims. The first four are cities of millions. As the world's largest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia has a flourishing economy and an infrastructure that is excellent in all respects, from completely free medical care to the connection of all important cities via a highway-like road network.

The largest city in Saudi Arabia is the capital Riyadh, with a population of about 4.1 million. It is located about 150 kilometers north of the Tropic of Cancer between the country's two largest deserts, relatively centrally in the eastern part of the country's center. Riyadh has been the capital of Saudi Arabia since its independence in 1932. Historically, Riyadh is a very important transit point of the Arab region, the pilgrimage routes to Mecca and Medina, the most important pilgrimage sites of Islam. Riyadh has been home to the main palace of the Saud royal family since 1824. Riyadh, sometimes spelled Er-Riyadh in German, was originally an oasis that gradually developed into a metropolis, especially after the oil boom in the mid-20th century.

The second largest city is Jeddah on the Red Sea. Jeddah has 2.8 million inhabitants and is the most important export port for petroleum products and livestock (goats, sheep and camels). The city is about 300 years old and has undergone a gigantic development since 1947: at that time it had about 30,000 inhabitants and was limited to a small area within its city walls. Today, the dimensions of the city can best be seen in its boulevard "Corniche", which, lined with hotels and palaces, runs for 60 km along the coast of the Red Sea. The city is nestled between the sea and the Asir Mountains.

Next is Mecca, the most important city of Islam. In the center of the city is the most important sanctuary of Islam, the Kaaba, the most important destination of Islamic pilgrimages (Hajj). About 1.5 million people live in Mecca. At the time of the Hajj, several million pilgrims stay in the city. Most of them travel via the port and airport of Jeddah and then a good 100 km overland. They are largely accommodated in tent cities and provided with food and drink by the Saudi government.

Mecca has historically been of great importance as a trading city and the hub of many caravan routes from Asia and Africa to Europe. All Muslims worldwide pray in the direction of Mecca

Medina has a population of around 1.75 million and is the second holiest city for Muslims. It is located in the center of the country, west of Riyadh. Medina is where the Islamic calendar began in 622, when the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to the oasis of Yathrib, now Medina (hijra). Muhammad is buried in Medina, making the city an important pilgrimage site. Medina was an important caravan city and trading center, which was conquered by the Saudi king's forces against the Hashemite army in 1932 and incorporated into the kingdom.

Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Economic structure

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab region, with a per capita GDP 38 times that of Yemen and 16 times that of Egypt. The country applied to join the WTO in 1993 and was admitted in 2005. The accession accelerated the international opening of the Saudi market. The securities exchange is the Tadawul.

In 2006, the kingdom generated its largest surplus ever (approximately $70 billion with an asset balance of $150 billion), significantly surpassing the record surplus of 2005 (approximately $55.5 billion). After mineral resources, the service sector, especially tourism with more than three million pilgrims each year, is an important economic sector.

Real economic growth was 3.5% in 2015. The currency in the kingdom is the Saudi riyal, which has a fixed exchange rate to the U.S. dollar. 12 % of Saudis earn 3 % of GDP in agriculture, while 25 % of the workforce is employed in industry. At 63.7 % of GDP, this sector generates the largest profit. With 63 % of employment in the service sector, this is the largest sector. 33 % of GDP is generated there.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia exported goods worth $201.5 billion (of which oil and oil products: about 90%), while imports amounted to $163.8 billion, so that - as in previous years - there was a stable surplus of $37.7 billion in the trade balance, which has declined in recent years due to the drop in oil prices. The main recipient countries of Saudi exports are China, Japan, the USA and now also South Korea and India; the main importing countries are the USA, China, Japan, Germany and South Korea. Imports from Germany are continuously increasing; in 2006, imports of machinery from Germany increased by 55.2% and imports of iron and steel products increased by 90.16%. In 2015, Saudi Arabia imported goods worth 7.3 billion euros from Germany. Exports amounted to 0.9 billion euros.

In 2005, the approximately six million guest workers reportedly sent remittances to their home countries totaling $14 billion. The country holds large foreign exchange reserves ($492 billion as of April 2017). The country has two sovereign wealth funds, the Public Investment Fund and SAMA Foreign Holdings (part of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority).

In the Global Competitiveness Index, which measures a country's competitiveness, Saudi Arabia ranked 30th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In the Economic Freedom Index, the country ranked 64th out of 180 countries in 2017.

Until now, generous subsidies applied to water and gasoline. However, this course has now been significantly adjusted. From now on, there is a value-added tax - and gasoline is drastically more expensive. A liter of super now costs the equivalent of 45 euro cents - more than twice as much as before. According to the ministry, this is intended to curb the rapid increase in energy consumption in the country.

The overall unemployment rate was 5.8% in 2017 and 12.8% for the native population. In 2005, 6.7% of all workers were employed in agriculture, 21.4% in industry, and 71.9% in services. The total number of employees is estimated at 13.8 million in 2017.

Women are granted the right to employment in all areas. However, they are not allowed to work at night, but are entitled to maternity protection and, in larger companies (50 employees or more), to childminders or even (100 employees or more) to a kindergarten. Women currently (2017) make up 16.2% of the workforce, and meanwhile women have a higher university graduation rate than men. Women work mainly in the fields of education, social services, health and media.

A new labor law entered into force on April 23, 2006. The most important labor market policy instrument in it is the Saudization program, which is intended to increasingly replace the approximately six million guest workers with nationals. Companies are required to increase their share of Saudi Arabian workers to 75 %. The minister of labor can lower this percentage if qualified Saudi Arabian workers are not available.

The new labor law strengthens the rights of guest workers: Employers are obligated to provide written employment contracts as well as to cover all costs of entry and exit and to grant leave. On the other hand, the law also requires companies to provide training in order to gradually replace guest workers with Saudi workers. A strict visa policy accompanies this program. According to the Minister of Labor, the number of visas for foreign workers is to be reduced considerably - by 100,000 visas annually. At the same time, there are minimum quotas for the use of local workers in the private sector to prevent youth unemployment; however, these workers prefer jobs in administration and are generally poorly qualified.

Because of the collapse in revenues from oil exports and the loss of subsidies for many jobs, as well as the foreseeable loss of income among the managerial elite and the middle classes, a sharp rise in unemployment is predicted among the approximately 9 million foreign workers; however, important positions in the private sector cannot be filled by nationals who are not sufficiently qualified for them. Thus, there is a threat of an increase in youth unemployment, especially among nationals.

Vision 2030 is an economic project of the Saudi leadership, the details of which were announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 25, 2016. The plan aims to significantly reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil. For example, the share of oil and gas in Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product is to be reduced from 47% today to 11% in 2030. At least a quarter of electricity is to be generated from solar energy. Overall, half of Saudi Arabia's energy consumption is to be generated by renewable energy sources as part of the green Saudi initiative. Part of Vision 2030 is to significantly increase the proportion of women in the workforce. Furthermore, the country wants to invest specifically in the education of the young population and their employment situation, as well as in the kingdom's infrastructure. To get the money it needs, there will be tax increases and parts of the state oil company Saudi Aramco are to be sold. The country is also trying to attract foreign investors and plans to remove hurdles to foreign investment to do so. Despite the introduction of a tourism visa, the plan to open the country to worldwide tourism (apart from Muslim pilgrims) is considered overambitious and unrealistic in some quarters, as it presupposes a change in mentality and culture among its population and political leadership.

The plan is considered a pet project of the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Due to high oil prices from 2003 - as the world's largest oil producer - Saudi Arabia was able to generate massive budget surpluses overall, despite economic fluctuations and the global economic crisis from 2007 onward. In 2010, for example, the budget deficit was $23.4 billion. However, the budget surplus increased from $77.63 billion in 2011 to $99.75 billion in 2012, then plummeted to a surplus of $54.9 billion in 2013, dropped to a deficit of $39 billion in 2014 as oil prices fell, and closed with a budget deficit of $98 billion in 2015. To reduce the deficit of about 15% of GDP in 2015, the government announced it would cut subsidies for water, electricity and fuel.

In 2016, the national budget comprised expenditures of the equivalent of 236.7 billion U.S. dollars, which were offset by revenues of the equivalent of 149.7 billion U.S. dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 15.1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The national debt in 2016 was $79.3 billion, or 12.4% of gross domestic product.

The country's government bonds are rated A- by the U.S. rating agency Standard & Poor's (as of January 2019).

In 2006, the share of government spending (as a % of GDP) of the following areas was:

Mineral resources

The main mineral resources of Saudi Arabia are: Petroleum, natural gas, gold, limestone, gypsum, marble, clay, salt, iron ore and phosphorus.

Saudi Arabia has the world's second largest oil reserves and is one of the largest producers. The country is a leading member of OPEC. Oil production began in 1938 by Standard Oil of California (SoCal), and oil exports began in 1944. Today's oil production company Saudi Aramco went public in 2019 and has since been considered the most valuable corporation in the world.

In 2000, 12.3% of the world's oil came from Saudi Arabia. The reserves amount to 35 to 36 billion tons or 262.7 billion barrels, which is 25% of all known petroleum reserves in the world. The country has the eighth largest refining capacity in the world. Since the products produced from refining, such as fuel oil, gasoline, kerosene, and diesel, far exceed demand in the kingdom, they are exported to countries that do not have their own refining industries.

With the exception of the temporary oil boycott in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, the kingdom has played a reliable and constructive role for the West, especially during the Cold War and the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Second Gulf War in 1991 would also have been difficult to wage without Saudi Arabia: It threw all of its spare capacity into the market to compensate for the loss of Iraqi and Kuwaiti production, thus stabilizing markets. Saudi Arabia's importance is measured not only in terms of high production and oil reserves, but also in terms of its role as a "bottleneck alleviator" in the world oil market: it has reserve capacity that can be thrown onto the market in times of supply shortage and withdrawn in times of abundance.

Historically (until 2006), Saudi Arabia produced the most oil per day, most recently over 9 million barrels. In 2006, 3.942 billion tons of crude oil were produced worldwide, most of it, 525.0 million tons, from the Kingdom (see Petroleum

The Kingdom is considered the mainstay of the world's oil production: over 16% of the world's oil comes exclusively from this state with 49 known oil fields and 28 gas fields. 92% of Saudi production in 2002 comes from just seven giant oil fields; the six of which produce more than 300,000 barrels per day:

(mbpd: million barrels per day).

Recently, it can be seen that oil production from these seven fields is declining; however, the level of development of Saudi oil fields is still not comparable to that of the U.S. fields.

In April 2006, Aramco announced that all of its older oil fields had reached their stagnation phase and that the production rate would fall by 8% per year. This is consistent with the findings of Texas investment banker and oil expert Matthew Simmons. An increase in production in these old fields was only possible with significantly more drilling rigs, so a further increase in oil production is only possible by tapping other oil fields.

With the Manifa oil field, Saudi Arabia has another considerable supply of oil that has not yet been tapped.

Saudi Arabia has the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves, and ranks seventh in production (ARAMCO) (see also: Natural Gas

Electricity industry

Saudi Arabia meets its electricity needs almost exclusively with oil and gas-fired power plants (as of 2017).

In the future, energy sources are to be further diversified. Within six years, renewable energies such as wind and solar power are to cover 10 percent of electricity generation. The first tenders for wind and solar energy have already been held. According to Energy Minister Chaled al-Falih, the transformation of the power supply should have a similar drastic effect as the discovery of oil wells during the 1930s. As of 2013, approximately 41 GW of photovoltaic systems were to be installed by 2032. In March 2018, much more extensive expansion plans for photovoltaics were presented by the Softbank company and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to these plans, Saudi Arabia will have a solar park by 2030, which will gradually be expanded to a capacity of 200 GW. The investment sum for the project is stated to be around $200 billion. Compared to Saudi Arabia's current electricity mix, which consists of oil and gas, solar power is expected to save about $40 billion in electricity costs. The project was cancelled in September 2018 in favor of a broader renewable energy development strategy.

In the longer term, the government is also focusing on nuclear energy, as its mineral resources include uranium-bearing ore. In March 2018, the cabinet approved a plan to build 16 nuclear power plants in the country. However, since uranium enrichment plants are also suitable for producing weapons-grade material, this creates a new threat in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated unequivocally: "Saudi Arabia does not want to have a nuclear bomb. But if Iran builds one, we will, without any doubt, follow suit as soon as possible." The U.S., with its Westinghouse Electric company, is keenly interested in the contract to build nuclear power plants in the country, which is worth at least $80 billion. In 2019, it was assumed, in 2020, a first research reactor reactor near the capital could be put into operation.


About 25% of the workforce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is employed in the industrial sector.

The most important industry is oil refining, followed by natural gas refining. In addition, basic petrochemical products, fertilizers, cement, steel, textiles are important export products.

The King laid the foundation stone for the construction of King Abdullah Economic City in 2005.


Water shortages and poorly fertile soils impose natural limits on agricultural use. A high percentage of food has to be imported: in 2011, $15 billion worth of food was imported.

Since the 1970s, large farms have been built in the Arabian desert, where cattle are bred in an artificial climate and at great financial expense in order to make the country less dependent on meat imports (Al Safi Farm, for example, is the largest cow farm in the world, with at least 37,000 cattle). In addition, practically everything is cultivated with varying degrees of effort. Crops with long growing seasons (corn, rice) and dairy farming consume particularly large amounts of water. The water for agriculture comes from wadis, deep wells, oases and desalination plants. The world's largest is the Ras Al-Khair Power and Desalination Plant. Due to the oil wealth, there are hardly any financial limits. However, the deep wells, known only since the oil boom, draw on fossil resources and will eventually be exhausted. The renewable natural sources are about 120 m³ per year and inhabitant (Germany: 2080 m³


Some of the media in Saudi Arabia belong to the state, but there are also private media. However, these are monitored by the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Content against the royal family is forbidden. Every newspaper, magazine and television station needs royal permission to appear and broadcast.

In Saudi Arabia, the Internet has been available through the state telecommunications authority KACST since 1999; it is monitored by a special department and is censored. Mainly censored are sites deemed immoral, un-Islamic, or oppositional. The Saudi authorities officially state that they prevent access to some 400,000 websites. Their goal in doing so is "to protect citizens from offensive content and content that violates social norms and the principles of Islam." However, the blocked sites do not primarily deal with "offensive" or religious topics, but with political content against the royal family. Attempts to circumvent the law are recorded and reported; Internet cafés are all required to obtain a specific license and are regularly inspected by the authorities.

In 2020, 98 percent of Saudi Arabia's inhabitants used the Internet. For young people in particular, it is one of the few entertainment options due to the lack of cultural offerings. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of Twitter use in the world.

Television in Saudi Arabia is also subject to control by the Ministry of Culture. Thus, it often happens that Western films, series and cartoons are censored or cut in some places. Criticism of the government is also forbidden and prevented. The television program of the religious broadcasters and the state broadcasters (Saudi TV) is interrupted five times a day during prayer times and switches live to prayer, to the great mosque in Mecca or Medina. The largest stations in the country are:

Nine Saudi Arabian TV channels can also be received via satellite TV. Via Eutelsat Hot Bird (13° East), via BADR (26° East) and via Eurobird 9 (9° East).

However, many foreign stations, especially from neighboring Arab states, are also received, the most popular of which is the Qatar-based Al Jazeera. This station is not subject to censorship by the Saudi authorities and broadcasts controversial views and criticism of the Saudi government. Officially, reception of the station is prohibited, and Saudi companies are forbidden to book advertising with Al Jazeera. The Saudi government tried several times to buy a majority stake in Al Jazeera and thus gain control over the station, but failed. As competition to Al Jazeera, al-Arabiya was founded with Saudi funds.

Newspapers enjoy more freedom than other media; their published texts are not checked before publication, but they are also not allowed to be oppositional, in which case the Ministry of Culture can prevent the publication of the respective newspaper and have the copies recalled. Texts are usually checked after publication. Oppositional journalists are prosecuted.

The largest newspapers in the country are:


The overall literacy rate of the Saudi Arabian population is 94.7%, which is above the world average. In this context, 91.1 % of Saudi Arabian women are able to read and write, while men have a literacy rate of 97.0 % (as of 2015).

There is nine years of compulsory education for both sexes. From elementary school to university graduation, the state covers the cost of education. The school enrollment rate is 91 %. In Saudi Arabia, the average length of schooling for over 25-year-olds rose from 5.7 years in 1990 to 9.6 years in 2015. The current generation's education expectancy is already 16.1 years. There are eight universities and 65 colleges, including in Hofuf, Zahran, Jeddah, Medina and Riyadh. 17 colleges are reserved for women. As in society as a whole, there is gender segregation: educational institutions are either for men only or for women only. Students follow lectures by male lecturers on a screen.

Women now make up the majority of teaching staff at schools and universities. For example, 60 % of all Saudi professorships are held by women. Among teachers, 56 % are female. While many teachers came from abroad in the past, they are now mostly Saudis due to a pronounced nationalization policy; they are considered less well qualified.

The separation of the sexes in schools is at the same time the basic condition of sexual education in school lessons; recently, subjects explaining social contact and dealing with the opposite sex have also been taught. It is hoped that this will also reduce the divorce rate.

Saudi Arabia has a wide range of education in terms of the Islamic religion. In addition to Islamic sciences, another focus is on technical sciences. In the field of petroleum and its processing, the kingdom has renowned educational institutions.

The language of instruction at the country's universities is usually English. The most studied languages are English, German, French and Japanese.

In this context, study abroad is also seen as a useful component of an education oriented toward tolerance and modern content, for which thousands of government scholarships are awarded every year; for some time now, the state has been providing the second-largest single amount (after military) of its national budget for education.

The government had a 36-square-kilometer island of free research built to promote scientific exchange, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), an elite university, was established on it. The cost of this is 12.5 billion US dollars. The campus will house 2,000 students and 600 faculty members from all over the world, be equipped with the best technological equipment, and be internationally networked to conduct cutting-edge research. Cooperation with numerous Western and Asian countries is planned. It has been ruled out with Israel because the Kingdom does not recognize the State of Israel, there are no diplomatic relations, and therefore no visa can be issued to Israeli citizens. Women and men study together, women are also allowed to drive on the island.

Saudi children receive their "basic education" in Koranic schools, which exist in every small village. Boys and girls are taught equally. Slightly more than half of university graduates are female. Internal studies have shown that female graduates do better than males.

Even the new textbooks, reformed in 2007 under pressure from the United States, no longer incite against the Shiite branch of Islam, but they do against Christians, Jews and non-Muslim religions.


The road network is 221,372 km long, of which 47,529 km (including 3891 km of expressways) are paved. In 2013, Saudi Arabia had a total of 27.4 traffic fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants. This compares to 4.3 fatalities in Germany in the same year. This means that a total of 7900 people lost their lives in road traffic.

The rail network is 3500 kilometers long and is operated by the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO). The first railroad line was the Hedjaz Railway, which is now closed. Rail traffic is to be greatly expanded, among other things through the construction of a high-speed line from Medina to Mecca.

There are numerous international airports, among which the most important are the following: Dammam Airport, Jeddah Airport and Riyadh Airport. The national airline is Saudi Arabian Airlines. About half of all travelers are pilgrims to Mecca. Since pilgrimages are concentrated in one month of the year, Jeddah airport, which is only 100 km away, is developed accordingly for foreign pilgrims.

The two oil ports of Ra's Tanura near Dammam on the Persian Gulf and Yanbu on the Red Sea occupy a prominent position.

Coastal shipping is of great regional importance for trade and traffic. A large proportion of pilgrims from the region travel by ship to Mecca, about 100 km away, via the port of Jeddah, which has been generously developed for this purpose.

An east-west pipeline runs from the oil fields in the Persian Gulf to Yanbu on the Red Sea. It is 2200 kilometers long.

Although the wealth may have completely changed the country's outward appearance, the Saudis unwaveringly adhere to Salafi Islam. Adherence to dogmatic Salafi Islam is considered an important guarantee for the survival of the monarchy.

The country's culture is essentially shaped by Islam. The country occupies a special position in the Islamic world because the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located on its territory. Culture and social life in Saudi Arabia follow precisely defined rules: those of the Salafist denomination of the Islamic religion.

Saudi Arabia tries to be a role model for the rest of the Islamic world in its interpretation of the Koran and the way of life prescribed by the Sharia, and it seems to be succeeding. Many guest workers and Muslims abroad view Saudi Arabia as a model Islamic state. This is evident in almost all areas of social life, including the calendar. In accordance with Article 2 of its Basic Law, the kingdom uses the Islamic calendar. The weekend has been observed since the 28th.

Due to the Al Saud royal family's insistence on its responsibility to Islam, public theaters, cinemas and playhouses were banned for a long time. Since 2018, as a result of Vision 2030, cinemas have been allowed again. Theaters and playhouses are to be built. If the subject portrayed in literature, for example, turns to theology or the portrayal of other countries, it is usually taboo and considered frowned upon. Since the opening of cinemas, they gain more and more popularity.


The country's cultural heritage is cultivated, for example, at the annual Janadriyya Cultural Festival. Traditional music and dances are performed here.


On September 23, 2006, the National Day was declared an official holiday when all government offices and businesses in the Kingdom are closed. All missions and consulates of the Kingdom abroad are also closed.

According to Article 2 of the Basic Law, the ʿĪd al-fitr and the ʿĪd al-Adhā are the only official holidays in the Kingdom. They are set in the Islamic lunar calendar, which is why their date in the Gregorian calendar changes every year.

Id al-fitr goes for 3 days, while Id al-Adha is celebrated for 4 days.

Marriage is not understood as a sacrament, but as a civil contract. This contract is to be signed by witnesses and specifies a certain bride gift to be paid by the man to the woman.

The prenuptial agreement may also specify a certain sum to be paid to the wife in the event of divorce, or stipulate certain other conditions, such as giving the wife the right to divorce in the event that the husband marries a second wife, or that in this case the wife is entitled to custody of the children. In the event of divorce, children normally remain with their father, and infants with their mother. According to Islamic understanding, the intimate spheres of life of marriageable women and men are fundamentally separate; marriage is the only place where this separation is legitimately abolished. A man has the right to marry up to four women.

Couples wishing to marry must undergo genetic testing. The tests provide information about the possible risk to future offspring from genetically caused sickle cell or Mediterranean anemia. The government has announced that it will also introduce HIV testing as a prerequisite for marriage.

The divorce rate in the kingdom is relatively high for a country in the Middle East; almost half of all marriages are divorced after three years. In the event of a divorce, the husband is obligated to pay alimony to the wife; men cannot claim alimony from women. After a divorce, the woman must wait at least four months to remarry. The law is taken directly from the Koran and is intended to eliminate misunderstandings about paternity.

The kingdom's conservative leadership banned cinemas in the early 1980s as part of the re-Islamization process. In December 2017, the Saudi government said it would allow public cinemas again. On April 18, 2018, the country's first cinema opened in Riyadh, with the U.S.-based AMC chain winning the concession. As part of "Vision 2030," 350 cinemas are to be built by then.


The most popular sport is soccer, followed by horse and camel racing.

The Saudi Arabian national soccer team took part in the 1994 World Cup in the USA, where it reached the round of 16. It also took part in the 1998 finals in France, 2002 in South Korea

Sports for women are allowed, but only in closed complexes to which men are not admitted. Thus, women's soccer matches take place in closed stadiums or on private estates to which only women have access; the referees are also women. Female team sports are predominantly organized privately. In the wake of the 2012 London Olympics and the participation of a Saudi Arabian female show jumper, there are increasing calls to officially allow and promote girls' sports. Since January 2018, women have been allowed to enter sports stadiums for Saudi Arabian teams' soccer matches.

At the 2006 World Cup for people with disabilities, the national team of Saudi Arabia won the final against the team from the Netherlands on September 16, 2006 in the BayArena in Leverkusen in front of 14,500 spectators (9:8 n. E.). The score was 4-4 after normal playing time.

Another popular sport, especially among wealthy members of society, is falconry, which has a long tradition among Bedouin peoples.

From 2020, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) will organize the Dakar Rally and the Saudi Tour.

In the 2021 Formal 1 season, a Formula 1 race was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time. The race was held at the Jeddah Street Circuit.

23.716666666744.1166666667Coordinates: 24° N, 44° E


  1. Emirate of Diriyah
  2. Saudi-Arabien
  3. Population, total. In: World Economic Outlook Database. Weltbank, 2022, abgerufen am 22. Mai 2022 (englisch).
  4. Population growth (annual %). In: World Economic Outlook Database. Weltbank, 2021, abgerufen am 14. Juli 2022 (englisch).
  5. World Economic Outlook Database April 2022. In: World Economic Outlook Database. Internationaler Währungsfonds, 2022, abgerufen am 22. Mai 2022 (englisch).
  6. Table: Human Development Index and its components. In: Entwicklungsprogramm der Vereinten Nationen (Hrsg.): Human Development Report 2021/2022. United Nations Development Programme, New York 2022, ISBN 978-92-1001640-7, S. 272 (englisch, undp.org [PDF]).
  7. Duden. Die deutsche Rechtschreibung, 24. Auflage, Mannheim 2006, S. 878.
  8. «CIA World Factbook - Saudi Arabia».
  9. a b c d «Saudi Arabia». Report for Selected Countries and Subjects (en inglés). Fondo Monetario Internacional. Consultado el 3 de octubre de 2018.
  10. ^ De facto Capo di governo del paese dopo il ritiro del Re Salmān dalla vita politica a causa dell’età, è divenuto anche Capo de iure in seguito alla sua nomina a Primo Ministro sancita dal padre in data 28 settembre 2022
  11. ^ (EN) Population growth rate, su CIA World Factbook. URL consultato il 28 febbraio 2013 (archiviato dall'url originale il 25 giugno 2014).
  12. ^ (EN) Saudi Arabia, su Forbes. URL consultato il 20 febbraio 2021.
  13. Aussi plus rarement « Arabie séoudite ».

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