About Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends to approximately 2,250,000 square kilometers (868,730 square miles) between the Arabian Gulf on the east and the Red Sea on the west. With the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain to the east, Saudi Arabia shares borders with Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan in the north and Yemen and Oman in the south. The largest country in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia occupies four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula and is similar in size to Western Europe.
As well as the desert and semidesert that characterize more than 95% of the country, on its Red Sea coastline Saudi Arabia has greener areas, with mountains and forests in its south-western corner.The last and greatest prophet of Islam, Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), was born in Arabia (AD 570) and over the next 150 years Islam spread from Arabia throughout the world. Millions of pilgrims visit the holy cities of Makkah and Medinah (Mecca and Medina ) each year as part of their religious observance. The Islamic religion is the foundation of Saudi culture.
Saudi Arabia has played a significant role in international trade for centuries because of its strategic location near the sea trade routes which were used to transport goods between India, China and Europe. A flourishing trade in incense, spices and myrrh (used in medicine and cosmetic balms) also existed between ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula (Egyptians and Phoenicians).
King Abdulaziz Al Saud, who by 1932 had succeeded in unifying the country into a Kingdom, founded modern Saudi Arabia. King Abdulaziz died in 1953, but his legacy lives on in his direct descendants who rule Saudi Arabia to this day. The country has made tremendous progress under their reign and today, travellers to Saudi Arabia can experience both new and old civilizations side by side.
Oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1936, and by 1950 the country had become a major oil producer. The Kingdom has at least 25% of the world's oil reserves and is the undisputed leader of the international oil industry. Its oil revenues have been used to diversify the economy, reclaiming land from the desert and establishing the infrastructure (roads, telephone systems, modern cities, hospitals, power stations) needed for further development. In December 2005 Saudi Arabia became the 149th member of the World Trade Organization, beginning the process of opening up its economy to the outside world.
The average temperature range in January is 8°-21° C (46°-70° F) in Riyadh, and 19°-29° C (66°-84° F) in Jeddah. In July the average range is 26°-42° C (78°-107° F) in Riyadh, and 26°-37° C (79°-99° F) in Jeddah. Between November and April the weather is pleasant with cool nights and sunny days, but from May to October the temperatures are fierce.
The population is 25.6 million (UN, 2005).
Important Cities :
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia. Other important cities include Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea, and Dammam, an oil center on the Persian Gulf. Makkah and Medina are the two holy cities and cultural centers of Islam.