Geographic and Governmental Profile of Saudi Arabia

Background
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. One of his male descendents rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. King ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz ascended to the throne in 2005. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. The king instituted an interfaith dialogue initiative in 2008 to encourage religious tolerance on a global level; in 2009, he reshuffled the cabinet, which led to more moderates holding ministerial and judicial positions, and appointed the first female to the cabinet. The 2010-11 uprising across Middle Eastern and North African countries sparked modest incidents in Saudi cities, predominantly by Shia demonstrators calling for the release of detainees and the withdrawal from Bahrain of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Peninsula Shield Force. Protests in general were met by a strong police presence, with some arrests, but not the level of bloodshed seen in protests elsewhere in the region. In response to the unrest, King ABDALLAH in February and March 2011 announced a series of benefits to Saudi citizens including funds to build affordable housing, salary increases for government workers, and unemployment benefits. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide in September 2011 for half the members of 285 municipal councils. Also in September, the king announced that women will be allowed to run for and vote in future municipal elections - first held in 2005 - and serve as full members of the advisory Consultative Council. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.
Location
Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Geographic coordinates
25 00 N, 45 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Middle East
Area
total:
2,149,690 sq km
rank:
13
land:
2,149,690 sq km
water:
0 sq km
Area - comparative
slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US
Land boundaries
total:
4,431 km
border countries:
Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km
Coastline
2,640 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
contiguous zone:
18 nm
continental shelf:
not specified
Climate
harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
Terrain
mostly uninhabited, sandy desert
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point:
Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m
Natural resources
petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
Land use
arable land:
1.67%
permanent crops:
0.09%
other:
98.24% (2005)
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Irrigated land
17,310 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
2.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
total:
17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)
per capita:
705 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
frequent sand and dust storms
volcanism:
despite many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar
Environment - current issues
desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
Environment - international agreements
party to:
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified:
none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
Country name
conventional long form:
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form:
Saudi Arabia
local long form:
Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Saudiyah
local short form:
Al Arabiyah as Saudiyah
Government type
monarchy
Capital
name:
Riyadh
geographic coordinates:
24 39 N, 46 42 E
time difference:
UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions
13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah (Medina), Al Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jizan, Makkah (Mecca), Najran, Tabuk
Independence
23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)
Constitution
governed according to Islamic law; the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was promulgated by royal decree in 1992
Legal system
Islamic (sharia) legal system with some elements of Egyptian, French, and customary law; note - several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees
International law organization participation
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
Suffrage
21 years of age; male
Executive branch
chief of state:
King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Heir Apparent Crown Prince SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, born 31 December 1935) ; note - the monarch is both chief of state and head of government
head of government:
King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Deputy Prime Minister SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 19 June 2012)
cabinet:
Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch every four years and includes many royal family members
elections:
none; the monarchy is hereditary; note - an Allegiance Commission created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes that will play a role in selecting future Saudi kings, but the system will not take effect until after Crown Prince SULTAN becomes king
Legislative branch
Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch to serve four-year terms); note - though the Council of Ministers announced in October 2003 its intent to introduce elections for a third of the Majlis al-Shura incrementally over a period of four to five years, to date no such elections have been held or announced
Judicial branch
Supreme Council of Justice
Political parties and leaders
none
Political pressure groups and leaders
Ansar Al Marah (supports women's rights)
other:
gas companies; religious groups
International organization participation
ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, FAO, G-20, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Adil al-Ahmad al-JUBAYR
chancery:
601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone:
[1] (202) 342-3800
FAX:
[1] (202) 944-3113
consulate(s) general:
Houston, Los Angeles, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador James B. SMITH
embassy:
Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh
mailing address:
American Embassy, Unit 61307, APO AE 09803-1307; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693
telephone:
[966] (1) 488-3800
FAX:
[966] (1) 488-7360
consulate(s) general:
Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)
Flag description
green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932; the flag is manufactured with differing obverse and reverse sides so that the Shahada reads - and the sword points - correctly from right to left on both sides
one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay
National symbol(s)
palm tree surmounting two crossed swords
National anthem
name:
"Aash Al Maleek" (Long Live Our Beloved King)
lyrics/music:
Ibrahim KHAFAJI/Abdul Rahman al-KHATEEB
music adopted 1947, lyrics adopted 1984
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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