+966 is the dialing code for Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, which makes up most of the Arabian Peninsula, is probably the world’s most conservative country. The judiciary follows strict Islamic law and, among other things, the discrimination against women is heavily criticized in the western world. But most criticism is silent on the country’s huge oil deposits, which make it an indispensable trading partner for everyone. Saudi citizens enjoy great benefits, while the millions of guest workers who do all the hard work are lawless. There is no political freedom in this country, where parties are banned and all power is based on the royal family.
- Abbreviationfinder: Brief profiles of Saudi Arabia, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Saudi Arabia occupies about four-fifths of the Arabian peninsula. The terrain, which largely consists of sand deserts and steppe landscapes, slopes from mountain ranges along the Red Sea in the west to the lowlands of the Persian Gulf in the east.
Saudi Arabia is five times larger than Sweden and has a border with seven countries as well as a connection to Bahrain via a road bridge. In some cases, the boundaries are uncertain or contentious; information on the size of the country varies. Its political center is on the desert high plateau Najd in the interior of the country, where the capital Riyadh is located.
In the Hijaz coastal region of the Red Sea are the pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina, as well as the important port city of Jeddah. In the mountains to the southwest lies the fertile province of Asir. The eastern region of Hasa (al-Ahsa) was once characterized by oases and fishing harbors, but today the oil industry dominates.
|Cultivated land||80.7 %|
|Land area||2149690 km 2|
Population and health
|Population development||1.46 m|
|Urban population (Urbanization)||83.1 %|
|Death rate||3.33 per 1000 residents|
|Life expectancy: Women||77.2 years|
|Life expectancy: Men||73 years|
|Birth rate||18.51 births per 1000 residents|
|Infant mortality||14.09 deaths / 1000 births|
Population Graph Source: Countryaah.com
|Electricity, production||255400 million kWh|
|Energy consumption per inhabitant||6789.2 kg. oil per resident|
|Natural gas, production||102400 million cubic meters|
|Crude oil, production||569 million tons|
|Internet users||59.2 per 100 residents|
|Mobile subscriptions||193 per 100 residents|
|Passenger cars||336 per 1000 residents|
Business and economics
|Unemployment||11.4% of the workforce|
|GDP||53600 per resident|
|Primary occupations||6.7 %|
|Secondary profession||21.4 %|
|Tertiary professions||71.9 %|
About one third of the country consists of desert. The inaccessible al-Rub al-Khali in the south is one of the world’s largest sand deserts. To the north and northeast are the deserts of Great and Little Nafud. Neither lakes nor permanent rivers exist. Underground sources provide water for oases, but otherwise Saudi Arabia consists of steppe with lean bush vegetation.
The climate in Qatar is hot and humid in the summer months of July – September, while the winters are mild. In summers, the temperature can reach up to 50 degrees in the shade and in winter it can drop to 10 degrees.
There is very little rain, but when that happens, short-term watercourses can occur. A name on the map that begins at Wadi gossips that there is a riverbed that can someday carry water.
2 240 000 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 2 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen
Capital with number of residents
Riyadh 6.2 million (Sources: Allcitypopulation.com)
Other major cities
Jeddah (3.4 million inv), Mecca (1.5 million), Medina (1.1 million), Dammam (900,000) (2010)
Jabal al-Sawda (3 133 m asl)
US limits arms exports to Saudi Arabia
13th of December
Because of the war in Yemen and the many civilian deaths there, the US will restrict its sale of precision weapons, the Defense Department said. The US government has also previously criticized “shortcomings” in how Saudi-style air strikes are carried out.
Shia Muslims are sentenced to death
Of a total of 32 who have been charged with treason in collaboration with the Iranian intelligence service, 15 are sentenced to death, while the majority of the others receive imprisonment. Except for an Iranian and an Afghan, all are Saudi Shiites. The ruling risks further deteriorating relations with Iran.
Deadly attack in Yemen regretted
The Saudi-led alliance admits that an air raid against a funeral in Sanaa, which claimed more than 140 people’s lives, was a mistake made because of “incorrect information”. Those responsible must be held accountable, it is called. More than 500 people were injured in the attack, which was carried out on October 8 and which caused strong condemnation in the outside world. According to Human Rights Watch, the attack was all about convicting a war crime.
Protests against new teams in the United States
The Foreign Ministry warns of “catastrophic consequences” after a law was passed in the United States that gives relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks the right to claim damages from Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has worked hard to stop the law and US President Barack Obama vetoed it. But Congress voted in an unexpected majority with his veto. Saudi Arabia has denied all involvement in the attacks, claiming that the new law opens “dangerous” opportunities for private lawsuit applications around the world (see further Modern History).
Unusual strike at hospital
Employees at a hospital in the Eastern Province who have been on strike for a week claim that they have not been paid in four months. The strike has organized via social media. Both Saudi and foreign employees participate, which is very unusual.
Ministerial salaries are lowered
King Salman cuts the salaries of ministers by 20 percent and freezes the salaries of other government officials, in yet another measure due to falling oil revenues. Subsidies are also made for subsidies for, among other things, cars and telephones for public employees.
Call for women’s rights
More than 14,000 women have written a call to the government to abolish the system of men as guardians (see Social conditions). The call follows a storm on Twitter in July that received extra attention when in conjunction with a Human Rights Watch report on the issue. Only full names have been counted on the call, which has also been supported by many who want to be anonymous.
Iran’s leaders are raging against Saudi Arabia
Ayatolla Khamenei accuses Saudi authorities of having “murdered” pilgrims in Mina (see September 2015). Khamenei claims that people injured in the congestion were locked in containers and were not given medical care. He also urges the world’s Muslims to reevaluate the Saudi administration of the holy places and calls members of the royal house “evil” and “pitiful”.
MSF criticism against Saudi Arabia
MSF decides to withdraw its staff from six hospitals in Yemen and accuses the Saudi-led alliance of bombing the facilities “indiscriminately”. Over the past week, 19 people have died in a plane attack against a hospital and ten schoolchildren have died in an attack on a school in Yemen.
Record huge civilian loss in rocket attack from Yemen
Seven people are killed in a rocket attack on the Saudi border city of Najran, the largest single loss of civilian Saudis since the Yemen operation began. A total of about 100 Saudis – soldiers and civilians – have been killed in Saudi territory since the military operation in Yemen began.
The US approves arms sales
9th of August
The US Department of Defense states that Saudi Arabia will be able to buy up to 153 tanks and other equipment, worth $ 1.15 billion. Congress must approve the sale, which it is expected to do.
Attack on Yemen resumes
9th of August
The Saudi-led alliance launches a new air strike against Yemen after a three-month break. Fourteen people die when a factory in Sanaa meets, and the airport in the capital closes. A few days earlier, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheickh Ahmed announced that negotiations on Yemen have been stranded (see April 2014).
Four people are killed by a suicide bomber at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. At the same time, two suicide bombers strike at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Qatif, but they themselves become the only victims. A fourth suicide bomber blasts near the US Consulate in Jeddah, injuring two police officers. IS suspected to be behind the death. The attack at the Medina Mosque, Islam’s second most sacred site, raises strong condemnations even abroad.
Human rights groups demand that Saudi Arabia be shut down
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch demand that the UN suspend Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), due to civilian deaths in Yemen and rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The two human rights groups believe that the situation has worsened in recent months, not least in Yemen where banned cluster bombs have been used and ports have been blocked so that supplies do not reach the civilian population.
Controversy with UN on “black list”
A conflict has arisen since the UN on June 2 brought Saudi Arabia and its allies into the war in Yemen on a list of countries whose military kills and mutilates children, citing the many civilian casualties there. According to a report, the coalition accounted for 60 percent of war-related deaths and injuries in children in Yemen in 2015. After just four days, the countries are removed from the list. Another couple of days later, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon says that it has happened since the designated countries threatened to cripple their funding for a number of humanitarian programs. The Secretary-General speaks of “unacceptable pressure” and says it was one of the most painful decisions he had to make, but that he feared that millions of children would otherwise suffer. Saudi Arabia, which has rejected the report’s content, also denies having made such threats.
The government approves a diversification plan
The National Transformation Program 2020 is intended to broaden the economic base so that revenues from other than oil increase more than threefold. It will generate 450,000 new jobs by 2020, and cut public sector wages as a proportion of spending from 45 to 40 percent in five years. The program is part of Vision 2030 (see April 2016).
Last Acpra founder imprisoned
Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, who is sentenced to eight years in prison under anti-terrorism legislation, is the only one of Acpra’s founders who has not already been sentenced to prison (see March 2015).
No Iranians by the shark
The Saudi leadership and the Iranian government are unable to resolve a dispute over Iranian citizens’ participation in the pilgrimage. Iran has demanded increased security and respect for the Iranian pilgrims following the severe congestion accident in September 2015.
Economic reforms are presented
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces a series of measures aimed at reducing the country’s oil dependency. These are under the name Vision 2030. According to it, 5 percent of the shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco will be sold and the money will go to a special welfare fund, Muslims and Arabs from other countries should be able to obtain a visa to work in the country for a longer period, measures will be taken to get more women out of the labor market, investments will be made in the mining industry and on increased production in the defense industry. One of the goals is that by 2020 the country will be able to show that it can do without the oil.
Obama visits Saudi Arabia
US President for talks with King Salman ahead of a regional summit in Riyadh.
First foreign loan in 25 years
Saudi Arabia borrows $ 10 billion through a consortium of global banks. It is the first time in a quarter of a century that the country borrows money on the international market. This year’s budget deficit is expected to correspond to almost one fifth of GDP.
Saudi Arabia prevents oil deal
An attempt by other oil-producing countries to reduce production to drive up oil prices falls when Saudi Arabia refuses to agree to a deal as long as Iran is not present. In May, the state oil company Aramco states that production will increase during the year.
The king on a state visit to Egypt
King Salman ends a five-day visit to Egypt where he expressed strong support for President Sisi and pledged investments in the multi-billion class. Salman has also reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s strong support for the Egyptian regime’s fight against IS on the Sinai Peninsula. The parties have also agreed that two uninhabited islands in the Red Sea, Sanafir and Tiran, will move to Saudi Arabia.
Arms rest begins in Yemen
Saudi Arabia says the alliance respects a ceasefire reached at the request of Yemen’s President Hadi, but reserves the right to respond if the rebels attack. The settlement means that supplies and auxiliary personnel must be released throughout the country. Negotiations between the warring parties start in Kuwait a little later this month. UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein has recently stated that the alliance has killed twice as many civilians in Yemen as everyone else involved together (see also January 2016).
Over 100 civilian casualties in Yemen
Widespread devastation is reported following an air raid by the Saudi-led alliance, against a marketplace in the health-controlled area of Hajjah province. Later, the UN reports that 120 people have been killed, including 22 children. A few days later, the Saudi military command states that the operation in Yemen should be stepped down.
GCC terrorist stamps Lebanese group, aid strangled
The Arab Peninsula Cooperation Organization decides that the Shi’ite Lebanese movement is a terrorist organization. Riyadh has also ordered Saudi tourists to stay away from Lebanon. In February, the government also decided to withhold $ 4 billion in aid to military and security services in Lebanon, because the country has not condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran in January. Lebanon has long been a scene for the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Large regional military maneuver
Around 20 countries, according to Saudi sources, are participating in what is described as the “most important” maneuver in the region to date. Army forces are included as well as air force and navy in the exercise. In addition to other GCC countries, according to sources Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, Chad and Tunisia participate.
Saudi Arabia promises increased efforts against IS
Saudi Arabia, which has recently resumed air strikes against IS – after months without participation – promises to continue and also opens up the opportunity to send ground troops to Syria. The promise is made at a meeting in Brussels with around 25 defense ministers from countries in the US-led alliance fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.
Death sentence against poet is lifted
A court changes a previous death sentence against stateless Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to eight years in prison and 800 whips, which is the sentence he was first sentenced to but then sharpened. He was arrested in 2014 and charged with apostasy from Islam. Fayadh, who is also active in the art world, has, according to the court, been denounced in poems, on Twitter and in conversations.
UN alarm on war crimes against civilians in Yemen
In a leaked UN report, the Saudi-led alliance, which is fighting the Youtube rulers in Yemen, is accused of directing air strikes against the civilian population in a “widespread and systematic” way. Civilians must have been intentionally starved for the past nine months. UN experts demand an investigation into human rights violations. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has also been alerted to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with evidence indicating that cluster bombs may have been used in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on January 6. Saudi Arabia rejects the allegations. But human rights organizations have already warned that war crimes are being committed in connection with air strikes. In May 2015, HRW raised an alarm that cluster bombs were used on at least two occasions.
US Secretary of State visiting
John Kerry meets Adel al-Jubeir and other colleagues from the Persian Gulf countries. The visit is seen as an attempt to assure the Allied states of the Arabian Peninsula that the thawing weather in US relations with Iran poses no threat.
Chinese President visiting
Xi Jinping begins his first visit to the region of Riyadh. The journey in the troubled Middle East is seen as a way for China to show greater commitment to political events.
Same Badawi grips
Human rights lawyer Walid al-Khair’s wife Samar Badawi, who is also the sister of Raif Badawi, is arrested in Jeddah. She is released conditionally the following day. According to reports, the reason for the arrest is that she manages a Twitter account where the view that Khair should be released has been expressed (see Political system and July 2014). The arrest triggered criticism in the outside world, including Amnesty International.
Diplomatic relations with Iran are broken
The Saudi government breaks relations with Iran and orders the country’s ambassador to Riyadh to leave within two days. All trade and aviation connections are interrupted and Saudi citizens are prohibited from traveling to Iran. Several of Saudi Arabia’s closest allies are following and breaking or downgrading their relations with Tehran. The Arab League also condemns Iran’s “hostile acts and provocations”.
Mass executions trigger protests in the outside world
47 people are executed in one day, the highest figure in a single day since 1980. Among them is Nimr al-Nimr, one of the country’s leading Shiite Muslim leaders. Another three Shi’a Muslims are among those executed, though not as he had feared al-Nimr’s nephew Ali al-Nimr, who was 17 years old when he was arrested. The others are Sunni Muslims. Several of them are described as members of al-Qaedaand are convicted of attacks on state institutions and Western representations in 2003-2006. The executions carried out at twelve locations in Saudi Arabia are met by protests both in the country and in the region and are feared to exacerbate the already serious conflict with Iran. As a result of the mass execution, protesters in Tehran storm the Saudi embassy and set fire to the building before being driven back by police. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warns of “divine revenge” for the execution of Nimr al-Nimr (see December 2015).
Armistice in Yemen over
Saudi Arabia announces that a ceasefire launched in conjunction with peace talks in Switzerland on December 15 is formally over and accuses the Huthirbells of breaking it. The fighting has continued throughout the more than two weeks the ceasefire has formally prevailed.