Saudi Arabia is the richest oil country in the world and is among the driest and hottest places on the planet. The country is spiritual center of the Arab world and the birthplace of Islam. Here in 540th in the city of Medina was born the prophet Mohammed. In Saudi Arabia, everything begins and ends with religion. It is extremely strong woven into the lifestyle and laws. The population of Saudi Arabia follows one of the most stringent aspects of Islam called Wahhabism.
Form of government. Saudi Arabia is a Kingdom and in particular an absolute monarchy. All authority in the country, including the religious governance is in the hands of the monarch and in this case in the hands of the Al Saud dynasty, whose name the country bears.
Geographic location, boundaries and size. Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab country in Asia. It occupies an area of 2,218,000 sq. km and is the 13th largest country in the world. It is located entirely within the tropics and occupies almost the entire area of the Arabian Peninsula. The country is located approximately between 32.09 ° and 16.22 °N and between 34.34 ° and 55.40 °E. Saudi Arabia has a coastline on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. It borders with Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. It is also located in close proximity to three other countries – Bahrain, Egypt and Israel. Saudi Arabia is connected with Bahrain by bridge.
Climate and water. Saudi Arabia falls entirely within the tropical climate zone. Local climate is characterized by year round high temperatures, constant sunny weather and scarce rainfall. Temperature in the capital Riyadh is usually very high. It ranges between 21°C in the coldest month January and 40 – 45°C during the summer months from May to September. Rainfall reaches its maximum of 25 mm in April. Usually, during the period from June to the late September does not fall any rain. Throughout the year falls only about 100 mm, but in places does not rain for years. Saudi Arabia is very poor in water and on its huge territory there is not a permanent river or lake. Sea water desalination and artesian wells are the main sources of fresh water.
Relief. Saudi Arabia has predominantly flat terrain in the eastern part, but to the west is occupied mostly by mountains with different height. Asir and Al Hijaz mountains follow the coastline of Saudi Arabia. Narrow, dry and hot plains divide the mountain range from the sea. The highest peak in this country is called Djabal Sawda. It is located in southwestern Saudi Arabia in the mountain Asir, about 70 km from the coast of Red Sea and rises to 3133 meters. The coastline of the country is moderately indented. Near the coast there are numerous small islands with low altitudes and desert landscapes.
Nature. The Saudi Arabia’s landscapes are very similar to those in Egypt, Libya and Algeria. Almost the entire territory of the country is covered by deserts and semi-deserts. Extensive sandy dunes stretch beyond the horizon. There are no forests. The only exceptions are some small oases, which offer lush greenery around some spring amidst the desert. The mountains in Saudi Arabia are also bare and barren. Vegetation is very rare even at high altitudes. This is no accident – Saudi Arabia is among the most arid and hot countries on the planet. The landscape of this Arab country is dominated by two large deserts – Large Nefud in the north and Rub al Khali in the south. In some parts of the country, thanks to the desalination of sea water, large areas of the desert have been reclaimed and successfully turned into farmlands. Few creatures can survive in such harsh conditions. Most well adapted are camels and various snakes, lizards and insects. They can survive without water for a long time, and this is obviously the secret to survival in these extreme conditions. Constant warm sea waters along the coast of Saudi Arabia are full of life. Just below the surface of Red Sea there are beautiful coral reefs. The waters are clear and transparent. Here live thousands of tropical fish species and other sea creatures. In places along the coast (especially the Red Sea) there are beautiful beaches with golden sand.
Population and settlements. Saudi Arabia’s population exceeds 25.7 million people. However, given its vast area the country is very sparsely populated. Huge areas are deserted. In cities like the capital Riyadh has a large concentration of population. The capital is home to about 5.3 million residents and urban conurbation aditionally to about 1.5 million people. Other major cities are Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. All of them are located in the western parts of the country and Jeddah is located on the coast itself. The population of Saudi Arabia consists entirely of Muslims. This is perhaps the most religious Arab country in the world. It is no accident that here is the most important city for Muslims – Mecca. Official language is Arabic. A characteristic feature of the local population is the lack of equality between men and women.
Economy. Saudi Arabia is a rich country, which due its economic prosperity to the huge petroleum resources. According to its oil production and reserves the country ranks first in the world. Because of this reason Saudi Arabia boasts a gross domestic product in 2010 that exceeds $ 24,000 per capita. In the local economy are mainly involved men and women are rather an exception. In the country work also large numbers of foreigners (about one third of all workers in Saudi Arabia). They are also mostly men and come from other Islamic countries in the region. Male literacy is about 85%, but women literacy is much lower – around 71%.
Conservative society. Saudi Arabia is often criticized for its attitude towards women. Still the role of women in Saudi society is very weak and unequal. They can not travel unless accompanied by a male relative or husband. Moreover, women can not work without the permission of their husbands. Most disturbing is the fact that women in Saudi Arabia can not be subjected to medical operations without permission from their husbands! In the country is forbidden to listen to music or smoking. Following of another religion is a crime, and homosexuality is punishable by death!
Tourism in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is not a very popular tourist destination. The number of Western visitors is negligible. However, tourism is an important sector for the economy of Saudi Arabia, especially during the Hajj – the largest religious pilgrimage in the world. It occures between the 10th and 15th day of the month Dhu al-Hijjah. Typical feature of Saudi Arabia is that unlike most countries in the world, it uses Islamic calendar, whose year is 11 days shorter in comparison with the Gregorian calendar. For this reason, Hajj is not tied to a specific date in the western calendar. Every year during the Hajj in Mecca (the sacred city for Muslims) are floacking millions of visitors. An important fact is that Mecca, the holy places and the second most important for the Muslims city of Medina are strictly forbidden to non-Muslims!
The most popular beach resort in Saudi Arabia is located on the coast of Red Sea. It is called Jeddah and has a number of hotels.People, however, looking for beautiful and extensive beaches, may remain little disappointed in Jeddah. The city offers really picturesque coastline, but practically there is no sandy coastline. Beautiful beaches and coral reefs for diving you can find north of Jeddah. There you will find marinas and even resorts with private beaches from which you can reach the coral reefs even without having to go outside the hotel.
The biggest advantages of Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia is a sunny country. No matter in which part of the year you are planning to travel, the sunny and warm weather is guaranteed. Underwater biodiversity in coastal coral reefs is amazing and the scenery and architecture remind for “Aladdin and His Magic Lamp.”
The biggest disadvantages of Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia’s culture and way of life are very different from what one can see in Western countries. Local society is extremely conservative and therefore a person could have serious troubles for behavior that is considered to be quite normal and acceptable in Europe, America or elsewhere. Furthermore, not everyone can adapt to the extremely high temperatures which can reach 50°C during the summer months!