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 Saudi Arabia

Study in Saudi ARABIA - About Saudi Arabia




General Information

Area & Location: Situated in the Southern-Eastern part of the Asian Continent, The Kingdom occupies about 2,240,000 square kilometers of Arabian peninsula. It has 1700 kilometers of Western Coast along the Red Sea and 560 kilometers of Eastern Coast along the Arabian Gulf. Land boundaries in the South and in the North exceed 2,700 kilometers.

Population: 24,293,844 (growth rate: 3.1%)

Capital: Riyadh

Independence: 23 September 1932 (unification)

Ethnicity/Race: Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%.

Map of Saudi Arabia
Courtesy of Google Maps

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Language: Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. It is the language of the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam). Through its eloquence and the spread of Islam, Arabic has become one of the most widely used languages of the world.

English is also used in the Kingdom, most frequently in conducting business, health care, commerce and international affairs and the hotel industry.

Currency: The Saudi Riyal (SR) is the unit of currency in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is divided into a hundred Halalah. The denominations of the Saudi currency are as follows:

Bills: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Riyals.
Coins: 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 Halalahs.

The Saudi Riyal is linked with the US dollar at rate of SR3.75 to U.S. $1.00.

Religion: Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. Along with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is one of the great monotheistic religions. The Qur’an is the holy book of Islam. The five pillars of Islam are:

  1. FAITH:
    The declaration of faith called "Shahada." Shahada is to witness that "There is no god except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God."
  2. PRAYER:
    Muslims pray five times a day, facing towards Makkah.
  3. ZAKAT:
    Zakat is a form of tithe or charity payable for those in need. The Zakat is an annual flat rate of two and a half percent of a Muslim’s assessable capital.
    Every year, Muslims fast the month of Ramadan from first daylight until sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and conjugal relations.
    Hajj is the annual journey to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Hajj is an obligation to be performed at least once in a lifetime for Muslims who are physically and financially able. Each year more than two million pilgrims perform the rites of Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin.

Judicial System: The judicial system of the Kingdom is based on Islamic Law (Shari’ah) and Decree Law. "Shari’ah" is taken from the interpretations of the Holy Qur’an and the "Sunna" (tradition of the Prophet Muhammad). Decree Laws are issued to regulate industrial and commercial affairs.

Time: GMT +4 hours.



Geography: Saudi Arabia, monarchy in southwestern Asia, occupying most of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is bounded on the north by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait; on the east by the Persian Gulf and Qatar; on the southeast by the United Arab Emirates and Oman; on the south by the Republic of Yemen; and on the west by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

The country's borders with Yemen and the United Arab Emirates are not precisely defined. Saudi Arabia has an area of about 2,240,000 sq km (about 864,900 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Riyadh.

Climate: The climate of the Kingdom varies from region to region, according to its location. Since the Kingdom lies in the tropics, the nationwide average temperature is 18C. However, temperature varies considerably, increasing as we descend towards the southwest. The average reaches 24C in the Western Region, 38C in Jeddah and 30C in Jizan. The Central Region is extremely hot and dry. Saudi Arabia has no rivers or permanent streams. Although the dry valleys are often flooded with rain water, actual utilization of this water is limited due to evaporation and soil absorption.

Geology: Saudi Arabia is a large Middle Eastern nation that ranks as one of the world's leading producers of petroleum.Much of the country consists of vast deserts where few people live and little or nothing grows. But beneath the sand and rock of Saudi Arabia lie some of the largest petroleum deposits in the world.



Government Structure

Government Type: Monarchy

Administrative Divisions: 13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah, Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Al Qasim, Ar Riyad, Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern Province), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, Tabuk

National Holiday: Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)

Constitution: Governed according to Shari'a (Islamic law); the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was introduced in 1993.

Legal System: based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Cabinet: Council of Ministers is appointed by the monarch and includes many royal family members

Legislative Branch: a consultative council (90 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch for four-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Council of Justice.

Flag Description: green with large white Arabic script (that may be 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); green is the traditional color of Islam

Head of State: King and Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (since 23 January, 2015).

Head of Government: King and Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (since 23 January, 2015).


Heritage and Culture

The religion and customs of Saudi Arabia dictate conservative dress for both men and women.

Foreigners are given some leeway in the matter of dress, but they are expected to follow local customs, particularly in public places. As a general rule, foreign men should wear long trousers and shirts that cover the upper torso. Foreign women should wear loose fitting skirts with hemlines well below the knee. Sleeves should be at least elbow length and the neckline modest. The best fashion guideline is "conceal rather than reveal". Teenagers are also required to dress modestly in public places. Jeans should not be tight fitting and low necks and tank tops are not recommended. Shorts and bathing suits should not be worn in public.

Whatever their job or social status, Saudi men wear the traditional dress called a thobe. Wearing the thobe expresses equality and is also perfectly suited to the hot Saudi climate. During warm and hot weather, white thobes are worn by Saudi men and boys. During the cool weather, wool thobes in dark colours are not uncommon. At special times, men often wear a bisht or mishlah over the thobe. These are long white, brown or black cloaks trimmed in gold.

A man's headdress consists of three things: the tagia, a small white cap that keeps the ghutra from slipping off the head; the gutra itself, which is a large square of cloth; and the iqal, a doubled black cord that holds the ghutra in place. Some men may choose not to wear the iqal.
The ghutra is usually made of cotton and traditionally Saudis wear either a white one or a red and white checked one. The ghutra is worn folded into a triangle and centred on the head.

When a Saudi woman appears in public, she normally wears a voluminous black cloak called an ibayah, a scarf covering her hair and a full-face veil. There are varying opinions regarding the wearing of the abayah and the veil; however, Saudi women cover themselves in public and in the presence of men who are not close relatives.

Women's fashions do not stop with the ibayah though if you are a male, that is all you are likely to see. Beneath the black cloak, Saudi women enjoy fashionable clothing and take great pride in their appearance. They enjoy bright colours and lavish material. Non-Muslim women living in Saudi Arabia often wear the ibayah as a sign of respect for local customs.



A Beautiful Video About the Culture in Saudi Arabia

PRODUCED BY IFS (MEXICO 2004) © Copyright D. R. IFS México 2004.


GAHWA "Arabic Coffee"

The preparation, serving and drinking of gahwa "Arabian coffee" are each individual rituals derived from Bedouin hospitality; traditions that are still bound today by the same ceremony and etiquette which have ruled for centuries.

According to legend, coffee-drinking began in Arabia almost 12 centuries ago when a goat herder named Khalid noticed that while the afternoon sun made him drowsy, his flock frolicked and gambolled after nibbling at the berries of a certain evergreen bush. The ingenious Khalid ground and boiled the agreeable berries and so invented a phenomenon that has worked its way into the marrow of everyday life.

The gahwa ritual starts when the host places a set of four coffee pots, called della, next to an open fire. He pours the coffee beans onto a mahmasa, a shallow, long-handled iron pan which he holds just above the flames. He stirs the roasting beans from time to time with a yad al mahmasa, which is attached by a chain to the small pan. When the beans are cooked they are left to cool before being pulverised with a pestle in a mortar called mahbash. When pounding the beans it is necessary to strike the side of the mortar occasionally with the pestle to free the grounds from sticking together. This noise is considered music and the guests should listen carefully and show appreciation of the host's artistic expression.

The largest della contains the coffee grounds from previous days, so water is poured into the second largest pot, to which the freshly ground coffee is added and then boiled over the fire. Meanwhile, the host pounds the cardamom seeds, and sometimes a pinch of saffron, in the mahbash. These spices go into the third della which is then filled with the freshly brewed coffee from the second pot and brought to the boil again. Finally the gahwa is poured into the fourth and smallest pot ready to serve.

It is always the host's privilege to serve his guests, although a servant may assist by holding the tray of small, china cups without handles. He may pour himself a small cup first in order to taste it, but strict rules of etiquette are observed in the serving order. When only men are present, the most important person in the room is served first. Age takes precedence if there is some doubt as to rank. Until a few years ago men were always served before women, but today that custom is often reversed, particularly if Westerners are among the guests.

The cups are only half filled, but guests may have several refills. It is polite to accept an odd number of cups -- one, three or five. When the guest has finished he should jiggle the empty cup from side to side, indicating to the host that he has had sufficient. To refuse the first round is considered not only bad manners but also an insult to the host.

Gahwa is never sweetened with sugar. Instead, fresh dates are offered as the standard accompaniment to the aromatic brew. The papery-skinned fingers of fruit contain 55% natural sugar which refresh and sweeten the palate between each sip of gahwa.

The proportions of coffee and cardamom in recipes for making gahwa varies considerably from region to region. The Saudia airline offers its passengers a blend made from 25 grams of ground Arabic coffee, 35 grams of crushed cardamom and 1 litre of water. To be served a cup of this unique beverage is more than just refreshment, it is unfailing proof that the guest is still revered and honoured in Saudi Arabia. In offering a cup of gahwa the host is saying Ahlan Wa Sahlan, Welcome.

SAUDI ARABIA - Yesterday and Today - Video

A Historical Video of Saudi Arabia's Founder, King Abdul Aziz (Video in English)

The video portrays the life of the Founder of Saudi Arabia & the Past & Present Day of Saudi Arabia .. this is a documentary taken from the King Faisal AV Library.



The Arabian peninsula has a poetic tradition that goes back to pre-Islamic times. Poetry and storytelling are common folk traditions.

The Quran limits public performances of music and dance and prohibits the making of graven images by artists. Hand-lettered Qur'ans are produced with complex geometric and floral designs.






In May 1998, Saudi Arabia's telecommunications services were privatized. The new company, known as the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), had a capital of more than SR10 billion during the first phase. STC will become one of the Kingdom's largest employers, providing jobs for more than 70,000 Saudis. There are plans to add 1.7 million new telephone lines across the country in the next three to four years.

In May 2003, the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephones was renamed Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Mobile Telephones

In January 1996, the Global System for Mobiles (GSM) was launched in the Kingdom, with the aim of installing 500,000 GSM mobile telephones. By late September 1996, more than half were in operation. By the end of the project, 45 Saudi cities and towns and all major highways were covered. In 2001, there were 2,528,640 AMT and GSM mobile telephones in operation.


In 1999, the Internet service became available in the Kingdom, with all the connections routed through a state server (Internet Service Provider), sited at the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology. The Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephones, as it was then, provided the external means to access the Internet, making the service available for research establishments, academics and both public and private companies. By April, 2003, there were 21 operational Internet Service Providers (ISPs), providing internet access to some 1.6 million users.

In July, 2001, Saudi Telecom Company introduced ADSL (Assymetric Digital Subscriber Line) service for the Kingdom. ADSL significantly reduced the cost of the Internet service. STC is also extending ADSL services to Jiddah, the Holy City of Makkah, Taif and Dammam.

Postal Service

The development of the Kingdom's economy has generated a massive increase in the volume of mail which the postal services have had to handle. In a continuing process of expansion, the Fourth Development Plan provided for five new central post offices (in the Holy City of Madinah, Abha, Buraidah, Jizan and Sakaka) to complement the three main postal complexes in Riyadh, Jiddah and Dammam. An efficient postal network now covers all the cities and villages of the Kingdom, with 477 main and 185 branch post offices.


The development of telex services in the Kingdom has kept pace with every innovation in telex technology. From the early days of electro-mechanical devices, through the installation of electronic machines in 1978 (1398/99 AH), to the introduction in the 1980s (1400s AH) of the most sophisticated equipment, capable of handling Arabic and Latin text simultaneously, the Ministry of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones, as it was then, ensured that the Kingdom's ever-growing need for efficient telex communication services was met.

Satellite Communications

The King Fahd Satellite Communications City in Jiddah is the largest such complex in the Middle East. It comprises four ground stations, two dealing with INTELSAT, one with ARABSAT and the other with ANMASAT for maritime communications to provide services to all ships, planes and vehicles. These stations provide telephone, telex, TV and cable services.


Arab News, an English language daily newspaper with local and foreign news coverage

Main Dailies:
Al-Bilad (Arabic)
Al-Jazirah (Arabic)
Al-Madinah al-Munawara (Arabic)
An-Nadwah (Arabic)
Okaz (Arabic) Al-Riyadh (Arabic) Saudi Gazette, an English language daily newspaper with local and foreign news coverage Riyadh Daily Al Watan
Al-Yaum (Arabic)

Main Weeklies:
Al Daiwa (Riyadh)
Al Yam'ama (Riyadh)
Iqraa (Jeddah)

Radio Stations

The Saudi Radio Broadcasting Service emerged from these relatively modest beginnings. In 1964 (1384 AH), the Riyadh broadcasting station and the Nidaa Al-Islam station in Makkah began transmissions.

In the discharge of its duty as the guardian of the Holy Places and its role as the center of the Islamic world, the Kingdom has employed radio to strengthen Islam within and outside Saudi Arabia.

The programming policy governing the General Service is based on the following principles:

  • The essential emphasis must be on religious, social and cultural programs. Particular attention should be given to news and political programs
  • Outstanding thinkers should be encouraged to give talks on important topics
  • Provision should be made for educational programs for the enlightenment of the listeners
  • There should be special programs catering for the family, for childcare and for health education
  • Eminent men of letters should be encouraged to write religious, cultural and social dramas for broadcast as serials.

In addition to the General Service, there are now a number of other radio channels:

  • The Second Program Service, which broadcasts folkloric, dramatic, recreational, literary and scientific programs
  • Foreign Language Broadcasting which places the emphasis on Islamic solidarity and which also has a proselytizing function
  • The Nidaa Al-Islam Broadcasting Station, which promulgates the message of Islam and defends the Islamic faith against the assaults of hostile ideologies
  • The Holy Quran Broadcasting Service
  • The European Languages Station, which broadcasts religious and informational programs in English and French


There are currently two television channels: one in Arabic, the other in English. Programming is a balanced blend of religious and cultural programs, entertainment and music, Arabic drama programs, non-Arabic films and soup operas, children's programs, and news and current affairs programs. Special programming is produced for all the major events in the Islamic calendar, especially for Ramadan and for the period of the annual pilgrimage to the Holy Places.


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