Country of the World Saudi Arabia

About the country Saudi Arabia, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in southwest Asia comprises most of the Arabian Peninsula. The south and southeast are occupied by the great Rub al Khali ("Empty Quarter") Desert, through which run the largely undefined boundaries with South Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. A central plateau, the Nejd, rises from 2,000 ft. in the east to 5,000 ft. in the west and includes the capital, Riyadh. The Hejaz, site of Colonel T. E. Lawrence's famed exploits during the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in W.W.I, stretches along the Red Sea coast and includes the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the port of Jidda, commercial center of the kingdom. The Asir, extending south to the Yemeni border, has a fertile coastal plain and mountains rising to more than 9,000 ft. The Eastern Province along the Persian Gulf is the domain of ARAMCO, the Arabian-American Oil Company, largest producer of crude oil in the world.

Size: 829,995 sq. mi.(2,149,690 sq. km.), almost four times the size of France.

Population: 9.8 million, of whom only about 4 million are actually Saudis; the remainder is composed largely of immigrant labor, principally from Yemen (North), Egypt, the Sudan, and Palestine. It is estimated that there are about as many male Yemeni workers (750,000--1,000,000) as there are adult Saudi males. Language: Arabic.

Who Rules: The 3,000-member Saudi royal family, presently headed by King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd, in alliance with the top of the religious establishment, wealthy businessmen, such as arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and tribal leaders linked by marriage to the royal family.

Who REALLY Rules: A pro-American faction within the Saudi family which has been in power since 1962. The Saudis have the loyalty of the Shammar tribe, which provides the bulk of the recruits for the elite 30,000-man National Guard, the force entrusted with protecting the monarchy. There are no elections, no legislature, no political parties, no uncensored press, no trade unions, no constitution--only the Koran and the Shari'ah, Islamic Law. Lesser Saudi princes rule over the various provinces, creating a network of tribal authority which extends over the entire country. To cope with the demands of rapid development, a modern bureaucracy has sprung up, but justice is still meted out personally by the princes or referred to the traditional system of religious courts.

In early 1978, Princess Misha Abdul Aziz, great granddaughter of Ibn Saud, was publicly executed (she was either shot or stoned to death) before the eyes of her lover Musleh Shaer, who was then beheaded. It was reported that her offense was her desire to marry a commoner, but Saudi officials claimed that the pair was executed for committing adultery, a crime which usually brings a less severe punishment--100 lashes. Three weeks later, the U.S. government agreed to sell $2.5 billion worth of fighter jets to the Saudis.

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