Saudi Arabia is known as the origin of Islam, which in the century following the Prophet Muhammad's death in 632 A.D., spread west to Spain and east to India. Islam compels all Muslims to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, at least once during their lifetime. The cultural surroundings in Saudi Arabia are highly conservative; the country officially adheres to the strict Wahhabi construal of Islamic religious law (Shari'a). Men and women are not allowed to attend public events together and are separated in the work place. Most Saudis are culturally Arabic. Some are of mixed ethnic origin and are descended from Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, Africans, and others, most of who immigrated as pilgrims and reside in the Hijaz region along the Red Sea coast. Many Arabs from close by countries are working in the kingdom. There also are considerable numbers of Asian expatriates mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Except for a few major cities and oases, the ruthless climate historically prevented much settlement of the Arabian Peninsula. People of various civilizations have lived in the peninsula over a span of 5,000 years. The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was simultaneous with the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the prehistoric world traded with the states that existed on the peninsula, which lay along vital trade routes.
Area: 1,960,582 million sq. km. (784,233 sq. m.)
Cities : Capital—Riyadh, Other cities–Jeddah, Makkah, Dammam/ Khobar/ Dhahran.
Terrain: Mainly desert with rugged mountains in the southwest.
Climate: Scorched, with great extremes of hotness in the interior; humidity and temperature are both high along the coast.
Nationality: Noun–Saudi(s). Adjective- Saudi Arabian or Saudi.
Population (July 2010 est.): 28.7 million (23.1 million Saudis, 5.6 million foreign nationals).
Language: Arabic (official).
Oil was revealed in Saudi Arabia by U.S. geologists in the 1930s, although large scale production did not begin until after World War II. Oil wealth has made possible quick economic developments, which began in earnest in the 1960s and go faster spectacularly in the 1970s, transforming the kingdom. Saudi oil capital is the largest in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the world's leading oil producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country's exports and nearly 75% of government revenues.
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and lies on the great granite plateau of Nejd in the centre of the Arabian Peninsula, some 2500 feet above sea level. Riyadh has been a intermediate of attention for centuries since the pre-Islamic times when the settlement at the site was called Hajar. In 1932, the city became the capital of Saudi Arabia. Today, Riyadh, thanks to oil explosion and money too, is a bustling metropolis and the seat of government! Educational, financial, agricultural, cultural, technical, commercial and social organizations are there, too.
But, besides the modern buildings, the private houses are typical Saudi Arabian planning with high walls and little lawn space. The oldest part of the city is called Al-Bathaa. The Riyadh airport, King Khalid International Airport-KKIA, is one of the largest international airports in the world.
Medina is a city whose name is definitely heard by every human. Medina is considered as the second holiest Muslim city after Mecca. Medina is found in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia in its west. The city has grown greatest priority in Muslim literatures, religions and customs because it is the burial place of the great Prophet Mohammad. The city is secured by an ancient wall that is around 35 feet high. The wall is present since the 12th century. The city is filled with towers, big and small. For Muslims all over the world it is a faith that praying once in the Mosque of the Prophet is equal to praying over 1000 times in any other mosque.
Jeddah, positioned on the banks of the Red Sea is a city in Saudi Arabia. It is the second largest city in the country besides being its major urban centre and commercial capital. The inhabitants of the city stand at over three million. Jeddah is the chief gateway to Mecca. The climate of Jeddah is mainly dry and hot. Summers are tremendously hot and winters do not hold much assure with warm temperatures dominating even this season. Monsoon is uncommon event in Jeddah with very little rain, usually in December. Jeddah has a 2,500-year old history as a port and entryway to Mecca. Earlier established as a fishing village, it is now considered as the most multinational city of Saudi Arabia and receives millions of visitors annually.
Hovering on top of 900m (3000ft) cliff at the edge of the plateau above Mecca, this resort town takes pleasure in a milder climate than much of the country and was for a long time the official summer capital. It is noted for its pink palaces and for the amazing modern corniche road that winds down the sheer cliffs of the Taif escarpment to the hot coastal plain. Other significant towns in the Hejaz include Khaybar, Hanakiyah, Usta, Wadi Fatima and Yanbu.
The Asir (Southern Region)
A variety of coastal mountains and the only part of the kingdom where there is major wild vegetation, mostly palms and evergreen bushes. Millet, wheat and dates are grown using chiefly traditional methods. The populations are darker than other Saudis, being in part descended from African slaves. Baboon, gazelle, leopard, honey badger, mongoose and other ‘African’ species populate remoter areas. Places to visit include the antique caravan city of Qaryat-al-Fau, in recent times excavated; the great dam and temple at Najran; and nearby, amidst orchards of pomegranates, limes and bananas, the ornate ruins of the ancient cities of Timna and Shiban.