Saudi arabia population 2020

Saudi arabia population 2020 DEFAULT

Total Population

Makkah is the top region by total population in Saudi Arabia. As of , total population in Makkah was million persons that accounts for % of Saudi Arabia's total population. The top 5 regions (others are Al Riyadh, Eastern Region, Aseer, and Al Madinah) account for % of it. Saudi Arabia's total total population was estimated at 35 million persons in

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Northern Borders,,,,,,,,,,,

Demographics of Saudi Arabia

This article is about the people inhabiting Saudi Arabia. For Saudi Citizens, see Saudis.

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This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(January )

Overview of the demography of Saudi Arabia

Demographics of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia single age population pyramid png

Saudi Arabia population pyramid in

Density people per sq. km of land ()[1]
Growth rate% ( [2]
Birth rate births/1, population () [3]
Death rate deaths/1, population
Life expectancy years
&#;•&#;male years
&#;•&#;female years
Fertility rate children born/woman () [4]
Net migration rate, ()[5]
NationalitySaudi Arabia
Major ethnicArabs
Demographics of Saudi Arabia, Data of FAO, year &#;; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest state in the Arab world, with a reported population of 33,, as of [6] A significant percentage of the nation's inhabitants are immigrants seeking economic opportunity, making up 37% of the total Saudi population.[7] Saudi Arabia has experienced a population explosion in the last 40 years,[8] and continues to grow at a rate of % per year.[7]

Until the s, most of the population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population is now settled. 80% of Saudis live in ten major urban centers—Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Hofuf, Ta'if, Buraydah, Khobar, Yanbu, Dhahran, Dammam. [9] Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1, people per square kilometer (2,/mile²). Saudi Arabia's population is characterized by rapid growth, far more men than women, and a large cohort of youths.

Saudi Arabia hosts one of the pillars of Islam, which obliges all Muslims to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once during their lifetime if they are able to do so. The cultural environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative; the country adheres to the interpretation of Islamic religious law (Sharia). Cultural presentations must conform to narrowly defined standards of ethics.

Most Saudis are ethnically Arabs, the majority of whom are tribal. According to a random survey, most would-be Saudis come from the Subcontinent and Arab countries.[10] Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom, particularly Egypt,[11] as the Egyptian community developed from the s onwards.[12] There also are significant numbers of Asian expatriates, mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, and recently refugees from Syria and Yemen. In the s and s, there was also a significant community of South Korean migrant labourers, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but due rapid economic growth and development, most have since returned home; the South Korean government's statistics showed only 1, of their nationals living in the kingdom (most of them being professionals and business personnels) as of [update].[13][14] There are more than , Westerners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in private compounds in the major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Yanbu and Dhahran. The government prohibits non-Muslims from entering the cities of Mecca and Medinah.



As of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is estimated to have a population of 33,, .[6]


The following data have been retrieved from the CIA World Factbook as of

Population Age Distribution

0–14 years: %

15–24 years: %

25–54 years: %

55–64 years: %

65 years and over: %

Sex Ratios

at birth: male(s)/female

0–14 years: male(s)/female

15–24 years: male(s)/female

25–54 years: male(s)/female

55–64 years: male(s)/female

65 years and over: male(s)/female

According to the CIA World Factbook the population of Saudi Arabia has a large young population ages 0–19 years and an increasing middle-age population ages 20–35 years.[7] With a growing population reaching adulthood, global economists and the Saudi government have become concerned that there are more Saudis seeking jobs than are available.[16] The nation has also seen a rise in its older population as life expectancy has risen throughout the last 40 years.[16]

Life Expectancy At Birth

The following data has been retrieved from the CIA World Factbook as of

total population:

male: years

female: years

Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in


Population Density: people per km2 of land ()[1]


Vital statistics

Births and deaths[17][18]

Year Population Live births Deaths Natural increase Crude birth rate Crude death rate Rate of natural increase TFR
27,, ,
28,, ,
28,, ,
29,, ,
30,, ,
31,, ,
31,, ,
32,, ,
33,, ,
34,, ,

The following data have been retrieved from the CIA World Factbook as of

  • Birth rate: births/1, population [19]
  • Death rate: deaths/1, population
  • Maternal mortality rate: 17 deaths/, live births
  • Infant mortality rate:
    • male: deaths/1, live births
    • female: deaths/1, live births
  • Total fertility rate: children born/woman[4]

Saudi Arabia is ranked th in comparison to the world with a birth rate of births per 1, people in [19] The nation's death rate is ranked th worldwide with deaths per 1, people.[7] Although birth rates have decreased in the last two decades, rates of decline fail to match the significant decline in death rates.[20] Because of this, Saudi Arabia has experienced a population explosion in the last 40 years,[8] and continues to grow at a rate of % per year.[7] Saudi Arabia's population growth continues to be % higher than population growth rates in the Middle East and North Africa.[21] Infant mortality rates have declined dramatically in the past twenty years from deaths per 1, live births in to deaths in , according to the World Bank.[22] Saudi Arabia has a substantially lower infant mortality rate in comparison to the Middle East and North Africa region, which continues to face a high of deaths for every 1, live births as of This significant reduction can be attributed to rising access to modern healthcare across the country, ranking 26th worldwide for healthcare system quality.[23] The construction of new hospitals and primary healthcare centers across the Kingdom, as well as healthcare during pregnancy and increased use of vaccinations account for a decline in infant mortality and increased life expectancy.[24]

UN estimates

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR1CDR1NC1TFR1IMR1
, 81, 78,
, 83, 98,
, 86, ,
, 88, ,
, 88, ,
, 86, ,
, 86, ,
, 86, ,
, 85, ,
, 87, ,
1CBR = crude birth rate (per ); CDR = crude death rate (per ); NC = natural change (per ); TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman); IMR = infant mortality rate per births[25]

Nationality and ethnicity


noun: Saudi(s)
adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian


The ethnic composition of Saudi citizens is 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Asian.[26]


The following data has been retrieved from the CIA World Factbook

urban population: % of total population ()

rate of urbanization: % annual rate of change ( est.)

Historically, the population of Saudi Arabia followed a nomadic lifestyle. Following the discovery of oil in the s, the Kingdom became far more settled as people moved to centers of high economic activity.[7] Significant population growth can be seen in the rise of urbanization throughout Saudi Arabia, which has grown 2 percent in the past ten years.[27] The largest Saudi cities have become flooded with new residents as more people move to urban cities to find better employment opportunities, and overcrowding has become a major issue across the nation.[27]


Migration is a significant part of Saudi Arabia's society and culture, as the nation's thriving oil economy attracts large numbers of foreign workers from an assortment of countries throughout Asia and the Arab world.[4] Following economic diversification in response to the oil boom of the s, the Saudi government encouraged skilled and semi-skilled workers to enter the Kingdom as the demand for infrastructure and development intensified.[28] Saudi Arabia is among the top five immigrant destination countries around the world, currently hosting million international migrants in its borders. In non-native residents accounted for 37% of the Kingdom's total population, more than twice that of the United States whose immigrants make up 15% of the nation's total population.[29] The majority of Saudi Arabia's foreign born population are males between the ages of 25 and These immigrants make up a larger percentage of the total population in this age group compared to native-born Saudis ages 25–45, according to the United Nations report.[30] % of the total migrant population in Saudi Arabia are from India, followed by Pakistan (%), Bangladesh (%), Egypt (%), and finally the Philippines (%).[30] Most immigrants of the Kingdom are skilled, unskilled, and service industry foreign workers. Although the living and working conditions immigrant workers are harsh in Saudi Arabia, economic opportunity tends to be much greater than in their homelands.[4] There are around five million illegal immigrants in Saudi Arabia, most of which come from Africa and Asia. These immigrants are planned to be deported within the next few years.[31] There are around , Westerners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in compounds or gated communities[citation needed].

People from other immigration jurisdictions

MyanmarMyanmar, (Rohingya)[36][37]
Sri LankaSri Lanka,
JordanJordan/ State of PalestinePalestine,


The government does not conduct census on religion, but estimates put the percentage of the majority Sunnis at %.[4] The rest are other forms of islamic minorities. Other smaller communities (Ismailis and) reside in the south, with Ismailis constituting around half of the population of the province of Nejran, and a small percentage of the Holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina. There is also a Christian population of uncertain size. According to Gallup atheists account for 5% of the population with a total non-religious population of 24%.[39][40][41]


The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. Saudi Sign Language is the principal language of the deaf community. The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages, the most numerous of which are Urdu (4,,) which after Arabic is widely used especially among the South Asian community, which makes the largest community of expatriate, Indonesian (,), Filipino/Tagalog (,), Malayalam (,), Rohingya (,), and Egyptian Arabic (,).[42][43][44][circular reference]


  1. ^ ab"Population density (people per sq. km of land area) | Data". Retrieved
  2. ^"Saudi Arabia Population ". Retrieved
  3. ^"Middle East&#;:: Saudi Arabia - The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved
  4. ^ abcdeLong, David (). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. University Press of Florida. pp.&#;23–
  5. ^"Net migration | Data". Retrieved
  6. ^ ab"The total population in ". general authority for statistics (Saudi Arabia). Archived from the original on
  7. ^ abcdef"The World Factbook: Saudi Arabia". Central Intelligence Agency. November 13, Retrieved November 26,
  8. ^ abZuhur, Sherifa. Saudi Arabia (Middle East in Focus). ABC-CLIO Interactive,
  9. ^House, Karen Elliott (). On Saudi Arabia: Its People, past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future. Knopf. p.&#;
  10. ^Siraj Wahab (30 July ). "It's another kind of Saudization". Arab News. Retrieved 13 January
  11. ^Tsourapas, Gerasimos (). "Why Do States Develop Multi-tier Emigrant Policies? Evidence from Egypt". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 41 (13): – doi/X ISSN&#;X. S2CID&#;
  12. ^Tsourapas, Gerasimos (). "Nasser's Educators and Agitators across al-Watan al-'Arabi: Tracing the Foreign Policy Importance of Egyptian Regional Migration, ". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 43 (3): – doi/ ISSN&#; S2CID&#;
  13. ^Seok, Hyunho (). "Korean migrant workers to the Middle East". In Gunatilleke, Godfrey (ed.). Migration to the Arab World: Experience of Returning Migrants. United Nations University Press. pp.&#;56– ISBN&#;.
  14. ^"President Roh Moo-hyun's Official Visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia". Cheongwadae (Office of the President), Republic of Korea. Archived from the original on Retrieved
  15. ^"World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations". Archived from the original on 7 May Retrieved 29 January
  16. ^ abLong, David (). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. University Press of Florida. pp.&#;18–
  17. ^"Annual Yearbook". 17 December
  18. ^
  19. ^ ab"Saudi Arabia Population ". Retrieved
  20. ^Long, David (). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. University Press of Florida. p.&#;
  21. ^"Population Growth (Annual&#;%)." Population Growth (Annual&#;%) | Data, World Bank ,
  22. ^"Mortality Rate, Infant (per 1, Live Births)." World Bank: Infant Mortality , World Bank ,
  23. ^Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, "1st Voluntary National Review." Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations High-Level Political Forum, , pp
  24. ^Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, "1st Voluntary National Review." Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations High-Level Political Forum, , pp
  25. ^World Population Prospects: The RevisionArchived May 6, , at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ abc"Middle East&#;:: SAUDI ARABIA". CIA The World Factbook.
  27. ^ ab"Saudi Arabia - total population from to | Statistic". Statista. Retrieved
  28. ^De Bel-Air, Françoise (January ). "Demography, Migration and Labour Market in Saudi Arabia". Migration Policy Center: European University Institute &#; via Gulf Research Center.
  29. ^"International Migration Report " Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, ,
  30. ^ ab"Migration Profile: Saudi Arabia ." Unicef , United Nations , ,
  31. ^"Saudi Shoura Council considers deporting 5 mln illegal migrants". Al Arabiya English. Retrieved
  32. ^Doanvo, Anhvinh (23 September ). "Western Media's Miscount of Saudi Arabia's Syrian Refugees". Huffington Post.
  33. ^[1]
  34. ^"KSA shelters 1 million Yemeni refugees". 30 November
  35. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on Retrieved CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^"Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis". BBC News. 23 January
  37. ^"Saudi Arabia entry at Ethnologue". Ethnologue. Retrieved 6 February
  38. ^"Dubai's Somali diaspora hope for change". CCTV. 11 September Archived from the original on Retrieved 8 March
  39. ^"Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism"(PDF). Gallup. Retrieved
  40. ^"A surprising map of where the world's atheists live". The Washington Post. Retrieved
  41. ^"Atheism explodes in Saudi Arabia, despite state-enforced ban". Salon. Retrieved
  42. ^"Migrant Communities in Saudi Arabia", Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch, [permanent dead link]
  43. ^Saudi Arabia. Ethnologue
  44. ^Kerala Gulf diaspora

External links

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Saudi Arabia Population (LIVE)


The Saudi Arabia Population (Live) counter shows a continuously updated estimate of the current population of Saudi Arabia delivered by Worldometer's RTS algorithm, which processes data collected from the United Nations Population Division.

The Population of Saudi Arabia ( - ) chart plots the total population count as of July 1 of each year, from to

The Yearly Population Growth Rate chart plots the annual percentage changes in population registered on July 1 of each year, from to This value can differ from the Yearly % Changeshown in the historical table, which shows the last year equivalent percentage change assuming homogeneous change in the preceding five year period.


Year: as of July 1 of the year indicated.

Population: Overall total population (both sexes and all ages) in the country as of July 1 of the year indicated, as estimated by the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Prospects: The Revision. For forecasted years, the U.N. medium-fertility variant is used.

Yearly % Change: For percentage change in total population over the last year (from July 1, to June 30 ). For all other years: latest year annual percentage change equivalent assuming homogeneous change in the preceding five year period, calculated through reverse compounding.

Yearly Change: For absolute change in total population (increase or decrease in number of people) over the last year (from July 1, to June 30 ). For all other years: average annual numerical change over the preceding five year period.

Migrants (net): The average annual number of immigrants minus the number of emigrants over the preceding five year period (running from July 1 to June 30 of the initial and final years), or subsequent five year period (for data). A negative number means that there are more emigrants than immigrants.

Median Age: age that divides the population into two numerically equal groups: half of the people are older than the median age indicated and half are younger. This parameter provides an indication of age distribution.

Fertility Rate: (Total Fertility Rate, or TFR), it is expressed as children per woman. It is calculated as the average number of children an average woman will have during her reproductive period (15 to 49 years old) based on the current fertility rates of every age group in the country, and assuming she is not subject to mortality.

Density (P/Km²): (Population Density) Population per square Kilometer (Km²).

Urban Pop % : Urban population as a percentage of total population.

Urban Population: Population living in areas classified as urban according to the criteria used by each country.

Country's Share of World Pop: Total population in the country as a percentage of total World Population as of July 1 of the year indicated.

World Population: Total World Population as of July 1 of the year indicated.

Global Rank: Position held by Saudi Arabia in the list of all countries worldwide ranked by population (from the highest population to the lowest population) as of July 1 of the year indicated.

Saudi Arabia Population Pyramid (1950 - 2019)

Saudi Arabia Population Statistics

 saudi population

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds and is revered as the land of two holy mosques: Mecca and Medina. Mecca, as you know, is a pilgrimage center and where the sacred Kaaba is located. It is a custom among Muslims all over the world to face Kaaba while doing their prayers.  

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East and the 18th largest economy in the world. In his Vision statement, the Crown Prince Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz envisions building Saudi Arabia as an investment powerhouse and a hub connecting the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.

Thanks to its vibrant economy, the population of KSA continues to grow with the influx of expatriates from across the world. The population of Saudi Arabia in is million according to the United Nations. This shows a growth of % from ’s million figure.

Since Saudi Arabian population data is shown differently in different sources, here we go with the data provided by the United Nations. 

Saudi Population &#; Estimates from Multiple Sources:

If you’re interested in comparing data from all leading sources, check out the table below:

UN Estimate35,,

Saudi Population Statistics

Today, Saudi Arabia houses % of the world population. Saudi Arabia’s population in is million. The country has a 2,, sq. kilometer (, sq. miles) land area with a population density of individuals per square kilometer. The majority of people (about 84% of the total population) live in urban areas.

Riyad, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, is home to about 5 million people. KSA has an average population growth rate of %. If this trend persists, chances are that the population will likely reach million by However, thanks to the government&#;s new expat depopulation measures, there are predictions that there will be a % dip in the population growth rate by and a further % dip in the next 30 years. 

The life expectancy rate of Saudi Arabia is years. Better living conditions and growing health consciousness have contributed to an increase in life expectancy rate by about 3 years over the last decade. The fertility rate of the kingdom is births per woman. Saudi Arabia has an average of 1, births and deaths per day, while the infant mortality rate is %. The median age in Saudi Arabia is years. Around 70% of the population is below the age of

Saudi Arabia Population by Nationality in

More than a third of Saudi’s population is made up of expats. In , the expat population is million. The population of Saudi Arabia including expats is more than 35 million. The expat population in the country is diverse, with various ethnic and linguistic groups from Asia, Europe, and America. The estimated migration happening to KSA per day is In , the General Authority for Statistics reported a drop in numbers and forecasted that Saudi Arabia would shed million expats over the year. The authorities canvassed the labour force across the kingdom, resulting in 81, more Saudis in the workplace. The sharp decline in expat numbers is part of a drive to boost citizens&#; employment, which is called Saudization or Nitaqat. This has been implemented across the Gulf with countries such as Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain reporting a sharp decline in expat numbers.

Have a look at the approximate expatriate population in the KSA according to nationality.

NationalityPopulation (Approximate)
Sri Lanka,

While looking at Saudi population by nationality in , you can notice that the ethnic composition is 90% Arab and 10% Afro-Asian. There is also a significant number of Asian expats. 80% of Saudis reside in the 10 urban areas &#; Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Khobar, Hofuf, Yanbu, Ta&#;if, Dhahran, and Dammam. Saudi Arabia has a unique position within the GCC countries as almost two-thirds of the population is made up of nationals, unlike the other countries where the citizens are the minority.

Currently, the gender ratio in Saudi Arabia is males per females. Female foreigners in KSA are estimated at 4 million, less than half of the number of male foreigners. The gender ratio at the time of birth is males per female, and the ratio of the under age group is also the same. For the age group the ratio is males per female, and for the 65+ age group, it’s males per female. 

(In the coming weeks we will be exploring Saudi Arabia&#;s population in detail, from the perspective of the various factors and demographics that it&#;s made up of.)

Meanwhile, you can read our blog examining the elements of last year&#;s population figures.

Population of Saudi Arabia

The population of Saudi Arabia in is estimated to be at million, based on our research.
The last census in Saudi Arabia was conducted in and the population of the country then was measured to be million. The next census is expected to be in the year

The current population was estimated by considering the population growth rates in major cities as well as other factors influencing population, like birth, immigration and mortality rates. Several authentic sources like World Bank, United Nations,, and have estimated the population of several countries including Saudi Arabia until

population of saudi arabia

Demographics of Saudi Arabia

saudi arabia population statistics

While there was an almost equal number of men and women in the country in , the gender ratio is now men per females. The country now has million men and women, meaning women make up % of the population.

Most of the country?s population(nearly 47%) is in the working age range of 25 to 54 years. Men outnumber women in the age group 25 to

Male & Female Population of Saudi Arabia

Population (in million)
Percentage of Total%%

Saudi women now play a much more active role in society. The country has given women voting rights and they are being encouraged to play a more inclusive role in society. More and more women are joining the workforce as the government looks to diversify the economy. Women are now allowed to possess and drive cars in the country as per a royal decree issued in June

Population of Saudi Arabia Over the Years

saudi arabia population statistics

With the discovery of the two largest oil fields ever discovered in the world, Saudi Arabia has gone through a massive population boom. The country is a large market for employment in foam, insulation and plastics, as well as chemicals that go into adhesives, coatings and cosmetics.


The population boom has been particularly evident in the last decade with the population increasing by nearly 2 million between and as well as between and From just million in , Saudi Arabia has now grown rapidly to exceed million. The diversification of the economy driven by the new generation of the Saudi family has made the country into a haven for migrant workers.

Saudi Arabia?s Major Cities (Data as of )

The cities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia) are centers of industry and culture. The capital, Riyadh is the biggest city with a population of million. Almost all the companies that operate within the Saudi borders are headquartered in Riyadh. Several large plastic and metal factories are located in and around the city. These factories along with government-owned petrol company Aramco?s Riyadh Refineries are the biggest sources of employment in the city. Situated at the center of the Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh is truly at the heart of the Arab world.

Population of Major Cities in Saudi Arabia - Infographics

The second biggest city in Saudi Arabia is Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca and Medinah &#; ?Islam?s holy cities. With a population of million, Jeddah is the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia as well as the biggest port along the Red Sea. The city is also a very important tourist destination, playing host to thousands of tourists every year. Several industries like mining and glass manufacturing are located in and around Jeddah. The third most populated city in the Saudi Arabia is the holy city of Mecca with a population of million while Medina with million people is third. The city of Sultanah in Al Madina district with a population of million is fourth and Dammam is fifth with million people.

Population of Major Cities in Saudi Arabia ()

CityPopulation (in million)

Expatriate Population of Saudi Arabia (Data as of )

Expatriate population of Saudi Arabia in
Note: Data as of

As per the data from , more than 30% of the Saudi population are expats. The total number of non-Saudis in the country is estimated to be 10,, Nearly a quarter of this are Syrians fleeing the war in their country. Almost million Syrians live in Saudi Arabia and they are given free access to education and healthcare, as well as encouraged to take up jobs in the country.

Unsurprisingly, Indians are the second most numerous diaspora in the country. There are million Indians in Saudi Arabia with most of them employed in the hospitality and mining industries. Saudi Arabia is also the largest market for unskilled Pakistani workers. The country hosts nearly million Pakistanis, most of them working in unskilled sectors like construction.

The number of Egyptians in Saudi Arabia is 1,, while the number of Yemenis is almost 1 million. Bangladeshis are another important diaspora with , people. Other major nationalities in Saudi Arabia are , Filipinos, , Sri Lankan&#;s, , Indonesians, , Sudanese, , Jordanian/Palestinian and 94, Turkish. Apart from these, there are also , people from Western countries.

A large percentage of the Saudi workforce is employed in the oil and mining industry. The kingdom is the world&#;s leading oil exporter, accounting for almost one-sixth of the world?s total oil export and the second largest producer. The country is undergoing a rapid socio-economic transformation that is spearheaded by the Saudi family.

Expat Population of Saudi Arabia in

CountryPopulation (in million)% of Total
Sri Lankan6%
Total Expatriates%

Looking Ahead

Ever since his ascension in King Abdullah has been championing the modernisation of Saudi government. The House of Saudi has been ringing in the changes after Mohammed bin Salman took over as the new crown prince in June He is the first leader of Saudi Arabia from the Millennial generation, regarded by many as responsible for the modernisation of Saudi values with women given driving rights for the first time and increasingly encouraged to have an improved standing in society.

The country&#;s theaters now show cinemas, for the first time since , and the government has also started issuing new tourist visas, besides the Haj visa that is reserved for Muslims. Nowhere has the digitisation been more evident than in the field of social media. Over 30 million Saudi Arabians use social media on a daily basis and nearly 18 million of them are mobile social media users. With the increased involvement of women at the workplace, the modernisation of Saudi Arabia is expected to gather pace.

To get your brand?s message to your clients in Saudi Arabia or abroad get in touch with Global Media Insight today. We have over 19 years of experience in digital technologies and social media and digital markets along with expertise on the latest tools to drive engagement to increase your business?s brand value and customer loyalty. Talk to us to discover social media strategies that work across platforms and channels.

Disclaimer: GMI acknowledges that though we try to report accurately, we cannot verify the absolute facts of everything that has been represented on this infographic. The information represented is based on information researched from various sources on the internet. We are not liable for any errors, financial loss, or damages of any kind that may result from the use of, or reliance on, the information herein.

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Saudi Arabia

Country in Western Asia

"KSA" redirects here. For other uses, see KSA (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 24°N45°E / 24°N 45°E / 24; 45

Saudi Arabia,[c] officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA),[d] is a country in Western Asia. It spans the vast majority of the Arabian Peninsula, with a land area of approximately 2,,&#;km2 (,&#;sq&#;mi). Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East, and the second-largest country in the Arab world. It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Egypt and Israel in the north-west by the Gulf of Aqaba. Saudi Arabia is the only country with a coastline along both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland, steppe and mountains. Its capital and largest city is Riyadh, with Mecca and Medina serving as important cultural and religious centers.

The territory that now constitutes Saudi Arabia was the site of several ancient cultures and civilizations. The prehistory of Saudi Arabia shows some of the earliest traces of human activity in the world.[14] The world's second-largest religion,[15]Islam, emerged in modern-day Saudi Arabia. In the early 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad united the population of Arabia and created a single Islamic religious polity.[16] Following his death in , his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge and unprecedented swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in the West to modern-day Pakistan in the East) in a matter of decades. Arab dynasties originating from modern-day Saudi Arabia founded the Rashidun (–), Umayyad (–), Abbasid (–) and Fatimid (–) caliphates as well as numerous other dynasties in Asia, Africa and Europe.

The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of mainly four distinct historical regions: Hejaz, Najd and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa) and Southern Arabia ('Asir).[17] The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in by King Abdulaziz (known as Ibn Saud in the West). He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia has since been an absolute monarchy, effectively a hereditary dictatorship governed along Islamist lines.[18][19][20][21] The ultraconservative Wahhabi religious movement within Sunni Islam has been described as a "predominant feature of Saudi culture";[18][19] although the power of the religious establishment has been significantly eroded in recent years.[22] In its Basic Law, Saudi Arabia continues to define itself as a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its official religion, Arabic as its official language and Riyadh as its capital. Saudi Arabia is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam.

Petroleum was discovered on 3 March and followed up by several other finds in the Eastern Province.[23] Saudi Arabia has since become the world's second largest oil producer (behind the US) and the world's largest oil exporter, controlling the world's second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves.[24] The kingdom is categorized as a World Bank high-income economy with a very high Human Development Index[25] and is the only Arab country to be part of the G20 major economies.[26]

However, the state has attracted criticism for a variety of reasons, including its role in the Yemeni Civil War, alleged sponsorship of Islamic terrorism and its poor human rights record, which has been characterized by the excessive and often extrajudicial use of capital punishment, failure to adopt adequate measures against human trafficking, state-sponsored discrimination against religious minorities and atheists, and antisemitism, and its strict interpretation of Shari'a law.[27][28][29][30][31]

The kingdom spends 8% of its GDP on the military (highest in the world after Oman),[32] which places it as the world's third biggest military spender behind the United States and China,[33] and the world's largest arms importer from to , receiving half of all the US arms exports to the Middle East.[34][35] According to the BICC, Saudi Arabia is the 28th most militarized country in the world and enjoys the region's best military equipment qualitatively, after Israel.[36] However, in recent years, there have been continual calls for halting of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, mainly due to alleged war crimes in Yemen[37] and especially following the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.[38][39]

Saudi Arabia is considered both a regional and middle power.[40][41] The Saudi economy is the largest in the Middle East and eighteenth-largest in the world.[42] Saudi Arabia also has one of the world's youngest populations, with approximately 50 per cent of its population of million being under 25 years old.[43] In addition to being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia is an active and founding member of the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League, and OPEC.


See also: House of Saud and Arab (etymology)

Following the amalgamation of the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, the new state was named al-Mamlakah al-ʿArabīyah as-Saʿūdīyah (a transliteration of المملكة العربية السعودية in Arabic) by royal decree on 23 September by its founder, Abdulaziz bin Saud. Although this is normally translated as "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in English,[44] it literally means "the Saudi Arab kingdom",[45] or "the Arab Saudi Kingdom".[46]

The word "Saudi" is derived from the element as-Saʿūdīyah in the Arabic name of the country, which is a type of adjective known as a nisba, formed from the dynastic name of the Saudi royal family, the Al Saud (Arabic: آل سعود&#;). Its inclusion expresses the view that the country is the personal possession of the royal family.[47][48]Al Saud is an Arabic name formed by adding the word Al, meaning "family of" or "House of",[49] to the personal name of an ancestor. In the case of the Al Saud, this is Saud ibn Muhammad ibn Muqrin, the father of the dynasty's 18th-century founder, Muhammad bin Saud.[50]


Main article: History of Saudi Arabia

See also: Pre-Islamic Arabia


There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula dates back to about , years ago.[51] A study found that the first modern humans to spread east across Asia left Africa about 75, years ago across the Bab-el-Mandeb connecting the Horn of Africa and Arabia.[52] The Arabian peninsula is regarded as a central figure in the understanding of hominin evolution and dispersals. Arabia underwent an extreme environmental fluctuation in the Quaternary that led to profound evolutionary and demographic changes. Arabia has a rich Lower Paleolithic record, and the quantity of Oldowan-like sites in the region indicate a significant role that Arabia had played in the early hominin colonization of Eurasia.[53]

In the Neolithic period, prominent cultures such as Al-Magar, whose centre lay in modern-day southwestern Najd flourished. Al-Magar could be considered a "Neolithic Revolution" in human knowledge and handicraft skills.[54] The culture is characterized as being one of the world's first to involve the widespread domestication of animals, particularly the horse, during the Neolithic period.[55] Aside from horses, animals such as sheep, goats, dogs, in particular of the Saluki breed, ostriches, falcons and fish were discovered in the form of stone statues and rock engravings. Al-Magar statues were made from local stone, and it seems that the statues were fixed in a central building that might have had a significant role on the social and religious life of the inhabitants.[citation needed]

In November , hunting scenes showing images of most likely domesticated dogs, resembling the Canaan dog, wearing leashes were discovered in Shuwaymis, a hilly region of northwestern Saudi Arabia. These rock engravings date back more than 8, years, making them the earliest depictions of dogs in the world.[56]

At the end of the 4th millennium BC, Arabia entered the Bronze Age after witnessing drastic transformations; metals were widely used, and the period was characterized by its 2&#;m high burials which were simultaneously followed by the existence of numerous temples, that included many free-standing sculptures originally painted with red colours.[57]

In May , archaeologists announced that a ,year-old Acheulean site named An Nasim in the Hail region could be the oldest human habitation site in northern Saudi Arabia. The site was first discovered in using remote sensing and palaeohydrological modelling. It contains paleolake deposits related with Middle Pleistocene materials. artefacts, hand axes and stone tools, flakes discovered by researchers provided information about tool-making traditions of the earliest living man inhabited South-West Asia. Besides, Paleolithic artefacts are similar to material remains uncovered at the Acheulean sites in the Nefud Desert.[58][59][60][61]


The "Worshipping Servant" statue ( BC), above one metre (3&#;ft 3&#;in) in height, is much taller than any possible Mesopotamian or Harappan models. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Korea.[62]

The earliest sedentary culture in Saudi Arabia dates back to the Ubaid period, upon discovering various pottery sherds at Dosariyah. Initial analysis of the discovery concluded that the eastern province of Saudi Arabia was the homeland of the earliest settlers of Mesopotamia, and by extension, the likely origin of the Sumerians. However, experts such as Joan Oates had the opportunity to see the Ubaid period sherds in eastern Arabia and consequently conclude that the sherds date to the last two phases of the Ubaid period (period three and four), while a handful of examples could be classified roughly as either Ubaid 3 or Ubaid 2. Thus the idea that colonists from Saudi Arabia had emigrated to southern Mesopotamia and founded the region's first sedentary culture was abandoned.[63]

Climatic change and the onset of aridity may have brought about the end of this phase of settlement, as little archaeological evidence exists from the succeeding millennium.[64] The settlement of the region picks up again in the period of Dilmun in the early 3rd millennium. Known records from Uruk refer to a place called Dilmun, associated on several occasions with copper, and in later period it was a source of imported woods in southern Mesopotamia. A number of scholars have suggested that Dilmun originally designated the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, notably linked with the major Dilmunite settlements of Umm an-Nussi and Umm ar-Ramadh in the interior and Tarout on the coast. It is likely that Tarout Island was the main port and the capital of Dilmun.[62] Mesopotamian inscribed clay tablets suggests that, in the early period of Dilmun, a form of hierarchical organized political structure existed. In an earthwork in Tarout exposed an ancient burial field that yielded a large, impressive statue dating to the Dilmunite period (mid 3rd millennium BC). The statue was locally made under the strong Mesopotamian influence on the artistic principle of Dilmun.[62]

By BC, the centre of Dilmun shifted for unknown reasons from Tarout and the Saudi Arabian mainland to the island of Bahrain, and a highly developed settlement emerged there, where a laborious temple complex and thousands of burial mounds dating to this period were discovered.[62]

By the late Bronze Age, a historically recorded people and land (Midian and the Midianites) in the north-western portion of Saudi Arabia are well-documented in the Bible. Centred in Tabouk, it stretched from Wadi Arabah in the north to the area of al-Wejh in the south.[65] The capital of Midian was Qurayyah,[66] it consists of a large fortified citadel encompassing 35 hectares and below it lies a walled settlement of 15 hectares. The city hosted as many as 10 to 12 thousand inhabitants.[67] The Midianites were depicted in two major events in the Bible that recount Israel's two wars with Midian, somewhere in the early 11th century BC. Politically, the Midianites were described as having a decentralized structure headed by five kings (Evi, Rekem, Tsur, Hur, and Reba), the names appears to be toponyms of important Midianite settlements.[68] It is common to view that Midian designated a confederation of tribes, the sedentary element settled in the Hijaz while its nomadic affiliates pastured, and sometimes pillaged as far away land as Palestine.[69] The nomadic Midianites were one of the earliest exploiters of the domestication of camels that enabled them to navigate through the harsh terrains of the region.[69]

Colossal statue from Al-'Ulain the Hejaz(6th–4th century BC), it followed the standardized artistic sculpting of the Lihyanitekingdom, the original statue was painted with white

At the end of the 7th century BC, an emerging kingdom appeared in the historical theatre of north-western Arabia. It started as a Sheikdom of Dedan, which developed into the Kingdom of Lihyan tribe.[70] The earliest attestation of state regality, King of Lihyan, was in the mid-sixth century BC.[71] The second stage of the kingdom saw the transformation of Dedan from a mere city-state of which only influence they exerted was inside their city walls, to a kingdom that encompasses much wider domain that marked the pinnacle of Lihyan civilization.[70] The third state occurred during the early 3rd century BC with bursting economic activity between the south and north that made Lihyan acquire large influence suitable to its strategic position on the caravan road.[72]

Lihyan was a powerful and highly organized ancient Arabian kingdom that played a vital cultural and economic role in the north-western region of the Arabian Peninsula.[73] The Lihyanites ruled over a large domain from Yathrib in the south and parts of the Levant in the north.[74] In antiquity, Gulf of Aqaba used to be called Gulf of Lihyan. A testimony to the extensive influence that Lihyan acquired.[75]

The Lihyanites fell into the hands of the Nabataeans around 65 BC upon their seizure of Hegra then marching to Tayma, and to their capital Dedan in 9 BC. The Nabataeans ruled large portions of north Arabia until their domain was annexed by the Roman Empire, which renamed it Arabia Petraea, and remained under the rule of the Romans until [76]

Middle Ages and rise of Islam

Main article: Caliphate

At its greatest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate(–) covered 11,,&#;km2(4,,&#;sq&#;mi)[77]and 62 million people (29 per cent of the world's population),[78]making it one of the largest empires in historyin both area and proportion of the world's population. It was also larger than any previous empire in history.

Shortly before the advent of Islam, apart from urban trading settlements (such as Mecca and Medina), much of what was to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic pastoral tribal societies.[79] The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca in about CE. In the early 7th century, Muhammad united the various tribes of the peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity.[16] Following his death in , his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge and unprecedented swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to modern-day Pakistan in the east) in a matter of decades. Arabia soon became a more politically peripheral region of the Muslim world as the focus shifted to the vast and newly conquered lands.[16]

Arabs originating from modern-day Saudi Arabia, the Hejaz in particular, founded the Rashidun (–), Umayyad (–), Abbasid (–) and the Fatimid (–) caliphates.[80][81][82][83][84]

From the 10th century to the early 20th century, Mecca and Medina were under the control of a local Arab ruler known as the Sharif of Mecca, but at most times the Sharif owed allegiance to the ruler of one of the major Islamic empires based in Baghdad, Cairo or Istanbul. Most of the remainder of what became Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule.[85][86]

For much of the 10th century, the Isma'ili-Shi'ite Qarmatians were the most powerful force in the Persian Gulf. In , the Qarmatians pillaged Mecca, outraging the Muslim world, particularly with their theft of the Black Stone.[87] In –, an Arab Sheikh named Abdullah bin Ali Al Uyuni defeated the Qarmatians in Bahrain and al-Hasa with the help of the Great Seljuq Empire and founded the Uyunid dynasty.[88][89] The Uyunid Emirate later underwent expansion with its territory stretching from Najd to the Syrian desert.[90] They were overthrown by the Usfurids in [91] Ufsurid rule was weakened after Persian rulers of Hormuz captured Bahrain and Qatif in [92] The vassals of Ormuz, the Shia Jarwanid dynasty came to rule eastern Arabia in the 14th century.[93][94] The Jabrids took control of the region after overthrowing the Jarwanids in the 15th century and clashed with Hormuz for more than two decades over the region for its economic revenues, until finally agreeing to pay tribute in [93]Al-Muntafiq tribe later took over the region and came under Ottoman suzerainty. The Bani Khalid tribe later revolted against them in the 17th century and took control.[95] Their rule extended from Iraq to Oman at its height and they too came under Ottoman suzerainty.[96][97]

Ottoman Hejaz

Main article: Ottoman era in the history of Saudi Arabia

In the 16th century, the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz, Asir and Al-Ahsa) to the Empire and claimed suzerainty over the interior. One reason was to thwart Portuguese attempts to attack the Red Sea (hence the Hejaz) and the Indian Ocean.[98] Ottoman degree of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the Empire's central authority.[99][] These changes contributed to later uncertainties, such as the dispute with Transjordan over the inclusion of the sanjak of Ma'an, including the cities of Ma'an and Aqaba.[citation needed]

Foundation of the Saud dynasty

See also: Unification of Saudi Arabia

Atlas map of Arabia and the wider region in

The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family, known as the Al Saud, began in Nejd in central Arabia in , when Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the dynasty, joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab,[] founder of the Wahhabi movement, a strict puritanical form of Sunni Islam.[] This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today.[]

The first "Saudi state" established in in the area around Riyadh, rapidly expanded and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia,[]sacking Karbala in and capturing Mecca in , but was destroyed by by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha.[] A much smaller second "Saudi state", located mainly in Nejd, was established in Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Al Saud contested control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia with another Arabian ruling family, the Al Rashid, who ruled the Emirate of Jabal Shammar. By , the Al Rashid were victorious and the Al Saud were driven into exile in Kuwait.[85]

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have a suzerainty over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers,[][] with the Sharif of Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz.[] In , Abdul Rahman's son, Abdul Aziz—later to be known as Ibn Saud—recaptured control of Riyadh bringing the Al Saud back to Nejd, creating the third "Saudi state".[85] Ibn Saud gained the support of the Ikhwan, a tribal army inspired by Wahhabism and led by Faisal Al-Dawish, and which had grown quickly after its foundation in [] With the aid of the Ikhwan, Ibn Saud captured Al-Ahsa from the Ottomans in

In , with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I), the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state.[] Although the Arab Revolt of to failed in its objective, the Allied victory in World War I resulted in the end of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia and Hussein bin Ali became King of Hejaz.[]

Ibn Saud avoided involvement in the Arab Revolt, and instead continued his struggle with the Al Rashid. Following the latter's final defeat, he took the title Sultan of Nejd in With the help of the Ikhwan, the Kingdom of Hejaz was conquered in –25, and on 10 January , Ibn Saud declared himself King of Hejaz.[] For the next five years, he administered the two parts of his dual kingdom as separate units.[85]

After the conquest of the Hejaz, the Ikhwan leadership's objective switched to expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan, Iraq and Kuwait, and began raiding those territories. This met with Ibn Saud's opposition, as he recognized the danger of a direct conflict with the British. At the same time, the Ikhwan became disenchanted with Ibn Saud's domestic policies which appeared to favour modernization and the increase in the number of non-Muslim foreigners in the country. As a result, they turned against Ibn Saud and, after a two-year struggle, were defeated in at the Battle of Sabilla, where their leaders were massacred.[] On 23 September , the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,[85] and that date is now a national holiday called Saudi National Day.[]


Main article: Modern history of Saudi Arabia

Political map of Saudi Arabia

The new kingdom was reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage revenues.[] In , vast reserves of oil were discovered in the Al-Ahsa region along the coast of the Persian Gulf, and full-scale development of the oil fields began in under the US-controlled Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company). Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and substantial political leverage internationally.[85]

Cultural life rapidly developed, primarily in the Hejaz, which was the centre for newspapers and radio. However, the large influx of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia in the oil industry increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia.[citation needed] At the same time, the government became increasingly wasteful and extravagant. By the s this had led to large governmental deficits and excessive foreign borrowing.[85]

In , Saud of Saudi Arabia succeeded as the king of Saudi Arabia, on his father's death, until when he was deposed in favour of his half brother Faisal of Saudi Arabia, after an intense rivalry, fuelled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. In , Saudi Arabia gained a 20 per cent control in Aramco, thereby decreasing US control over Saudi oil.[citation needed]

In , Saudi Arabia led an oil boycott against the Western countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War against Egypt and Syria. Oil prices quadrupled.[85] In , Faisal was assassinated by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musaid and was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid.[]

By , Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world.[] Khalid's reign saw economic and social development progress at an extremely rapid rate, transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country;[85] in foreign policy, close ties with the US were developed.[] In , two events occurred which greatly concerned the government,[] and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution. It was feared that the country's Shi'ite minority in the Eastern Province (which is also the location of the oil fields) might rebel under the influence of their Iranian co-religionists. There were several anti-government uprisings in the region such as the Qatif Uprising.[]

The second event was the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca by Islamist extremists. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi government.[] The government regained control of the mosque after 10 days and those captured were executed. Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce the much stricter observance of traditional religious and social norms in the country (for example, the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government.[] Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength.[]

Map of Saudi Arabian administrative regions and roadways

In , Saudi Arabia bought out the American interests in Aramco.[] King Khalid died of a heart attack in June He was succeeded by his brother, King Fahd, who added the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" to his name in in response to considerable fundamentalist pressure to avoid the use of "majesty" in association with anything except God. Fahd continued to develop close relations with the United States and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment.[85]

The vast wealth generated by oil revenues was beginning to have an even greater impact on Saudi society. It led to rapid technological (but not cultural) modernization, urbanization, mass public education, and the creation of new media. This and the presence of increasingly large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. Although there was a dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country, political power continued to be monopolized by the royal family[85] leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government.[]

In the s, Saudi Arabia spent $25 billion in support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War.[] However, Saudi Arabia condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in and asked the US to intervene.[85] King Fahd allowed American and coalition troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. He invited the Kuwaiti government and many of its citizens to stay in Saudi Arabia, but expelled citizens of Yemen and Jordan because of their governments' support of Iraq. In , Saudi Arabian forces were involved both in bombing raids on Iraq and in the land invasion that helped to liberate Kuwait.[citation needed]

Saudi Arabia's relations with the West began to cause growing concern among some of the ulema and students of sharia law and was one of the issues that led to an increase in Islamist terrorism in Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamist terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen (until stripped of his citizenship in ) and was responsible for the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa and the USS Cole bombing near the port of Aden, Yemen. 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in September 11 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania were Saudi nationals.[] Many Saudis who did not support the Islamist terrorists were nevertheless deeply unhappy with the government's policies.[]

Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the government. Although now extremely wealthy, Saudi Arabia's economy was near stagnant. High taxes and a growth in unemployment have contributed to discontent and have been reflected in a rise in civil unrest, and discontent with the royal family. In response, a number of limited "reforms" were initiated by King Fahd. In March , he introduced the "Basic Law", which emphasized the duties and responsibilities of a ruler. In December , the Consultative Council was inaugurated. It is composed of a chairman and 60 members—all chosen by the King. The King's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible.[citation needed] Fahd made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: "A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed, which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā]."[85]

In , Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and the Crown Prince, Abdullah, assumed the role of de facto regent, taking on the day-to-day running of the country. However, his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers (known, with Fahd, as the "Sudairi Seven").[] From the s, signs of discontent continued and included, in and , a series of bombings and armed violence in Riyadh, Jeddah, Yanbu and Khobar.[] In February–April , the first-ever nationwide municipal elections were held in Saudi Arabia. Women were not allowed to take part in the poll.[85]

Map of oiland gaspipelines in the Middle-East

In , King Fahd died and was succeeded by Abdullah, who continued the policy of minimum reform and clamping down on protests. The king introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation, encouragement of foreign investment, and privatization. In February , Abdullah announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions including the replacement of senior appointees in the judiciary and the Mutaween (religious police) with more moderate individuals and the appointment of the country's first female deputy minister.[85]

On 29 January , hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah in a rare display of criticism against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city, killing 11 people.[] Police stopped the demonstration after about 15 minutes and arrested 30 to 50 people.[]

Since , Saudi Arabia has been affected by its own Arab Spring protests.[] In response, King Abdullah announced on 22 February a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $36 billion, of which $ billion was earmarked for housing.[] No political reforms were announced as part of the package, though some prisoners indicted for financial crimes were pardoned.[] On 18 March the same year, King Abdullah announced a package of $93 billion, which included , new homes to a cost of $67 billion, in addition to creating 60, new security jobs.[][] Although male-only municipal elections were held on 29 September ,[][] Abdullah allowed women to vote and be elected in the municipal elections, and also to be nominated to the Shura Council.[]

Since , Saudi Arabia has engaged in widespread internet censorship. Most online censorship generally falls into two categories: one based on censoring "immoral" (mostly pornographic and LGBT-supportive websites along with websites promoting any religious ideology other than Sunni Islam) and one based on a blacklist run by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Media, which primarily censors websites critical of the Saudi regime or associated with parties that are opposed to or opposed by Saudi Arabia.[][][]


Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.[] However, according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in , the king must comply with Sharia (Islamic law) and the Quran, while the Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of Muhammad) are declared to be the country's constitution.[] No political parties or national elections are permitted.[] Critics regard it as a totalitariandictatorship.[]The Economist rated the Saudi government as the fifth most authoritarian government out of rated in its Democracy Index,[21] and Freedom House gave it its lowest "Not Free" rating, ("1=best, 7=worst") for []

In the absence of national elections and political parties,[] politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family, the Al Saud, and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society.[] Outside of the Al-Saud, participation in the political process is limited to a relatively small segment of the population and takes the form of the royal family consulting with the ulema, tribal sheikhs, and members of important commercial families on major decisions.[] This process is not reported by the Saudi media.[]

By custom, all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis.[] In many ways the approach to government differs little from the traditional system of tribal rule. Tribal identity remains strong and, outside of the royal family, political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation, with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events.[] As mentioned earlier, in recent years there have been limited steps to widen political participation such as the establishment of the Consultative Council in the early s and the National Dialogue Forum in []

The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: SunniIslamist activism; liberal critics; the Shi'ite minority—particularly in the Eastern Province; and long-standing tribal and regionalist particularistic opponents (for example in the Hejaz).[] Of these, the minority activists have been the most prominent threat to the government and have in recent years perpetrated a number of violent incidents in the country.[] However, open protest against the government, even if peaceful, is not tolerated.[citation needed]

Monarchy and royal family

Main article: House of Saud

The king combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions[] and royal decrees form the basis of the country's legislation.[] The king is also the prime minister, and presides over the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia and Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia.

The royal family dominates the political system. The family's vast numbers allow it to control most of the kingdom's important posts and to have an involvement and presence at all levels of government.[] The number of princes is estimated to be at least 7,, with most power and influence being wielded by the or so male descendants of Ibn Saud.[] The key ministries are generally reserved for the royal family,[] as are the 13 regional governorships.[]

Long term political and government appointments have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes,[] such as those of King Abdullah, who had been Commander of the National Guard since (until , when he appointed his son to replace him),[] former Crown Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence and Aviation from to his death in , former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from to his death in , Prince Saud who had been Minister of Foreign Affairs since [] and current King Salman, who was Minister of Defense and Aviation before he was crown prince and Governor of the Riyadh Province from to [] The current Minister of Defense is Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the son of King Salman and Crown Prince.[]

The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties, personal ambitions and ideological differences.[] The most powerful clan faction is known as the 'Sudairi Seven', comprising the late King Fahd and his full brothers and their descendants.[] Ideological divisions include issues over the speed and direction of reform,[] and whether the role of the ulema should be increased or reduced. There were divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan.[][] When prince Sultan died before ascending to the throne on 21 October , King Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef as crown prince.[] The following year Prince Nayef also died before ascending to the throne.[]

The Saudi government and the royal family have often, over many years, been accused of corruption.[] In a country that is said to "belong" to the royal family and is named for them,[48] the lines between state assets and the personal wealth of senior princes are blurred.[] The extent of corruption has been described as systemic[] and endemic,[] and its existence was acknowledged[] and defended[] by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (a senior member of the royal family[]) in an interview in []

Although corruption allegations have often been limited to broad undocumented accusations,[] specific allegations were made in , when it was claimed that the British defence contractor BAE Systems had paid Prince Bandar US$2 billion in bribes relating to the Al-Yamamah arms deal.[][] Prince Bandar denied the allegations.[] Investigations by both US and UK authorities resulted, in , in plea bargain agreements with the company, by which it paid $ million in fines but did not admit to bribery.[]

Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for gave Saudi Arabia a score of (on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 10 is "highly clean").[] Saudi Arabia has undergone a process of political and social reform, such as to increase public transparency and good governance. However, nepotism and patronage are widespread when doing business in the country. The enforcement of the anti-corruption laws is selective and public officials engage in corruption with impunity. A number of prominent Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers, and businesspeople, including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, were arrested in Saudi Arabia in November []

There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule, an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and after his accession in The creation of the Consultative Council in the early s did not satisfy demands for political participation, and, in , an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues, within certain prescribed parameters. In , the first municipal elections were held. In , the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession.[] In , the king made significant personnel changes to the government by appointing reformers to key positions and the first woman to a ministerial post.[] However, these changes have been criticized as being too slow or merely cosmetic.[]

Al ash-Sheikh and role of the ulema

Saudi Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema (the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists) a direct role in government.[] The preferred ulema are of the Salafi persuasion. The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions, for example the imposition of the oil embargo in and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in [] In addition, they have had a major role in the judicial and education systems[] and a monopoly of authority in the sphere of religious and social morals.[]

By the s, as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal, important changes to Saudi society were underway and the power of the ulema was in decline.[] However, this changed following the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in by Islamist radicals.[] The government's response to the crisis included strengthening the ulema's powers and increasing their financial support:[] in particular, they were given greater control over the education system[] and allowed to enforce the stricter observance of Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour.[] After his accession to the throne in , King Abdullah took steps to reduce the powers of the ulema, for instance transferring control over girls' education to the Ministry of Education.[]

The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh,[] the country's leading religious family.[] The Al ash-Sheikh are the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam which is today dominant in Saudi Arabia.[] The family is second in prestige only to the Al Saud (the royal family)[] with whom they formed a "mutual support pact"[] and power-sharing arrangement nearly years ago.[] The pact, which persists to this day,[] is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Wahhabi doctrine. In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority[] thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.[] Although the Al ash-Sheikh's domination of the ulema has diminished in recent decades,[] they still hold the most important religious posts and are closely linked to the Al Saud by a high degree of intermarriage.[]

Legal system

Main article: Legal system of Saudi Arabia

See also: Capital punishment in Saudi Arabia and Public executions in Saudi Arabia

Verses from the Quran. The Quran is the official constitution of the country and a primary source of law. Saudi Arabia is unique in enshrining a religious text as a political document.[]

The primary source of law is the Islamic Sharia derived from the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the traditions of the Prophet).[] Saudi Arabia is unique among modern Muslim states in that Sharia is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent, giving judges the power to use independent legal reasoning to make a decision. Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence (or fiqh) found in pre-modern texts[] and noted for its literalist interpretation of the Qur'an and hadith.[]

Because the judge is empowered to disregard previous judgments (either his own or of other judges) and may apply his personal interpretation of Sharia to any particular case, divergent judgments arise even in apparently identical cases,[] making predictability of legal interpretation difficult.[] The Sharia court system constitutes the basic judiciary of Saudi Arabia and its judges (qadi) and lawyers form part of the ulema, the country's Islamic scholars.[citation needed]

Royal decrees are the other main source of law; but are referred to as regulations rather than laws because they are subordinate to the Sharia.[] Royal decrees supplement Sharia in areas such as labour, commercial and corporate law. Additionally, traditional tribal law and custom remain significant.[] Extra-Sharia government tribunals usually handle disputes relating to specific royal decrees.[] Final appeal from both Sharia courts and government tribunals is to the King and all courts and tribunals follow Sharia rules of evidence and procedure.[]

The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for its "ultra-puritanical judges", who are often harsh in their sentencing (with beheading for the crime of witchcraft), but also sometimes overly lenient (for cases of rape or wife-beating) and slow, for example leaving thousands of abandoned women unable to secure a divorce.[][] The system has also been criticized for being arcane,[] lacking in some of the safeguards of justice, and unable to deal with the modern world.[] In , King Abdullah issued royal decrees reforming the judiciary and creating a new court system,[] and, in , the King made a number of significant changes to the judiciary's personnel at the most senior level by bringing in a younger generation.[]

Capital and physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as beheading, stoning (to death), amputation, crucifixion and lashing, as well as the sheer number of executions have been strongly criticized.[] The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder, rape, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by crucifixion.[][][] The reported executions between and were all carried out by public beheading. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in September [] Studies have shown that Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest crime rates in the world although there are differing views as to whether this is attributable to the legal system or other factors such as social structures.[]

Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand, only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between and Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death.[][][] In April , Saudi Supreme Court issued a directive to eliminate the punishment of flogging from the Saudi court system, and it is to be replaced by imprisonment or fines.[][] Atheism or "calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based" is considered a terrorist crime.[] Lashings are a common form of punishment[] and are often imposed for offences against religion and public morality such as drinking alcohol and neglect of prayer and fasting obligations.[]

Retaliatory punishments, or Qisas, are practised: for instance, an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye.[] Families of someone unlawfully killed can choose between demanding the death penalty or granting clemency in return for a payment of diyya (blood money), by the perpetrator.[]

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia joined the UN in [44][] and is a founding member of the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, Muslim World League, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).[] It plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and in joined the World Trade Organization.[44] Saudi Arabia supports the intended formation of the Arab Customs Union in and an Arab common market[] by , as announced at the Arab League summit.[]

Since , as a founding member of OPEC, its oil pricing policy has been generally to stabilize the world oil market and try to moderate sharp price movements so as to not jeopardize the Western economies.[44][] In , Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations imposed an oil embargo against the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and other Western nations which supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War of October [] The embargo caused an oil crisis with many short- and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy.[]

Between the mids and , Saudi Arabia expended over $70 billion in "overseas development aid". However, there is evidence that the vast majority was, in fact, spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam.[] There has been an intense debate over whether Saudi aid and Wahhabism has fomented extremism in recipient countries.[] The two main allegations are that, by its nature, Wahhabism encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism.[] Counting only the non-Muslim-majority countries, Saudi Arabia has paid for the construction of mosques, Islamic centres, colleges, and schools.[]

Saudi Arabia and the United States are strategic allies,[][] and since President Barack Obama took office in , the US has sold $ billion in arms to Saudi Arabia.[][] However, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States became strained and have witnessed major decline during the last years of the Obama administration,[][][] although Obama had authorized US forces to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Saudis in their military intervention in Yemen, establishing a joint coordination planning cell with the Saudi military that is helping manage the war,[][] and CIA used Saudi bases for drone assassinations in Yemen.[][][][] In the first decade of the 21st century the Saudi Arabia paid approximately $ million to American firms to lobby the U.S. government.[] On 20 May , President Donald Trump and King Salman signed a series of letters of intent for Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States totalling US$ billion immediately and $ billion over 10 years.[][]

In the Arab and Muslim worlds, Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and pro-American,[] and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States.[] However, this[] and Saudi Arabia's role in the Persian Gulf War, particularly the stationing of US troops on Saudi soil from , prompted the development of a hostile Islamist response internally.[] As a result, Saudi Arabia has, to some extent, distanced itself from the US and, for example, refused to support or to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq in []

China and Saudi Arabia are major allies, with relationship between the two countries growing significantly in recent decades. A significant number of Saudi Arabians have also expressed a positive view of China.[][][] In February , Crown Prince Mohammad defended China's Xinjiang re-education camps for UyghurMuslims,[][] saying "China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremisation work for its national security."[][] In July , UN ambassadors of 37 countries, including Saudi Arabia, have signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China's treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.[]

The consequences of the invasion and the Arab Spring led to increasing alarm within the Saudi monarchy over the rise of Iran's influence in the region.[] These fears were reflected in comments of King Abdullah,[] who privately urged the United States to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake".[] The tentative rapprochement between the US and Iran that began in secret in [] was said to be feared by the Saudis,[] and, during the run up to the widely welcomed deal on Iran's nuclear programme that capped the first stage of US–Iranian détente, Robert Jordan, who was US ambassador to Riyadh from to , said "[t]he Saudis' worst nightmare would be the [Obama] administration striking a grand bargain with Iran."[] A trip to Saudi by US President Barack Obama in included discussions of US–Iran relations, though these failed to resolve Riyadh's concerns.[]

In order to protect the house of Khalifa, the monarchs of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain by sending military troops to quell the uprising of Bahraini people on 14 March [] The Saudi government considered the two-month uprising as a "security threat" posed by the Shia who represent the majority of Bahrain population.[]

On 25 March , Saudi Arabia, spearheading a coalition of Sunni Muslim states,[] started a military intervention in Yemen against the ShiaHouthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in the Arab Spring uprisings.[] At least 56, people have been killed in armed violence in Yemen between January and October []

Saudi Arabia, together with Qatar and Turkey, openly supported the Army of Conquest,[] an umbrella group of anti-government forces fighting in the Syrian Civil War that reportedly included an al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and another Salafi coalition known as Ahrar al-Sham.[] Saudi Arabia was also involved in the CIA-led Timber Sycamore covert operation to train and arm Syrian rebels.[]

Following a number of incidents during the Hajj season, the deadliest[] of which killed at least 2, pilgrim[] in Mina stampede, Saudi Arabia has been accused of mismanagement and focusing on increasing money revenues while neglecting pilgrims' welfare.[]

In March , Sweden scrapped an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, marking an end to a decade-old defence agreement with the kingdom. The decision came after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was blocked by the Saudis while speaking about democracy and women's rights at the Arab League in Cairo. This also led to Saudi Arabia recalling its ambassador to Sweden.[]

Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab–Israeli conflict, periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians and condemning Hezbollah.[] Following the Arab Spring Saudi Arabia offered asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and King Abdullah telephoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support.[] In early relations with Qatar became strained over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia's belief that Qatar was interfering in its affairs. In August both countries appeared to be exploring ways of ending the rift.[] Saudi Arabia and its allies have criticized Qatar-based TV channel Al Jazeera and Qatar's relations with Iran. In , Saudi Arabia imposed a land, naval and air blockade on Qatar.[]

Saudi Arabia halted new trade and investment dealings with Canada and suspended diplomatic ties in a dramatic escalation of a dispute over the kingdom's arrest of women's rights activist Samar Badawi on 6 August [][]

Tensions have escalated between Saudi Arabia and its allies after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials are highly sceptical of Khashoggi being murdered inside the consulate; this has strained the already suffering Saudi Arabia–Turkey relations. As stated by Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund's Ankara office "Turkey is maintaining a very delicate balance in its relations with Saudi Arabia. The relations have the potential of evolving into a crisis at any moment."[]

The pressure on Saudi to reveal the insights about Khashoggi's disappearance from the US and other European countries has increased. Saudi-US relations took an ugly turn on 14 October , when Trump promised "severe punishment" if the royal court was responsible for Khashoggis' death. The Saudi Foreign Ministry retaliated with an equal statement saying, "it will respond with greater action," indicating the kingdom's "influential and vital role in the global economy." A joint statement was issued by Britain, France, and Germany also demanding a "credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and — if relevant — to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account."[]

The US expects its Gulf allies involved in the coalition in Yemen to put in more efforts and address the rising concerns about the millions that have been pushed to the brink of famine. According to the United Nations, the Arabian peninsula nation is home to the world's worst humanitarian crisis.[] More than 50, children in Yemen died from starvation in [] The famine in Yemen is the direct result of the Saudi-led intervention and blockade of the rebel-held area.[][]

In the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder in October , the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the US defence secretary Jim Mattis called for a ceasefire in Yemen within 30 days followed by UN-initiated peace talks. Pompeo has asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to stop their airstrikes on populated areas in Yemen. Theresa May backed the US call to end the coalition. President of the International Rescue CommitteeDavid Miliband called the US announcement as "the most significant breakthrough in the war in Yemen for four years".[]

In September , Showtime announced that it will premiere its original documentary, Kingdom of Silence, on 2 October that year. The film was based on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi authorities. Directed by filmmaker Rick Rowley, the documentary examines the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, as a backdrop to the murder of Khashoggi, along with the interactions between the Trump administration and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.[] Another documentary by Bryan Fogel, The Dissident, which excavated a web of deceit behind the murder, was to be released on the same day that marked the second death anniversary of Khashoggi.[]

Jeremy Hunt, the UK Foreign Secretary, on his visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE on 12 November , is expected to raise the need for a ceasefire from all sides in the four-year-long Yemen civil war. The US called for a ceasefire within 30 days.[] Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said that Hunt and Boris Johnson "played an utterly central and complicit role in arming and supporting the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen."[][]

In , as part of its nuclear power program, Saudi Arabia planned to extract uranium domestically, taking a step towards self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel. On 24 August , the Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to explore and assess uranium[] On 4 August , a report claimed that Saudi Arabia has constructed a facility in the desert near Al-'Ula for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore with the help of China. The facility raised concerns among the US and allied officials about Saudi nuclear energy plans and the country's option of developing nuclear weapon.[] On 19 August , Congressional Democrats asked the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to provide information about China's alleged role in building a uranium processing facility in Saudi Arabia.[]

On 17 September , The Guardian released an exclusive report revealing that Saudi Arabia was paving the way for domestic production of nuclear fuel. The confidential report obtained by the media house stated that the Kingdom was assisted by Chinese geologists to produce over 90, tonnes of uranium from three major deposits in the centre and northwest of Saudi, near the NEOM megacity development. The disclosure raised concerns regarding Riyadh's aggressive interest in developing atomic weapons program.[] Apart from China, the UN nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was also assisting Saudi's nuclear ambition.[]

Allegations of sponsoring global terrorism

Main article: Saudi Arabia and state-sponsored terrorism

Flag of Al-Qaeda, a transnational terrorist group formed by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni and Syrian extraction who was stripped of his Saudi passport in

According to the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in March , Saudi Arabia along with Qatar provided political, financial, and media support to terrorists against the Iraqi government.[] Similarly, President of Syria Bashar al-Assad noted that the sources of the extreme ideology of the terrorist organization ISIS and other such salafist extremist groups are the Wahabbism that has been supported by the royal family of Saudi Arabia.[]

Relations with the U.S. became strained following 9/11 terror attacks.[] American politicians and media accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism and tolerating a jihadist culture.[] Indeed, Osama bin Laden and 15 out of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia;[] in ISIL-occupied Raqqa, in mid, all 12 judges were Saudi.[] The leaked US Department of State memo, dated 17 August , says that "governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabiaare providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region."[] According to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."[] Former CIA director James Woolsey described it as "the soil in which Al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing."[] The Saudi government denies these claims or that it exports religious or cultural extremism.[] In April , Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off $ billion in Treasury securities and other US assets if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be sued over 9/[] In September , the Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act that would allow relatives of victims of the 11 September attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for its government's alleged role in the attacks.[] Congress overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama's veto.[][]

According to Sir William Patey, former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom funds mosques throughout Europe that have become hotbeds of extremism. "They are not funding terrorism. They are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalised and becoming fodder for terrorism," Patey said. He said that Saudi has been funding an ideology that leads to extremism and the leaders of the kingdom are not aware of the consequences.[]

However, since the kingdom began backing away from Islamist ideologies.[] Several reforms took place including curbing the powers of religious police,[] stopping funding mosques in foreign countries,[] and first mixed-gender concert performed by woman.[] In , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared a return to “moderate Islam”.[]


Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia

"The Saudi pilots training in Italy "—a scene from 'Our Eagles', one of four video wallshows made for the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest percentages of military expenditure in the world, spending around 8% of its GDP in its military, according to the SIPRI estimate.[] The Saudi military consists of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Navy, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG, an independent military force), and paramilitary forces, totalling nearly , active-duty personnel. In the armed forces had the following personnel: the army, 75,; the air force, 18,; air defence, 16,; the navy, 15, (including 3, marines); and the SANG had 75, active soldiers and 25, tribal levies.[] In addition, there is an Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah military intelligence service.

The kingdom has a long-standing military relationship with Pakistan, it has long been speculated that Saudi Arabia secretly funded Pakistan's atomic bomb programme and seeks to purchase atomic weapons from Pakistan, in near future.[][] The SANG is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force, and originated out of Ibn Saud's tribal military-religious force, the Ikhwan. Its modern existence, however, is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah's private army since the s and, unlike the rest of the armed forces, is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: The late prince Sultan, former Minister of Defense and Aviation, was one of the so-called 'Sudairi Seven' and controlled the remainder of the armed forces until his death in []

Spending on defence and security has increased significantly since the mids and was about US$ billion, as of [33] Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 10 in the world in government spending for its military, representing about 8 per cent of the gross domestic product in Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world's most densely armed nations, with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US, France, and Britain.[]

The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between and to the Saudi military.[] On 20 October , the US State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history—an estimated $ billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.[] saw Saudi military spending climb to $67bn, overtaking that of the UK, France and Japan to place fourth globally.[]

The United Kingdom has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since [] Since , the UK has supplied military aircraft—notably the Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft—and other equipment as part of the long-term Al-Yamamah arms deal estimated to have been worth £43 billion by and thought to be worth a further £40 billion.[] In May , British defence giant BAE signed a £bn ($3bn) deal to supply Hawk trainer jets to Saudi Arabia.[]

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, in –14 Saudi Arabia became the world's second-largest arms importer, receiving four times more major arms than in – Major imports in –14 included 45 combat aircraft from the UK, 38 combat helicopters from the US, four tanker aircraft from Spain, and over armoured vehicles from Canada. Saudi Arabia has a long list of outstanding orders for arms, including 27 more combat aircraft from the UK, combat aircraft from the US, and a large number of armoured vehicles from Canada.[] Saudi Arabia received 41 per cent of UK arms exports in –[] France authorized $18 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in alone.[] The $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is believed to be the largest arms sale in Canadian history.[] In , the European Parliament decided to temporarily impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, as a result of the Yemen civilian population's suffering from the conflict with Saudi Arabia.[] In , Saudi Arabia signed a billion dollar arms deal with the United States.

Saudi Arabia is Britain's largest arms customer, with more than £ billion worth of arms bought since the start of Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A recent poll conducted by YouGov for Save the Children and Avaaz stated that 63 per cent of British people oppose the sale of weapons to Saudi.[]

Following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a nonbinding resolution was passed in the European Parliament on 25 October , urging EU countries to impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.[] Germany became the first Western government to suspend future arms deal with the kingdom after Angela Merkel stated that "arms exports can't take place in the current circumstances."[]

According to the new report from the Department of Global Affairs, Canada sold record-breaking amount of military hardware to Saudi Arabia in , despite its poor human rights record.[]

Human rights

Main article: Human rights in Saudi Arabia

In , Saudi Arabian writer Raif Badawiwas sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1, lashes for "undermining the regime and officials", "inciting public opinion", and "insulting the judiciary"

Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its severe punishments. There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities.[] Human Rights Watch, in a report, noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in , but it lacked some basic protections and, in any case, had been routinely ignored by judges. Those arrested are often not informed of the crime of which they are accused or given access to a lawyer and are subject to abusive treatment and torture if they do not confess. At trial, there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defence. Most trials are held in secret.[] An example of sentencing is that of UK pensioner and cancer victim Karl Andree, aged 74, who faced lashes for home brewing alcohol.[] He was later released due to intervention by the British government.[]

Saudi Arabia is widely accused of having one of the worst human rights records in the world. Human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women (see Women below), capital punishment for homosexuality,[]

Saudi Arabia Population Pyramid 1950-2100

Saudi Arabia Population (Live)

Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the second largest Arab state (the first is Algeria) and comprises the majority of the Arabian Peninsula. Jordan and Iraq are on its northern border; Kuwait on its northeast; Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to the east; Yemen to its south; Oman to its southeast; and the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea to its east.

This country is also reported to have between 3 and 5 million illegal immigrants residing within its borders at any given time. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of the religion of Islam, which is one of the largest religions in the world. It is also sometimes referred to as “The Land of Two Holy Mosques.” This is because of the two holiest mosques in Islam, the Masjid-e-Nabwi in Medina and the Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca. These features ensure that country additionally receives a large annual number of visiting foreigners who are Muslims every year for the Islamic practices of Haj and Umrah, which are among the five pillars of Islam and must be conducted at least once in a lifetime.

Saudi Arabia Demographics

The population is divided among different age groups. The age group contains the median amount of the population, comprising % of the total. The middle age group of makes up the greatest share of the total population - about %. The 65+ age group comprises % of the total population.

The sex ratio at the time of birth is males per female. For the under age group, this ratio is males per female; for the age group, it is males per female; and for the 65+ age group, it is males per female. For the total population, the mean ratio is males per female.

The only language officially recognized here is Arabic.

Saudi Arabia Religion, Economy and Politics

Although the government does not hold any census on religion, there is evidence that the country is % Muslim. There have been estimates which indicate that the majority are of the Sunni branch of Islam, at %. The other major Islam group is the Shiites, who comprise the remaining % of the community. The World Factbook gives similar estimated statistics (Muslim (official; citizens are % Sunni and % Shia), other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh)), and also notes that "most forms of public religious expression inconsistent with the government-sanctioned interpretation of Sunni Islam are restricted; non-Muslims are not allowed to have Saudi citizenship and non-Muslim places of worship are not permitted ()."

The country has the second largest oil reserves in the world, which account for about 70% of the government’s revenue and 95% of its exports every year. It also has the fourth largest natural gas reserves. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the whole world which has a law prohibiting the women of the country to drive.

The birth rate in Saudi Arabia is births per people, and the total fertility rate is children born per woman. This was an estimate calculated through the results of the census held in The number of births and deaths per year has been increasing over the past years. Current figures indicate , births per year and 98, deaths per year.

The current median age in Saudi Arabia is years of age with a full life expectancy of years of age. This is likely influenced by the high performance of improved drinking water and sanitation facility access in the country, as well as a % GDP expenditure on the health care sector. This has given the country the physician density of physicians per 1, Saudi Arabian individuals and beds available per 1, residents.

Saudi Arabia Population History

The population has been rising significantly over the years. According to a census held many years ago, the population was about 3,, It then underwent a % increase and jumped up to 4,, in This growth rate then increased greatly during the next 10 years. By , the population had become 9,, (an increase of %) and had grown to 16,, in (a % increase). At this point, the government realized how drastically their country was becoming overcrowded and started implementing laws to control population growth. As a result, the population only grew by % in the next decade, with the total number counted at 20,, in This rate further decreased by %, with the total population adding up to 29,,


Now discussing:

Saudi Arabia Population clock (live)


Current population


Current male population (%)


Current female population (%)


Births year to date


Births today


Deaths year to date

Deaths today


Net migration year to date

Net migration today


Population growth year to date


Population growth today

Source : United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division external link .

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Please note that the population clock above does not reflect actual migration situation due to movement restrictions.

Quick facts about the population of Saudi Arabia

Current population (as of Thursday, October 28, )
Population rank
41 (% of world population)
Total area
2,, km2 (, mi2)
Population density
per km2 ( people/mi2)
Sex ratio
(19,, men to 16,, women)
Median age
Life expectancy
years ( - men, - women)

(Population figures are estimates by Countrymeters based on the latest United Nations data)

Saudi Arabia population

During Saudi Arabia population is projected to increase by , people and reach 36,, in the beginning of The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by , If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be increased by , due to the migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into Saudi Arabia (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).

Population change rates in

According to our estimations, daily change rates of Saudi Arabia population in will be the following:

  • 2, live births average per day ( in an hour)
  • deaths average per day ( in an hour)
  • immigrants average per day ( in an hour)
The population of Saudi Arabia will be increasing by 2, persons daily in

Demographics of Saudi Arabia

As of 1 January , the population of Saudi Arabia was estimated to be 35,, people. This is an increase of % (, people) compared to population of 34,, the year before. In the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by , Due to external migration, the population increased by , The sex ratio of the total population was (1, males per 1, females) which is higher than global sex ratio. The global sex ratio in the world was approximately 1, males to 1, females as of

Below are the key figures for Saudi Arabia population in

  • , live births
  • , deaths
  • Natural increase: , people
  • Net migration: , people
  • 19,, males as of 31 December
  • 15,, females as of 31 December

Growth Rate -

Saudi Arabia population density

Saudi Arabia population density is people per square kilometer (/mi2) as of October Density of population is calculated as permanently settled population of Saudi Arabia divided by total area of the country. Total area is the sum of land and water areas within international boundaries and coastlines of Saudi Arabia. The total area of Saudi Arabia is 2,, km2 (, mi2) according to the United Nations Statistics Division external link.

Religion in Saudi Arabia

ReligionNumber of followersPercentage of
total population
Islam33,, %
Christianity1,, %
Hinduism, %
Religiously Unaffiliated, %
Folk or traditional religions, %
Buddhism, %
Other72, %

Source: Pew Research Center. The Global Religious Landscape external link.

Number of followers estimated by Countrymeters external link (Thursday, October 28 ).

Saudi Arabia age structure

As of the beginning of according to our estimates Saudi Arabia had the following population age distribution:

- percentage of population under 15
- percentage of population between 15 and 64 years old
- percentage of population 65+

In absolute figures (estimate):

  • 10,, young people under 15 years old ( 5,, males / 5,, females)
  • 23,, persons between 15 and 64 years old ( 13,, males / 10,, females)
  • 1,, persons above 64 years old ( , males / , females)

We prepared a simplified model of the population distribution pyramid which is broken down into 3 main age groups. The groups are the same as we used above: population under 15, between 15 and 64 and population which is over 65 year old.

Note: The pyramid provided is not corresponding to data given above because the age groups have different number of years.

As we can see the Saudi Arabia population pyramid has an expanding type. This type of pyramid is common for developing countries with high birth and death rates. Relatively short life expectancy, as well as low level of education and poor health care are also describe such kind of population age distribution model.

Source: The estimation data for section "Saudi Arabia age structure" is based on the latest demographic and social statistics by United Nations Statistics Division external link.

Age dependency ratio

Dependency ratio of population is a ratio of people who are generally not in the labor force (the dependents) to workforce of a country (the productive part of population). The dependent part includes the population under 15 years old and people aged 65 and over. The productive part of population accordingly consists of population between 15 and 64 years.

This ratio shows the pressure on productive population produced by the dependent part of population.

The total dependency ratio of population in Saudi Arabia is %.

The value of % is relatively low. It shows that the dependent part of population is less than a half of the working part. In other words the working population (labor force) in Saudi Arabia must provide goods for itself and cover expenditure on children and aged persons. And this part of population is less than 50% of working population. The value of less than 50% means that the pressure on productive population in Saudi Arabia is relatively low.

Child dependency ratio

Child dependency ratio is a ratio of people below working age (under 15) to workforce of a country.

Child dependency ratio in Saudi Arabia is %.

Aged dependency ratio

Aged dependency ratio is a ratio of people above working age (65+) to workforce of a country.

Aged dependency ratio in Saudi Arabia is %.

Source: The estimation data for section "Saudi Arabia age dependency ratio" is based on the latest demographic and social statistics by United Nations Statistics Division external link.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth is one of the most important demographic indicator. It shows the number of years a newborn infant would live assuming that birth and death rates will remain at the same level during the whole lifetime.

Total life expectancy (both sexes) at birth for Saudi Arabia is years.
This is above the average life expectancy at birth of the global population which is about 71 years (according to Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations). external link

Male life expectancy at birth is years.
Female life expectancy at birth is years.

Literacy of population

According to our estimates 23,, persons or % of adult population (aged 15 years and above) in Saudi Arabia are able to read and write. Accordingly about 1,, adults are illiterate.

Literacy rate for adult male population is 97% (13,, persons). , are illiterate.
Literacy rate for adult female population is % (9,, persons). , are illiterate.

Youth literacy rates are % and % for males and females accordingly. The overall youth literacy rate is %. Youth literacy rate definition covers the population between the ages of 15 to 24 years.

Source: The estimation data for section "Saudi Arabia population literacy" is based on the latest data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (retrieved March 13, ) external link.

Saudi Arabia historical population ( - )

The data is given as of 1st of January of an year.

Saudi Arabia population history

YearPopulationGrowth Rate
3,,N/A %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
3,, %
4,, %
4,, %
4,, %
4,, %
4,, %
4,, %
4,, %
5,, %
5,, %
5,, %
5,, %
5,, %
6,, %
6,, %
6,, %
7,, %
7,, %
8,, %
8,, %
8,, %
9,, %
10,, %
10,, %
11,, %
12,, %
12,, %
13,, %
14,, %
14,, %
15,, %
15,, %
16,, %
17,, %
17,, %
17,, %
18,, %
18,, %
19,, %
19,, %
19,, %
20,, %
20,, %
21,, %
22,, %
22,, %
23,, %
24,, %
24,, %
25,, %
26,, %
27,, %
27,, %
28,, %
29,, %
30,, %
31,, %
32,, %
32,, %
33,, %
33,, %
34,, %
35,, %

The data is given as of 1st of January of an year.

Population projection ()

YearPopulationGrowth Rate
34,,N/A %
37,, %
39,, %
41,, %
42,, %
44,, %
45,, %
45,, %
46,, %
46,, %
46,, %
45,, %
45,, %
45,, %
45,, %
44,, %
44,, %

The data is given as of 1st of July of an year (medium fertility variant).

Source : United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division external link

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