Looking to boost your knowledge of the Middle East? Why not start with these 37 interesting facts about Saudi Arabia!
1. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has an area of 829,996 square miles (2,149,690 square kilometers).
2. Located in southwest Asia (at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa), Saudi Arabia extends from the Red Sea in the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east.
3. It is bordered in the north by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, by Yemen and Oman in the south and in the east by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
4. Saudi Arabia’s population 2017 was 32.94 million people.
5. The capital and largest city in 2011 was Riyadh, with a population of 5.451 million.
6. Other large cities include Jeddah, with a population of 3.578 million and Makkah (Mecca), with 1.591 million inhabitants.
7. 100 camels are sold on average per day in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
8. Mecca is the is the destination of the Hajj pilgrimage. Every Muslim who is able within reason (physically or financially able) must make this pilgrimage at least once in their life, and Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca, or more specifically the Kaaba in Mecca.
9. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost entirely the creation of King Ibn Saud (1882–1953). He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud.
10. On 23rd September, 1932, King Abdulaziz announced Saudi Arabia as a kingdom and every anniversary of this date is a national day; in 2020, the country will celebrate its 90th Saudi National Day.
11. The currency here is called the Saudi Riyal.
12. The Rub Al-Khali, in the southern part of the country, is the largest sand desert in the world.
13. There are mountain ranges of over 9,000 feet in the southwest region.
14. From June through to August, the temperature can reach over 33 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) in the desert! Hot stuff!
15. There is no flowing water in this country, but there is a manmade lake in the north-western part of the country called Dumat Al-Jandal; although you can’t drink the water as it’s too polluted, you can take a dip and participate in water sports and it’s beneficial for wildlife, plants and agricultural land.
16. Most of the fresh water here comes from desalinization plants or underground reservoirs.
17. Saudi Arabia’s 12 months of the Islamic lunar year are: Muharram, Safar, Rabi’ Al-Awal, Rabi’ Al-Akher, Jumada Al-Awal, Jumada Al-Akher, Rajab, Sha’ban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhu Al-Qadah and Dhu Al-Hajjah.
18. Upon its discovery during WW2 in 1936, the commercial production of oil began and the wealth it generated enabled the country to provide free health care and education to its people, without collecting any taxes from them either – brilliant!
19. Want to call your family in Saudi Arabia? You’ll need to use the international dialling code +966.
20. The border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, noted as being unique for it’s zig-zagging nature, has been the source of much speculation. It has been nicknamed Churchill’s Sneeze and Winston’s Hiccup, as it was rumoured to have been drawn by an inebriated Churchill “with a stroke of a pen, one Sunday afternoon in Cairo”.
21. Early traces of human activity can be found in Saudi Arabian prehistory, some of the earliest recorded in the world, as it was formed by several ancient civilisations.
22. Saudi Arabia follows strict Islamic law, Sharia, and so requires all citizens to be Muslims, there is no freedom of religion.
23. Non-Muslim holidays and festivals like Christmas, are banned and it is even illegal to import Christmas decorations.
24. It is illegal to build a non-Muslim house of worship. This means that churches, temples and the like cannot be found in Saudi Arabia.
25. The religious police in Saudi Arabia make sure that Sharia law is followed, and they patrol the streets to enforce the rules and punish those who do now follow them.
26. Dress codes are enforced, as is the strict separation of men and women (premarital sex is forbidden, you cannot book a hotel room as a man and woman without the same surname), and prayer is 5 times per day and so shops and businesses must close during prayer time.
27. Alcohol and pork products are illegal to consume and import into Saudi Arabia.
28. The death penalty is enforced as the highest form of punishment, in 2015 one person was executed every other day.
29. The weekend in Saudi Arabia was Thursday-Friday as Friday is the holiest day for muslims, but recently it has been changed to Friday-Saturday to be more in accordance with the rest of the world.
30. From a young age women are required by law to be covered, a black abaya is usually the dress of choice as everything but the hands and feet must be covered and failure to abide by this rule will result in police action. Most women also cover their hair for religious reasons, and some also cover their faces.