[Country map of Saudi Arabia]

Saudi Arabia


Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen

Map references: Middle East

total area: 1,960,582 sq km
land area: 1,960,582 sq km
comparative area: slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US

Land boundaries: total 4,415 km, Iraq 814 km, Jordan 728 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km

Coastline: 2,640 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: not specified
territorial sea: 12 nm

International disputes: large section of boundary with Yemen not defined; status of boundary with UAE not final; Kuwaiti ownership of Qaruh and Umm al Maradim islands is disputed by Saudi Arabia

Climate: harsh, dry desert with great extremes of temperature

Terrain: mostly uninhabited, sandy desert

Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

Land use:
arable land: 1%
permanent crops: 0%
meadows and pastures: 39%
forest and woodland: 1%
other: 59%

Irrigated land: 4,350 sq km (1989 est.)

current issues: desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
natural hazards: frequent sand and dust storms
international agreements: party to - Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection; signed, but not ratified - Law of the Sea

Note: extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal


Population: 18,729,576 (July 1995 est.)
note: a 1992 census gives the number of Saudi citizens as 12,304,835 and the number of residents who are not citizens as 4,624,459

Age structure:
0-14 years: 43% (female 3,952,573; male 4,065,224)
15-64 years: 55% (female 4,078,001; male 6,219,737)
65 years and over: 2% (female 203,372; male 210,669) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.68% (1995 est.)

Birth rate: 38.78 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate: 5.54 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: 3.56 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 48.9 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.5 years
male: 66.79 years
female: 70.3 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.48 children born/woman (1995 est.)

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

Ethnic divisions: Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%

Religions: Muslim 100%

Languages: Arabic

Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1990)
total population: 62%
male: 73%
female: 48%

Labor force: 5 million-6 million
by occupation: government 34%, industry and oil 28%, services 22%, agriculture 16%


conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form: Saudi Arabia
local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah

Digraph: SA

Type: monarchy

Capital: Riyadh

Administrative divisions: 13 provinces (mintaqah, singular - mintaqat); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah, Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Al Qasim, Ar Riyad, Ash Sharqiyah, Asir, Hail, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, Tabuk

Independence: 23 September 1932 (unification)

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

Constitution: none; governed according to Shari'a (Islamic law)

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

Suffrage: none

Executive branch:
chief of state and head of government: King and Prime Minister FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 13 June 1982); Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (half-brother to the King, appointed heir to the throne 13 June 1982)
cabinet: Council of Ministers; dominated by royal family members appointed by the king

Legislative branch: a consultative council comprised of 60 members and a chairman who are appointed by the King for a term of four years

Judicial branch: Supreme Council of Justice

Political parties and leaders: none allowed


Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador BANDAR bin Sultan Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, and New York

US diplomatic representation:
chief of mission: Ambassador Raymond E. MABUS, Jr.
embassy: Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh
mailing address: American Embassy, Unit 61307, Riyadh; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693; APO AE 09803-1307
telephone: [966] (1) 488-3800
FAX: [966] (1) 482-4364
consulate(s) general: Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)

Flag: green with large white Arabic script (that may be translated as There is no God but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God) above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); green is the traditional color of Islam


Overview: This is a well-to-do oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. About 46% of GDP comes from the private sector. Economic (as well as political) ties with the US are especially strong. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 75% of budget revenues, 35% of GDP, and almost all export earnings. Saudi Arabia has the largest reserves of petroleum in the world (26% of the proved total), ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. For the 1990s the government intends to bring its budget, which has been in deficit since 1983, back into balance, and to encourage private economic activity. Roughly four million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, for example, in the oil and banking sectors. For about a decade, Saudi Arabia's domestic and international outlays have outstripped its income, and the government has cut its foreign assistance and is beginning to rein in domestic programs. For 1995, the country looks for improvement in oil prices and will continue its policies of restraining public spending and encouraging non-oil exports.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $173.1 billion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: -3% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $9,510 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1% (1993 est.)

Unemployment rate: 6.5% (1992 est.)

revenues: $39 billion
expenditures: $50 billion, including capital expenditures of $7.5 billion (1993 est.)

Exports: $39.4 billion (f.o.b., 1993 est.)
commodities: petroleum and petroleum products 92%
partners: US 20%, Japan 18%, Singapore 5%, France 5%, South Korea 5% (1992)

Imports: $28.9 billion (f.o.b., 1993 est.)
commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, motor vehicles, textiles
partners: US 21%, Japan 14%, UK 11%, Germany 8%, Italy 6%, France 5% (1992)

External debt: $18.9 billion (December 1989 est., includes short-term trade credits)

Industrial production: growth rate 20% (1991 est.); accounts for 35% of GDP, including petroleum

capacity: 17,550,000 kW
production: 46 billion kWh
consumption per capita: 2,430 kWh (1993)

Industries: crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, cement, two small steel-rolling mills, construction, fertilizer, plastics

Agriculture: accounts for about 10% of GDP, 16% of labor force; subsidized by government; products - wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus fruit, mutton, chickens, eggs, milk; approaching self-sufficiency in food

Illicit drugs: death penalty for traffickers; increasing consumption of heroin and cocaine

Economic aid:
donor: pledged bilateral aid (1979-89), $64.7 billion; pledged $100 million in 1993 to fund reconstruction of Lebanon

Currency: 1 Saudi riyal (SR) = 100 halalah

Exchange rates: Saudi riyals (SR) per US$1 - 3.7450 (fixed rate since late 1986), 3.7033 (1986)

Fiscal year: calendar year


total: 1,390 km
standard gauge: 1,390 km 1.435-m gauge (448 km double track)

total: 151,530 km
paved: 60,610 km
unpaved: 90,920 km (1992 est.)

Pipelines: crude oil 6,400 km; petroleum products 150 km; natural gas 2,200 km (includes natural gas liquids 1,600 km)

Ports: Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Duba, Jiddah, Jizan, Rabigh, Ras al Khafji, Ras al Mishab, Ras Tanura, Yanbu' al Bahr, Yanbu' al Sinaiyah

Merchant marine:
total: 71 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 855,452 GRT/1,233,477 DWT
ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 12, chemical tanker 5, container 3, liquefied gas tanker 1, livestock carrier 4, oil tanker 22, passenger 1, refrigerated cargo 4, roll-on/roll-off cargo 11, short-sea passenger 7

total: 211
with paved runways over 3,047 m: 30
with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 22
with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 4
with paved runways under 914 m: 21
with unpaved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 73
with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 43


Telephone system: 1,624,000 telephones; modern system
local: NA
intercity: extensive microwave and coaxial and fiber optic cable systems
international: microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; submarine cable to Djibouti, Egypt and Bahrain; earth stations - 5 INTELSAT (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 ARABSAT, and 1 INMARSAT

broadcast stations: AM 43, FM 13, shortwave 0
radios: NA

broadcast stations: 80
televisions: NA

Defense Forces

Branches: Land Force (Army), Navy, Air Force, Air Defense Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, Frontier Forces, Special Security Force, Public Security Force

Manpower availability: males age 15-49 5,303,679; males fit for military service 2,949,842; males reach military age (17) annually 164,220 (1995 est.)

Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $17.2 billion, 13.8% of GDP (1994)