The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab country that constitutes about four fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. It has a land area of about 830,000 sq mi, thus geographically making it the fifth largest state in Asia, and the second largest in the Arab world. Bordered by the Red Sea on the west, the Arabian Gulf by the east, Saudi Arabia enjoys the neighbourhood of Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait in the north, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE in the east, Yemen and Sultanate of Oman to the south.
Founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud, the country came into existence after uniting four predominant regions- Hejaz, Najad and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al- Ahsa) and Southern Arabia (‘Asir). The country has been an absolute monarchy since its inception and sees a hereditary dictatorship, which is governed under strict Islamic guidelines. Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia, which makes it one of the most influential cities in the Middle East. The city is home to a number of high-rise buildings, modern roads and other forms of excellent infrastructure, making it one of the most modern cities in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and Madina- the birth place of Islam, which is also the destination for the holy hajj pilgrimage. Saudi is also known as “the land of the two mosques”, which is a direct reference to Al-Masjid al- Haram (located in Mecca) and Al- Masjid an-Nawabi (located in Madina). Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, with Wahhabism being the dominant form of Islam in the country. All decisions made by the King is always in accordance with these laws.
The discovery of petroleum in 1938, and the subsequent commercialization of it in 1940’s was an absolute game changer in Saudi Arabia’s economy. Saudi Arabia controls the world’s second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves. With this rapid economic development, Saudi Arabia is considered as a World Banking income economy, with a very high Human development Index. Although Saudi economy is deeply tied with crude oil, the country has begun to diversify its interests, and has forayed into manufacturing, particularly concentrating on industrial products, machine parts, building materials and alike.
Saudi Arabia has always been welcoming to the hajj pilgrims who visit the holy Mecca and Madina. Although a large part of the tourism is dominated by religious pilgrimages, the country has seen a growth in leisure tourism since the year 2000, when the tourism restrictions were relaxed. However, all visitors require a sponsor, which is usually arranged months in advance. When in Saudi, the women are not allowed to drive, and are required to be accompanied by a male family member when going out in public.
The county is home to a number of interesting relics, ruins, museums and a large number of world heritage sites that showcase the growth of the county and provides a viable insight into the rich cultural heritage of the country. Although quite hard to visit, compared to it’s western counterparts, a trip to Saudi Arabia is a delightful experience indeed.