It is an area of approximately 2,500 sq km and a population of 16.9 million. The capital is Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is the cradle of the Islamic religion and one of the richest countries in the world. It has 25 per cent of the world’s oil reserve. Saudi Arabia is a powerful force in the Middle East.
It is a huge country and occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula; borders in the north on Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait. In the east on United Arab Emirates and Qatar and on Oman and Yemen in the south.
The country is mostly mountainous or desert and has no rivers or water courses.
Temperatures can reach 54C at midday and drop to below freezing at night.
The tough climate limits farming and only around oases and on terraced hillside farming is possible. Some villages still use ancient irrigation methods but since the 1980s agriculture has improved dramatically.
Most of the areas irrigated are circular for the rotating sprinklers can water the whole area easily.
Fossil water used for irrigation in some regions is 17,000 years old. Desalinated sea-water is also used.
Modern irrigation systems using desalinated or fossil water, combined with the use of pesticides, drought-resistant crops and new farming methods, such as hydroponic, made Saudi Arabia a major exporter of wheat. Alfalfa, maize and barley are also grown on a large scale. Vegetables, dates and fruit are still grown on small farms.
Saudi Arabia imports sheep but raises its own dairy animals. Mutton is the country’s main dish. Fish come from the Arabian Gulf. The great export of shrimps to the US and Japan was destroyed by the oil pollution caused in the 1991 Gulf War.
Religion and politics are the same. It is the Muslim holy land. The country holds Islam’s two holy cities. Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Muhammed and Medina his burial place.
The country has an Islamic monarchy, which means that the king combines his role as Custodian of the Two Holy Places and religious leader, or imam, and being both king and prime minister.
The two deputy prime ministers and heads of the armed force are also members of the royal families.
The population is mostly Sunni Muslims and practice their religion very strictly. Men and women live separate lives, even at home. Women must be veiled in public and are not allowed to drive.
The Islamic Law of the country is very strict. People are flogged in public for drinking alcohol, hands cut off for theft and punishment for adultery is death by stoning. The religious police force, matawwa, enforces the rules.
Shortly after the state was created by the first king, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1932 oil was discovered. It is now the biggest oil exporter in crude and refined oil.
The country has also huge reserves of natural gas.
The country has used huge sums to modernize the country such as roads. airports, hospitals, schools, housing, water supplies and telecommunications.
The people enjoy a very high standard of living and most of the services are free or very cheap.
Saudi Arabia has a big wildlife out in the country with gazelle, wild cats, snakes, scorpions, wolves and mongooses. The sea snakes in the Gulf are deadly. One drop of their venom can kill five adults. Millions of migrating birds pass over the country each year.
Two traditional forms of hunting are popular, Falconry and coursing which uses the swift and beautiful Arabian hunting dog. the saluki.
Oil money has also been used to conserve wildlife and repair the terrible damage by oil pollution from the Gulf War. Today there are 56 wildlife reserves and 52 areas of marine conservation.