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Saudi Arabia Country Info: General(외교부)

KSFS Manager
2020-03-20 18:00

Area and Location

The Kingdom of Saudi Area covers 2,240,000 sq kms (865,000 sq miles), an area nearly the size of Western Europe, or one-third of the United States. It comprises about 80% of the Arabian Peninsula between the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf and is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer.



The population is estimated at 22.7 million, of which 6.1 million are non-nationals (2004). Around half the Saudi populations is under 20 years of age.


The nation's capital is Riyadh which lies approximately in the center of the country, covers an ever-growing area of over 2,000 sq kms (775 sq miles) and has a population of 4.3 million (2001).

Geography and Terrain

Saudi Arabia is bordered to the northwest by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to the north by Iraq, to the east by the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, and to the south by the Republic of Yemen. The country's western edge borders the Red Sea along a 1,800km (1,125mile) coastline.

The Terrain Varies considerably, from forests and grasslands and rugged mountain ranges to wadis and salt marshes and vast arid regions - the Rub Al-Khali in the south (the Empty Quarter) is a desert area the size France. The Red Sea coastal area is flanked by mountains which in the south reach over 3,000m(9,840ft), while the Gulf coast gives way to a fertile plain with limestone outcrops.


Brief History

The Arabian Peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Trading links with Egyptians and Babylonians for spices and incense were established in the second millennium BC; before Roman times the peninsula was the crossroads of caravan routes between Yemen and Rome, Egypt and Petra, Sinai and Persia. Although the nomadic bedouin tribes of the hinterland converted to Islam in the 7th century, the modern history of Saudi Arabia dates from 1744 when the ruller of the central Arabian Peninsula. Muhammed Ibn Saud, formed an alliance with the Muslim scholar and religious leader Muhammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, a partnership born of orthodox Islamic beliefs that led to the founding of the modern state.

The Al Saud family ruled much of the peninsula throughout the 19th century. In 1902 Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Al Saud succeeded in recapturing Riyadh and in the following 30 years proceeded to unite the peninsula's numerous and disparate tribes into one nation. the foundation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia took place on 23 September 1932. a day that marks the international recognition of the new nation's sovereignty and is commemorated every year as the National Day.


Saudi Arabia has a rich archeological and architectural heritage dating back tens of thousands of years. Of the many archeological and historical sites under the protection of the Department of Antiquities, Mada'in Saleh (cities of Saleh), in the northwest of the country, is among the most significant. It was once the southern capital of the remarkable Nabateans, whose northern stronghold was Petra in Jordan. The spectacular rock-carved dwellings and tombs, dating from the 1st century, are truly awesome. East of Hanakiyah are some prehistoric rock carvings dating from around 4,000 BC.


The old walled capital of Saudi Arabia lies 18 kms north of the present capital. It dates from the 15th century and was the site of the historic meeting between Muhammed Ibn Saudi and Muhammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab in 1744.



Saudi Arabia is an islamic state based on principles prescribed by the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, and the Shari' ah, islamic law. The custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, is Head of State and Prime minister. Born in 1924,he became King in 2005, succeeding his brother king Fahd. He is advised by the Council of Ministers and Majlis Ashshura (Consultative Council). All S au d is have the right of direct petition to the monarch, provincial governors or other officials, who receive them during regular public audiences (majlis).The First Deputy Premier and Minister of Defence and Aviation, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Flag and Emblem

The flag of Saudi Arabia bears a sword and above it the Muslim creed; "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of  God", all on a green background. The official emblem is a date palm, representing vitality and growth, and two crossed swords, symbolizing justice and strength rooted in faith.


Saudi Arabia's official religion is Islam, which forms the basis of the nation's legal system. The branch of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia is Sunni, or traditionalist. No religious practices other than those of the Muslim faith are permitted in S a u d I Arabia, and holy cites of Makkah and Madinah are off-limits to non-Muslim visitors. Muslims pause for prayer five times a day, facing Makkah ,and all shops close temporarily at those times. During Ramadan, the ninth of twelve months of the Islamic Hijra year, Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours. Strict abstinence is observed in all matters, including food and drink. Ramadan  ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. The Haji, or pilgrimage to M akkah , which all Muslims should perform once in  their lifetime, ends with the festival of Eid al-Adha.

The Hajj occurs during the twelfth month of the islamic lunar year, and is a major event with more than two million pilgrims from all over the world converging on Makkah every year.


Hot and dry conditions are typical of most of the country, although the Asir highlands in the southwest can be relatively cold and moist. In summer, daytime temperatures exceed 40 degrees C in most parts of the peninsula, with lower temperatures in the coastal areas balanced by higher humidity. Most hotels, shops and restaurants are air-conditioned. The cooler months from November to April are very pleasant, although in Riyadh and higher elevations the temperature may fall at night to zero or even slightly lower.


Language and Media

The official language of the kingdom is Arabic, although English is widely understood in hotels, department stores and business circles, and in many places connected with tourism. English and other foreign-language newspapers and magazines are widely available, and international radio and satellite TV programs are also received in a variety of languages. English can also be seen in some advertisements and on a limited number of road signs.

Time Zone

Saudi Arabia is in a single time Zone, three hours ahead of GMT year round (8 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time).

Passport and Tourist Visa Requirements

A passport valid for at least six months beyond the proposed date of the entry is required by all visitors to Saudi Arabia. In addition, all visitors with the exception of nationals of the GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the Unites Arab Emirates) require a visa. visa application should be made to the Saudi embassy in country of trip origin. For more information please contact an authorized local tour operator in the Kingdom.

Currency and Credit Cards

The kingdom's currency is the saudi arabia Riyal (SR), which is freely exchangeable, with no limits on importation or exportation. It is linked to the US currency at an exchange rate of approximately 3.75SR to the US dollar. The riyal is divided into 100 halalahs. Banknotes are in the denomination of 500SR, 200SR, 10SR, 5SR and 1SR. Coins are in the denominations of 50, 25, 10 and 5 halalah although the smaller coins are increasingly rare. VISA, MASTER Card, and American Express and all shopping malls are accepted in larger establishments. ATM cashpoint machines are widely available.


Electricity and Telephones

Electric current in the cities is normally available at both 110V and 220V AC European and US-style plug outlets are common. Telecommunications are good everywhere, with fax and Internet access widely available. The telephone country code for Saudi Arabia is 966; international direct-dial phone service is available throughout the country. You can also call 905 for general information anywhere.

Public Holidays and Festivals

Government offices and some businesses close for the weekend on Thursday and Friday. The main public holidays are the religious festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha when government offices, educational institutions and some businesses close for five to tend days. The country's main cultural festival is Janadriya, held at a large permanent exhibition site about 30 kms northeast of Riyadh. Usually held in January, it celebrates the nation's cultural heritage and recent history with exhibitions and displays form all parts of the Kingdom. From its origins in 1984 as an annual camel race, Jandriya now covers more than 50 sq kms and attracts up to two million people each year. Festivals are also held in Jeddah, Abha and several other cities.



Customs controls are strict and luggage will be inspected on arrival. Banned imports include alcohol, pork products and some other foodstuffs, religious items other than Islamic, drugs and any type of weapon. In addition, newspapers, magazines, books videotapes and compact discs may be taken for inspection and will be confiscated if deemed to contain anything in any way salacious.

Health Requirements

Health care and medical facilities in Saudi Arabia are excellent but can be expensive. All visitors should be insured for travel and medical eventualities. No compulsory vaccinations or inoculations are required, but visitors may wish to be protected against typhoid, tetanus, malaria, polio or hepatitis depending on their destination. Smoking is prohibited in all government and public buildings including airports, and also in some restaurants. Therea are plans to make Makkah and Madinah smoke-free cities.

What to Wear

The dress code in Saudi Arabia, especially in Riyadh, is traditional and conservative. Saudi men, and nationals of the Gulf States, wear a uniform robe(thawb) with a headdress and black cord to keep it in place. Women wear an abaya (full-length black robe), and a head scarf covering the hair and sometimes the face. Foreign men dress conservatively. Foreign women usually choose to wear an abaya and a head scarf to 'blend in'. In the coastal regions (Jeddah, Dammam) the dress code tends to be more relaxed. For more details, please check with your Saudi tour operator via your travel agent.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Entertainment can be limited as there are no theaters, cinemas or nightspots. There are however a number of 'coffee shops' where people gather to chat and socialize. Major hotels have restaurants open to residents and non-residents, with family sections where couples can enjoy lunch or dinner. Most hotel rooms have TV with a wide range of international programs and movies by cable or satellite.


Saudi Arabia offers a wonderful shopping experience, from traditional souks and corner shops to supermarkets and vast shopping mall. Well-known international brands are widely available, and at attractive prices for there is no sales tax or VAT on retail items. Shops are open long hours, often seven days a week, although they close temporarily at prayer times. Apart from souvenirs and gift items, electronic goods, clothing, accessories, jewelry and perfumes are particularly good buys.

Sporting Activities

There are sporting opportunities throughout the Kingdom. Tennis and golf are widely available, and groups go running and jogging. Football(soccer) is a national obsession and there are a few club stadiums where men can go to watch matches during the season. Deep-sea fishing and scuba diving are very popular in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf and hot-air ballooning, sailing, wind-surfing Horse racing and camel racing are also very popular, although gambling is not permitted

Eating and Drinking

A wide range of good and drink is available throughout Saudi Arabia, except for alcoholic beverages. However a great variety of fruit juices, cola, sparkling water and other soft drinks make excellent alternatives, plus, naturally, tea and coffee, both Arabian and American-style. Alcohol-free beer is popular, as is laban, a delicious yoghurt-like creamy drink, sometimes flavored with salt and mint. Meals tend to consist of an appetizer, like salad or mezze with hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh and other Eastern Mediterranean-style dishes, and perhaps some soup, followed by a main course of meat or fish, vegetables and rice and Arab flatbread. Chicken and lamb, mince, grilled or roasted, are very popular, and served in a variety of ways. Many hotels offer a well-stocked buffet as an option for lunch and dinner. The coastal areas specialize in fresh fish and shellfish. Vegetarians are well catered for. Meals traditionally end with a serving of fresh fruit or sweet pastry or pudding or cream caramel, rounded off with delicious dates and Arabian or Turkish coffee. A real treat is to take part in a traditional Arab feast at a picnic in the desert under tents, or at a beach party. The food is laid out on mats or carpets and there may not be any knives or forks or chairs. The main dish might be a young roasted camel or sheep, served with rice and an array of salad and vegetables. Finally there will be delicious sweetmeats, coffee and s splendid display of fresh fruit from which to choose.


Saudi Arabia's free-market economy has shown unprecedented growth over the last two decades. Although it is still the world's largest oil exporter and has the largest reserves of oil and natural gas, Saudi Arabia has a thriving non-oil economy sector that produces a variety of products many of which are exported worldwide.

The country is self-sufficient in poultry, fruit and vegetables, barley, wheat, maize and alfafa and produces more dates than any other country in the world.

Surprisingly, the Kingdom is also one of the world's largest produces of milk and dairy products. Fishing is a major economic activity, with 20% of the annual catch sent for export. Apart form oil and gas, other valuable mineral resources include copper, gold, zinc, phosphates, bauxite and iron ore.



Saudi Arabia contains a great variety of wildlife, although in the desert areas much of it is nocturnal. Arabian wolves, desert foxes, lynxes, feral cats, baboons, badgers and bats may be found, along with gerbils, jerboas, monitor lizards, geckos, desert scorpions, butterflies and many other insects. The endangered Arabian oryx is making a comeback, thanks to research and breeding programs. Forests in the Asir area are home to tribes of monkeys. Native bird life in the peninsula includes birds of prey, cormorants, pelicans and other sea birds, pink flamingoes and even eagles, as well as hundreds of other bird species, a dozen of which are indigenous and others migratory, depending on the season. The Red Sea and Arabian Gulf waters abound in turtles, dugong and a huge variety of fish and other sea creatures.



Saudi Araba has three international airports and 21 regional airports. Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Middle East. Along with King Abdual Aziz International Airport at Jeddah and King Fahd International Airport at Dammam, it is served by airlines from around the world. Saudi Arabian Airlines, the largest airline in the Middle East, carries more than 12 million passengers annually and serves over 75 local and international gateways worldwide. Making it easy to research Saudi Arabia from wherever you live.

The airline's domestic network is excellent and flights are inexpensive. The Kingdom's only railway line runs for 480kms between Riyadh and Dammam, via Hofuf. Trains are frequent, air-conditioned (first and second class) and inexpensive. Tarmac roads connect all major towns and cities, with air-conditioned inter-city bus services running between Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Taif, as well as other major towns. Taxis and limousines are available in major cities. There are seaports at Jeddah, Yanbu, Rabigh, Dhuba and Jazan on the Red Sea, and at Damman and Jubil on the Arabian Gulf. Unless familiar with driving in Saudi Arabia, visitors are strongly advised to hire a car with a driver. Traffic can be heavy in built-up areas and at present few road signs are in English.


World Role

Saudi Arabia plays a prominent role in regional and international affairs and is a founding member of the Unites Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and belongs to numerous other international bodies including the World Tourism Organization. The Kingdom is a substantial contributor to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and has applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is a major provider of aid to developing countries.

Source : Supreme Commission for Tourism, Saudi Arabia

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