Sa'udi Arabia - Transportation
Until recent decades, the camel was the chief means of transportation in Sa'udi Arabia, but enormous strides have been made since the early 1970s. By 2002 there were 146,524 km (91,050 mi) of highways, of which 44,104 km (27,406 mi) were paved. Modern roads link Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, At-Ta'if, and Riyadh; a new highway connects Sa'udi Arabia with Jordan, and a causeway completed in 1986 offers a direct connection with Bahrain. In 2000, passenger car registrations totaled 1.5 million and there were 1.1 million commercial vehicles. Most within-country freight is hauled by truck. The Sa'udi Government Railroad, which operates between Ad-Dammam and Riyadh over a length of 575 km (357 mi), was built by the Arabian American Oil Co. (ARAMCO) during the 1950s. Railroad lines totaled 1,392 km (865 mi) of standard-gauge track at last estimate.
In 2001, there were 209 airports, 71 with paved runways. Major airports include Dhahran International at Dhahran, King Abdul Aziz at Jeddah, and King Khaled International at Riyadh. The government-owned Sa'udi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) operates regular domestic and foreign flights to major cities. Because of the large distances that separate the main cities, air travel is preferred within the Kingdom. In 2001, 12,835,700 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.
Jeddah, on the Red Sea, is the chief port of entry for Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca. Sa'udi Arabia has the largest seaport network in the Near East with eight major ports with 183 piers and three smaller ports. Ports include Ad-Dammam, Yanbu' al-Bahr, Jizan, Duba, Jeddah, Jizan, Rabigh, Ra's al Khafji, Mishab, Ras Tanura, Madinat Yanbu' al Sinaiyah, and Jubail (Al-Jubayl). In 2002 there were 71 ships with a capacity of 1,071,315 GRT in the merchant fleet. The traditional dhow is still used for coastal trade.