Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud
King and Prime Minister
(pronounced "FAHD bin AHB-dool ah-ZEEZ al-sah-OOD")
"The Kingdom, through continuous work on the part of the Government and through the understanding and cohesion of the citizens, undertakes to surmount all difficulties, of whatever nature, to attain, if God so wills, a prosperous society, a society well-balanced economically, culturally and intellectually, and one based on the teachings and spiritual values of Islam."
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 when King Abdul Aziz al-Saud, commonly known in the West as Al-Saud, consolidated his conquests. Saudi Arabia occupies about 80% of the Arabian peninsula and has an area of 2,149,690 sq km (829,995 sq mi). It is largely a desert country with no rivers or permanent bodies of water and has poorly defined borders. To the west lies the Red Sea; to the south, Yemen and Oman; to the southeast, the United Arab Emirates; to the east, the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Qatar, and Bahrain; and to the north, Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait. Population figures are not reliable; however, estimates suggest Saudi Arabia has a population of 23.5 million (July 2002 est.), half of which live in urban areas. About five million of the total population are expatriates, who make up about 60% of the labor force. Virtually all indigenous Saudis are Muslims, as are more than half of the expatriate population. About 85% of the Saudis are Sunni Muslims, the majority of whom are followers of the Wahabbi movement; the remainder are Shias and are located mainly in the eastern province. Arabic is the official language but English is understood and used in the private sector. Saudi Arabia is the site of two of the three holiest places of Islam: Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet of Islam, with the Kaaba (the Grand Mosque) located there; and Medina, the burial place of the Prophet. Millions of Muslims from all over the world make pilgrimages to these two cities every year.
Saudi Arabia has the world's largest proven oil reserves. It is the third-largest producer and the largest exporter of crude oil. Massive agricultural development projects have helped the country achieve near self-sufficiency in wheat, eggs, milk, and vegetables. Its major trade partners are the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. Its main imports are machinery and equipment, foodstuff, textiles, minerals, and chemicals. The per capita gross domestic product has been estimated at US $10,600. The riyal is the Saudi Arabian currency.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia