Saudi Arabia



Figure 1.--This photograph of a Saudi carrier boy was taken in 1917. Saudi Arabia was a desperately poor country until oil was dicovered. The oil was developed after World War II has generating fabulous wealth. The Saudis have used the oil money to finance a comfortable living standard and n attemot to develop the economy. They have built an impressive infrastructure and a modern education system, country, but the economy remains almost entirely based on or financed by the the oil industry.

Saudi Arabia is a kingdom located on the Arabian Peninsula--perhaps the most austere geogrraphic location of any country. The country is best known for being the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. The two holiest shrines of Islam (Mecca and Medina) are both located in Saudi Arabia, the third (Jerusalem) is in nearby Palestine. The official title of the king of Saudi Arabia stems from the Hashemite title-Shefif, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Sayyid Hussein bin Ali (1854-1931) was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself King of Hejaz, a title which received international recognition. He led the Arab Revolt joined by the British whicvh helped free the Arab people from Ottomon control. He subsequently proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims. He ruled Hejaz until defeated by Abdul Aziz al Saud (1924). Ibn Saud founded the modern monarchy of Saudi Arabia after a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. We have a Saudi history page. The country was very poor without a modern economy or education. The discovery of oil has brought vast wealth to the country, financing a rapid modernization campaign. To legitmize itself, the Saudi royal family has essentially connected itself to the Wahhabi religious establishment in Saudi Arabia It influences almost every aspect of social life and in the Islamic tradition is deeply involved in politics. Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia's dominant Islamic tradition for more than two centuries. Wahhabism is an austere Islamic tradition that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. As a result, political acticity, free expression, and women's rights are secerely restricted. The Saudi Government continues to promote ecomnomic development and foreign investment in the kingdom. The country has a rapidly growing population. Two major problems are aquifer depletion and an economy dependent on petroleum. We do not yet have much information on Saudi Arabia. We do have a page on a Saudi birthday party.

Geography

Saudi Arabia is a kingdom located on the Arabian Peninsula--for climatic reasons the most austere geogrraphic location of any country. The only exception my be some of the Saharan countrie. The Arabian Peninsula is situated at the extreme southwest reaches of Asia, abutting on North Africa (Egypt) and across the Red Sea from East Africa. The Arabian Peninsula is the world's largest peninsula an is largely separated from Asia by the Persian Gulf. Saudi dominates the Peninsula which is created by the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean), and Red Sea. The Peninsula juts out into the Indian Ocean from the eatlist historical era made the ports on the Peninsula access to the valuable trade from India and Africa with connections through caravan routes to Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean world. Moust of these ports are now independent countries and not part of Saudi. The Kingdom dominates the vast interior of the Peninsula, but several current or former emirates control the south eastern (Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates) and all of the southern coast (Oman and Yemen). Saudi Arabia has extensive coastlines along the northern Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Other countries, however, have geographic control of the strits leading leading into the Indian Ocean (Iran and Yemen). And Egypt controls the Suez Canal, the northern access to the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia is about 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. Along the eastern or Persian Gulf coast is a narrow fertile plain giving way to limestone ridges inland. Behind the western or Red Sea coastal plain is a range of highlands--a series of plateaux reaching up to 2,000m (6,560ft). The southern part of this range, Asir, has impressive peaks of over 3,000m (9,840ft). North of these mountains, in the far north, is An Nafud, essentially a Sahara-like sand sea. More to the south the landscape rises to Najd, a semi-desert area scattered with green oases. Still further south the land falls away, levelling out to unremitting desert. This is the desolate and totally uninhabited Empty Quarter -- the Rub al Khali. Here there are long undefined borders with the UAE, Oman, and Yemen. This makes it imposible to precisely affect the the exact area of the country. The Saudi Government estimates 2.2 million square kilometers, but other estimaes are somewhat lower. Saudi Arabia is one of the most arid countries in the world. Tgere are areas where there is no rain fall over period of 10 years. As a result, less than 1 percent of the country is arable and can be used for agriculture with out irrigation. This mean that for most of history, the area of modern Saudi Arabia was very poor and lightly populatd. The population, now groiwing, is centered in the towns and cities of the eastern and western coast. The interior populkation is primarily lcated at widely scattered oases. The country's oil wealth has enbable the country to finance irrigation projects which has reclimed some land, although at considerable cost. Much of the country, especially the Empty Quarter is virtually uninhabited.

History

The Arabian Peninsula is the homeland of the Arab peoples. The Arabs were nomadic people known to the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The written history of the Arabs begins with Mohammed and the foundation of Islam. The country is best known for being the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. Mohammed and Islam which he launched has played a major role in history. The two holiest shrines of Islam (Mecca and Medina) are both located in Saudi Arabia, the third (Jerusalem) is in nearby Palestine. The official title of the king of Saudi Arabia stems from the Hashemite title-Shefif, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Arabia and other Arab countries were conquered by the Ottoman Turks (16th century) and wee for four centuries a part of the Ottoman Empire. Sayyid Hussein bin Ali (1854-1931) was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself King of Hejaz, a title which received international recognition. He led the Arab Revolt joined by the British which helped free the Arab people from Ottomon control. He subsequently proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims. He ruled Hejaz until defeated by Abdul Aziz al Saud (1924). Ibn Saud founded the modern monarchy of Saudi Arabia after a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula.

Economy

Much of Saudi Arabia is covered by a desolate arid landscape which did not support agricultural. In a world that agriculture was the primnary genrator of wealth, this left the Arabian Peninsula and the people libing there poor with little cultural development. Nor was there much mineral resources. The primary resource that the prople of the arabian Penoinsula had was geography--the location of the Peninsula. The Arabian Peninsula is situated between the Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean) and the Mediterrnen Sea. As there was no sea connection, trade routes criss crossed the Peninsula and imporant trding ports sprang up all along the perifery. This was the primary economic activity for centuries, involvement in trade or raiding those involved in trade. With the Islamic outburst, Arabs seized control of a vast empire (7th century). Important economic activity developed in this empire, but not in Arabia itself. Theone exception was the haj which brought considerable economic benefit to Mecc. Arabia's one economic assett (geography) was suddenly undercut with first the European maritime outreach (15th century). The Europeans were able to reach th East without relying on trade routhes through the Arabian Peninsula or ports on the perifery. The Suez Canal undermined the trading position of Arabia even further (1860s). As a result, the people of Arabia were among the poorest people in the world. Saudi Arabia when established as a nation state after World War I was very poor without a modern economy or education system. The region in general was desperately poor. Saudi Arabia was, however, poor and backward even by Middle Eastern standards. Most of the population lived a life virtually unchanged for centuries. This chanbged after World War II when oil discoverine began to be developed. The discovery of oil has brought vast wealth to the country, financing a rapid modernization campaign, at least in infrastructure and living standards if not in outlook. Saudi Arabia has an almost exclusively oil-based economy with strong government control, meaning the Saudi royal family, over the oil industry. Saudi Arabia at one time was believed to possess some 20 percent of the world's proven petroleum reserves. There was considrable difference of opinion on this issue as the saudi's are very secrtive about such matters. And now new innovative techniques developed in America have suceeded in finding substantial new resources. This has changed the calculation of proven reserves and peak oil. Now the cost of production have to enter into the calculation. Saudi Arabia can produce oil very inexpenbsively. The new oil being found is often much more expemsive to produce. Some of it may not be economic to recover, but it doies place a limit on what the sudis and other oil exporters can charge. The Saudis have been the largest oil exporter. They have played a major rolein the Organizatioin of Petroleum Exporters (OPEC), an international cartel that raised oil prices to very high levels, orcestrating a massive transfer of wealth from America and Europe to the Saudis and other major exporters. The petroleum sector accounts for almost all of Saudi government revenues as well as export earnings. The Government provides generous welfare benefits to Saudi citizens and employs much of the work force in Goverment agencies or corportions. The country has a rapidly growing populationand these welfare progrms are becoming increasingly expensie. Most workers in the country's private sector are foreigners. The Saudi Government promotes ecomnomic development to diversify the economy. They have made little progress in this area. There are non oil projects, but many of these projects are premised on inexpensive oil.

Garments


Families


Activities

We do not yet have much information on actuvities for children in Saudi Arabia. Such activities have clearly changed dramatically during the past few years. There are, however, still major differences between boys and girls. Most Saudi children until after world war II worked. The boys worked in the fiekds are tended sheep and other heard animals. The girls worked in the home helping mother. Few children went to school other than religious instruction offered by the local mosque. It is here that children learned to read and writes, although literacy rates were very low. The discovery and development of the country's oil resources has dramaticall changed This. Now very few children work. Now school has become the major activity for Saudi children. Saudi Arabia has developed an excellent modern education system. Failities are excellent. although considerable attention is devotef to religious instruction. And the pursuit of critical thinking is not encouraged. And although Arabic is an important world language. Titles availavle in Arabic, especially technical literature is limited. The fine arts are also not encouraged. There are relgious constraints affecting the arts. Religion is another major activity for Saudi children Sports are popular with the children, but not strongly promoted, especially for girls. Saudi as other Arabs rarely achieve success in international competitions. Pets are not generally kept for cultural reasons. Saudis are attracted to horses and cammals. The camels were used in caravans. Saudis still keep camels, but motly for nostalgic reasons. Camel and horse races are popular. Saudi boys used to ride the camels as jockies in rces. Now only Pakistani and other foreign boys are used. We do have a page on a Saudi birthday party.

Religion

Religion is a very importnt spct of Saidi life. To legitmize itself, the Saudi royal family has essentially connected itself to the Wahhabi religious establishment in Saudi Arabia It influences almost every aspect of social life and in the Islamic tradition is deeply involved in politics. Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia's dominant Islamic tradition for more than two centuries. Wahhabism is an austere Islamic tradition that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. As a result, political acticity, free expression, and women's rights are secerely restricted. Two major problems are aquifer depletion and an economy dependent on petroleum.







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Created: 2:27 AM 12/13/2011
Last updated: 9:44 AM 5/13/2015