Saudi Arabia السعودية as-Su‘ūdiyyah or as-Sa‘ūdiyyah), officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area (approximately 2,250,000 km2 (870,000 sq mi), constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula) and the second-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria). It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, Yemen in the south, the Red Sea to the west and Persian Gulf to the east. Its population is estimated to consist of 16 million citizens and an additional 9 million registered foreign expatriates and 2 million illegal immigrants.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud (known for most of his career as Ibn Saud) in 1932, although the conquests which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom began in 1902 when he captured Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud, referred to in Arabic as Al Saud. The Saudi Arabian government has been an absolute monarchy since its inception, and it describes itself as being Islamic. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the kingdom is sometimes called “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam.
Saudi Arabia has the world’s second largest oil reserves which are concentrated largely in the Eastern Province. Oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue, although the share of the non-oil economy has been growing recently. This has facilitated the transformation of an underdeveloped desert kingdom into one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Vast oil revenues have permitted rapid modernisation, such as the creation of a welfare state. It has also the world’s sixth largest natural gas reserves
Saudi Arabia occupies about 80% of the Arabian peninsula, lying between latitudes 16° and 33° N, and longitudes 34° and 56° E. Because the country’s southern borders with the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not precisely defined or marked, the exact size of the country remains unknown. The CIA World Factbook‘s estimate is 2,250,000 km2 (868,730 sq mi) and lists Saudi Arabia as the world’s 13th largest state.
Saudi Arabia’s geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert and associated semi-desert and shrubland (see satellite image to right). It is, in fact, a number of linked deserts and includes the 647,500 km2 (250,001 sq mi) Rub’ al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) in the southern part of the country, the world’s largest contiguous sand desert. There are virtually no rivers or lakes in the country, but wadis are numerous. The few fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis, basins, and oases. The main topographical feature is the central plateau which rises abruptly from the Red Sea and gradually descends into the Nejd and toward the Persian Gulf. On the Red Sea coast, there is a narrow coastal plain, known as the Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment. The southwest province of Asir is mountainous, and contains the 3,133 m (10,279 ft) Mount Sawda, which is the highest point in the country.[64
Saudi Arabia’s command economy is petroleum-based; roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry. The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia’s nominal gross domestic product, compared with 40% from the private sector (see below). Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves, comprising about one-fifth of the world’s proven total petroleum reserves.
The government is attempting to promote growth in the private sector by privatizing industries such as power and telecommunications. Saudi Arabia announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies in 1999, which followed the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company. Shortages of water and rapid population growth may constrain government efforts to increase self-sufficiency in agricultural products.
In the 1990s, Saudi Arabia experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth. Per capita income fell from a high of $11,700 at the height of the oil boom in 1981 to $6,300 in 1998. Increases in oil prices since 2000 have helped boost per capita GDP to $17,000 in 2007 dollars, or about $7,400 adjusted for inflation. Taking into account the impact of the real oil price changes on the Kingdom’s real gross domestic income, the real command-basis GDP was computed to be 330.381 billion 1999 USD in 2010.
Oil price increases of 2008–2009 have triggered a second oil boom, pushing Saudi Arabia’s budget surplus to $28 billion (110SR billion) in 2005. Tadawul (the Saudi stock market index) finished 2004 with a massive 76.23% to close at 4437.58 points. Market capitalization was up 110.14% from a year earlier to stand at $157.3 billion (589.93SR billion), which makes it the biggest stock market in the Middle East.
OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits its members’ oil production based on their “proven reserves.” The higher their reserves, the more OPEC allows them to produce. Saudi Arabia’s published reserves have shown little change since 1980, with the main exception being an increase of about 100 billion barrels (1.6×1010 m3) between 1987 and 1988. Matthew Simmons has suggested that Saudi Arabia is greatly exaggerating its reserves and may soon show production declines (see peak oil).