Saudi Arabia

 

History of Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia is not only the homeland of the Arab peoples—it is thought that the first Arabs originated on the Arabian Peninsula—but also the homeland of Islam, the world's second-largest religion. Muhammad founded Islam there, and it is the location of the two holy pilgrimage cities of Mecca and Medina. The Islamic calendar begins in 622, the year of the hegira, or Muhammad's flight from Mecca. A succession of invaders attempted to control the peninsula, but by 1517 the Ottoman Empire dominated, and in the middle of the 18th century, it was divided into separate principalities. In 1745 Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab began calling for the purification and reform of Islam, and the Wahhabi movement swept across Arabia. By 1811, Wahhabi leaders had waged a jihad—a holy war—against other forms of Islam on the peninsula and succeeded in uniting much of it. By 1818, however, the Wahhabis had been driven out of power again by the Ottomans and their Egyptian allies.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost entirely the creation of King Ibn Saud (1882–1953). A descendant of Wahhabi leaders, he seized Riyadh in 1901 and set himself up as leader of the Arab nationalist movement. By 1906 he had established Wahhabi dominance in Nejd and conquered Hejaz in 1924–1925. The Hejaz and Nejd regions were merged to form the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, which was an absolute monarchy ruled by sharia. A year later the region of Asir was incorporated into the kingdom.

Geography

Saudi Arabia Map Saudi Arabia Map - Click for larger view

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country situated in Southwest Asia, the largest country of Arabia, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen. Its extensive coastlines on the Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal. The kingdom occupies 80% of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of the country's boundaries with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and the Republic of Yemen (formerly two separate countries: the Yemen Arab Republic or North Yemen; and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen or South Yemen) are undefined, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government estimate is at 2,217,949 square kilometers, while other reputable estimates vary between 2,149,690 and 2,240,000 square kilometers. Less than 1% of the total area is suitable for cultivation, and in the early 1990s, population distribution varied greatly among the towns of the eastern and western coastal areas, the densely populated interior oases, and the vast, almost empty deserts.

People & Culture

The culture of Saudi Arabia is a rich one that has been shaped by its Islamic heritage, its historical role as an ancient trade center, and its Bedouin traditions.

Saudi society has experienced tremendous development over the past several decades. The Saudi people have taken their values and traditions – their customs, hospitality and even their style of dress – and adapted them to the modern world.

Weather and Climate

Saudi Arabia Climate
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With the exception of the province of Asir on the western coast, Saudi Arabia has a desert climate characterized by extreme heat during the day, an abrupt drop in temperature at night, and very low annual rainfall.

Public Holidays

Saudi Arabia Public Holidays Year 2015
Eid Al Fitr July 18, 2015 Saturday
Saudi National Day September 23, 2015 Wednesday
Eid Al Adha September 23, 2015 Wednesday

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Saudi Arabia. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the threat of terrorist attacks and security incidents.