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In March , he introduced the " Basic Law ", which emphasised the duties and responsibilities of a ruler. In December , the Consultative Council was inaugurated.

It is composed of a chairman and 60 members—all chosen by the King. The King's intent was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible.

In , Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and the Crown Prince, Abdullah , assumed the role of de facto regent , taking on the day-to-day running of the country.

However, his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers known, with Fahd, as the " Sudairi Seven ". Women were not allowed to take part in the poll.

In , King Fahd died and was succeeded by Abdullah, who continued the policy of minimum reform and clamping down on protests. The king introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country's reliance on oil revenue: limited deregulation, encouragement of foreign investment, and privatization.

In February , Abdullah announced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions including the replacement of senior appointees in the judiciary and the Mutaween religious police with more moderate individuals and the appointment of the country's first female deputy minister.

On 29 January , hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah in a rare display of criticism against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city, killing 11 people.

Since , Saudi Arabia has been affected by its own Arab Spring protests. Although male-only municipal elections were held on 29 September , [] [] Abdullah allowed women to vote and be elected in the municipal elections , and also to be nominated to the Shura Council.

Since , Saudi Arabia has engaged in widespread internet censorship. Most online censorship generally falls into two categories: one based on censoring "immoral" mostly pornographic and LGBT-supportive websites along with websites promoting any religious ideology other than Sunni Islam and one based on a blacklist run by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Media , which primarily censors websites critical of the Saudi regime or associated with parties that are opposed to or opposed by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. In the absence of national elections and political parties, [] politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family, the Al Saud, and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society.

By custom, all males of full age have a right to petition the king directly through the traditional tribal meeting known as the majlis.

Tribal identity remains strong and, outside of the royal family, political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation, with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events.

The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism; liberal critics; the Shi'ite minority —particularly in the Eastern Province ; and long-standing tribal and regionalist particularistic opponents for example in the Hejaz.

The king combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions [] and royal decrees form the basis of the country's legislation.

The royal family dominates the political system. The family's vast numbers allow it to control most of the kingdom's important posts and to have an involvement and presence at all levels of government.

Long term political and government appointments have resulted in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes, [] such as those of King Abdullah, who had been Commander of the National Guard since until , when he appointed his son to replace him , [] former Crown Prince Sultan , Minister of Defence and Aviation from to his death in , former crown prince Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from to his death in , Prince Saud who had been Minister of Foreign Affairs since [] and current King Salman , who was Minister of Defense and Aviation before he was crown prince and Governor of the Riyadh Province from to The royal family is politically divided by factions based on clan loyalties, personal ambitions and ideological differences.

There were divisions within the family over who should succeed to the throne after the accession or earlier death of Prince Sultan.

The Saudi government and the royal family have often, over many years, been accused of corruption.

However, nepotism and patronage are widespread when doing business in the country. The enforcement of the anti-corruption laws is selective and public officials engage in corruption with impunity.

A number of prominent Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers, and businesspeople, including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal , were arrested in Saudi Arabia in November There has been mounting pressure to reform and modernize the royal family's rule, an agenda championed by King Abdullah both before and after his accession in The creation of the Consultative Council in the early s did not satisfy demands for political participation, and, in , an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues, within certain prescribed parameters.

In , the first municipal elections were held. In , the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. Saudi Arabia is almost unique in giving the ulema the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists a direct role in government.

The ulema have also been a key influence in major government decisions, for example the imposition of the oil embargo in and the invitation to foreign troops to Saudi Arabia in By the s, as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal, important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulema was in decline.

The ulema have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh , [] the country's leading religious family.

In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority [] thereby using its religious- moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.

The primary source of law is the Islamic Sharia derived from the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah the traditions of the Prophet.

Saudi judges tend to follow the principles of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence or fiqh found in pre-modern texts [] and noted for its literalist interpretation of the Qur'an and hadith.

Because the judge is empowered to disregard previous judgments either his own or of other judges and may apply his personal interpretation of Sharia to any particular case, divergent judgements arise even in apparently identical cases, [] making predictability of legal interpretation difficult.

Royal decrees are the other main source of law; but are referred to as regulations rather than laws because they are subordinate to the Sharia. Additionally, traditional tribal law and custom remain significant.

The Saudi system of justice has been criticized for its "ultra-puritanical judges", who are often harsh in their sentencing with beheading for the crime of witchcraft , but also sometimes overly lenient for cases of rape or wife-beating and slow, for example leaving thousands of abandoned women unable to secure a divorce.

Capital and physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as beheading , stoning to death , amputation , crucifixion and lashing , as well as the sheer number of executions have been strongly criticized.

The last reported execution for sorcery took place in September Although repeated theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand, only one instance of judicial amputation was reported between and Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging or death.

Retaliatory punishments, or Qisas , are practised: for instance, an eye can be surgically removed at the insistence of a victim who lost his own eye.

Even after allowing women to drive and work, public places in Saudi Arabia are still gender-segregated and the kingdom has very strict laws on how unrelated men and women can dine together.

In September , a man was arrested by the Saudi authorities for appearing in a video with his female colleague while having breakfast at a hotel, where they both work.

Since , as a founding member of OPEC , its oil pricing policy has been generally to stabilize the world oil market and try to moderate sharp price movements so as to not jeopardise the Western economies.

However, there is evidence that the vast majority was, in fact, spent on propagating and extending the influence of Wahhabism at the expense of other forms of Islam.

In the Arab and Muslim worlds, Saudi Arabia is considered to be pro-Western and pro-American, [] and it is certainly a long-term ally of the United States.

China and Saudi Arabia are major allies, with relationship between the two countries growing significantly in recent decades.

Majority of Saudi Arabians also expressed a favorable view of China. The consequences of the invasion and the Arab Spring led to increasing alarm within the Saudi monarchy over the rise of Iran 's influence in the region.

In order to protect the house of Khalifa, the monarchs of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain by sending military troops to quell the uprising of Bahraini people on 14 March On 25 March , Saudi Arabia, spearheading a coalition of Sunni Muslim states, [] started a military intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh , who was deposed in the Arab Spring uprisings.

Saudi Arabia, together with Qatar and Turkey , openly supported the Army of Conquest , [] an umbrella group of anti-government forces fighting in the Syrian Civil War that reportedly included an al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and another Salafi coalition known as Ahrar al-Sham.

Following a number of incidents during the Hajj season, the deadliest [] of which killed at least 2, pilgrim [] in Mina stampede , Saudi Arabia has been accused of mismanagement and focusing on increasing money revenues while neglecting pilgrims' welfare.

In March , Sweden scrapped an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, marking an end to a decade-old defense agreement with the kingdom. The decision came after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was blocked by the Saudis while speaking about democracy and women's rights at the Arab League in Cairo.

This also led to Saudi Arabia recalling its ambassador to Sweden. Saudi Arabia has been seen as a moderating influence in the Arab—Israeli conflict , periodically putting forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians and condemning Hezbollah.

In August both countries appeared to be exploring ways of ending the rift. In , Saudi Arabia imposed a land, naval and air blockade on Qatar. Saudi Arabia halted new trade and investment dealings with Canada and suspended diplomatic ties in a dramatic escalation of a dispute over the kingdom's arrest of women's rights activist Samar Badawi on 6 August Tensions have escalated between Saudi Arabia and its allies after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish officials are highly skeptical of Khashoggi being murdered inside the consulate; this has strained the already suffering Saudi Arabia—Turkey relations.

As stated by Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund's Ankara office "Turkey is maintaining a very delicate balance in its relations with Saudi Arabia.

The relations have the potential of evolving into a crisis at any moment. The pressure on Saudi to reveal the insights about Khashoggi's disappearance from the US and other European countries has increased.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry retaliated with an equal statement saying, "it will respond with greater action," indicating the kingdom's "influential and vital role in the global economy.

The US expects its Gulf allies involved in the coalition in Yemen to put in more efforts and address the rising concerns about the millions that have been pushed to the brink of famine.

According to the United Nations, the Arabian peninsula nation is home to the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Theresa May backed the US call to end the coalition.

President of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband called the US announcement as "the most significant breakthrough in the war in Yemen for four years".

The US called for a ceasefire within 30 days. According to the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in March , Saudi Arabia along with Qatar provided political, financial and media support to terrorists against the Iraqi government.

The relations with the U. Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.

According to Sir William Patey , former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom funds mosques throughout Europe that have become hotbeds of extremism.

They are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalised and becoming fodder for terrorism," Patey said.

He said that Saudi has been funding an ideology that leads to extremism and the leaders of the kingdom are not aware of the consequences.

In the armed forces had the following personnel: the army, 75,; the air force, 18,; air defense, 16,; the navy, 15, including 3, marines ; and the SANG had 75, active soldiers and 25, tribal levies.

The kingdom has a long-standing military relationship with Pakistan , it has long been speculated that Saudi Arabia secretly funded Pakistan's atomic bomb programme and seeks to purchase atomic weapons from Pakistan, in near future.

Its modern existence, however, is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah's private army since the s and, unlike the rest of the armed forces, is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation.

The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family: The late prince Sultan, former Minister of Defense and Aviation, was one of the so-called 'Sudairi Seven' and controlled the remainder of the armed forces until his death in Its modern high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world's most densely armed nations, with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the US, France and Britain.

The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces. The United Kingdom has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since Major imports in —14 included 45 combat aircraft from the UK, 38 combat helicopters from the US, four tanker aircraft from Spain and over armoured vehicles from Canada.

Saudi Arabia has a long list of outstanding orders for arms, including 27 more combat aircraft from the UK, combat aircraft from the US and a large number of armoured vehicles from Canada.

A recent poll conducted by YouGov for Save the Children and Avaaz stated that 63 percent of British people oppose the sale of weapons to Saudi.

According to the new report from the Department of Global Affairs , Canada sold record-breaking amount of military hardware to Saudi Arabia in , despite its poor human rights record.

Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch and Freedom House condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its severe punishments.

There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. Those arrested are often not informed of the crime of which they are accused or given access to a lawyer and are subject to abusive treatment and torture if they do not confess.

At trial, there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense.

Most trials are held in secret. Saudi Arabia is widely accused of having one of the worst human rights records in the world. Human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women see Women below , capital punishment for homosexuality , [] religious discrimination, the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police see Religion below.

To date, the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence. In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record, the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country, and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order.

For example, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested in when he was 17 years old for taking part in an anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring.

In , the government deported thousands of non-Saudis, many of them who were working illegally in the country or had overstayed their visas.

Many reports abound, of foreigner workers being tortured either by employers or others. Saudi Arabia has a "Counter-Radicalization Program" the purpose of which is to "combat the spread and appeal of extremist ideologies among the general populous sic " and to "instill the true values of the Islamic faith , such as tolerance and moderation.

According to Turkish government sources there is audio and video evidence for him having been murdered and dismembered inside the consulate. In December , Saudi Arabia organized a big-budget electronic dance music festival, MDL Beast to the kingdom, "the region's biggest music event".

However, it attracted controversy when many of its high profile attendees, including Armie Hammer , Joan Smalls and Wilmer Valderrama , were criticized for engaging in "image rehab" for the kingdom, overlooking the continued human rights abuses in the country.

In April , the Saudi Supreme Court stated under a royal decree by King Salman that minors who commit crimes will no longer face the death sentence, but will be sentenced to a maximum of ten years of imprisonment in a juvenile detention facility.

On 15 May , marking two years of detention of Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul , Amnesty International called on King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders solely detained in connection with their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, association and assembly.

According to Human Rights Watch the family believes that the detentions are meant to coerce the father to return to Saudi Arabia. Cengiz disapproved and opposed Khashoggi's elder son's statement where he claimed on behalf of his family that they are willing to "forgive" his father's killers.

Turkish prosecutors accuse former deputy chief of intelligence services, General Ahmed al-Assiri , and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of leading the operation to eliminate Khashoggi and of giving the orders to do so to a team of Saudi agents.

On 21 June , Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent Saudi dissident, who was also close to Jamal Khashoggi , received a warning from Canadian authorities that he was a potential target of Saudi Arabia.

Canadian police had credible information that the Gulf nation was having a possible plan to harm him. On 23 June , Reuters claimed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has ordered the arrest of family members of a former intelligence official Saad al-Jabri , including detaining his adult children, to try to force his return to the kingdom from exile in Canada.

The Prince has reportedly offered him to come home to a new job and even applied pressure to force his extradition on corruption charges via Interpol.

Because the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not precisely marked, the exact size of the country is undefined.

Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert , associated semi-desert and shrubland see satellite image and several mountain ranges and highlands.

Wadis , however, are very numerous. The fertile areas are to be found in the alluvial deposits in wadis, basins, and oases. On the Red Sea coast, there is a narrow coastal plain, known as the Tihamah parallel to which runs an imposing escarpment.

Except for the southwestern province of Asir , Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with very high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night.

Annual rainfall is extremely low. The Asir region differs in that it is influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoons , usually occurring between October and March.

Wildlife includes the Arabian leopard , [] [] wolf , striped hyena , mongoose , baboon , hare , sand cat , and jerboa.

Animals such as gazelles, oryx , leopards and cheetahs [] were relatively numerous until the 19th century, when extensive hunting reduced these animals almost to extinction.

Birds include falcons which are caught and trained for hunting , eagles, hawks, vultures, sandgrouse , and bulbuls.

There are several species of snakes, many of which are venomous. Saudi Arabia is home to a rich marine life.

The Red Sea in particular is a rich and diverse ecosystem. More than species of fish [] have been recorded in the Red Sea, and around 10 percent of these are found nowhere else.

The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders such as the Blue Hole Red Sea at Dahab.

These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of Red Sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark.

The Red Sea also contains many offshore reefs including several true atolls. Many of the unusual offshore reef formations defy classic i.

Domesticated animals include the legendary Arabian horse , Arabian camel , sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, chickens etc.

Reflecting the country's dominant desert conditions, Saudi Arabia's plant life mostly consists of herbs, plants and shrubs that require little water.

The date palm Phoenix dactylifera is widespread. As of October , Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world.

Saudi Arabia is considered an " energy superpower ". Saudi Arabia officially has about billion barrels 4. In the s, Saudi Arabia experienced a significant contraction of oil revenues combined with a high rate of population growth.

From to , "several key services" were privatized—municipal water supply, electricity, telecommunications—and parts of education and health care, traffic control and car accident reporting were also privatized.

According to Arab News columnist Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, "in almost every one of these areas, consumers have raised serious concerns about the performance of these privatized entities.

Negotiations to join had focused on the degree to which Saudi Arabia is willing to increase market access to foreign goods and in , the government established the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage foreign direct investment in the kingdom.

The government has also made an attempt at " Saudizing " the economy, replacing foreign workers with Saudi nationals with limited success.

Saudi Arabia has had five-year "Development Plans" since Among its plans were to launch "economic cities" e. King Abdullah Economic City to be completed by , in an effort to diversify the economy and provide jobs.

As of [update] four cities were planned. In addition to petroleum and gas, Saudi also has a significant gold mining sector in the ancient Mahd adh Dhahab region and significant other mineral industries, an agricultural sector especially in the southwest but not only based on vegetables, fruits, dates etc.

Statistics on poverty in the kingdom are not available through the UN resources because the Saudi government does not issue any. In December , the Saudi interior ministry arrested three reporters and held them for almost two weeks for questioning after they uploaded a video on the topic to YouTube.

Each year, about a quarter-million young Saudis enter the job market. However, the private sector still remains hugely dominated by foreigners.

The rate of local unemployment is Serious large-scale agricultural development began in the s. The government launched an extensive program to promote modern farming technology; to establish rural roads, irrigation networks and storage and export facilities; and to encourage agricultural research and training institutions.

As a result, there has been a phenomenal growth in the production of all basic foods. Saudi Arabia is now completely self-sufficient in a number of foodstuffs, including meat, milk and eggs.

The country exports wheat, dates, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables and flowers to markets around the world.

Dates, once a staple of the Saudi diet, are now mainly grown for global humanitarian aid. In addition, Saudi farmers grow substantial amounts of other grains such as barley, sorghum and millet.

As of , in the interest of preserving precious water resources, domestic production of wheat has ended. The Kingdom likewise has some of the most modern and largest dairy farms in the Middle East.

Milk production boasts a remarkably productive annual rate of 1, gallons per cow, one of the highest in the world. The local dairy manufacturing company Almarai is the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the Middle East.

The Kingdom's most dramatic agricultural accomplishment, noted worldwide, was its rapid transformation from importer to exporter of wheat. In , the country built its first grain silos.

By , it had become self-sufficient in wheat. Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia began exporting wheat to some 30 countries, including China and the former Soviet Union, and in the major producing areas of Tabuk, Hail and Qasim, average yields reached 8.

The Kingdom has, however, stepped up fruit and vegetable production, by improving both agricultural techniques and the roads that link farmers with urban consumers.

Saudi Arabia is a major exporter of fruits and vegetables to its neighbors. Among its most productive crops are watermelon, grapes, citrus fruits, onions, squash and tomatoes.

At Jizan in the country's well-watered southwest, the Al-Hikmah Research Station is producing tropical fruits including pineapples, paw-paws, bananas, mangoes and guavas.

The olive tree is indigenous to Saudi Arabia. In the Al Jouf Agricultural Development Company received a certificate of merit from The Guinness World Records for the largest modern olive plantation in the world.

The farm covers hectares and has 5 million olive trees. The Guinness World Records also took into consideration their production capacity of tonnes of high quality of olive oil, while the kingdom consumes double that.

The Al Jouf farms are located in Sakaka , a city in the north-western part of Saudi Arabia, which is a deeply-rooted in history.

Sakaka dates back more than 4, years. Consuming non-renewable groundwater resulted in the loss of an estimated four fifths of the total groundwater reserves by Water supply and sanitation in Saudi Arabia is characterized by significant investments in seawater desalination , water distribution, sewerage and wastewater treatment leading to a substantial increase in access to drinking water and sanitation over the past decades.

Given the substantial oil wealth , water is provided almost for free. Despite improvements service quality remains poor. For example, in Riyadh water was available only once every 2.

Since , the government has increasingly relied on the private sector to operate water and sanitation infrastructure, beginning with desalination and wastewater treatment plants.

Since , the operation of urban water distribution systems is being gradually delegated to private companies as well.

Although most tourism in Saudi Arabia still largely involves religious pilgrimages, there is growth in the leisure tourism sector.

According to the World Bank , approximately Starting December , the kingdom will offer an electronic visa for foreign visitors to attend sport events and concerts.

In September , the Kingdom announced its plans to open visa applications for visitors, where people from about 50 countries would be able to get tourist visas to Saudi.

The old city of Jeddah. Faifa' Mountains in Jizan Province. The population of Saudi Arabia as of July is estimated to be As late as , most Saudis lived a subsistence life in the rural provinces, but in the last half of the 20th century the kingdom has urbanized rapidly.

Its population is also quite young with over half the population under 25 years old. As recently as the early s, Saudi Arabia's slave population was estimated at , The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic.

The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic about 6 million speakers [] , Najdi Arabic about 8 million speakers [] , and Gulf Arabic about 0.

Faifi is spoken by about 50, Saudi Sign Language is the principal language of the deaf community. The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages, the most numerous of which are Tagalog , , Rohingya , , Urdu , , Egyptian Arabic , , and Indonesian , Virtually all Saudi citizens are Muslim [] officially, all are , and almost all Saudi residents are Muslim.

Other denominations, such as the minority Shia Islam , are systematically suppressed. According to estimates there are about 1,, Christians in Saudi Arabia, almost all foreign workers.

The percentage of Saudi Arabian citizens who are Christians is officially zero, [] as Saudi Arabia forbids religious conversion from Islam apostasy and punishes it by death.

There may be a significant fraction of atheists and agnostics in Saudi Arabia, [] [] although they are officially called "terrorists". Foreign Muslims [] who have resided in the kingdom for ten years may apply for Saudi citizenship.

Priority is given to holders of degrees in various scientific fields, [] and exception made for Palestinians who are excluded unless married to a Saudi national, because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship.

As Saudi population grows and oil export revenues stagnate, pressure for " Saudization " the replacement of foreign workers with Saudis has grown, and the Saudi government hopes to decrease the number of foreign nationals in the country.

Various Human Rights entities have criticised Saudi Arabia's handling of the issue. Saudi Arabia has centuries-old attitudes and traditions, often derived from Arab civilization.

The main factors that influence the culture of Saudi Arabia are Islamic heritage and Bedouin traditions as well as its historical role as an ancient trade center.

Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and its law requires that all citizens be Muslims. Proponents call the movement " Salafism ", [] and believe that its teachings purify the practice of Islam of innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh-century teachings of Muhammad and his companions.

More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries that have " religious police " known as Haia or Mutaween , who patrol the streets " enjoining good and forbidding wrong " by enforcing dress codes , strict separation of men and women , attendance at prayer salat five times each day, the ban on alcohol, and other aspects of Sharia Islamic law.

In the privacy of the home behavior can be far looser, and reports from the Daily Mail and WikiLeaks indicate that the ruling Saudi Royal family applies a different moral code to itself, indulging in parties, drugs and sex.

Until , the kingdom used the lunar Islamic calendar , not the international Gregorian calendar , [] but in the kingdom announced its switch to the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes.

Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. Businesses are closed three or four times a day [] for 30 to 45 minutes during business hours while employees and customers are sent off to pray.

As of [update] , approximately half of the broadcast airtime of Saudi state television was devoted to religious issues. In contrast, assigned readings over 12 years of primary and secondary schooling devoted to covering the history, literature, and cultures of the non-Muslim world comes to a total of about 40 pages.

Because of religious restrictions, Saudi culture lacks any diversity of religious expression, buildings, annual festivals and public events.

Proselytizing by non-Muslims and conversion by Muslims to another religion is illegal, [] and as of [update] the distribution of "publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam" such as Bibles , was reportedly punishable by death.

Saudi Wahhabism is hostile to any reverence given to historical or religious places of significance for fear that it may give rise to 'shirk' idolatry , and the most significant historic Muslim sites in Mecca and Medina are located in the western Saudi region of the Hejaz.

In June , the Council of Ministers approved a law that gives the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage the means to protect Saudi Arabia's ancient relics and historic sites.

Within the framework of the National Transformation Program, also known as Saudi Vision , the kingdom allocated million euros to preserve its historical and cultural heritage.

Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab the Islamic principle of modesty , especially in dress.

The predominantly loose and flowing, but covering, garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert climate. Traditionally, men usually wear a white ankle length garment woven from wool or cotton known as a thawb , with a keffiyeh a large checkered square of cotton held in place by an agal or a ghutra a plain white square made of finer cotton, also held in place by an agal worn on the head.

For rare chilly days, Saudi men wear a camel -hair cloak bisht over the top. In public women are required to wear a black abaya or other black clothing that covers everything under the neck with the exception of their hands and feet, although most women cover their head in respect for their religion.

This requirement applies to non-Muslim women too and failure to abide can result in police action, particularly in more conservative areas of the country.

Women's clothes are often decorated with tribal motifs, coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques. During the s, cinemas were numerous in the Kingdom although they were seen as contrary to Wahhabi norms.

From the 18th century onward, Wahhabi fundamentalism discouraged artistic development inconsistent with its teaching.

In addition, Sunni Islamic prohibition of creating representations of people have limited the visual arts, which tend to be dominated by geometric , floral , and abstract designs and by calligraphy.

With the advent of oil-wealth in the 20th century came exposure to outside influences, such as Western housing styles, furnishings, and clothes.

Music and dance have always been part of Saudi life. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively.

Censorship has limited the development of Saudi literature, although several Saudi novelists and poets have achieved critical and popular acclaim in the Arab world—albeit generating official hostility in their home country.

This was after he performed a concert attended by more than 10, people in the heritage site north-west of Riyadh. Guetta's comments come as Saudi Arabia increasingly attracts big name western music acts to perform in the kingdom.

Football is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabia national football team is considered as one of Asia's most successful national teams, having reached a joint record 6 AFC Asian Cup finals, winning three of those finals , , and and having qualified for the World Cup four consecutive times ever since debuting at the tournament.

Scuba diving , windsurfing , sailing and basketball which is played by both men and women are also popular with the Saudi Arabian national basketball team winning bronze at the Asian Championship.

A stadium in Riyadh holds races in the winter. The annual King's Camel Race, begun in , is one of the sport's most important contests and attracts animals and riders from throughout the region.

Falconry , another traditional pursuit, is still practiced. Women's sport is controversial due to the suppression of female participation in sport by conservative Islamic religious authorities, [] however this restriction has eased slightly in recent years.

Segregated seating, allowing women to enter, has been developed in three stadiums across major cities. Saudi Arabia, in its vision for modernization introduced the nation to a number of international sporting events, bringing sports stars to the Kingdom.

However, in August , the kingdom's strategy received criticism for appearing as a method of sportswashing soon after Saudi's US based lobbying campaign foreign registration documentations got published online.

The strategy is being viewed as a method of sportswashing following the chaos spread across Yemen since 4 years. However, the superstar players Lacey Evans and Natalya were required to cover their arms and legs by wearing bodysuits during the fight, instead of the more revealing gear that they would normally wear.

Saudi Arabia, in December , came under fire for using Western sports to rehabilitate global image tarnished following the continued crackdown on dissidents.

Critics accused the kingdom of "sportswashing", as it turned a blind eye to the unending violation of human rights in the country against women, minorities, rights advocates and critics.

Only two years after Saudi Arabia signed a contract of 10 years with WWE, an increasing number of wrestlers denied to visit Riyadh.

In January , several other WWE superstars casted doubt over visiting Saudi, following the heightened tensions in Middle East due to assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding countries in the Arabian Peninsula and the wider Arab world, and has influenced and been influenced by Turkish, Indian, Persian, and African food.

Islamic dietary laws are enforced: pork is not allowed and other animals are slaughtered in accordance with halal. Flat, unleavened taboon bread is a staple of virtually every meal, as are dates , fresh fruit, yoghurt and hummus.

Coffee, served in the Arabic style , is the traditional beverage but tea and various fruit juices are popular as well.

The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Arabia.

Women do not have equal rights to men in the kingdom; the U. State Department considers Saudi Arabian government's discrimination against women a "significant problem" in Saudi Arabia and notes that women have few political rights due to the government's discriminatory policies.

Under Saudi law, every adult female must have a male relative as her "guardian" wali , [] As of , a woman was required to have permission from her male guardian in order to travel, study, or work.

The order however also stated that it should only be allowed if it does not contradict the Sharia system.

According to a leading Saudi feminist and journalist, Wajeha al-Huwaider , "Saudi women are weak, no matter how high their status, even the 'pampered' ones among them, because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone.

Women face discrimination in the courts, where the testimony of one man equals that of two women in family and inheritance law.

The average age at first marriage among Saudi females is 25 years in Saudi Arabia, [] with child marriage no longer common. Obesity is a problem among middle and upper class Saudis who have domestic servants to do traditional work but, until , were forbidden to drive and so are limited in their ability to leave their home.

The religious police , known as the mutawa , impose many restrictions on women in public in Saudi Arabia.

Although Saudi Arabia imposes a strict dress code on women throughout the country by using religious police , female anchors working for Al-Arabia news network which is partly owned by Prince Abdulaziz , the son of the late King Fahad , are prohibited from wearing a veil and are encouraged to adopt a Western dress code.

A few Saudi women have risen to the top of the medical profession; for example, Dr. Ghada Al-Mutairi heads a medical research center in California [] and Dr.

On 25 September , King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote and to be candidates in municipal elections, provided that a male guardian grants permission.

In August , a law was passed that criminalized domestic violence against women. In April , bin Salman announced a project to build one of the world's largest cultural, sports and entertainment cities in Al Qidiya, southwest of Riyadh.

The square kilometre city will include a safari and a Six Flags theme park. As of February , Saudi women can now open their own business, without a male's permission.

In March , a law was passed allowing Saudi mothers to retain custody of their children after divorce without having to file any lawsuits.

In April , the first public cinema opened in Saudi Arabia after a ban of 35 years, with plans to have more than 2, screens running by In June , King Salman issued a decree allowing women to drive , lifting the world's only ban on women drivers.

Other domestic reforms include significant regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and establishing a national entertainment authority that has hosted comedy shows, pro wrestling events, and monster truck rallies.

Further cultural developments include the first Saudi public concerts by a female singer, the first Saudi sports stadiums to admit women, and an increased presence of women in the workforce.

On 1 August , Saudi Arabia allowed women to travel abroad, register a divorce or a marriage, and apply for official documents without the consent of a male guardian.

The laws also grant the women the eligibility for the guardianship of minor children. On 27 September , Saudi Arabia announced new changes to tourist visas for non-religious visits, allowing citizens of 49 countries to apply for E-Visa for 90 days.

The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had envisaged the year in line with his modernization plans, where a record number of Muslims were to visit the Mecca and Medina , new industries were to set up, entertainment sector was meant to flourish, while the crown prince was to host the G20 summit.

Education is free at all levels. A large part of the curriculum at all levels is devoted to Islam, and, at the secondary level, students are able to follow either a religious or a technical track.

The rate of literacy is Higher education has expanded rapidly, with large numbers of Universities and colleges being founded particularly since Institutions of higher education include the country's first university, King Saud University founded in , the Islamic University at Medina founded in , and the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah founded in Other colleges and universities emphasize curricula in sciences and technology, military studies, religion, and medicine.

Institutes devoted to Islamic studies, in particular, abound. Women typically receive college instruction in segregated institutions.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities , known as Shanghai Ranking, ranked 4 of Saudi Arabian institutions among its — list of the top universities in the world.

According to critics, Saudi curriculum is not just dominated by Islam but suffers from Wahhabi dogma that propagates hatred towards non-Muslim and non-Wahhabis [] and lacks technical and other education useful for productive employment.

Memorization by rote of large parts of the Qur'an, its interpretation and understanding Tafsir and the application of Islamic tradition to everyday life is at the core of the curriculum.

Religion taught in this manner is also a compulsory subject for all University students. That's not generally what Saudi Arabia's educational system delivers, steeped as it is in rote learning and religious instruction.

The religious sector of the Saudi national curriculum was examined in a report by Freedom House which concluded that "the Saudi public school religious curriculum continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the 'unbeliever', that is, Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine, Hindus , atheists and others".

This radical teaching takes place in Saudi funded mosques and madrasas across the Islamic world from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia. According to the educational plan for secondary high school education — Hijri , students enrolling in the "natural sciences" path are required to take five religion subjects which are: Tawhid , Fiqh , Tafseer , Hadith and Islamic Education and Quran.

In addition, students are required to take six science subjects which are Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Computer.

The approach taken in the Saudi education system has been accused of encouraging Islamic terrorism , leading to reform efforts.

It also aims to create an education system which will provide a more secular and vocationally based training.

In , Saudi Arabia ranked 28th worldwide in terms of high-quality research output according to the scientific journal Nature.

Saudi Arabia has a life expectancy of From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see KSA disambiguation. Country in Southwestern Asia.

Saudi Saudi Arabian. See also: House of Saud and Arab etymology. Main article: History of Saudi Arabia. See also: Pre-Islamic Arabia.

Main article: Caliphate. Main article: Ottoman era in the history of Saudi Arabia. See also: Unification of Saudi Arabia. Main article: Modern history of Saudi Arabia.

Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia. Main article: House of Saud. Main article: Legal system of Saudi Arabia.

Main article: Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia. Main article: Saudi Arabia and state-sponsored terrorism. Main article: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia.

Main article: Human rights in Saudi Arabia. BWh Hot desert. BWk Cold desert. BSh Hot semi-arid. BSk Cold semi-arid. The Arabian oryx are found in the deserts and are endangered animals.

The Arabian horse is native to Arabia, and an important element of traditional Arabian folklore. The highly endangered Arabian leopard.

Northern Borders. Eastern Province. Largest cities or towns in Saudi Arabia Data. Main article: Economy of Saudi Arabia. Main article: Agriculture in Saudi Arabia.

Main article: Tourism in Saudi Arabia. Masmak fort in Riyadh. Main article: Religion in Saudi Arabia. Main article: Culture of Saudi Arabia.

Main article: Saudi Arabian cuisine. Main article: Saudi Vision Main article: Education in Saudi Arabia. The Consultative Assembly exists to advise the king.

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