Osama M. al-Radi
Saudi Arabia is an independent kingdom lying in southwestern Asia. It is bordered on the north by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait as well as the Saudi-Iraqi neutral zone, on the west by the Gulf of Arabia and the Red Sea, on the south by Yemen, on the southwest by Oman, and on the east by the Persian Gulf, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The area of Saudi Arabia is 2,149,000 square kilometers. The Arabian peninsula is like a great block of rock, highest in the west and sloping gradually eastward. This pattern is broken in the southeast by the highlands of Oman. Saudi Arabia can be divided into the following land regions: western highlands, Najd plateau, the two main sand areas of Nufud and al-Ruba al-Khali, and the gulf lands. Fauna and flora in Saudi Arabia are limited.
The population is about 13 million according to the 1988 census. Bedouin make up about 20 percent of the population. All of the population speak the Arabic language with slightly different dialects, and all are Muslims, with the majority of the Sunnah sect and a minority of the Shiah sect, living mainly in the eastern region. Arabs are primarily Semitic. Tribal life values are prevalent, though much less so in large population centers like the capital, Riyadh, and the main seaport, Jeddah.
The ruling system in Saudi Arabia is kingship. The law is Islamic Shariah. There is a consultative council and a council of ministers headed by the king. No political parties are allowed.
The oil economy is the most important part of the modern Saudi economy. Agriculture and industry have smaller shares in the present economy, but plans for their development are being executed.