Saudi Arabia

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Posted by sonny 02/26/2009 @ 01:19

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President in Saudi Arabia - USA Today
President Obama is in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the home of the world's largest known oil reserves. After an all-night flight, he arrived at about 7:30 am ET -- midafternoon local time -- in Riyadh, the nation's capital....
Saudi Arabia raises all crude prices for July - Forbes
LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco raised its official selling prices (OSPs) for all grades of crude to Europe, Asia and the United States in July on Wednesday, following a surge in demand for its oil....
Osama Speaks as Obama Lands in Saudi Arabia - ABC News
By ALI AL MASHAKHEEL, AADEL RASHID and MADDY SAUER Shortly after President Obama landed in Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden's homeland, a new audio tape purported to be from the al Qaeda leader was aired today on Al Jazeera television network....
Saudi Arabia confirms first H1N1 flu case - Reuters
RIYADH, June 3 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has confirmed its first case of the H1N1 flu virus in a Filipina nurse, the kingdom's health minister said on Wednesday. The woman arrived on Friday on board a Gulf Air flight from the Philippines and showed...
US Lawmakers Urge Obama to Press Saudis on School Book Hate Content - Voice of America
By Dan Robinson Lawmakers in the US Congress say Saudi Arabia has failed to remove offensive material from textbooks used in the kingdom's schools, including language promoting hatred of and violence against Jews. Three House Democrats used a news...
Arrives in Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia United States Relations
Riyadh, June 3, SPA -- The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama arrived here today on a two-day official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The US President was also greeted by Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Premier,...
Export of poultry products to Saudi Arabia : Country unlikely to ... - Daily Times
Saudi Arabia has recently announced lifting of ban on import of all kinds of poultry products from Pakistan, which has rekindled hope among poultry related traders for rejuvenation of the sagging sector. However, in the wake of higher cost of...
Obama lands in Saudi Arabia - Woonsocket Call
US President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the start of a mission to the Middle East where he will reach out to the world's Muslims and promote peace. Saudi Arabia laid on a red carpet welcome for Obama, who is due to hold talks...
Saudi Arabia Suffers Lack of Working Women as Oil Fluctuates - Bloomberg
Oil is no longer enough for Saudi Arabia, which is the largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The country's population has more than tripled to 25 million people from 7.3 million in 1975 -- and 57 percent of all Saudis...
Colbert Takes On Saudi Arabia For Press Restrictions, American ... - AlterNet
By The Huffington Post News Team, Huffington Post Stephen Colbert opened his show last night with a frenzied chant of "USA USA" that dissolved into a "hopping-mad" segment about Saudi Arabia. The country recently warned American journalists to stick to...

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA (Arabic: المملكة العربية السعودية‎, al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya), is an Arab country and the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Sea to its west. It has an estimated population of 27.6 million, and its size is approximately 2,150,000 square kilometres (830,000 sq mi).

The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia (pronounced /ˈsɔːdɪ/ or /ˈsaʊdɪ əˈreɪbɪə/). The current Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, though its national origins go back as far as 1744 with the establishment of the First Saudi State.

Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter. Petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia is often called, along with Russia, an energy superpower.

Although the region in which the country stands today has an ancient history, the emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. That year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of the town of Ad-Dir'iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with a cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. This alliance formed in the 18th century and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula (see First Saudi State and Second Saudi State). The third and current Saudi state was founded in the early 20th century by King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud).

In 1902, at the age of only 22, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud re-captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, Al-Qatif, the rest of Nejd, and Hejaz between 1913 and 1926. On January 8, 1926, Abdul Aziz bin Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 29, 1927, he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz's realm, then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd. In 1932, the principal regions of Al-Hasa, Qatif, Nejd and Hejaz were unified to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938. Development programmes, which were delayed due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939, began in earnest in 1946 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community.

Prior to his death in 1953, Abdul Aziz, aware of the difficulties facing other regional absolute rulers reliant on extended family networks, attempted to regulate the succession.

Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s the Kingdom was in jeopardy due to Saud's economic mismanagement and failure to deal effectively with a regional challenge from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favour of Faisal in 1964.

Intra-family rivalry was one of the factors that led to the assassination of Faisal by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa'id, in 1975. He was succeeded by King Khalid until 1982 and then by King Fahd. When Fahd died in 2005, his half-brother, Abdullah, ascended to the throne.

The Kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula. In 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemen signed an agreement to settle their long-running border dispute. A significant length of the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government's estimate is 2,217,949 km² (856,356 sq mi). Other reputable estimates vary between 1,960,582 km² (756,934 mi) and 2,240,000 km² (864,869 mi²). The kingdom is commonly listed as the world's 14th largest state.

Saudi Arabia's geography is varied. From the western coastal region (Tihamah), the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center. The southwestern 'Asir region has mountains as high as 3,000 m (9,840 ft) and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abha in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The geographically hostile Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") desert along the country's imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.

Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation's landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Less than two percent of the kingdom's total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofuf and Buraydah. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub' al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry is constructing a few planned communities there. Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for 2,640 km (1,640 mi) and, along the Red Sea, harbors world-class coral reefs, including the Gulf of Aqaba.

Native animals include the ibex, wildcats, baboons, wolves, and hyenas in the mountainous highlands. Small birds are found in the oases. The coastal area on the Red Sea with its coral reefs has a rich marine life.

Extreme heat and aridity are characteristic of most of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the few places in the world where summer temperatures above 50 °C (122 °F) have been recorded, 51.7 °C (124 °F) being the highest ever recorded temperature. In winter, frost or snow can occur in the interior and the higher mountains, although this only occurs once or twice in a decade. The lowest recorded temperature is −12.0 °C (10.4 °F), recorded at Turaif. The average winter temperature ranges from 8° to 20 °C (47° to 68 °F) in January in interior cities such as Riyadh and 19° to 29 °C (66° to 83 °F) in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast. The average summer temperature range (in July) is 27° to 43 °C (81° to 109 °F) in Riyadh and 27° to 38 °C (80° to 100 °F) in Jeddah. Nighttime temperatures in the central deserts can be famously chilly even in summer, as the sand gives up daytime heat rapidly once the sun has set. Annual precipitation is usually sparse (up to 100 mm or 4 in in most regions), although sudden downpours can lead to violent flash floods in wadis. Annual rainfall in Riyadh averages 100 mm (4 inches) and falls almost exclusively between January and May; the average in Jeddah is 54 mm (2.1 in) and occurs between November and January.

The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to The Economist's Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the ninth most authoritarian regime in the world.

There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. The king's powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The Saudi government spreads Islam by funding construction of mosques and Qur'an schools around the world. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

The combination of relatively high oil prices and exports led to a revenues windfall for Saudi Arabia during 2004 and early 2005. For 2004 as a whole, Saudi Arabia earned about $116 billion in net oil export revenues, up 35 percent from 2003 revenue levels. Saudi net oil export revenues are forecast to increase in 2005 and 2006, to $150 billion and $154 billion, respectively, mainly due to higher oil prices. Increased oil prices and consequent revenues since the price collapse of 1998 have significantly improved Saudi Arabia's economic situation, with real GDP growth of 5.2 percent in 2004, and forecasts of 5.7% and 4.8% growth for 2005 and 2006, respectively.

For fiscal year 2004, Saudi Arabia originally had been expecting a budget deficit. However, this was based on an extremely conservative price assumption of $19 per barrel for Saudi oil and an assumed production of 7.7 Mbbl/d (1,220,000 m³/d). Both of these estimates turned out to be far below actual levels. As a result, as of mid-December 2004, the Saudi Finance Ministry was expecting a huge budget surplus of $26.1 billion, on budget revenues of $104.8 billion (nearly double the country's original estimate) and expenditures of $78.6 billion (28 percent above the approved budget levels). This surplus is being used for several purposes, including: paying down the Kingdom's public debt (to $164 billion from $176 billion at the start of 2004); extra spending on education and development projects; increased security expenditures (possibly an additional $2.5 billion dollars in 2004; see below) due to threats from terrorists; and higher payments to Saudi citizens through subsidies (for housing, education, health care, etc.). For 2005, Saudi Arabia is assuming a balanced budget, with revenues and expenditures of $74.6 billion each.

Saudi municipal elections took place in 2005 and some commentators saw this as a first tentative step towards the introduction of democratic processes in the Kingdom, including the legalization of political parties. Other analysts of the Saudi political scene were more skeptical.

Saudi Arabia has been the subject of widespread allegations of corruption, for example that BAE Systems bribed government officials and the Saudi Royal Family in order to win the Al Yamamah arms contract.

The Basic Law, in 1992, declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the progeny of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also declared the Qur'an as the constitution of the country, governed on the basis of Islamic law.

Criminal cases are tried under Sharia courts in the country. These courts exercise authority over the entire population including foreigners (regardless of religion). Cases involving small penalties are tried in Shari'a summary courts. More serious crimes are adjudicated in Shari'a courts of common pleas. Courts of appeal handle appeals from Shari'a courts.

Civil cases may also be tried under Sharia courts with one exception: Shia may try such cases in their own courts. Other civil proceedings, including those involving claims against the Government and enforcement of foreign judgments, are held before specialized administrative tribunals, such as the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes and the Board of Grievances.

Main sources of Saudi law are Hanbali fiqh as set out in a number of specified scholarly treatises by authoritative jurists, other schools of law, state regulations and royal decrees (where these are relevant), and custom and practice.

The Saudi legal system prescribes capital punishment or corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for certain crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug smuggling, homosexual activity, and adultery. The courts may impose less severe punishments, such as floggings, for less serious crimes against public morality such as drunkenness. Murder, accidental death and bodily harm are open to punishment from the victim's family. Retribution may be sought in kind or through blood money. The blood money payable for a woman's accidental death is half as much as that for a man. The main reason for this is that, according to Islamic law, men are expected to be providers for their families and therefore are expected to earn more money in their lifetimes. The blood money from a man would be expected to sustain his family, for at least a short time. Honor killings are also not punished as severely as murder. This generally stems from the fact that honor killings are within a family, and done to compensate for some dishonorable act committed. Slavery was abolished in 1962.

Several international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have issued reports critical of the Saudi legal system and its human rights record in various political, legal, and social areas, especially its severe limitations on the rights of women. The Saudi government typically dismisses such reports as being outright lies or asserts that its actions are based on its adherence to Islamic law.

In 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under the Shari'a. The Saudi delegation responded defending its legal traditions held since the inception of Islam in the region 1300 years ago and rejected "interference" in its legal system.

Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are banned from driving on public roads. Women may drive off-road and in private housing compounds - some of which extend to many square miles. The ban may be lifted soon, although with certain conditions.

The Government views its interpretation of Islamic law as its sole source of guidance on human rights. In 2000, the Government approved the October legislation, which the Government claimed would address some of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The first independent human rights organization, the National Society for Human Rights was established in 2004. The Saudi Government is an active censor of Internet reception within its borders. A Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was jailed for five months in solitary confinement in December, 2007, without charges, after criticizing Saudi religious, business and media figures.

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 emirates (manatiq, - singular mintaqah). The emirates are further divided into governorates.

Saudi Arabia's 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 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 24% 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 telecom. 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. Recent oil price increases have helped boost per capita GDP to $17,000 in 2007 dollars, or about $7,400 adjusted for inflation.

OPEC 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). To diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia launched a new city on the western coast with investments exceeding $26.6 billion. The city, which is named "King Abdullah Economic City", will be built near al-Rabegh industrial city north to Jeddah. The new city, where construction work started in December 2005, includes a port which is the largest port of the kingdom. Extending along a coastline of 35 km, the city will also include petrochemical, pharmaceutical, tourism, finance and education and research areas. Saudi Arabia officially became a World Trade Organization member in December 2005.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few fastest growing countries in the world with a high per capita income of $20,700 (2007), Saudi Arabia will be launching six economic cities (King Abdullah Economic City) which will be completed by the year 2020. These six new industrialized cities will diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia, and will also increase the per capita income to a high level. The King of Saudi Arabia has announced that the per capita income is forecast, to rise from $15,000 in 2006 to $33,500 in 2020. The cities will be spread around Saudi Arabia to promote diversification for each region and their economy, and the cities will contribute $150 billion to the GDP.

However the urban areas of Riyadh and Jeddah will contribute $287 billion dollars by the year 2020.

Despite the government's efforts to promote Saudization, the country draws a significant portion of its labour force from foreign countries, especially from South and Southeast Asia (notably India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka), East Asia, East Africa and from other Middle Eastern countries. There are also some people from North America, South America, and Europe. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers and skilled workers from regions of the developing world migrate to Saudi Arabia, sometimes only for a short period of time, to work. Although exact figures are not known, skilled experts in the banking and services professions seek work in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia's population as of July 2006 is estimated to be about 27,019,731, including an estimated 5,576,076 resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, a majority of the population was nomadic; but presently more than 95% of the population is settled, due to rapid economic and urban growth. As recently as the 1950s, the Saudi Arabia’s slave population was estimated at 450,000 — about 20% of the population. Slavery was officially abolished in 1962. The birth rate is 29.56 births per 1,000 people. The death rate is 2.62 deaths per 1,000 people. Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600/sq mi).

About 23% of the population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Approximately 12% of the population is South Asian or of South Asian ancestry, including Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis. In addition, there are some citizens of Asian, Northeast African, and Sub-Saharan ancestry. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There are over eight million migrants from countries all around the world, (including non-Muslims): Indian: 1.4 million, Bangladeshi: 1 million, Filipino: 950,000, Pakistani: 900,000, Egyptian: 900,000, Yemeni: 800,000, Indonesian: 500,000, Sri Lankan: 350,000, Sudanese: 250,000, Syrian: 100,000 and Turkish: 80,000. There are around 100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in compounds or gated communities.

Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991 to punish Yemen for its opposition to the Gulf War against Iraq. An estimated 240,000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship, because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship in order "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland". Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers, which entitles expatriates of all nationalities who have resided in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship with priority being given to holders of degrees in various scientific fields. The Articles 12.4 and 14.1 of the Executive Regulation of Saudi Citizenship System can be interpreted as requiring applicants to be muslim.

The majority of the population adheres to a theological interpretation within Islam most commonly known as Salafism or Wahhabism. Writing in 2006 for the Council on Foreign Relations Lionel Beehner estimated the Shia population of the country at 15 percent. Shia in Saudi Arabia reside primarily in the eastern provinces on the Gulf, southwestern provinces bordering Yemen, Mecca and particularly, Medina, as well as other larger cities in the kingdom.

The Saudi government does not recognize any religions other than Islam, and does not grant non-Muslims the right to practice their faith. Though the government officially claims to guarantee the right of private worship of non-Muslims, this right is not always respected in practice and is not defined in lawComprehensive statistics for the denominations of foreigners are not available, but they include Muslims from the various branches and schools of Islam, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews. An estimated 90 percent of the Filipino community is Christian, and private Christian religious gatherings reportedly take place throughout the country.

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, education was not accessible to everyone and limited to individualized instruction at religious schools in mosques in urban areas. These schools taught Islamic law and basic literacy skills. By the end of the century, Saudi Arabia had a nationwide educational system providing free training from preschool through university to all citizens.

The primary education system began in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. By 1945, King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, the country's founder, had initiated an extensive program to establish schools in the Kingdom. Six years later, in 1951, the country had 226 schools with 29,887 students. In 1954, the Ministry of Education was established, headed by then Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz as the first Minister of Education. The first university, now known as King Saud University, was founded in Riyadh in 1957.

Today, Saudi Arabia's nationwide public educational system comprises twenty universities, more than 24,000 schools, and a large number of colleges and other educational and training institutions. The system provides students with free education, books and health services and is open to every Saudi. Over 25 percent of the annual State budget is for education including vocational training. The Kingdom has also worked on scholarship programs to send students overseas to the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and other nations. Currently thousands of students are being sent to higher-educations programs every year.

The study of Islam remains at the core of the Saudi educational system. The Islamic aspect of the Saudi national curriculum is examined in a 2006 report by Freedom House. The report found that in religious education classes (in any religious school), children are taught to deprecate other religions, in addition to other branches of Islam. The Saudi religious studies curriculum is taught outside the Kingdom in madrasah throughout the world.

Men can often be found playing sports. Women rarely participate in sports, and always away from the presence of men; this often leads to indoor gyms. Even though football is the most popular sport, Saudi Arabia has recently participated in the Summer Olympic Games and in international competitions in volleyball and other sports. The Saudi Arabian national youth baseball team has also participated in the Little League World Series. The Saudi Arabia national football team is often most known for being in four consecutive times in the FIFA World Cup and six times in the AFC Asian Cup, which the team won three times and was runner-up three times. Some popular football players include Majed Abdullah, Mohamed Al-Deayea, Sami Al-Jaber, and Saeed Al-Owairan.

Saudi Arabian culture mainly revolves around the religion of Islam. Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, are located in the country. Five times every day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques which are scattered around the country. The weekend begins on Thursday due to Friday being the holiest day for Muslims. All Muslim countries have a Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday weekend. The public practice of any religion other than Islam, including Christianity and Judaism, the presence of churches, and possession of non-Islamic religious materials is not allowed except in Aramco compounds in which many expatriates attend church services. Saudi Arabia's cultural heritage is celebrated at the annual Jenadriyah cultural festival.

However, secret negotiations are rumored to be taking place between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia regarding authorization to build Catholic Churches in the Kingdom.

One of Saudi Arabia's most compelling folk rituals is the Al Ardha, the country's national dance. This sword dance is based on ancient Bedouin traditions: drummers beat out a rhythm and a poet chants verses while sword-carrying men dance shoulder to shoulder. Al-sihba folk music, from the Hejaz, has its origins in al-Andalus. In Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, dance and song incorporate the sound of the mizmar, an oboe-like woodwind instrument in the performance of the mizmar dance. The drum is also an important instrument according to traditional and tribal customs. Samri is a popular traditional form of music and dance in which poetry is sung.

Saudi Arabian dress follows strictly the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty, especially in dress). The predominantly loose and flowing but covering garments are helpful in Saudi Arabia's desert climate. Traditionally, men usually wear an ankle-length shirt woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb), with a keffiyeh (a large checkered square of cotton held in place by a cord coil) or a ghutra (a plain white square made of finer cotton, also held in place by a cord coil) worn on the head. For rare chilly days, Saudi men wear a camel-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs, coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques. Women are required to wear an abaya or modest clothing when in public.

Islamic dietary laws forbid the eating of pork and the drinking of alcohol, and this law is enforced strictly throughout Saudi Arabia. Arabic unleavened bread, or khobz, is eaten with almost all meals. Other staples include lamb, grilled chicken, falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), shawarma (spit-cooked sliced lamb), and Ful medames (a paste of fava beans, garlic and lemon). Traditional coffeehouses used to be ubiquitous, but are now being displaced by food-hall style cafes. Arabic tea is also a famous custom, which is used in both casual and formal meetings between friends, family and even strangers. The tea is black (without milk) and has herbal flavoring that comes in many variations.

Public theatres and cinemas are prohibited, as Wahhabi tradition deems those institutions to be incompatible with Islam. However, an IMAX theatre is available, and in private compounds such as Dhahran and Ras Tanura public theaters can be found, but often are more popular for local music, arts, and theatre productions rather than the exhibition of motion pictures. DVDs, including American and British movies, are legal and widely available.

Due to the legal framework of the country, which does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion, the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. Indeed, the Government enforces a strict and conservative version of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not follow the official interpretation, can face severe repercussions at the hands of Mutawwa'in (religious police).

For this reason, Saudi culture lacks the diversity of religious expression, buildings, annual festivals and public events that is seen in countries where religious freedom is permitted. Christianity in Saudi Arabia faces persecution.

Saudi military was founded as the Ikhwan army, the tribal army of Ibn Saud. The Ikhwan had helped King Ibn Saud conquer the Arabian peninsula during the First World War. By expanding the military forces years later, Saudi Arabia today has many military branches.

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest contributors of development aid, both in term of volume of aid and in the ratio of aid volume to GDP.

Much of Saudi Arabia's aid has gone to poorer Islamic countries or Islamic communities in non-Islamic countries. This aid has contributed to the spreading of Islam of the sort found in Saudi Arabia, rather than fostering the traditions of the receiving ethnic groups. The effect has been the erosion of regional Islamic cultures through standardization. Examples of the acculturizing effect of Saudi aid can be seen among the Minangkabau and the Acehnese in Indonesia, as well as among the people of the Maldives.

On the 18 December 2008, the William J. Clinton Foundation released a list of all contributors. It included The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which gave between US$10-25 million.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia

Map of the territory and area covered by present-day Saudi Arabia.

The history of Jews in Saudi Arabia' refers to the Jewish history in the areas that are now within the territory of Saudi Arabia. It is a history that goes back to Biblical times.

The first mention of Jews in the areas of modern-day Saudi Arabia dates back, by some accounts, to the time of the First Temple. Immigration to the Arabian Peninsula began in earnest in the 2nd century CE, and by the 6th and 7th centuries there was a considerable Jewish population in Hejaz, mostly in and around Medina, in part because of the embrace of Judaism by such leaders as Dhu Nuwas (who was very aggressive about converting his subjects to Judaism, and who persecuted Christians in his kingdom as a reaction to Christian persecution of Jews) and Abu Karib Asad.

The Hejazi Jews were mostly wine merchants and traders. At the same time, a considerable Jewish population was growing in nearby present-day Yemen, particularly in Aden and Hadramaut, which sustained their Jewish populations until relatively recently. Jewish settlement also existed in the northern parts of the peninsula.

There were three main Jewish tribes in Medina, forming the most important Hejazi community before the rise of Islam in Arabia. These were the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qainuqa, and the Banu Qurayza. Most of the Jewish tribes were later killed by Arab Muslims of the 7th and 8th centuries following a massive betrayal by the Jews towards a previously agreed truce with the Muslims of Madinah. In this clean-up operation, only those adult males were killed who took active part in breaking the truce and trying to kill the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) following Islamic law of sparing elderly, disabled, women & minors.

After the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the Jewish population of Yemen was treated in a progressively harsher fashion despite the Quranic verse "There is no compulsion in religion" (verse 2:256).

This Quranic verse, or Sura, gave rise to the Islamic concept of Dhimmi which states that "Jews, Christians, and Sabeans" are to be treated not as Infidels but as a separate, third classification, "al Dhimmi", which gave them the status of protected persons. Dhimmi are , among other things, not liable to pay zakat, but pay a financially lesser tax known as jiziyah, ineligible to serve in the army, not allowed to proselytise forbidden to blaspheme against the Muslim religion, and so on.

Jews continued to endure these and other indignities, but in the region now known as Saudi Arabia, Jews gradually disappeared via assimilation or the more frequent attrition. While Jewish populations seem to have increased in that region even after the Islamic Advent, by the middle of the 16th Century A.D. all Jews had disappeared from al Hejaz Region. This was unfortunately made so in the rest of Saudi Arabia by royal edict after than nation's independence.

A historical journey to visit far-flung Jewish communities was undertaken by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela from 1165 to 1173 that crossed and tracked some of the areas that are today in the geographic area of Saudi Arabia. One map of his travels in the areas of present-day Saudi Arabia shows that he stopped at Jewish communities living in Tayma and Khaybar two places that are known to have a longer significant historic Jewish presence in them, see Jews of Tayma and Khaybar where the Battle of Khaybar was fought between Muhammad and his followers against the centuries-long established Jewish community of Khaybar in 629. Tudela's trek began as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He may have hoped to settle there, but there is controversy about the reasons for his travels. It has been suggested he may have had a commercial motive as well as a religious one. On the other hand, he may have intended to catalogue the Jewish communities on the route to the Holy Land so as to provide a guide to where hospitality may have been found for Jews travelling to the Holy Land. He took the "long road" stopping frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations and giving a demographic count of Jews in every town and country.

One of the known towns that Benjamin of Tudela reported as having a Jewish community was "El Katif" located in the area of the modern-day city of Hofuf in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Hofuf also Hofuf or Al-Hufuf (Arabic: الهفوف‎) is the major urban center in the huge Al-Ahsa Oasis in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The city has a population of 287,841 (2004 census} and is part of a larger populated oasis area of towns and villages of around 600,000. It is located inland, southwest of Abqaiq and the Dhahran-Dammam-Al-Khobar metropolitan area on the road south to Haradh.

There was virtually no Jewish activity in Saudi Arabia in the beginning of the 21st century. Jewish (as well as Christian and other non-Muslim) religious services are prohibited from being held on Saudi Arabian soil. When American military personnel were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, permission for small Christian worship services was eventually granted, but Jewish services were only permitted on US warships. Census data does not identify any Jewish persons as residing within Saudi Arabian territory.

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Music of Saudi Arabia

Both Western and traditional music are very popular in Saudi Arabia. Like many of its Persian Gulf neighbors, khaleeji folk traditions are popular styles. The most distinguished musician in recent Saudi history is Tariq Abdulhakeem, who composed hundreds of famous Saudi songs for himself as well as for other singers. Saraj Omar has become a very prominent composer after composing the music for the Saudi national anthem. In 1999, the 1st Arab Pioneers Festival, which was held in Cairo under the patronage of the Arab League, honored four of the lead composers in Saudi Arabia: Tariq Abdulhakeem, Ghazi Ali, Mohammed Al-Senan, and Mohammed Shafique. Mohammed Al-Senan is the first Arab composer who won the 1st Place World Wide Award in the first Children International Nile Song Festival which was held in Cairo in September 1998, for his song "I Love You Mom".

Later musicians include the pan-Arab star Mohamed Abdu, Saudi Arabia's first pop star, and the late Talal Maddah, known as the "Sound of the Earth", who died in August 2000 while singing in the summer festival on the stage of Al-Muftaha Theatre in the southern region of Saudi Arabia. Of the same generation was the 'ud virtuoso Abadi al Johar, and lately Abdul-Majeed Abdullah came strongly to the scene.

Saudi traditional music is quite limited, however. The migratory lifestyle of the bedouin militated against carrying excess baggage, including musical instruments. Simple rhythms, with the beat counted by clapping or striking together everyday implements formed the basis of the music. Instruments like the double-reeded ney or the stringed rababa were sometimes used, after being obtained in cosmopolitan cities such as Basrah, Baghdad, and Jeddah.

Music, however, is considered "sinful" by some Muslims. This is based, in part, on certain ahadith which speak negatively of non-percussion musical instruments and the idea that music and art are distractions from God. Particularly in the early days of the current Saudi state, religious authorities were quick to repress music other than the rhythmic percussion that still dominates contemporary Saudi music. The advent of radios, tape and CD players in the country saw the attendant growth of shops supporting them. Most cities of any size now have crowded music shops. With the coming of satellite TV, music video stations, ranging from MTV (Europe and Lebanon versions), VH1, and assorted European and Arabic music channels are very popular.

Samri is a popular traditional music and dance.

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Source : Wikipedia