Asian Countries

Saudi Arabia Overview

GENERAL

Official name of the state

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Capital

Riyadh (Riyadh).

Geography

Saudi Arabia covers 80% of the Arabian Peninsula and is bordered by Jordan in the northwest, Iraq and Kuwait in the north, the Persian Gulf, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman in the east, and Yemen in the south. To the west lies the Red Sea. A narrow, hot, humid coastal strip (Tihama) stretches along the coast of the Red Sea and consists mainly of large wetlands and lava fields. Behind the coastal plain a number of plateaus rise up to 2000 m, in the south (Asir) even up to 3000 m. To the east of these mountains, in the far north, lies An Nafud, while the Nedsch rises in the middle of the country. Both regions are semi-deserts with oases. There are extensive sandy deserts inland. On the Gulf coast there are fertile plains that merge into limestone ridges.

Government

Islamic absolute monarchy since 1932. Constitution of 1993, Islam is a source of constitution and law. National Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura) with 150 members, appointed by the King, 20% of whom are women. The legislature, executive and jurisdiction rest with the king, who is also the spiritual head (guardian of the holy places).

Head of state

King Salman, since January 2015.

Head of government

King Salman, since January 2015.

Electricity

127/220 V, 60 Hz. Current fluctuations are common, adapters are recommended.

Time zone

Arabia Standard Time: CET +4

LANGUAGE

Overview

The official language is Arabic. English is important and widely used as a business and lingua franca. Many Saudis study at one of the major universities abroad, such as Oxford or Harvard. German, French and Japanese are common as foreign languages. Road signs are usually written in both Arabic and English.

Arabic is spoken by around 320 million people as their mother tongue worldwide, and another 60 million people speak it as a second language. Because of its importance as a sacred language in the Islamic faith, Arabic has developed into a world language. Along with Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, it is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. In addition to Saudi Arabia, Arabic is also the official language in Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Israel, Iraq, Yemen, Kata, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, although the local dialects are sometimes very different from one another. The Cairo dialect is widely understood due to the large Egyptian film production. Standard Arabic is rarely used as an oral communication tool,

The written language for all dialects is written standard Arabic. It is written from right to left. In the Arabic alphabet there are only consonants and long vowels. Arabic is one of the current scripts, which means that the individual letters of a word are connected with one another.

Saudi Arabia Overview

CULTURE

Religion

98% Muslim, mostly Sunnis, Shiites in the eastern province; Christians and Hindus (foreign workers).

Social rules of conduct

General: Saudi Arabia is a strictly Muslim country. But those who respect the strict laws and traditions have the opportunity to get to know this special country.

Manners: Men shake hands in greeting, handshakes are the exception between men and women. Invitations to private houses are rare for foreigners, and hospitality usually takes place in hotels or restaurants. It is a special honor for the host when the guest tries as many dishes as possible. Although it is common to eat with the right hand, cutlery is also available. As a guest you should drink three cups of coffee and then by waving the cup back and forth (small quick movement of the wrist) show that you have had enough. A small company gift or a souvenir from home are gladly accepted. Anyone who sits with crossed legs may neither show the soles of their feet nor point their feet at another person, as this is taken as an insult.

Clothing: Men should not wear shorts or bare chests in public; long trousers and shirts are appropriate. For women, the abaya is required by law in public as the minimum standard of veiling; the big hotels usually lend them to guests. Wearing a headscarf is always required by the Mutawas (Islamic religious police), but is not required by law; It is advisable to always carry a thin scarf with you, which can be used to cover your hair when requested. In larger cities, the dress code is a little more relaxed.

Gender segregation: There is a strict gender segregation in Saudi Arabia, a country located in Middle East according to holidaysort. Even weddings are usually celebrated separately by gender. Women are not allowed to swim together with men, this also applies to the hotel’s own pool. In a taxi or when driving in a car with a non-related driver, women should be careful not to sit in the front passenger seat, but in the back seats.

Smoking: Non-smoking areas are signposted and should be observed. It is unusual for women to smoke in public. Visitors should also refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during Ramadan. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, in public places and in tourist facilities.

Photography: Photography is not permitted in public. Therefore, it is always advisable to always ask for permission before pulling the shutter button. Photography is prohibited for military installations, facilities near the border, airports and other public buildings. There is an express ban on photography in and around the al-Haram mosque in Mecca and for the Prophet’s mosque in Medina. Anyone who still takes photos must expect their camera, films and memory cards to be confiscated. Women and children should not be photographed.

Tipping: Hotel porters, housekeeping staff and taxi drivers expect tips. In restaurants, a tip of 10-15% is only usual if the bill does not already include a service fee.

CLIMATE

Best travel time

Mostly dry desert climate. It is very hot all year round in Jeddah and the coastal region of the Red Sea. Inland (Riyadh) it is hotter in summer and cooler in winter than in the coastal areas, temperatures can drop below freezing point at night in the winter months (December – February); occasional heavy rains in winter.

The climate is most pleasant from May to September.

COUNTRY DATA

Area code +966 Area (sqkm) 2149690 Population 32157974 Population density (per sqkm) 13 Population in 2016 Member of the EU No main emergency number 997