Saudi Arabia, is spread over 2,150,000 square kilometers (830,000 square miles), almost 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. Located in the southwest corner of Asia, the Kingdom is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is surrounded by the Red Sea on the West, by Yemen and Oman on the South, the Arabian Gulf and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on the East, and Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait on the North. Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline stretches about 1,760 kilometers (1,100 miles) while its Arabian Gulf coastline roughly 560 kilometers (350 miles).
Desert covers more than half the total area of Saudi Arabia. A narrow coastal plain runs through the Kingdom’s western coast while a range of mountains run parallel to the coastal plain along the Red Sea. Along the Arabian Gulf in the east is a low-lying region called Al-Ahasa. The mountains in the west of the Kingdom are very rich in minerals with large deposits of limestone, gypsum and sand. The eastern region has the richest reservoirs of oil in the world.
The total Saudi population as of September 2004 increased to 22.7 million, compared with 13 million in 1985 and 21 million in 1999. The population growth rate in the KSA stands at 3.24%, which ranks somewhere between the lowest growth in Kuwait (2%), and the highest growth rate in the UAE (5.84%). However, growth rates in the KSA figure rank above the general average of 2.37%, registered across the Arab world. The high birth rate and the low mortality rate are the result of dedicated and intensive efforts towards health care issues.
Inhabitants from Saudi origins form 72.9% of the population, which comprises 50.1% males and 49.9% females. Foreigners form 27.1% of the population (6 million people), of whom 69.5% are males, and the remaining are females.
This rising number of foreign inhabitants is an outcome of the growing interest of foreigners in the Saudi investment sectors. Furthermore, this came as a result of Saudi government policy of using its oil revenues to expand general services and build a solid infrastructure. Egyptian workforce make up the largest number of expatriates, reaching 16% of foreign workers, followed by India, Pakistan, Yemen and the Philippines.
Makkah and Madinah, Islam’s two holiest cities, are located in Saudi Arabia. Makkah is the birth place of the Prophet Muhammad and the focal point of Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage in which almost two million Muslims from all parts of the world participate every year. Madinah is the city where Prophet Muhammad emigrated and lived. Riyadh, located in the central province, is the capital city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the high-tech center of modern Saudi Arabia and houses the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Jeddah, located along the eastern coast of the Red Sea, is the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, and serves as an entrance to the rest of the peninsula. Jeddah’s ports hence become the main thoroughfares for trade.
The twin cities of Jubail and Yanbu are a symbol of the government’s vision of Saudi Arabia’s future development. Jubail lies on the Arabian Gulf in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom. It is located 80 kilometers north of Dammam, and is an ancient center and caravan junction famous for pearling. It has the world’s largest petrochemical complex. Yanbu is located on the East Coast of the Red Sea about 350 kilometers north-west of Jeddah. It houses the Directorate General of the Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu. It is a typical industrial fortress and a work of art in architectural engineering.
Almost the entire Kingdom is arid, although there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives the monsoon rains in summer. Sporadic rain can also occur elsewhere, sometimes very heavily, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh, where the air and prevailing winds tend usually to be very dry.
As a result of the general aridity and cloudless skies, temperatures can vary considerably from a mid-summer maximum of 50°C (122°F) in the shade to winter lows close to or below freezing in the mountainous areas and, sometimes, at night in the heart of the desert. Hail and snow may also be experienced in some parts of the country during the winter months. Humidity is a major feature of the coastal areas, although this is usually tempered by slightly lower and less variable temperatures and a steady breeze, especially in the east.
Content courtesy of Saudi Geoegraphial Society