No other country in the world is as misunderstood as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and perhaps no other country – rich with culture, heritage, and natural beauty – is as worthy of a visit.
It is more than a harsh desert (though the sands it does boast include the Empty Quarter, a beautiful expanse of undulating dunes unlike anywhere in the world), it is a country with many areas of beautiful oases and dramatic mountain-tops and beaches.
This page provides a brief introduction to various aspects of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Location: Southwest Asia, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa; extending from the Red Sea in the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east; bordered on the north by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, on the south, by Yemen and Oman, and on the east by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
Land: varied, fairly barren and harsh, with salt flats, gravel plains and sand deserts; a few man-made lakes but no permanent streams; in the south, the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the world; in the southwest, mountain ranges of over 9,000 feet. 2,240,000 sq km (864,869 sq miles).
Climate: June through August, over 110 degrees Fahrenheit midday in the desert; humidity in coastal regions up to 100 percent; elsewhere, mild; possible winter temperatures in the northern and central regions dropping below freezing; rainfall, from none at all for up to 10 years in the Rub Al-Khali, to 20 inches a year in the mountains of Asir Province.
Religion: Population 27 million, including nearly 8.5 million expatriates (2010 census).
Language: Arabic, English widely spoken in urban areas.
National Day: September 23, commemorating the foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Rulers: King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud, the founder (1932-1963), followed by his sons: King Saud (1953-64), King Faisal (1964-75), King Khalid (1975-82), King Fahd (1982-2005), King Abdullah ( 2005-2015) and the current ruler, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Government: Islamic state based on principles prescribed by the Qur'an (Islam's Holy Book) and the Shari'ah (Islamic law); Provincial Council System, Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura), and Council of Ministers.
The 13 provinces and their capitals:
Riyadh Province, Makkah Province, Madinah Province, Qasim Province, Eastern Province, Asir Province, Tabuk Province, Hail Province, Northern Border Province, Jizan Province, Najran Province, Baha Province, Jouf Province,
Phone code: Emergency numbers in Saudi Arabia: Police: 999
area codes Riyadh - 11
Jeddah, Makkah and Taif - 12
Eastern Province Dammam and Dhahran - 13
Madinah, Tabuk and Jawf Northern Borders - 14
Qasim and Hail - 16
Asir, Jizan, Najran and Bahah - 17
Plus three (GMT+3) = Eastern Standard Time.
Islamic (Hijrah), dating from emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah; weekend, Friday and Saturday.
The 12 months of the Islamic lunar year
Muharram, Safar, Rabi' Al-Awal, Rabi' Al-Akher, Jumada Al-Awal, Jumada Al-Akher, Rajab, Sha'ban, Ramadan, Shawwal. Dhu Al-Qadah , Dhu Al-Hajjah .
closure of all offices and schools on Eid Al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast, from the evening of the twenty-fifth day of Ramadan through the fifth day of Shawwal; Eid Al-Adha, the culmination of the Hajj, from the fifth through fifteenth day of Dhu Al-Hajjah; and September 23, National Day.
Government offices Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm; private businesses from 8:00 am to noon and 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm; general banking from 8:00 am until noon and from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm and markets and shops from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm.
Saudi Riyal (SR) . Bank notes, in Arabic and English, in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Riyals; coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 halalahs, with 100 halalahs equal to one riyal; metric system in use. Credit Cards/Travellers Cheques: Credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted
Opening Hours in Saudi Arabia
Bank: 0830-1200 & 1700-1900 Sat-Wed, 0830-1200 Thursday vary.
Office: 0900-1300 & 1630-2000 Sat-Thur (during Ramadan 2000-0100), 0730-1430 Sat-Wed (Government offices)
Shops: 0900-1300 & 1630-2000 Sat-Thur (during Ramadan 2000-0100)
Service charge is usually included in bills at hotels. Elsewhere a tip of 10 percent can be offered for services rendered. Taxi drivers can be given 10 percent of the fare.
Airports in Saudi Arabia:
Dammam King Fahd International (DMM)
Jeddah King Abdulaziz International (JED)
Riyadh King Khaled International (RUH)
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