Saudi Arabia Flag Icon

Saudi Arabia Country Guide

Explore Saudi Arabia in Asia

Travel warning information is updated daily: The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's advisory service suggests to reconsider your need to travel to this country. Take this advice seriously - check with your local authorities whether your exact destination is safe.

Saudi Arabia with the capital city Riyadh is located in Asia (Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea). It covers some 1,960,583 square kilometres (slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US) with 28,161,000 citizens.

Map of the area of  in

The topography includes mostly uninhabited, sandy desert. The average density of population is approximately 14 per km². The notable climate conditions in Saudi Arabia can be described as harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes. Possible natural disasters include frequent sand and dust storms.

To reach someone in Saudi Arabia dial +966 prior to a number. There are 4,171,000 installed telephones. And there are 44,864,000 registered mobile phones. The cellular networks commonly support frequencies of 900 MHz and 3G. Websites registered in this country end with the top level domain ".sa". If you want to bring electric equipment on your trip (e.g. laptop power supply), note the local power outlet of 127/220V - 60Hz.

About the flag and history of Saudi Arabia

Green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932; the flag is manufactured with differing obverse and reverse sides so that the Shahada reads - and the sword points - correctly from right to left on both sides
note: one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. One of his male descendants rules the country today, as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. King ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz ascended to the throne in 2005. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. The king instituted an interfaith dialogue initiative in 2008 to encourage religious tolerance on a global level; in 2009, he reshuffled the cabinet, which led to more moderates holding ministerial and judicial positions, and appointed the first female to the cabinet. The 2010-12 uprisings across Middle Eastern and North African countries sparked modest incidents in Saudi cities, predominantly by Shia demonstrators calling for the release of detainees and the withdrawal from Bahrain of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Peninsula Shield Force. Protests in general were met by a strong police presence, with some arrests, but not the level of bloodshed seen in protests elsewhere in the region. In response to the unrest, King ABDALLAH in February and March 2011 announced a series of benefits to Saudi citizens including funds to build affordable housing, salary increases for government workers, and unemployment entitlements. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide in September 2011 for half the members of 285 municipal councils. Also in September, the king announced that women will be allowed to run for and vote in future municipal elections - first held in 2005 - and serve as full members of the advisory Consultative Council. During 2012, Shia protests increased in violence, while peaceful Sunni protests expanded. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds about 17% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are ongoing governmental concerns.

Geography Quick-Facts

Summary Continent: Asia
Neighbours: Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait
Capital: Riyadh
Size 1,960,582 square kilometers (km² or sqkm) or 756,985 square miles (mi² or sqmi)
slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US
Population 28,161,000
Currency Name: Rial, Currency Code: SAR
Country Top Level Domain (cTLD) .sa
Telephone Country Prefix +966
Mobile Phone Connections 44,864,000
Landline Phone Connections 4,171,000

Country Position in World Rankings

Information about single country attributes and how these compare against the rest of the world. The information below is compiled with data from 2013. As such, it may differ a bit to the Information above in the text (which is from 2010).


Value name Value World Rank
Area 2,149,690 (sq km) 13

People and Society

Value name Value World Rank
Population 26,939,583 46
Population growth rate 1.51 (%) 80
Birth rate 19.01 (births/1,000 population) 94
Death rate 3.32 (deaths/1,000 population) 217
Net migration rate -0.62 (migrant(s)/1,000 population) 139
Maternal mortality rate 24.00 (deaths/100,000 live births) 133
Infant mortality rate 15.08 (deaths/1,000 live births) 111
Life expectancy at birth 74.58 (years) 109
Total fertility rate 2.21 (children born/woman) 103
Health expenditures 4.30 (% of GDP) 162
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 0.01 (%) 164
Obesity - adult prevalence rate 33.00 (%) 19
Children under the age of 5 years underweight 5.30 (%) 87
Education expenditures 5.60 (% of GDP) 51
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 28.2 (%) 32


Value name Value World Rank
GDP (purchasing power parity) 921,700,000,000 20
GDP - real growth rate 6.80 (%) 31
GDP - per capita (PPP) 31,800 46
Labor force 8,012,000 60
Unemployment rate 10.70 (%) 114
Investment (gross fixed) 21.50 (% of GDP) 78
Taxes and other revenues 43.2 (% of GDP) 33
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 10.70 (% of GDP) 7
Public debt 12.90 (% of GDP) 138
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 4.60 (%) 131
Commercial bank prime lending rate 7.20 (%) 125
Stock of narrow money 231,300,000,000 18
Stock of broad money 360,300,000,000 28
Stock of domestic credit 62,830,000,000 62
Market value of publicly traded shares 353,400,000,000 25
Industrial production growth rate 8.40 (%) 23
Current account balance 150,000,000,000 3
Exports 381,500,000,000 15
Imports 136,800,000,000 31
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 626,800,000,000 4
Debt - external 127,400,000,000 43
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 221,200,000,000 21
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 20,830,000,000 46


Value name Value World Rank
Electricity - production 212,300,000,000 (kWh) 21
Electricity - consumption 186,100,000,000 (kWh) 20
Electricity - installed generating capacity 44490000 (kW) 21
Electricity - from fossil fuels 100.0 (% of total installed capacity) 33
Crude oil - production 10,000,000 (bbl/day) 3
Crude oil - exports 6,880,000 (bbl/day) 2
Crude oil - proved reserves 264600000000 (bbl) 2
Refined petroleum products - production 1,914,000 (bbl/day) 12
Refined petroleum products - consumption 2,817,000 (bbl/day) 8
Refined petroleum products - exports 951,000 (bbl/day) 7
Refined petroleum products - imports 160,100 (bbl/day) 36
Natural gas - production 99,230,000,000 (cu m) 10
Natural gas - consumption 99,230,000,000 (cu m) 9
Natural gas - proved reserves 8,028,000,000,000 (cu m) 6
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 478,400,000 (Mt) 12


Value name Value World Rank
Telephones - main lines in use 4,633,000 32
Telephones - mobile cellular 53,706,000 25
Internet hosts 145,941 79
Internet users 9,774,000 30


Value name Value World Rank
Airports 216 27
Railways 1,378 (km) 81
Roadways 221,372 (km) 22
Merchant marine 72 61


Value name Value World Rank
Military expenditures 9.10 (% of GDP) 5

Data based on CIA facts book 2010 & 2013, wikipedia, national statistical offices and their census releases

List of current world heritage sites

Name Since
Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih)
The Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih) is the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia. Formerly known as Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It feat ...
At-Turaif District in ad-Dir'iyah
This property was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty, in the heart of the Arabian Penisula, north-west of Riyadh. Founded in the 15th century, it bears witness to the Najdi architectural style, which is specific to the centre of the Arabian penin ...
Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah
Historic Jeddah is situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. From the 7th century AD it was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channelling goods to Mecca. It was also the gateway for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca who arrived by ...