Photos of Saudi Arabia

Introduction

Background

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. 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 ongoing campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. US troops returned to the Kingdom in October 2019 after attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.

From 2005 to 2015, King ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud incrementally modernized the Kingdom. Driven by personal ideology and political pragmatism, he introduced a series of social and economic initiatives, including expanding employment and social opportunities for women, attracting foreign investment, increasing the role of the private sector in the economy, and discouraging businesses from hiring foreign workers. These reforms have accelerated under King SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz, who ascended to the throne in 2015, and has since lifted the Kingdom's ban on women driving and allowed cinemas to operate for the first time in decades. Saudi Arabia saw some protests during the 2011 Arab Spring but not the level of bloodshed seen in protests elsewhere in the region. Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province protested primarily against the detention of political prisoners, endemic discrimination, and Bahraini and Saudi Government actions in Bahrain. Riyadh took a cautious but firm approach by arresting some protesters but releasing most of them quickly and by using its state-sponsored clerics to counter political and Islamist activism.

The government held its first-ever elections in 2005 and 2011, when Saudis went to the polls to elect municipal councilors. In December 2015, women were allowed to vote and stand as candidates for the first time in municipal council elections, with 19 women winning seats. After King SALMAN ascended to the throne in 2015, he placed the first next-generation prince, MUHAMMAD BIN NAYIF bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, in the line of succession as Crown Prince. He designated his son, MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, as the Deputy Crown Prince. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of 10 countries in a military campaign to restore the legitimate government of Yemen, which had been ousted by Huthi forces allied with former president ALI ABDULLAH al-Salih. The war in Yemen has drawn international criticism for civilian casualties and its effect on the country’s dire humanitarian situation. In December 2015, then Deputy Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN announced Saudi Arabia would lead a 34-nation Islamic Coalition to fight terrorism (it has since grown to 41 nations). In May 2017, Saudi Arabia inaugurated the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology (also known as "Etidal") as part of its ongoing efforts to counter violent extremism. In June 2017, King SALMAN elevated MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN to Crown Prince.

The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds about 16% of the world's proven oil reserves as of 2015. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the Kingdom. In April 2016, the Saudi Government announced a broad set of socio-economic reforms, known as Vision 2030. Low global oil prices throughout 2015 and 2016 significantly lowered Saudi Arabia’s governmental revenue. In response, the government cut subsidies on water, electricity, and gasoline; reduced government employee compensation packages; and announced limited new land taxes. In coordination with OPEC and some key non-OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia agreed cut oil output in early 2017 to regulate supply and help elevate global prices.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen

Geographic coordinates

25 00 N, 45 00 E

Map references

Middle East

Area

total: 2,149,690 sq km

land: 2,149,690 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 14

Area - comparative

slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US

Land boundaries

total: 4,272 km

border countries (7): Iraq 811 km, Jordan 731 km, Kuwait 221 km, Oman 658 km, Qatar 87 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1307 km

Coastline

2,640 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 18 nm

continental shelf: not specified

Climate

harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes

Terrain

mostly sandy desert

Elevation

mean elevation: 665 m

lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m

highest point: As Sarawat range, 3,000 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

Land use

agricultural land: 80.7% (2018 est.)

arable land: 1.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 79.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.5% (2018 est.)

other: 18.8% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

16,200 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

2.4 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

historically a population that was mostly nomadic or semi-nomadic, the Saudi population has become more settled since petroleum was discovered in the 1930s; most of the economic activities - and with it the country's population - is concentrated in a wide area across the middle of the peninsula, from Ad Dammam in the east, through Riyadh in the interior, to Mecca-Medina in the west near the Red Sea

Natural hazards

frequent sand and dust storms

volcanism: despite many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river; extensive coastlines on the Persian Gulf and Red Sea allow for considerable shipping (especially of crude oil) through the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

People and Society

Population

34,783,757 (July 2021 est.)

note: immigrants make up 38.3% of the total population, according to UN data (2019)

country comparison to the world: 41

Nationality

noun: Saudi(s)

adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian

Ethnic groups

Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%

Languages

Arabic (official)

Religions

Muslim (official; citizens are 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shia), other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh) (2012 est.)

note: despite having a large expatriate community of various faiths (more than 30% of the population), most forms of public religious expression inconsistent with the government-sanctioned interpretation of Sunni Islam are restricted; non-Muslims are not allowed to have Saudi citizenship and non-Muslim places of worship are not permitted (2013)

Age structure

0-14 years: 24.84% (male 4,327,830/female 4,159,242)

15-24 years: 15.38% (male 2,741,371/female 2,515,188)

25-54 years: 50.2% (male 10,350,028/female 6,804,479)

55-64 years: 5.95% (male 1,254,921/female 778,467)

65 years and over: 3.63% (male 657,395/female 584,577) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 39.3

youth dependency ratio: 34.4

elderly dependency ratio: 4.9

potential support ratio: 20.5 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 30.8 years

male: 33 years

female: 27.9 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Birth rate

14.56 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 122

Death rate

3.39 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 223

Net migration rate

5.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 20

Population distribution

historically a population that was mostly nomadic or semi-nomadic, the Saudi population has become more settled since petroleum was discovered in the 1930s; most of the economic activities - and with it the country's population - is concentrated in a wide area across the middle of the peninsula, from Ad Dammam in the east, through Riyadh in the interior, to Mecca-Medina in the west near the Red Sea

Urbanization

urban population: 84.5% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.69% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

7.388 million RIYADH (capital), 4.697 million Jeddah, 2.079 million Mecca, 1.518 million Medina, 1.279 million Ad Dammam, 1.279 million Hufuf-Mubarraz (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.09 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.52 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.61 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.12 male(s)/female

total population: 1.3 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

17 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 131

Infant mortality rate

total: 12.58 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 13.86 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 11.24 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 115

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 76.4 years

male: 74.81 years

female: 78.07 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 105

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.61 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

2.2 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<500 (2016 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 95.3%

male: 97.1%

female: 92.7% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 16 years

female: 16 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 28.8%

male: 19.9%

female: 62.6% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Environment

Environment - current issues

desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills; air pollution; waste management

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 78.38 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 563.45 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 45.47 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 3.15 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 1 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 19.2 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

2.4 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes

Land use

agricultural land: 80.7% (2018 est.)

arable land: 1.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 79.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.5% (2018 est.)

other: 18.8% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 162

Urbanization

urban population: 84.5% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.69% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 16,125,701 tons (2015 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 2,418,855 tons (2015 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 15% (2015 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

conventional short form: Saudi Arabia

local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah

local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah

etymology: named after the ruling dynasty of the country, the House of Saud; the name "Arabia" can be traced back many centuries B.C., the ancient Egyptians referred to the region as "Ar Rabi"

Government type

absolute monarchy

Capital

name: Riyadh

geographic coordinates: 24 39 N, 46 42 E

time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name derives from the Arabic word "riyadh," meaning "gardens," and refers to various oasis towns in the area that merged to form the city

Administrative divisions

13 regions (manatiq, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah al Munawwarah (Medina), Al Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jazan, Makkah al Mukarramah (Mecca), Najran, Tabuk

Independence

23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)

National holiday

Saudi National Day (Unification of the Kingdom), 23 September (1932)

Constitution

history: 1 March 1992 - Basic Law of Government, issued by royal decree, serves as the constitutional framework and is based on the Qur'an and the life and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad

amendments: proposed by the king directly or proposed to the king by the Consultative Assembly or by the Council of Ministers; passage by the king through royal decree; Basic Law amended many times, last in 2017

Legal system

Islamic (sharia) legal system with some elements of Egyptian, French, and customary law; note - several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Saudi Arabia; a child born out of wedlock in Saudi Arabia to a Saudi mother and unknown father

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; restricted to males; universal for municipal elections

Executive branch

chief of state: King and Prime Minister SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 23 January 2015); Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (born 31 August 1985); note - the monarch is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: King and Prime Minister SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 23 January 2015); Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (born 31 August 1985)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch every 4 years and includes many royal family members

elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; an Allegiance Council created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes for a voice in selecting future Saudi kings

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 seats; members appointed by the monarch to serve 4-year terms); note - in early 2013, the monarch granted women 30 seats on the Council

note: composition as of 2013 - men 121, women 30, percent of women 19.9%

Judicial branch

highest courts: High Court (consists of the court chief and organized into circuits with 3-judge panels, except for the criminal circuit, which has a 5-judge panel for cases involving major punishments)

judge selection and term of office: High Court chief and chiefs of the High Court Circuits appointed by royal decree upon the recommendation of the Supreme Judiciary Council, a 10-member body of high-level judges and other judicial heads; new judges and assistant judges serve 1- and 2-year probations, respectively, before permanent assignment

subordinate courts: Court of Appeals; Specialized Criminal Court, first-degree courts composed of general, criminal, personal status, and commercial courts; Labor Court; a hierarchy of administrative courts

International organization participation

ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, CAEU, CP, FAO, G-20, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Princess REEMA bint Bandar Al Saud (since 8 July 2019)

chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037

telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800

FAX: [1] (202) 944-5983

consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador John P. ABIZAID (since 8 May 2019)

telephone: [966] (11) 488-3800

embassy: P.O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693

mailing address: American Embassy, Unit 61307, APO AE 09803-1307; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693

FAX: [966] (11) 488-7360

consulate(s) general: Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)

Flag description

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: the only national flag to display an inscription as its principal design; one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay

National symbol(s)

palm tree surmounting two crossed swords; national colors: green, white

National anthem

name: "Aash Al Maleek" (Long Live Our Beloved King)

lyrics/music: Ibrahim KHAFAJI/Abdul Rahman al-KHATEEB

note: music adopted 1947, lyrics adopted 1984

Economy

Economic overview

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 16% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings.

Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy and to employ more Saudi nationals. Approximately 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors; at the same time, however, Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population.

In 2017, the Kingdom incurred a budget deficit estimated at 8.3% of GDP, which was financed by bond sales and drawing down reserves. Although the Kingdom can finance high deficits for several years by drawing down its considerable foreign assets or by borrowing, it has cut capital spending and reduced subsidies on electricity, water, and petroleum products and recently introduced a value-added tax of 5%. In January 2016, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN announced that Saudi Arabia intends to list shares of its state-owned petroleum company, ARAMCO - another move to increase revenue and outside investment. The government has also looked at privatization and diversification of the economy more closely in the wake of a diminished oil market. Historically, Saudi Arabia has focused diversification efforts on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemical sectors. More recently, the government has approached investors about expanding the role of the private sector in the health care, education and tourism industries. While Saudi Arabia has emphasized their goals of diversification for some time, current low oil prices may force the government to make more drastic changes ahead of their long-run timeline.

Real GDP growth rate

-0.9% (2017 est.)

1.7% (2016 est.)

4.1% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 199

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-2% (2019 est.)

-4.5% (2018 est.)

-0.8% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 3

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: A (2019)

Moody's rating: A1 (2016)

Standard & Poors rating: A- (2016)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$1,609,323,000,000 (2019 est.)

$1,604,007,000,000 (2018 est.)

$1,565,891,000,000 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 17

GDP (official exchange rate)

$792.849 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$46,962 (2019 est.)

$47,597 (2018 est.)

$47,309 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 34

Gross national saving

33.6% of GDP (2019 est.)

33.2% of GDP (2018 est.)

30.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.6% (2017 est.)

industry: 44.2% (2017 est.)

services: 53.2% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 41.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24.5% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 23.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 4.7% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 34.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -28.6% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 71.6 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 93.1 (2020)

Trading score: 76 (2020)

Enforcement score: 65.3 (2020)

Agricultural products

milk, dates, poultry, fruit, watermelons, barley, wheat, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes

Industries

crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction

Labor force

13.8 million (2017 est.)

note: comprised of 3.1 million Saudis and 10.7 million non-Saudis

country comparison to the world: 39

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 6.7%

industry: 21.4%

services: 71.9% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate

6% (2017 est.)

5.6% (2016 est.)

note: data are for total population; unemployment among Saudi nationals is more than double

country comparison to the world: 98

Budget

revenues: 181 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 241.8 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

17.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

13.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 193

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$15.23 billion (2017 est.)

-$23.87 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 19

Exports

$221.1 billion (2017 est.)

$183.6 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 34

Exports - partners

China 20%, India 11%, Japan 11%, South Korea 9%, United States 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

crude petroleum, refined petroleum, polymers, industrial alcohols, natural gas (2019)

Imports

$119.3 billion (2017 est.)

$127.8 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

Imports - partners

China 18%, United Arab Emirates 12%, United States 9%, Germany 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

cars, broadcasting equipment, refined petroleum, packaged medicines, telephones (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$496.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$535.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 4

Debt - external

$205.1 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$189.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Exchange rates

Saudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar -

3.7514 (2020 est.)

3.75 (2019 est.)

3.7518 (2018 est.)

3.75 (2014 est.)

3.75 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 5,276,773

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 15.69 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 40,532,610

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 120.52 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 37

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: one of the most progressive telecom markets in the Middle East; mobile penetration high, with a saturated market; mobile operators competitive and meeting the demand for workers, students and citizens working from home; 5G launched, partners include Chinese company Huawei; broadband is available with DSL, fiber, and wireless; mobile penetration is steep in Saudi Arabia (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 16 per 100 and mobile-cellular subscribership has been increasing rapidly to 121 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 966; landing points for the SeaMeWe-3, -4, -5, AAE-1, EIG, FALCON, FEA, IMEWE, MENA/Gulf Bridge International, SEACOM, SAS-1, -2, GBICS/MENA, and the Tata TGN-Gulf submarine cables providing connectivity to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

broadcast media are state-controlled; state-run TV operates 4 networks; Saudi Arabia is a major market for pan-Arab satellite TV broadcasters; state-run radio operates several networks; multiple international broadcasters are available

Internet users

total: 30,877,318

percent of population: 93.31% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 26

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 6,821,873

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

Communications - note

the innovative King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (informally known as Ithra, meaning "enrichment") opened on 1 December 2017 in Dhahran, Eastern Region; its facilities include a grand library, several museums, an archive, an Idea Lab, a theater, a cinema, and an Energy Exhibit, all which are meant to provide visitors an immersive and transformative experience

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 12 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 230

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 39,141,660 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,085,470,000 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 82 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 33 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 16 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 27 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2017)

under 914 m: 4 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 132 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 72 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 37 (2013)

under 914 m: 16 (2013)

Heliports

10 (2013)

Pipelines

209 km condensate, 2940 km gas, 1183 km liquid petroleum gas, 5117 km oil, 1151 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 5,410 km (2016)

standard gauge: 5,410 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2016)

country comparison to the world: 36

Roadways

total: 221,372 km (2006)

paved: 47,529 km (includes 3,891 km of expressways) (2006)

unpaved: 173,843 km (2006)

country comparison to the world: 24

Merchant marine

total: 376

by type: bulk carrier 5, container ship 1, general cargo 22, oil tanker 61, other 287 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 49

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Jeddah, King Abdulla, Yanbu'

container port(s) (TEUs): Ad Dammam (1,582,388), Jeddah (4,150,000), King Abdulla (1,695,322) (2017)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Ministry of Defense: Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes marines, special forces, naval aviation), Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Missiles Force; Ministry of the National Guard (SANG); Ministry of Interior: Border Guard, Facilities Security Force (2021)

note: SANG (also known as the White Army) is a land force separate from the Ministry of Defense that is responsible for internal security, protecting the royal family, and external defense

Military expenditures

7% of GDP (2020 est.)

8% of GDP (2019)

9.5% of GDP (2018)

11.1% of GDP (2017)

10.8% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 2

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Saudi military forces have about 225,000 active troops; approximately 125,000 under the Ministry of Defense (75,000 Land Forces; 14,000 Naval Forces; 36,000 Air Force/Air Defense/Strategic Missile Forces) and approximately 100,000 in the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) (2020)

note: SANG also has an irregular force (Fowj), primarily Bedouin tribal volunteers, with a total strength of approximately 25,000 men

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the inventory of the Saudi military forces, including the SANG, includes a mix of mostly modern weapons systems from the US and Europe; since 2010, the US is the leading supplier of armaments, followed by France and the UK; Saudi Arabia is the world's largest arms importer (2020)

Military deployments

est. 2,500-5,000 Yemen (varies depending on operations, which continued into 2021) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

17 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription; in 2018, women were allowed to serve as soldiers in the internal security services under certain requirements; in February 2021, the Saudi Government agreed to allow women to join the military and serve as soldiers up to the rank of non-commissioned officer (2021)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham; al-Qa’ida; al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (2019)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Saudi Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of the now fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 70,000 (2019); note - thousands of biduns (stateless Arabs) are descendants of nomadic tribes who were not officially registered when national borders were established, while others migrated to Saudi Arabia in search of jobs; some have temporary identification cards that must be renewed every five years, but their rights remain restricted; most Palestinians have only legal resident status; some naturalized Yemenis were made stateless after being stripped of their passports when Yemen backed Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait in 1990; Saudi women cannot pass their citizenship on to their children, so if they marry a non-national, their children risk statelessness

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution; men and women from South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa who voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or low-skilled laborers subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment and withholding of passports; some migrant workers are forced to work indefinitely beyond the term of their contract because their employers will not grant them a required exit visa; female domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because of their isolation in private homes; women, primarily from Asian and African countries, are believed to be forced into prostitution in Saudi Arabia, while other foreign women were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers; children from South Asia, East Africa, and Yemen are subjected to forced labor as beggars and street vendors in Saudi Arabia, facilitated by criminal gangs

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; government officials and high-level religious leaders demonstrated greater political will to combat trafficking and publically acknowledged the problem – specifically forced labor; the government reported increased numbers of prosecutions and convictions of trafficking offenders; however, it did not proactively investigate and prosecute employers for potential labor trafficking crimes following their withholding of workers’ wages and passports, which are illegal; authorities did not systematically use formal criteria to proactively identify victims, resulting in some unidentified victims being arrested, detained, deported, and sometimes prosecuted; more victims were identified and referred to protective services in 2014 than the previous year, but victims of sex trafficking and male trafficking victims were not provided with shelter and remained vulnerable to punishment (2015)

Illicit drugs

regularly enforces the death penalty for drug traffickers, with foreigners being convicted and executed disproportionately; improving anti-money-laundering legislation and enforcement