COUNTRY PROFILE: SAUDI ARABIA
Formal Name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
(Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah).
Short Form: Saudi Arabia.
Term for Citizen(s): Saudi Arabian(s) or Saudi(s).
Capital: Riyadh (estimated population 3.6 million).
Major Cities: Jiddah (2.6 million), Mecca (1.6 million), Ad Dammam/Khobar/Dhahran (1.6 million), and Medina (854,500). Mecca and Medina have religious significance that far outweighs their respective populations.
Independence: Following Ottoman dominance, Egypt controlled Arabia from 1818 to 1824. For the remainder of the nineteenth century, Egypt, Britain, and the Ottomans vied for control of the region. On September 23, 1932, Abd al Aziz ibn Abd ar-Rahman Al Saud established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Unification brought together competing tribes into a modern state, covering an area approximating present boundaries.
Public Holidays: In accordance with strict Wahhabi theology, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha are Saudi Arabia's only national holidays. Both holidays are dependent on the Islamic lunar calendar, and thus the dates of celebration vary from year to year. In recent years, Shia Muslims have been allowed to celebrate the holiday of Ashura in select cities of Eastern Province and in the south. Ashura is not, however, a national holiday. Saudis commemorate September 23 as their Independence Day.
Saudi Arabia’s flag features white lettering on a green background. The
Arabic text reads: “There is no god but God: Muhammad is the Messenger
of God.” Below the letters, also in white, is a sword.