The real picture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is largely unknown to rest of the world though its history goes back to mists of time. Most of the images of the Kingdom known to the outer world were a cocktail of myth and reality written by early travelers.
Saudi Arabia has exquisitely varied landscapes, of mountain peaks, enormous oasis, escarpments, gorgeous caves, seas, deserts, canyons, plateaus and beautiful coastlines. In addition to these, Saudi Arabia is historically and archaeologically rich. Archaeological evidence indicates that man lived in different regions of Saudi Arabia since PREHISTORIC times.
An area of around 2,250,000 square kilometers, Saudi Arabia is a loosely populated country with 2,640 kilometers of coastline with rich marine fauna, mountains up to the height of 10,522 feet and vast deserts with an estimated area of about 650,000 sq km.
Map of Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Al-Mamlaka al-Arabiya as-Saudiya / KSA) or shortly called Saudi Arabia in the southwestern Asia is bordered on the north by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait; on the east by the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf), Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates; on the southeast by Oman; on the south by the Republic of Yemen; and on the west by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqabah.
Saudi Arabia is part of the Arabian Peninsula that consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. Out of the seven countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia covers the greater part of the peninsula. With the exclusion of Yemen (the sole republic on the peninsula), the rest of six countries are know as the Arab Gulf States.
With the presence of Makkah and Madinah, the two holy places of Muslims, Saudi Arabia is called “the land of the two holy mosques” and its king “the custodian of the two holy mosques”
The Kingdom has an area of 2,250,000 square Kilometers (868,730 square miles), which is almost two-third the size of India. The figure varies due to the undefined boundaries of some of its neighboring countries.
Geographically, Saudi Arabia is divided into four major regions – Central, Eastern, Western and Southern.
Western Saudi Arabia is dominated by the mountain chain running the entire length of the country parallel to the Red Sea, raises between 1300 to more than 3000 meters. From this fertile crest it falls towards the east as a desert plateau to the dry interior or the Nejd containing the great sand deserts of the Empty Quarter, Great Nafud and Ad Dahna. The eastern region lies on the Persian Gulf Cost and contains salt flats.
The Great Nafud Desert in the north and the Rub Al Khali (The Empty Quarter), one of the largest sand deserts in the world, in the south form large stretches of sand dunes. The two great deserts are connected by a belt of narrow sand dunes known as Ad Dahna, converting nearly a third of the surface area of Saudi Arabia into sand desert.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producing country, alone holds nearly 25 percent of the world’s crude oil reserves.
Saudi Rulers from the Unification till the present day
King Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1880–1953)
Founder & First King of Saudi Arabia (1932-1953)
Exiled to Kuwait by the House of Ar Rashid (a dynasty centered in Hail) at the age of 10 with his family in 1890, young Abdul Aziz returned to Riyadh after 10 years with a small band of trusted companions on an expedition to recapture the city from Ar Rashidi. On 15 January 1902 he recaptured Riyadh by defeating Ar Rashidi, fought guerrilla warfare against the Ottomans and completed his conquest of Najd and eastern coast in 1912. In 1925 the forces of Ibn Saud captured the holy city of Mecca and On 10 January 1926, he proclaimed himself King of the Hejaz. In 1932, after conquering most of the Peninsula, he renamed his dominions “Saudi Arabia” and proclaimed himself “King of Saudi Arabia”. He died in Taif and buried in Riyadh in an unmarked grave.
King Saud bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1902-1969)
2nd King (1953-1964)
The eldest son of Abdul Aziz bin Saud. King Saud established Saudi Arabia’s first university (King Saudi University) in Riyadh in 1957. The first Saudi postal stamp was issued in commemoration of his appointment as a Crown Prince in 1934.
A number of ministries were established during his time that includes education, agriculture, commerce and communications. He established religious institutes to teach the fundamentals of Islam. He did the first Saudi expansion of the Holy Mosque in Makkah and the second Saudi expansion of Prophet’s mosque in Madinah Al Munawarah in 1955.
King Saud left Saudi Arabia to reside in Greece in 1965 and died in Greece in 1969.
King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1905-1975)
3rd King (1964-1975)
He gave a great deal of attention to the economic, financial, industrial and agricultural sectors. During his era, agricultural land area increased rapidly and the search for water sources was encouraged.
An internationally recognized personality, a powerful leader, an exceptional statesman, a respected diplomat and a good philanthropist, King Faisal successfully modernized Saudi Arabia without compromising the country’s Islamic identity.
He maintained the Bedouin custom of the Majlis or audience and by that he made himself available to all his subjects. He was assassinated in 1975.
King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1913-1982)
4th King (1975-1982)
Khalid was named Crown Prince in 1965, after his older brother (and only full brother) Muhammad bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud declined a place in the succession. He was not very interested in politics, as King, he delegated effective control of the country to his half-brother, Crown Prince Fahd.
He followed the policies of his predecessor, King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz.
He was successful in leading the Kingdom through seven years of prosperity and development, overcoming the challenges posed by a global economic crisis. He died of a heart attack.
King Fahad bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1923-2005)
5th King (1982-2005)
He was a man of great vision and leadership who inspired the countrymen for a quarter of a century as king. King Fahad became the longest ruled King of Saudi Arabia.
In 1986 King Fahd adopted the title of ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ in preference to the title of His Majesty.
Aware that the Holy Mosque could not support the growing numbers of worshippers, he initiated a refurbishment and expansion program. He invited US troops into Saudi Arabia in 1990 to counter the threat of Iraqi invasion that was strongly criticized within the country.
Died in 2005 and buried in Riyadh in an unmarked grave.
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (1924)
6th and the Ruling King of Saudi Arabia (2005)
He became the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia in 1996 when his half-brother, King Fahd, was incapacitated by stroke. On August 1, 2005, he succeeded to the throne upon the death of King Fahd.
The king has continued to disallow U.S. Iraq War forces to use bases in Saudi Arabia.
The King breeds pure Arabian horses, and founded the Riyadh Equestrian Club. He loves to read and established the King Abdul Aziz Library in Riyadh.
“The Iron of the West without its ideas”
The present kingdom of Saudi Arabia derives its existence from the campaigns of its founder, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud ( also known as Ibn Saud), who initially captured Riyadh with his Bedouin followers in 1902. Thereafter, with the aid of the Ikhwan (literally means brotherhood, the Ikhwan was the Islamic religious militia which formed the main military force of Ibn Saud. They were made up of Bedouin warriors), he recaptured the rest of Najd, defeating the Al Rashid forces at Hail in the north in 1921, and conquering the Hijaz, including Mecca and Medina in 1924. He was chosen as king of Hijaz and Najd in 1927.
It was in 1932 that Abdul Aziz bin Saud proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By the discovery of oil in 1938, the lives of the kingdom’s inhabitants were ultimately transformed. The King sought to make use of Western technology but at the same time strove to maintain the traditional institutions associated with Islamic and Arab life that he phrased as “the iron of the West without its ideas”.