Saudi Arabia -- Geography --
Official Name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Capital City: Riyadh
Official Currency: Riyal
Land Area: 2,149,690 sq km
Landforms: The relief is waste and mountainous.The big deserts Nefud,Rub'al Khali and Ad-Dahna are located there. 0,2% of the territory of Saudi Arabia is agricultural land.
Saudi Arabia -- History --
Although the region in which the country stands today has an ancient history, the emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. That year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of the town of Ad-Dir'iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with a cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. This alliance formed in the 18th century remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula. The third and current Saudi state was founded in the early 20th century by King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud).In 1902 at the age of only 22, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud re-captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, Al-Qatif, the rest of Nejd, and Hejaz between 1913 and 1926. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz bin Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 29, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz's realm, then known as the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz. In 1932, the principal regions of Al-Hasa, Qatif, Nejd and Hejaz were unified to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938. Development programmes, which were delayed due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939, began in earnest in 1946 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community.Prior to his death in 1953 Abdul Aziz, aware of the difficulties facing other regional absolute rulers reliant on extended family networks, attempted to regulate the succession. Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s the Kingdom was in jeopardy due to Saud's economic mismanagement and failure to deal effectively with a regional challenge from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a consequence Saud was deposed in favour of Faisal in 1964. Intra-family rivalry was one of the factors that led to the assassination of Faisal by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa'id, in 1975. He was succeeded by King Khalid until 1982 and then by King Fahd. When Fahd died in 2005, his half-brother Abdullah ascended to the throne.
Saudi Arabia -- Culture --
The Qu'ran is the only source of law. The whole cultural, social and political life is based on the dogmas of Islam. The official religion in the country is exactly the Islam in its variety that strives for cleaning the Islam from innovations and diversions. This variety began first as a Moslem sect at the end of the 18-th century and it's in relationship with the ambitions of the ruling dynasty. It forbids cult of saints, building of magnificent monuments or luxorious mosques, listening to music and creating of music. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving on public roads. Smoking is a sin. The professing of other religion or other variety of Islam is a crime. Saudi Arabia doesn't have a constitution. Most of the visitors of the country come to see Mecca. That's the holy place of Islam and all the faithful Moslims must visit it at least once. Mecca is Mohammed's hometown, here he began to preach and came back for his last pilgrimage. Mecca and the holy places in the vicinity are forbidden for people with religion different from Islam. In Mecca's center is located The Big Mosque and in it the well of holy water Zamzam. Kaaba, who all turn to when they pray is in the central yard of the mosque.
Saudi Arabia -- Political system, law and government --
The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to The Economist's Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the ninth most authoritarian regime in the world.
There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. The king's powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The Saudi government spreads Islam by funding construction of mosques and Qur'an schools around the world. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.
Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers.
Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions..
Criminal cases are tried under Sharia courts in the country. These courts exercise authority over the entire population including foreigners (regardless of religion). Cases involving small penalties are tried in Shari'a summary courts. More serious crimes are adjudicated in Shari'a courts of common pleas. Courts of appeal handle appeals from Shari'a courts.
Civil cases may also be tried under Sharia courts with one exception: Shia may try such cases in their own courts. Other civil proceedings, including those involving claims against the Government and enforcement of foreign judgments, are held before specialized administrative tribunals, such as the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes and the Board of Grievances.