- Travel and Places
100 Thing You Must Know About Saudi Arabia
The Desert Kingdom of Heaven
Saudi Arabia to many is a country of neverending sand and a desert kingdom. To some, they believe that this is home of Muslims and the two most sacred places of Islam namely Mecca and Medina. More than that, Saudi Arabia is pot filled with diverse cultures and exquisite place. Come with me, and let me share to you facts and figures about this nation. I will also tell you some of the must-know things about this most conservative of all the Muslim countries in the entire world.
My trip review, in a nutshell
I am here in Saudia not as a traveler nor as a tourist but as an immigrant expatriated Filipino worker. When i first set my foot in this country i have made so many observations that the world doesn't know. The world also misinterpreted many things about Saudi Arabia and this is the purpose of this article - to clear such misinterpretations.
Also, i would like you to see not just what is told about Saudi Arabia. This nation is not just a desert kingdom but rather a diversified union of different cultures opposing one another yet they find ways to co-exist harmoniously without giving detriment to the other.
100 Things You Must Know In Saudi Arabia
From the words of an OFW
Saudi Arabia is a desert kingdom located in the Arabian Peninsula. Since I became an OFW [Overseas Filipino Worker] here I happened to noticed so many things about this oil-rich country. To name a few, I have listed below all the important facts one should know regarding this country.
The list starts below:
1. Islam is the country's official religion.
2. An estimated 89 percent of Saudis are Sunni Muslims and about 5 percent are Shia Muslims.
3. The government employs the Sharia (Islamic law) as a guiding principle of rule.
4. Saudi Islam is greatly influenced by the 18th Century traditions and doctrines know as Wahabism by the Westerners and non-Saudis.
5. The Saudi curriculum heavily emphasizes the study of Islam, as this is their official and only religion. No other faith, in any form is tolerated to be practiced inside the Kingdom.
6. The government extended public education to girls in 1960, despite opposition from some conservative religious leaders.
7. Saudi men wear a white cotton robe known as a thob and a colorful kerchief called a ghoutra on their heads.
8. The women wear a black outer robe called an abaya, and their heads are covered by black veils.
9. Only men are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, Saudi women are not permitted to drive or to travel abroad without a male relative's approval.
10. Women traditionally use veils to cover their hair in public and a mask (called a burka or batula) to cover their faces.
11. Igal, two intertwined black cords formed into rings is worn by most Saudi men on their head.
12. Alcohol, in any variation or form is strictly prohibited inside the Kingdom.
13. There is no single movie house, theater or any form of liberal entertainment in all parts of the country.
14. The Qur'an, revealed to Muhammad and recorded in Arabic, has had a profound influence on Arabian literature and society. Not only a guide for living life according to God's will, the Qur'an is also considered by many to exemplify the perfect use of the Arabic language and provide an ultimate literary model.
15. Saudi singers are among the most popular in the Arab world
16. Oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938
17. One-quarter of the world's petroleum reserves are believed to lie under the country.
18. The major oil fields are in the eastern part of the country and offshore in the Persian Gulf
19. Recovered crude oil is mostly exported since the internal demand for petroleum is relatively low.
20. It is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world-in 2002 Saudi Arabia exported about 6 million barrels per day-and has the power to influence world oil prices
21. Initial exploration and drilling were carried out by the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), the operating company of Standard Oil of California (Socal).
22. The Saudi government bought a 25 percent share of the company in 1973, then took complete control in 1980, after which the company was called Saudi Aramco.
23. Production rose steadily from about 1.3 million barrels per day in 1960 to 3.8 million barrels per day in 1970.
24. In 2004 Saudi Arabia produced 8.8 million barrels of oil per day, equivalent to 5.9 billion cups.
25. If this oil is coffee, this is more than enough to feed the entire world population with a beverage of a cup of coffee!
26. Saudi Arabia began producing natural gas liquids in 1962
27. In 2003 Saudi Arabia produced 60 billion cu m (2.1 trillion cu ft) of natural gas. If an average American household consumes 3ft3 per months, this could supply that household LPG for about 58 billion years to consume all of that gas.
28. Saudi fishers caught 66,590 metric tons of fish in 2004.
29. In 2003 the country's oil- or gas-burning power plants produced 145.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
30. The region's only railway line connects Riyadh with the Persian Gulf port of Ad Dammām, by way of Al Hufūf.
31. The Saudis are earning more than there expenses hence in 2002 Saudi Arabia exported commodities amounting to $63.7 billion, while imports amounted to only $37 billion.
32. The United States is the country's largest trading partner, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany
33. Saudi Arabia probably has the most developed banking sector in the Middle East. The unit of currency is the Saudi riyal (SR), consisting of 100 halalah (3.70 Saudi riyals equal U.S.$1; 2005 average).
35. The form of government is Monarchy and the King is both the head of the State and Government.
36. Unlike all other countries, Saudi Arabia has no Constitution; the state is governed according to Sharia (Islamic law).
37. In 1992, the King issued the Basic Law of the Government, the decrees defined Saudi Arabia as a sovereign Arab, Islamic state whose constitution is the Qur'an and the Sunna (traditions) of the prophet Muhammad
38. The laws of Saudi Arabia are based on the Sharia, which is derived from the Qur'an and the Sunna.
39. The Ministry of Justice is charged with operating the country's Sharia courts, and the minister of justice is the country's chief judge.
40. In Saudi Arabia, punishments for serious crimes can include amputation and death by beheading, hanging, or, in rare cases, stoning.
41. Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces, or emirates.
42. These provinces or emirates is headed by a governor, or emir, who is appointed by the king
43. The country maintains two separate armies. The first is the National Guard, or the white guard, which is a conglomeration of traditional tribal armies and has about 77,000 active members. In 2004 the regular armed forces included an army of 75,000 soldiers, an air force of 18,000, a navy of 15,500, and an air defense force.
44. Saudi Arabia was a name given by Abdul Aziz ibn Saud to his captured territory on 1932 after unifying the conquered territories.
45. In 1945 Saudi Arabia joined the United Nations (UN) and the newly founded Arab League, an association with the goal of promoting the interests of Arabic-speaking nations
46. Saudi relations with Egypt deteriorated during the 1960s. In 1962 a revolution in Yemen overthrew Yemen's imam. Saudi Arabia supported Yemen's deposed leader in his efforts to regain his throne, while Egypt gave military support to Yemen's new republican government.
47. The kingdom joined five other Arab Gulf states in 1981 to establish the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which focused on economic and collective security measures.
48. As crown prince Abdullah had been the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia ever since Fahd was severely weakened by a stroke in late 1995
49. Osama Bin Laden is actually a Saudi. He is the son of a Saudi wealthy businessman.
50. The present ruler is Kind Abdulla, is the son of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, founded the kingdom in 1932.
51. Riyadh is the capital and the country has a total area of 2,240,000 sq km.
52. The 2007 population census is 27,601,038.
53. The world's largest oil field Ghawar is in Saudi Arabia located near Ad Dammam at the Persian Gulf.
From the Eyes of an OFW - Where books don't mention anything
Moreover, during my stay here in Kingdom, I noticed some very peculiar among Saudis. These are enumerated as follows:
54. Women and men should not be seen together inside the elevator or else you'll be grounds for automatic interrogations from the mutaweens.
55. Apart from the National Guard or the police, I feared most the mutaween because of their very strict implementation of Islamic policies, rules and codes.
56. Men here are proud to have thick beards and mustaches.
57. The most common food here is the kabsa, a combination of rice flavored with raisins, nuts and some spices.
58. Diesel is much cheaper than water, you can buy 1 liter of bottled water for about $1 while a liter of diesel will just cost you amazingly 50 cents only.
59. According to some OFW here who spend more than 5 years already, when you are taken by the police to put in jail, better "bring oil", the reason behind this that I do not know!
60. All security guards in banks don't carry any gun. They don't need it anyway because if you caught from stealing money or anything, the least you'll land will be mutilation i.e. cutting your hands or arms. So why would they need a gun, huh?
61. Gold is sold here as if you are selling fancy jewelries. There are no security guards in any jewelry shop I've been to. No alarm devices and sometimes gold is left unwatched. Why would anybody steal anyway? Read No. 59.
62. Men are strictly forbidden to enter in any beauty parlor, why Islam forbids the mingling of men and women in public places.
63. Taxis and cabs have meters to measure how much you fare would be, but you can bargain how much it would cost you for a certain distance. In short, these meters are just accessories.
64. No man is allowed to speak or chat with any female in public except in hospitals.
65. Some friends of mine told me that when you are accused of something, you'll be taken directly to jail with no initial investigations or whatsoever, you can only be freed once they proved your innocent.
66. In Balad, Jeddah you can regularly see the scene of a man being beheaded in public. They do this not to make any showdown but rather to warn those criminals and watching citizens that if they do some crimes against Islam or against their fellow men, mostly they would land in the same fate. Why would you do a crime then if you're being the next one to be losing your head right?
67. Crime rate is very low here because if this strong imposition of Sharia Law.
68. Five times daily, Muslims closed everything and stop anything they are doing.
69. All commercial establishments and public place halt their activities during these instances where they do "salah". Salah is the Arabic word for prayer so Salah times prayer times.
70. It is a normal thing when you see someone praying along the road.
71. Unlike in some countries, pay day is only once in a month in the Kingdom.
72. This is the part I like the most, NO INCOME TAX IS DEDUCTED FROM YOUR EARNINGS.
73. There is also no other taxes like VAT or value-added taxes are imposed when you buy a particular good or something.
74. For foreigners, you must carry at all times your work permit or else you'll undergo tremendous questioning and police interrogations once caught.
75. The work permit is known as "iqama" this is the only identification you'll have so better carry it always just in case.
76. You're passport is being held and kept away from your reach by your sponsor or employer. During your vacation time, you can only have your passport minutes before your scheduled flight.
77. If you happen to see an accident and a dying victim, NEVER help! I mean never ever dare to help let the victim die if he must. You shall not intervene in anybody's business. In this case, you just watch the victim die and wait for the police or any authority to come. You are only allowed to help if you are a medical practitioner like a physician or a nurse.
78. Baldness is common here because water is very hot during the summer and extreme cold during the winter.
79. The week starts in Saturdays and ends in Wednesdays. Unlike other countries, Thursdays and Fridays is the official weekends here.
80. They used Hijira Calendar not Gregorian calendar. In their calendar, their present year is 1429 unlike the rest of the world which is 2008. They lag by more than five hundred years.
81. You can bargain goods even inside the malls.
82. Because of tremendous heat and extreme temperatures, all household have air conditioning units even in toilets and kitchens.
83. The way of writing is from right to the left whereas we learned to write from left to right.
84. Sadik is the Arabic counterpart of the word FRIEND. Everyone calls anybody by this. Even if you're not actually friends or have just seen once another instantly.
85. Women when travelling in their cars should not be seated parallel to the driver or in the front seat especially if the driver is not her husband.
86. I never have seen any single women commute or travel using the public transportations available here.
87. Body parts showing legs, arms, or the entire face of a woman is colored by black ink. These are not allowed to be shown in public also.
88. The workforce here is mostly made up of Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. There are also from other neighboring Arab countries but their numbers is mostly dominated by these mentioned earlier.
89. Saudi Arabia belongs to the Richest Countries in World because of its vast oil reserves.
90. When you are driving or in a public transport cabs or taxis, the usual speed it not lower than 140kph. When you are into a road accident situation, most of my friends told me, you are always wrong. Why? Because they believed that if you did not go in their country, you might not have been in the scene in the first place. This is just according to some sources I have asked before, I am not saying that this is true but true or not, I am not wishing I myself would experience it.
91. Kaliwali is the Arabic translation of the expression "I don't care".
92. The exchange rate of US dollars to Saudi Riyals is fixed to the ratio of 3.75 riyals to a dollar.
93. I have never seen any single dog roaming around the streets of Saudi. I asked my friends why, they said Saudis might have hated dogs.
94. If there are no dogs straying in the streets, you'll see plenty of cats roaming around and scavenging.
95. Saudi Arabia has the world's most number of beautiful and luxurious cars and vehicles. This is not only available for the rich but rather to the average families or persons also.
96. Shepherds are riding in their Pajeros, Suburvan, Nissan Patrol or Toyota Hilux to go to their pastures. This is a clear explanation of the expression "from camel to Cadillac". I don't wonder why, they are rich aren't they?
97. Since there is no value added taxes on goods and merchandises, the price of consumer electronics devices is very very attractive. You can easily loose you monthly salary if you don't keep an eye on your spending hehe!
98. People here don't care about the spelling of their English Words. If they don't care, why would I care also hehe. Kaliwali!
99. Pork is strictly forbidden here that's why no one is selling it either.
And the last thing you should know about Saudi Arabia is,
Don't you ever talk about their religion in an argumentative manner, if you value your life, do not criticize their traditions and their practices and never ever mock their prophet (pbuh) and Allan for surely you will be in 100% jeopardy!
That's all folks!
Saudi Aramco: The Name Bears It All
The Wealth of Saudi Arabia Depends on Saudi Aramco
Saudi Aramco, the new frontier and the future of Saudi people lies on her. She has been providing the kingdom with all the necessary resources to finance the government and to care for their people, the Saudis.
Saudi Aramco is home of various nationalities. Saudi Aramco is America inside the Kingdom. She is the bosom which caters a number of languages, nationalities and beliefs. Inside her, the Saudi Sharia Law is not strongly enforces as it is outside the walls of her camps and residences.
America and the west is at large inside the walls surrounding Saudi Aramco facilities. Her state of the art building facilities and her modern processing procedures are beyond compare. She is a beauty and a beacon of the Kingdoms future. Westernized. Americanized. Liberalized.
I am lucky to have experienced her care!
Readers: Have you been there before?
I think Saudi Arabia is one of the best places in the world due to its diverse people and unique culture. Although the climate is very harsh and extremes all throughout the year, they have manage to adapt and conquer nature and majestically made the desert into a modern metropolis. Thanks to their God for He blessed them with an enormous crude-oil reserve that could last a lifetime.
Do you want to stay in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, i would love to stay and explore the Desert Kingdom
Stuff you might want to take with you!
You might want to see and own some of this stuffs... they aren't here for a lifetime so better have one or lose them for good!
Travel Guides and Suggestions - A Must for All
If you are planning to go to Saudi Arabia either for a tour or for a work, you might want to be armored with the right informations and loaded with bullets of knowledge just in case you'll be needing these.
This books might just put some flavor to our recipe... do not forget to have a copy of this if you must!
These will help a lot in your quest to understand more about Saudi Arabia and to dig a little deeper into its core and people...
Additional References - When you want some more!
- Saudi Arabia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA (Arabic: المملكة العربية السعودية, al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya), is an Arab country and the largest country of ...
- CIA - The World Factbook -- Saudi Arabia
Features map and brief descriptions of the geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military and transnational issues.
- Saudi Arabia - The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
Official Saudi Arabian information including news, press releases, and information on the government, culture, and economy, all from the Royal Embassy of ...
- Saudi Arabia (02/08)
Facts about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy , foreign relations of Saudi Arabia.
- Saudi Arabia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture ...
Information on Saudi Arabia — geography, history, politics, government, economy, population statistics, culture, religion, languages, largest cities, ...
- ArabNet - Saudi Arabia
Offers an overview with information about the country's history, geography, business, culture, government, transport and tourism.
- SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource and Directory)
SAMIRAD - the Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource and Directory is the gateway to comprehensive, up-to-date information for those conducting business ...
- Saudi Arabia Travel Guide and Travel Information - Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet Saudi Arabia Travel Guide. Saudi Arabia travel information, advice , hotels, reviews, maps and itineraries.
- Saudi Arabia : Country Studies - Federal Research Division ...
Saudi Arabia : Country Studies - Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.
- Human Rights Watch: Middle East and Northern Africa : Saudi Arabia ...
Reports, background briefings, testimony, press releases and commentary on the human rights situation in the country.
Is it about time Saudis stop hiring expat workers and do these jobs themselves?
Why is Saudi Arabia so unique?
"The thing that matters most in Saudi Arabia is not their wealth or vast oil reserves nor any material things, what matters most to them is their culture, their family values and their solid allegiance to their faith, the Islam and their prophet Muhammed. It is not wealth that matters, it is the cleanliness of not the mortal body but the serenity and purity of their souls when they face their maker, Allah".