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 the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Sea to its west. It has an estimated population of 27.6 million, and its size is approximately 2,150,000 square kilometres (830,000 sq mi). Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy; many decisions are subject to royal discretion.
The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medinah, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia. The current Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, though its national origins go back as far as 1744 with the establishment of the First Saudi State.
Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter. Petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state for citizens, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia is often called, along with Russia, an energy superpower. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly expressed concern about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia, although these concerns have been dismissed by the Saudi government.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are allies despite the totalitarian nature of the kingdom. They have strong mutual interests related to oil and a mutual enemy in Iran. Opposition to the influence of the United States and its activities in Saudi Arabia are part of the basis of the Islamist opposition of Al-Qaeda to the Saudi monarchy.
Much of the work in Saudi Arabia is done by skilled workers and professional experts from Europe and the United States, although liberal opportunities to further higher education have been taken advantage of by many Saudis who work in the petroleum industry. Much of the menial labor, particularly domestic work, is done by guest workers, many from South Asia. There is a small number of illegal immigrants, mainly from Africa. There are about 5 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, mostly in menial jobs. A work permit is required. Efforts by the Saudi government to reduce the number of illegal immigrants resulted in unrest in November, 2013.
Notes and references
- "Foreigners and Police Clash in Saudi Capital; 2 Dead" article by The Associated Press in The New York Times November 10, 2013
- "After Clashes With Saudis, Laborers Opt to Go Home" article by Ben Hubbard in The New York Times November 10, 2013
- "As If I Am Not Human' — Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia
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