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    Saudi Arabia – (23Septemberr: National Day) – Dr Sajid Khakwani

    In the Name of Allah the Almighty

     

      Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , country with an area of approximately 868,000 square miles, occupying about four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait on the north; by the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman on the east; by a portion of Oman on the southeast; by Yemen on the south and southwest; and by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba on the west. The capital is Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is named for the house of “Saud”, the founding and ruling dynasty that dates from the 18th century.

    In 1923 the British government invited all the Arab rulers to attend a conference at Kuwait and if possible to agree on a settlement of their differences. The conference ended in complete disagreement. On Jan. 8, 1926, Ibn Saud, was proclaimed king of the Hejaz in the Great Mosque of Mecca. In 1927 he also changed his title of sultan to king of Najd and its dependencies and British fully acknowledged Saudi independence. The history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia begins properly on Sept.23, 1932, when by royal decree the dual kingdom of the Hejaz and Najd with its dependencies, administered since 1927 as two separate units, was unified under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The chief immediate effect was to increase the unity of the kingdom and to decrease the possibility of Hejazi separatism, while the name underscored the central role of the royal family in the kingdom’s creation. No attempt was made to change the supreme authority of the king as the absolute monarch of the new regime; indeed, his power was emphasized in 1933 by his choice of his son Saud as heir apparent.

    From the date of its establishment in September 1932, Saudi Arabia enjoyed full international recognition as an independent state, although it did not join the League of Nations. Ibn Saud viewed this flood of wealth and the consequent changes in morality with distaste and bewilderment. He died on Nov. 9, 1953. Ibn Saud was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Saud, his second son, Faisal, being declared heir apparent. On Nov. 2, 1964, King Saud was deposed and Faisal was proclaimed king. The National Guard, the royal princes, and the Ulama supported Faisal in the struggle for power against Saud. Faisal was more competent than Saud; it was he who developed the ministries of government and established for the first time an efficient bureaucracy.

    Saudi Arabia is a Muslim and an Arab state, and these two attributes have had a fundamental influence on the country’s foreign relations. It is a founding member of the Arab League  and of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The extraordinary economic changes that occurred starting in the 1960s altered neither the government nor the centrality of religion. Since the mid-20th century, however, the pace of life in Saudi Arabia has accelerated greatly.  The interior of the Arabian Peninsula contains extensive sand surfaces. Among them is the world’s largest sand area which dominates the southern part of the country and covers more than 250,000 square miles.  Much of Saudi Arabia’s vegetation belongs to the North African–Indian desert region. Plants are mostly small herbs and shrubs that are useful as forage. There are a few small areas of grass and trees in southern Asir. The date palm  is widespread, though about one-third of the date palms grown are in Ash-Sharqīyah province.

    Animal life includes the wolf, hyena, fox, honey badger, mongoose, porcupine, baboon, hedgehog, hare, sand rat, and jerboa. Larger animals such as the gazelle, oryx, leopard, and mountain goat were relatively numerous until about 1950, when hunting from motor vehicles reduced these animals almost to extinction. Birds include falcons (which are caught and trained for hunting), eagles, hawks, vultures, owls, ravens, flamingos, egrets, pelicans, doves, and quail, as well as sand grouse and bulbuls. There are several species of snakes, many of which are poisonous, and numerous types of lizards. There is a wide variety of marine life in the gulf. Domesticated animals include camels (now little used for transportation), fat-tailed sheep, long-eared goats, salukis, donkeys, and chickens.

    More than 70 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total population lives in cities, and almost all of the rest lives in government-supported agricultural enterprises. Less than 1 or 2 percent of the total land area is used for crops. Of the cultivated land about 45 percent is worked by rain-fed dry farming, 40 percent is in tree crops, and the remainder is irrigated. The largest towns are cosmopolitan in character, and some are associated with dominant functions: Mecca and Medina are religious, Riyadh is political and administrative, and Jiddah is commercial and diplomatic. Arabic is a Semitic language. It originated in Arabia, where the language is presumed to be the “purest.” Classical written Arabic is standard throughout the Arab world, while spoken Arabic varies considerably.

    An increasing number of outsiders enter and leave Saudi Arabia. By the late 1980s the estimated number of foreign workers was between one-fourth and one-fifth of the country’s total population. At first most of these were Arab, such as Yemenis, Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Iraqis. Increasing numbers of non-Arab Muslims such as Pakistanis have been employed, as have large numbers of non-Muslim Koreans and Filipinos who are hired in group contracts for specified periods. Among specialized technical workers, most are Europeans and Americans. Also of note is the number of people making the annual pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. By the late 1980s the number approached 2.5 million a year, of whom about half traveled from Arab countries and half from African and Asian countries.    Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam, and its native population is almost entirely  Muslim. Islam is a political as well as a religious system, and it is the source of the government’s legitimacy. The king upholds Islam, applies its precepts, and is subject to them.

     Long-range economic development is directed through the implementation of five-year plans. In contrast to most developing countries, in Saudi Arabia there is an abundance of capital. The first two five-year plans (1970–80) established most of the country’s basic transport and communications facilities. The economy of Saudi Arabia is dominated by petroleum and its associated industries. In terms of oil reserves, Saudi Arabia ranks first, with almost one-fourth of the world’s known reserves. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia inherited the simple, tribal economy of Arabia. Many of the people were nomads, engaged in raising camels, sheep, and goats. Agricultural production was localized and subsistent. Domestic food production has been given special attention in the kingdom’s development planning and now agriculture contributed about 4 percent of the gross domestic product. The kingdom has achieved self-sufficiency in wheat, eggs, and milk, among other items, though it still imports about 70 percent of its food needs. Wheat is the primary cultivated crop, followed by sorghum, barley, and millet. Watermelons, tomatoes, dates, grapes, onions, and pumpkins and squash are also important crops. The manufacturing sector has expanded widely. Manufactures include rolled steel, petrochemicals, fertilizers, pipes, copper wire and cable, truck assembly, refrigeration, plastics, aluminum products, metal products, and cement. Small-scale enterprises include baking, printing, and furniture manufacturing.

    Saudi Arabia’s government is based on the law of Islamic Shariah. Muslim law prescribes civil as well as religious rights, duties, obligations, and responsibilities for both ruler and ruled. Law is revealed and not created, and it is interpreted by the  learned religious men. The person of the king combines legislative, executive, and judicial functions. As prime minister he presides over the Council of Ministers. This council is a legislative body, although it is also responsible for such executive and administrative matters as foreign and domestic policy, defense, finance, health, and education, which it administers through numerous separate agencies. Appointment to and dismissal from the council are prerogatives of the king. Major policy decisions are made by consensus, and opinion is sought primarily within the royal family (comprising the numerous descendants of the kingdom’s founder, Ibn Saud). Many members of the royal family hold sensitive government posts. Succession to the throne is not hereditary; the crown prince, who also serves as deputy prime minister, is designated by the royal family with the support of the Ulama and the Council of Ministers. The same consultative process also designates the second deputy prime minister, who is the second heir apparent after the deputy prime minister. The kingdom is divided into administrative regions, which in turn are divided into districts. Provincial governors are appointed and are responsible for such functions as finance, health, education, agriculture, and municipalities. The consultative principle operates at all levels of government, including the government of villages and tribes.

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