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Saudi Arabia:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman AL SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide from February through April 2005 for half the members of 179 municipal councils. In December 2005, King ABDALLAH completed the process by appointing the remaining members of the advisory municipal councils. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.
Location
Definition
Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Geographic coordinates
Definition
25 00 N, 45 00 E
Map references
Definition
Middle East
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 2,149,690 sq km
land: 2,149,690 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 4,431 km
border countries: Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km
Coastline
Definition
2,640 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate
Definition
harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
Terrain
Definition
mostly uninhabited, sandy desert
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m
Natural resources
Definition
petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 1.67%
permanent crops: 0.09%
other: 98.24% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
16,200 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
2.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)
per capita: 705 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
frequent sand and dust storms
Environment - current issues
Definition
desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal


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