A physical description of the geography and climate of Saudi Arabia. Includes geographic boundaries, an overview of the predominant ecosystem, a brief history of the country as well as agricultural and mineral production. This article briefly examines Saudi Arabia's system of government, what countries it borders, and a list of Saudi Arabia's 13 provinces.
Saudi Arabia is the largest country on the Arabian peninsula. It is bordered by the Persian Gulf to the north-east and the Red Sea on the west. To the north, Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait. To Saudi Arabia's east are Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates while Oman and Yemen lie roughly to the south. All together, Saudi Arabia is approximately 2,150,000 square kilometers of a predominantly hot, dry desert climate.
Saudi Arabia has no rivers or large standing bodies of water. A high mountain range parallels the Red Sea on Saudi Arabia's eastern edge. It is along this eastern portion of Saudi Arabia that the two sacred cities of Mecca and Medina lie. The center-western portion of the country hosts the capital, Riyadh and important coastal cities such as Ad Dammam and Ra's al Khafji lie on the Persian Gulf. Jabal Sawda (the Black Mountain) is Saudi Arabia's highest elevation at 3,100 meters. As a desert, very little of Saudi Arabia is arable and thus Saudi Arabia imports most of its food with the exception of meat and other animal products. Water supplies are augmented by the use of coastal desalinization plants.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed after the end of World War One, but internal conflict prevented the unification of what is now known simply as Saudi Arabia until 1932, an event commemorated on September 23 of every year. Control of water resources has led to several conflicts with neighboring states such as Qatar and Yemen, most of which are covered by treaty agreements with a few open to contention between the various states. Additionally, the government of Saudi Arabia exerts strict control over mineral resources within its borders, including petroleum (oil) resources. Economically, the control of natural resources has allowed Saudi Arabia to accumulate a high Gross National Product (GNP), a fact reflected in Saudi Arabia's role as a major contributor to other nations, such as Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories.
The King of Saudi Arabia functions also as the Prime Minister and therefore holds a dual role in the government. All governmental positions, including in the cabinet and in the consultative or "Majlis al-Shura" are appointed by the King. No elections are held in Saudi Arabia and thus there are no oppositional political parties though groups such as foreign companies and women's right groups do exert some pressure on the government. The laws of Saudi Arabia are based on an interpretation of Shari'a, or Islamic Law, and are administered by a Supreme Court of Justice.
Saudi Arabia's major export is petroleum (oil) resources and is considered the largest known source of oil in the world. Oil and oil revenues drives the majority of Saudi Arabian governmental spending, though there are some initiatives to diversify the economy and attract foreign investment. Geographic and climate barriers, such as decade-long droughts and large salt flats prevent habitation other than for the exploration of oil in much of the country. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest sand desert in the world ( the Rub al-Khali, or "empty quarter").
Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 provinces, each with its own capital city. The provinces are: Northern Border, Jouf, Tabuk, Hail, Qasim, Madinah, Makkah (Mecca), Riyadh, Eastern Province, Baha, Asir, Jizan, and Najran.
Though a desert climate, the extreme heat of Saudi Arabia causes many coastal cities to experience high humidity which can sometimes reach as high as 100%. Large areas of desert have been converted into passably arable land through the use of irrigation, allowing Saudi Arabia to become an exporter of certain agricultural products, such as dates. Increasing diversification, including the use of underground irrigation and water transfer may increase the agricultural output of Saudi Arabia further.