Transportation and Communications


Historically

Historically, road networks have been centered in Al ijz, connecting the pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina with the port of Jiddah. Since the dawn of the oil era, the rest of Saudi Arabia has benefited from transportation developments. As of 2000 there were 152,044 km (94,476 mi) of roads in the kingdom, and 30 percent were paved. Motor vehicle use is widespread, and buses and taxis travel the country`s intercity highways. The region`s only railway line connects Riyadh with the Persian Gulf port of Ad Dammm, by way of Al Huff. Major port facilities are located in Jiddah, Ad Dammm, and Al Jubayl. Commercial airports are found across the country, and those in Jiddah, Dhahran, and Riyadh are the busiest. The national airline, Saudi Arabian Airlines, schedules regular domestic and international flights.

Saudis have a variety of media options

Saudis have a variety of media options, including several television and radio stations, and numerous newspapers and magazines. However, media outlets must conform to the vision of Islam held by the religious authorities, and to the range of political views deemed acceptable by the government.

Foreign Trade


Saudi Arabia`s exportsdominated by

Saudi Arabia`s exportsdominated by petroleum productseasily outweigh its imports of items such as foods, machinery, vehicles, textiles, and raw materials including plastics, chemicals, and rubber. In 2007 Saudi Arabia exported commodities amounting to $231 billion, while imports amounted to only $89.2 billion. The United States is the country`s largest trading partner, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Currency and Banking


Saudi Arabia probably has the most developed

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; 2007 average). The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency issues currency, stabilizes the exchange rate, administers monetary reserves, and regulates the banking system. There are a number of private Saudi-owned banks and banks with joint Saudi-foreign ownership.

Government


Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Governmental

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Governmental and legal systems are based on the Sharia, the sacred law of Islam, which is interpreted according to the strict Hanbali rite by the learned religious elders, or "ulama." Beginning in March 1992, the king issued several decrees that established new political structures and promulgated procedures for government. Known as the Basic Law of 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. The law also stipulated that the country would be ruled by the male descendants of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the kingdom. The principles of government were stated to be justice, equality, and consultation, in accordance with the Sharia. The law also states that the duties of the state are to protect Islam, protect human rights, and provide public services and security for all citizens according to the Sharia. It also called for an independent judiciary and provided for the establishment of the Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura), to be chosen every four years by the king.

Executive and Legislature


The chief government and religious official

The chief government and religious official of Saudi Arabia is the king. Various rules of succession have been developed since the founding of the kingdom in 1932. In 1992 King Fahd decreed that the king could designate or remove the crown prince. Furthermore, the crown prince would not automatically rise to the throne upon the death of the king, but would serve only as provisional ruler until fully confirmed by religious and government leaders. The king is advised by a cabinet of ministers and usually also serves as prime minister. The royal family and a few other prominent families provide most higher government officials. The king`s power is absolute in theory. In practice, however, it has been modified by factors such as the king`s personal political skills (or lack thereof) and the actions of members of the royal family, influential ulama, and others with close links to the royal family, including major merchant families and tribal leaders.

Saudi Arabia has no separate legislature

Saudi Arabia has no separate legislature and no political parties. Laws are issued by the king and his ministers. In 1992 Fahd called for the creation of a Consultative Council, whose members would be selected by him. The council was officially inaugurated in 1993 with a membership of 60. The council`s membership was increased to 90 in 1997, and to 120 in 2001. The council has no legislative powers, but it has the right to summon and question ministers, and to offer recommendations to the king.

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