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Saudi Arabia :: Middle East



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. One of his male descendants 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 ongoing campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. US troops returned to the Kingdom in October 2019 after attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure. ++ From 2005 to 2015, King ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud incrementally modernized the Kingdom. Driven by personal ideology and political pragmatism, he introduced a series of social and economic initiatives, including expanding employment and social opportunities for women, attracting foreign investment, increasing the role of the private sector in the economy, and discouraging businesses from hiring foreign workers. These reforms have accelerated under King SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz, who ascended to the throne in 2015, and has since lifted the Kingdom's ban on women driving and allowed cinemas to operate for the first time in decades. Saudi Arabia saw some protests during the 2011 Arab Spring but not the level of bloodshed seen in protests elsewhere in the region. Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province protested primarily against the detention of political prisoners, endemic discrimination, and Bahraini and Saudi Government actions in Bahrain. Riyadh took a cautious but firm approach by arresting some protesters but releasing most of them quickly and by using its state-sponsored clerics to counter political and Islamist activism. ++ The government held its first-ever elections in 2005 and 2011, when Saudis went to the polls to elect municipal councilors. In December 2015, women were allowed to vote and stand as candidates for the first time in municipal council elections, with 19 women winning seats. After King SALMAN ascended to the throne in 2015, he placed the first next-generation prince, MUHAMMAD BIN NAYIF bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, in the line of succession as Crown Prince. He designated his son, MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, as the Deputy Crown Prince. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of 10 countries in a military campaign to restore the legitimate government of Yemen, which had been ousted by Huthi forces allied with former president ALI ABDULLAH al-Salih. The war in Yemen has drawn international criticism for civilian casualties and its effect on the country's dire humanitarian situation. In December 2015, then Deputy Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN announced Saudi Arabia would lead a 34-nation Islamic Coalition to fight terrorism (it has since grown to 41 nations). In May 2017, Saudi Arabia inaugurated the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology (also known as "Etidal") as part of its ongoing efforts to counter violent extremism. In June 2017, King SALMAN elevated MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN to Crown Prince. ++ The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds about 16% of the world's proven oil reserves as of 2015. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the Kingdom. In April 2016, the Saudi Government announced a broad set of socio-economic reforms, known as Vision 2030. Low global oil prices throughout 2015 and 2016 significantly lowered Saudi Arabia's governmental revenue. In response, the government cut subsidies on water, electricity, and gasoline; reduced government employee compensation packages; and announced limited new land taxes. In coordination with OPEC and some key non-OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia agreed cut oil output in early 2017 to regulate supply and help elevate global prices.



Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen

Geographic coordinates:

25 00 N, 45 00 E

Map references:

Middle East


total: 2,149,690 sq km
land: 2,149,690 sq km
water: 0 sq km
country comparison to the world: 14

Area - comparative:

slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US

Land boundaries:

total: 4,272 km
border countries (7): Iraq 811 km, Jordan 731 km, Kuwait 221 km, Oman 658 km, Qatar 87 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1307 km


2,640 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: not specified


harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes


mostly sandy desert


mean elevation: 665 m
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m

Natural resources:

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

Land use:

agricultural land: 80.7% (2011 est.)
arable land: 1.5% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0.1% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 79.1% (2011 est.)
forest: 0.5% (2011 est.)
other: 18.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:

16,200 sq km (2012)

Population distribution:

historically a population that was mostly nomadic or semi-nomadic, the Saudi population has become more settled since petroleum was discovered in the 1930s; most of the economic activities - and with it the country's population - is concentrated in a wide area across the middle of the peninsula, from Ad Dammam in the east, through Riyadh in the interior, to Mecca-Medina in the west near the Red Sea

Natural hazards:

frequent sand and dust storms ++ volcanism: despite many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar

Environment - current issues:

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; air pollution; waste management

Environment - international agreements:

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:

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river; extensive coastlines on the Persian Gulf and Red Sea allow for considerable shipping (especially of crude oil) through the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

People and Society


34,173,498 (July 2020 est.)
note: immigrants make up 38.3% of the total population, according to UN data (2019)
country comparison to the world: 41


noun: Saudi(s)
adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian

Ethnic groups:

Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%


Arabic (official)


Muslim (official; citizens are 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shia), other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh) (2012 est.)
note: despite having a large expatriate community of various faiths (more than 30% of the population), most forms of public religious expression inconsistent with the government-sanctioned interpretation of Sunni Islam are restricted; non-Muslims are not allowed to have Saudi citizenship and non-Muslim places of worship are not permitted (2013)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 24.84% (male 4,327,830/female 4,159,242)
15-24 years: 15.38% (male 2,741,371/female 2,515,188)
25-54 years: 50.2% (male 10,350,028/female 6,804,479)
55-64 years: 5.95% (male 1,254,921/female 778,467)
65 years and over: 3.63% (male 657,395/female 584,577) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios:

total dependency ratio: 39.3
youth dependency ratio: 34.4
elderly dependency ratio: 4.9
potential support ratio: 20.5 (2020 est.)

Median age:

total: 30.8 years
male: 33 years
female: 27.9 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119

Population growth rate:

1.6% (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 63

Birth rate:

14.7 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123

Death rate:

3.4 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 220

Net migration rate:

4.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26

Population distribution:

historically a population that was mostly nomadic or semi-nomadic, the Saudi population has become more settled since petroleum was discovered in the 1930s; most of the economic activities - and with it the country's population - is concentrated in a wide area across the middle of the peninsula, from Ad Dammam in the east, through Riyadh in the interior, to Mecca-Medina in the west near the Red Sea


urban population: 84.3% of total population (2020)
rate of urbanization: 2.17% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population:

7.231 million RIYADH (capital), 4.610 million Jeddah, 2.042 million Mecca, 1.489 million Medina, 1.253 million Ad Dammam (2020)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.09 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.52 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.61 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.12 male(s)/female
total population: 1.3 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:

17 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131

Infant mortality rate:

total: 11.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 76.2 years
male: 74.6 years
female: 77.8 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102

Total fertility rate:

1.95 children born/woman (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120

Contraceptive prevalence rate:

24.6% (2016)

Drinking water source:

improved: total: 100% of population
unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure:

5.2% (2017)

Physicians density:

2.54 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density:

2.2 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access:

improved: total: 100% of population
unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

<.1% (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

8,200 (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

<500 (2016 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

note: sporadic cases of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are occurring throughout Saudi Arabia; as of 8 December 2020, Saudi Arabia has reported a total of 358,526 cases of COVID-19 or 10,298 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 1 million population with 171 cumulative deaths per 1 million population

Obesity - adult prevalence rate:

35.4% (2016)
country comparison to the world: 14

Education expenditures:



definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.3%
male: 97.1%
female: 92.7% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 17 years
male: 16 years
female: 16 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:

total: 28.8%
male: 19.9%
female: 62.6% (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38


Country name:

conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form: Saudi Arabia
local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
etymology: named after the ruling dynasty of the country, the House of Saud; the name "Arabia" can be traced back many centuries B.C., the ancient Egyptians referred to the region as "Ar Rabi"

Government type:

absolute monarchy


name: Riyadh
geographic coordinates: 24 39 N, 46 42 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
etymology: the name derives from the Arabic word "riyadh," meaning "gardens," and refers to various oasis towns in the area that merged to form the city

Administrative divisions:

13 regions (manatiq, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah al Munawwarah (Medina), Al Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jazan, Makkah al Mukarramah (Mecca), Najran, Tabuk


23 September 1932 (unification of the kingdom)

National holiday:

Saudi National Day (Unification of the Kingdom), 23 September (1932)


history: 1 March 1992 - Basic Law of Government, issued by royal decree, serves as the constitutional framework and is based on the Qur'an and the life and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad
amendments: proposed by the king directly or proposed to the king by the Consultative Assembly or by the Council of Ministers; passage by the king through royal decree; Basic Law amended many times, last in 2017

Legal system:

Islamic (sharia) legal system with some elements of Egyptian, French, and customary law; note - several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees

International law organization participation:

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Saudi Arabia; a child born out of wedlock in Saudi Arabia to a Saudi mother and unknown father
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; restricted to males; universal for municipal elections

Executive branch:

chief of state: King and Prime Minister SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 23 January 2015); Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (born 31 August 1985); note - the monarch is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: King and Prime Minister SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 23 January 2015); Crown Prince MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (born 31 August 1985)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch every 4 years and includes many royal family members
elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; an Allegiance Council created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes for a voice in selecting future Saudi kings

Legislative branch:

description: unicameral Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 seats; members appointed by the monarch to serve 4-year terms); note - in early 2013, the monarch granted women 30 seats on the Council
note: composition as of 2013 - men 121, women 30, percent of women 19.9%

Judicial branch:

highest courts: High Court (consists of the court chief and organized into circuits with 3-judge panels, except for the criminal circuit, which has a 5-judge panel for cases involving major punishments)
judge selection and term of office: High Court chief and chiefs of the High Court Circuits appointed by royal decree upon the recommendation of the Supreme Judiciary Council, a 10-member body of high-level judges and other judicial heads; new judges and assistant judges serve 1- and 2-year probations, respectively, before permanent assignment
subordinate courts: Court of Appeals; Specialized Criminal Court, first-degree courts composed of general, criminal, personal status, and commercial courts; Labor Court; a hierarchy of administrative courts

Political parties and leaders:


International organization participation:


Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Princess REEMA bint Bandar Al Saud (since 8 July 2019)
chancery: 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 342-3800
FAX: [1] (202) 944-5983
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador John P. ABIZAID (since 8 May 2019)
telephone: [966] (11) 488-3800
embassy: P.O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693
mailing address: American Embassy, Unit 61307, APO AE 09803-1307; International Mail: P. O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693
FAX: [966] (11) 488-7360
consulate(s) general: Dhahran, Jiddah (Jeddah)

Flag description:

green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family, which established the kingdom in 1932; the flag is manufactured with differing obverse and reverse sides so that the Shahada reads - and the sword points - correctly from right to left on both sides
note: the only national flag to display an inscription as its principal design; one of only three national flags that differ on their obverse and reverse sides - the others are Moldova and Paraguay

National symbol(s):

palm tree surmounting two crossed swords; national colors: green, white

National anthem:

name: "Aash Al Maleek" (Long Live Our Beloved King)
lyrics/music: Ibrahim KHAFAJI/Abdul Rahman al-KHATEEB
note: music adopted 1947, lyrics adopted 1984


Economic overview:

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 16% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. ++ Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy and to employ more Saudi nationals. Approximately 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors; at the same time, however, Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population. ++ In 2017, the Kingdom incurred a budget deficit estimated at 8.3% of GDP, which was financed by bond sales and drawing down reserves. Although the Kingdom can finance high deficits for several years by drawing down its considerable foreign assets or by borrowing, it has cut capital spending and reduced subsidies on electricity, water, and petroleum products and recently introduced a value-added tax of 5%. In January 2016, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN announced that Saudi Arabia intends to list shares of its state-owned petroleum company, ARAMCO - another move to increase revenue and outside investment. The government has also looked at privatization and diversification of the economy more closely in the wake of a diminished oil market. Historically, Saudi Arabia has focused diversification efforts on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemical sectors. More recently, the government has approached investors about expanding the role of the private sector in the health care, education and tourism industries. While Saudi Arabia has emphasized their goals of diversification for some time, current low oil prices may force the government to make more drastic changes ahead of their long-run timeline.

GDP real growth rate:

-0.9% (2017 est.)
1.7% (2016 est.)
4.1% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 199

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

-2% (2019 est.)
-4.5% (2018 est.)
-0.8% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3

Credit ratings:

Fitch rating: A (2019)
Moody's rating: A1 (2016)
Standard & Poors rating: A- (2016)

GDP (purchasing power parity) - real:

$1.775 trillion (2017 est.)
$1.79 trillion (2016 est.)
$1.761 trillion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$792.849 billion (2019 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$54,500 (2017 est.)
$56,400 (2016 est.)
$56,800 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 25

Gross national saving:

30.1% of GDP (2017 est.)
27.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
26.5% of GDP (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 32

GDP - composition, by sector of origin:

agriculture: 2.6% (2017 est.)
industry: 44.2% (2017 est.)
services: 53.2% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use:

household consumption: 41.3% (2017 est.)
government consumption: 24.5% (2017 est.)
investment in fixed capital: 23.2% (2017 est.)
investment in inventories: 4.7% (2017 est.)
exports of goods and services: 34.8% (2017 est.)
imports of goods and services: -28.6% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores:

76.0 (2020)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk


crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction

Industrial production growth rate:

-2.4% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 186

Labor force:

13.8 million (2017 est.)
note: comprised of 3.1 million Saudis and 10.7 million non-Saudis
country comparison to the world: 39

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 6.7%
industry: 21.4%
services: 71.9% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate:

6% (2017 est.)
5.6% (2016 est.)
note: data are for total population; unemployment among Saudi nationals is more than double
country comparison to the world: 98

Population below poverty line:


Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: NA
highest 10%: NA


revenues: 181 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 241.8 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:

26.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):

-8.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204

Public debt:

17.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
13.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 193

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Current account balance:

$15.23 billion (2017 est.)
-$23.87 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 19


$221.1 billion (2017 est.)
$183.6 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34

Exports - partners:

Japan 12.2%, China 11.7%, South Korea 9%, India 8.9%, US 8.3%, UAE 6.7%, Singapore 4.2% (2017)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum and petroleum products 90% (2012 est.)


$119.3 billion (2017 est.)
$127.8 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles

Imports - partners:

China 15.4%, US 13.6%, UAE 6.5%, Germany 5.8%, Japan 4.1%, India 4.1%, South Korea 4% (2017)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$496.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$535.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4

Debt - external:

$205.1 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$189.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36

Exchange rates:

Saudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar -
3.7514 (2020 est.)
3.75 (2019 est.)
3.7518 (2018 est.)
3.75 (2014 est.)
3.75 (2013 est.)


Electricity access:

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity - production:

324.1 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11

Electricity - consumption:

296.2 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 196

Electricity - installed generating capacity:

82.94 million kW (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14

Electricity - from fossil fuels:

100% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17

Electricity - from nuclear fuels:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 198

Electricity - from other renewable sources:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 206

Crude oil - production:

10.425 million bbl/day (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3

Crude oil - exports:

7.341 million bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1

Crude oil - imports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 192

Crude oil - proved reserves:

266.2 billion bbl (1 January 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 2

Refined petroleum products - production:

2.476 million bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8

Refined petroleum products - consumption:

3.287 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6

Refined petroleum products - exports:

1.784 million bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5

Refined petroleum products - imports:

609,600 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13

Natural gas - production:

109.3 billion cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8

Natural gas - consumption:

109.3 billion cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 179

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 185

Natural gas - proved reserves:

8.619 trillion cu m (1 January 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:

657.1 million Mt (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8


Telephones - fixed lines:

total subscriptions: 5,276,773
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 15.69 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 27

Telephones - mobile cellular:

total subscriptions: 40,532,610
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 120.52 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 37

Telecommunication systems:

general assessment: one of the most progressive telecom markets in the Middle East; mobile penetration high, with a saturated market; mobile operators competitive and meeting the demand for workers, students and citizens working from home; 5G launched, partners include Chinese company Huawei; broadband is available with DSL, fiber, and wireless; mobile penetration is steep in Saudi Arabia (2020)
domestic: fixed-line 16 per 100 and mobile-cellular subscribership has been increasing rapidly to 121 per 100 persons (2019)
international: country code - 966; landing points for the SeaMeWe-3, -4, -5, AAE-1, EIG, FALCON, FEA, IMEWE, MENA/Gulf Bridge International, SEACOM, SAS-1, -2, GBICS/MENA, and the Tata TGN-Gulf submarine cables providing connectivity to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region) (2019)
note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media:

broadcast media are state-controlled; state-run TV operates 4 networks; Saudi Arabia is a major market for pan-Arab satellite TV broadcasters; state-run radio operates several networks; multiple international broadcasters are available

Internet country code:


Internet users:

total: 30,877,318
percent of population: 93.31% (July 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26

Broadband - fixed subscriptions:

total: 6,821,873
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21 (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24

Communications - note:

the innovative King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (informally known as Ithra, meaning "enrichment") opened on 1 December 2017 in Dhahran, Eastern Region; its facilities include a grand library, several museums, an archive, an Idea Lab, a theater, a cinema, and an Energy Exhibit, all which are meant to provide visitors an immersive and transformative experience


National air transport system:

number of registered air carriers: 12 (2020)
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 230
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 39,141,660 (2018)
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,085,470,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:

HZ (2016)


214 (2013)
country comparison to the world: 26

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 82 (2017)
over 3,047 m: 33 (2017)
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16 (2017)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 27 (2017)
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2017)
under 914 m: 4 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 132 (2013)
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 (2013)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 72 (2013)
914 to 1,523 m: 37 (2013)
under 914 m: 16 (2013)


10 (2013)


209 km condensate, 2940 km gas, 1183 km liquid petroleum gas, 5117 km oil, 1151 km refined products (2013)


total: 5,410 km (2016)
standard gauge: 5,410 km 1.435-m gauge (with branch lines and sidings) (2016)
country comparison to the world: 36


total: 221,372 km (2006)
paved: 47,529 km (includes 3,891 km of expressways) (2006)
unpaved: 173,843 km (2006)
country comparison to the world: 24

Merchant marine:

total: 374
by type: bulk carrier 5, container ship 1, general cargo 20, oil tanker 57, other 291 (2019)
country comparison to the world: 48

Ports and terminals:

major seaport(s): Ad Dammam, Al Jubayl, Jeddah, King Abdulla, Yanbu'
container port(s) (TEUs): Ad Dammam (1,582,388), Jeddah (4,150,000), King Abdulla (1,695,322) (2017)

Military and Security

Military and security forces:

Ministry of Defense: Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes marines, special forces, naval aviation), Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Missiles Force; Ministry of the National Guard (SANG); Ministry of Interior: Border Guard, Facilities Security Force (2020)
note: SANG (also known as the White Army) is a land force separate from the Ministry of Defense that is responsible for internal security, protecting the royal family, and external defense

Military expenditures:

8% of GDP (2019)
9.5% of GDP (2018)
10.2% of GDP (2017)
10% of GDP (2016)
13% of GDP (2015)
country comparison to the world: 2

Military and security service personnel strengths:

the Saudi military forces have about 225,000 active troops; approximately 125,000 under the Ministry of Defense (75,000 Land Forces; 13,500 Naval Forces; 35,000 Air Force/Air Defense; 2,500 Strategic Missile Forces) and approximately 100,000 in the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) (2019 )
note: SANG also has an irregular force (Fowj), primarily Bedouin tribal volunteers, with a total strength of approximately 25,000 men

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions:

the inventory of the Saudi military forces, including the SANG, includes a mix of mostly modern weapons systems from the US and Europe, particularly France and the UK; since 2010, France, the UK, and the US are the leading suppliers of armaments, followed by Germany, Spain, and Canada; the Saudi Navy is in the midst of a major modernization/procurement program (2020)

Military deployments:

est. 2,500-10,000 Yemen (probably varies depending on operations) (April 2020)

Military service age and obligation:

17 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription; in 2018, women were allowed to serve as soldiers in the internal security services under certain requirements (2018)


Terrorist group(s):

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham; al-Qa'ida; al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (2019)
note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international:

Saudi Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of the now fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran; Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

stateless persons: 70,000 (2019); note - thousands of biduns (stateless Arabs) are descendants of nomadic tribes who were not officially registered when national borders were established, while others migrated to Saudi Arabia in search of jobs; some have temporary identification cards that must be renewed every five years, but their rights remain restricted; most Palestinians have only legal resident status; some naturalized Yemenis were made stateless after being stripped of their passports when Yemen backed Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait in 1990; Saudi women cannot pass their citizenship on to their children, so if they marry a non-national, their children risk statelessness

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution; men and women from South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa who voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or low-skilled laborers subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment and withholding of passports; some migrant workers are forced to work indefinitely beyond the term of their contract because their employers will not grant them a required exit visa; female domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because of their isolation in private homes; women, primarily from Asian and African countries, are believed to be forced into prostitution in Saudi Arabia, while other foreign women were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers; children from South Asia, East Africa, and Yemen are subjected to forced labor as beggars and street vendors in Saudi Arabia, facilitated by criminal gangs
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; government officials and high-level religious leaders demonstrated greater political will to combat trafficking and publically acknowledged the problem – specifically forced labor; the government reported increased numbers of prosecutions and convictions of trafficking offenders; however, it did not proactively investigate and prosecute employers for potential labor trafficking crimes following their withholding of workers' wages and passports, which are illegal; authorities did not systematically use formal criteria to proactively identify victims, resulting in some unidentified victims being arrested, detained, deported, and sometimes prosecuted; more victims were identified and referred to protective services in 2014 than the previous year, but victims of sex trafficking and male trafficking victims were not provided with shelter and remained vulnerable to punishment (2015)

Illicit drugs:

regularly enforces the death penalty for drug traffickers, with foreigners being convicted and executed disproportionately; improving anti-money-laundering legislation and enforcement