Compared to the Western World, Saudia Arabia offers very sharp contrasts and even inside “The Kingdom” there are major constrasts with extremely modern cities and a very strict and fundamental relgious lifestyle.
Landwise, Saudia Arabia is three times as large as the state of Texas with a mix of topography including deserts, coastal plains, very fertile highlands and mountains.
If you go in the summer you will find intense heat over a major part of the country and reaching as high as 120 degrees F.
Arabic is the official language and the state religion of the country is Islam with most of the Muslims members of the Sunni sect while a large amount of the population is foreign workers who come to Saudia Arabia to work.
While Arabians are very advanced economically, the strict form of Islam and traditional customs are sharp contrasts to eyes of visitors who will find the nationwide practice of public prayer five times per day along with a nationwide ban on the sale or drinking of alcoholic beverages and women segregated from men during public events. Women’s lives there appear to be very limited and until recently they were not even allowed to drive vehicles. Most continue to work in segregated locations where there are no men even though some have attained the status of teachers, doctors and engineers.
Dress is also very different in that ankle-length robes are worn along with head coverings and women are veiled at all times in public.
Culturally the Saudi’s have made many contacts with outsiders and the Western world so there have been changes over the past 20 years including interests in poetry, falconry, horse racing, soccer, television and other attributes of Western culture.
Today “the kingdom” is ruled by a king and family making the nation an absolute monarchy with no political parties, legislature, or elections and Islamic “sharia” law is the law of the land
Among the major cities are:
Riyadh – the capital of 1.5 million people and a very cosmopolitan city.
Jiddah – the most cosmopolitan of all the country’s cities, it is located on the Red Sea with a population of 1.4 million.
Mecca – one of the most holiest cities in the country and the entire Islamic world. This city has a population of over 837,000 which actually doubles during the Muslim’s religious pilgrimage during the haji. Muslims from around the world come to Mecca to vist the most holy site – the Kaaba which they believe was built by the prophet Abraham.