Random Facts
interesting facts

70 Interesting Facts About . . .

Saudi Arabia

  1. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to the religion’s holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina.m
  2. The Saudi king’s official title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.” King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been king since January 2015.m
  3. Saudi Arabia has 83,000 square miles (2,149,690 square km) in total area, which makes it the 13th largest country in the world. It is the largest country in the Middle East, about the size of Western Europe and one-quarter the size of the U.S.j
  4. Kingdom Tower Rendering When it is completed, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower will be the world’s tallest building at 3,280 feet (1 km) high
  5. Construction on Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower began in 2014. The new, tallest building in the world will stand 3,280 feet (1 km) high and will dwarf the Burj Khalifa hotel in Dubai by 600 feet (183 meters).b
  6. Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river.m
  7. Based on fatalities per head of population, a World Bank report in the year 2000 found that Saudi Arabia along with Malaysia, Thailand, and South Africa were the most dangerous countries in which to drive. Saudi Arabia fared even worse when this was measured in fatalities per vehicle.j
  8. In 2012, Saudi Arabia banned smoking in government offices and most public places, which includes a ban on shishas (water pipes) and prohibits the selling of tobacco to minors. Saudi statistics state that the country is the world’s fourth largest importer of tobacco, and Saudis spend about US$8 million a day on cigarettes.n
  9. Motorists in Saudi Arabia have invented a perilous but exciting new driving sport called Sidewalk Skiing, which involves balancing a car on its side while the car is in motion.p
  10. Fifteen of the 19 accused hijackers of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia.g
  11. Saudi Arabia is considering ending beheadings as the national form of execution in favor of firing squads because of a lack of swordsmen to be found in the country.l
  12. Similar to Western damage settlements, the Arab world has the tradition of diyya, or blood-money payments, which comes from the Koran as a more humane alternative to settling eye-for-an-eye disputes. Practically, diyya works like an out-of-court settlement in a Western torte case. Foreigners who plan to drive in Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are encouraged to purchase coverage for potential blood-money claims as part of their regular auto insurance.h
  13. The Arabian Peninsula is the world’s largest peninsula.g
  14. Saudi Arabia Facts The Riyadh camel market is one of the largest in the world, and about 100 camels are sold there each day
  15. Riyadh’s camel market is one of the largest in the world and sells about 100 camels per day.j
  16. Arabs call coffee gahwa, a word that later became Arabic for ‘that which prevents sleep.’ The first coffee shops were probably those which opened in Mecca around the mid-15th to -16th century. Curiously, under strict interpretation of Islam, coffee is prohibited as it is a stimulant, and Saudis of rigid orthodoxy will not drink it. However, the majority of the population does drink coffee and may, as an additional vice, even chew coffee beans while at prayer in the mosque.j
  17. Saudi Arabia is a prohibition state, and it is not legal to drink alcohol in the kingdom. However, amateur beer and wine making in Saudi Arabia is a minor industry among the many expats living in the country, and a full range of spirits is available through the black market. Various stills in the country also produce large quantities of hooch called sidiqui, which in Arabic means “my little friend.”j
  18. Homosexual activity in Saudi Arabia is a criminal offense that can attract the death penalty or, at the very least, a long stretch in prison with the customary public flogging as an additional punishment.j
  19. Birth control is illegal in Saudi Arabia.j
  20. In Saudi Arabia, wedding ceremonies are held separately for men and women. However, at some point during the wedding ceremony, or after its conclusion, the bride and groom do actually get together.j
  21. Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, the Al Sauds, spent US$500 million unsuccessfully trying to suppress the documentary Death of a Princess. The film reports the 1978 execution of Princess Mishaal, grandniece of the then reigning King Khaled, who was put to death for sexual transgressions. Already married and divorced, Princess Mishaal had fallen in love with a young man who requested her hand in marriage, but the Royal Family withheld its permission for the union. Princess Mishaal defied her family anyway and met up with her suitor in a Jeddah hotel, where she was recognized and caught. She was shot and her suitor was beheaded.j
  22. Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy and has the last significant monarchy in the world. The country has been ruled by the Al Saud family since its inception as a nation on September 23, 1932.j
  23. Saudi Arabia King King Abdullah is the 8th most powerful person in the world, according to Forbes Magazine
  24. According to Forbes magazine, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is the 8th most powerful person in the world and the world’s most powerful Muslim.e
  25. Non-Muslims are not allowed to have Saudi citizenship, and non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed in Saudi Arabia.j
  26. Immigrants make up more than 30% of the total Saudi population, according to UN data from 2013.d
  27. An Australian armchair archaeologist used the Google Earth app to rediscover a series of ancient structures, resembling the Nazca Lines of Peru, running from Yemen through the Saudi Arabia to Syria. Originally discovered in 1927 by British RAF pilot Percy Maitland, the lines—all which resemble kites or wheels—are approximately 9,000 years old and were built by the “Old Men of the Desert,” as called by the Bedouins who live in the Rub al Khali.k
  28. In 1503, Italian Ludovico de Varthema became the first non-Muslim to visit Mecca and describe the Kaaba, by disguising himself as a Mameluke guard, protecting the pilgrims, and spending three weeks in the city. He left Mecca without incident but blew his own cover in Yemen when he forgot Arabic. He was immediately thrown into prison but was able to escape with his life; he was rescued three months later, reportedly by one of the Sultan’s concubines.f
  29. In October 2013, the United States overtook Saudi Arabia, which had led the world for decades, as the world’s largest exporter of oil, averaging 12.1 million barrels per day that year.q
  30. About eighty percent of the Saudi Arabian labor force is non-national.m
  31. Baby camel is one of the most tender of Saudi meats; it is a specialty of Jeddah and Jejaz.g
  32. The King’s Cup, which pits up to 2,000 participants racing across a 19 km track, is an epic camel race which takes place annually during the Al-Jenandriyah National Festival in Saudi Arabia.g
  33. The country of Saudi Arabia almost never happened. In 1893, the Al-Rashid family seized Riyadh. However, they failed to notice the approach from the south of Ibn Saud and a handful of followers who had spent 50 days in the sands of the Empty Quarter. Ibn Saud launched a raid at Masmak fortress, which stood on the outskirts of old Riyadh, and on January 15, 1902, the raid was launched, the Rashidi governor was killed, and Riyadh fell into the hands of the Al Sauds.g
  34. Saudi Arabian cities experienced an extraordinary boom in property prices between 2003 and 2008. In Mecca, land values close to the Grand Mosque reached US$106,700 per square meter at the peak of the boom—perhaps the most expensive real estate in the world and rivaling land prices in Tokyo in the early 1990s.g
  35. Winston Churchill A Saudi Arabian legend centers around Winston Churchill's bequesting a large chunk of Jordan land to Saudi Arabia due to a hiccup
  36. There is a contemporary Saudi legend that when Winston Churchill was determining the boundaries between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, he hiccupped from too much brandy; his hand slipped, and he bequeathed to Saudi Arabia several thousand square kilometers of not very valuable Jordanian land. This tract of land has become known as “Winston’s Hiccup.”j
  37. The Saudi Arabian Bedouin, or Bedu, have a number of historical traits that form the bedrock of Saudi society: the refusal to surrender to outside authority, a fierce loyalty to one’s family and tribe, the primacy of courage and honor, the purity of language and dialect as preserved in poetry and desert legends, a belief in the desert codes of hospitality, blood feuds and mutual obligations, and the tradition of razzia, or raiding against travelers or other tribes. Some 1.8 million Bedouin still claim to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in Saudi Arabia.g
  38. In Saudi Arabia, everything closes during salat (prayer time). Strictly enforced, salat can last up to 30 minutes.g
  39. Women are officially forbidden to drive within Saudi cities, although this became a formal law only in 1990. Saudi and foreign women are allowed to drive inside the foreign oil compounds.g
  40. Officially, Saudi women may not travel abroad without the permission of their husbands.g
  41. Officially, all Saudis are Muslims. Fifteen percent are Shiite Muslims who practice mainly in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia.g
  42. Traditionally, non-Muslims could not be buried within the borders of Saudi Arabia. However, in 2012, the country eased burial restrictions under certain circumstancesg
  43. Over 95% of Saudi Arabia is desert or semi-desert, and the country is home to some of the largest desert areas in the world, including Al Nafud (Nafud Desert) in the north and Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) in the south.g
  44. The Persian Gulf, as it is called on most maps of the Middle East, is better known in Saudi Arabia as the Arabian Gulf. j
  45. The 1962 British epic adventure film Lawrence of Arabia tells the story of Englishman T.E. Lawrence, who famously roamed the deserts with the Hashemites and succumbed to the fascination of the Arabian deserts. The Hashemites later fled to Jordan with the rise of the Al Sauds and are the ruling family there to this day.j
  46. Wahhabism, named after its founder Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, is a fundamentalist sect of Islam that preaches a puritanical approach to faith and its religious practices. It is very influential in Saudi Arabia.j
  47. Each year, the Saudi royal family holds a reunion in Riyadh, featuring as its centerpiece a ceremonial sword dance, in order to celebrate the alliance between the “men of the pen,” or the Wahhabi clerics, and the “men of the sword,” or the Al Saud warriors.j
  48. Arabian Television Tower Television was introduced to Saudi Arabia in 1965, but religious fanatics were opposed to it, considering it too salacious
  49. King Faisal introduced television to Saudi Arabia in 1965. However, religious fanatics opposed the introduction of the TV, considering it salacious. In 1975, one of Faisal’s nephews was shot and killed by police after leading an assault on a television station. In 1975, perhaps in a tit-for-tat killing, Faisal himself was assassinated by his dead nephew’s brother, who was later publicly beheaded for his deed.j
  50. Islam, the last of the world’s great religions to get underway, originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century A.D. It is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.j
  51. Islam was the inspiration of a single individual, the Prophet Muhammad, although later clerics and scholars made their contributions. Muhammad was born in A.D. 570 to a poor family in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Because it is the holiest of Islamic cities, Muslims from all over the world are encouraged to make a hajj, or pilgrimage, at least once in their lifetime to Mecca.j
  52. The mosque that the Prophet Muhammad built in Medina, Saudi Arabia, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (also known as just the Prophet’s Mosque) is considered to be the second most holy mosque by Muslims. It is also where his tomb lies.j
  53. The Hajar al-Aswad (The Black Stone) rates as Islam’s holiest icon in its holiest of temples, the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It resides upon a 43-feet high (13-m) plinth built into a stone structure called the Kaaba.j
  54. Instead of an income tax, Saudi Arabia has the zakat. It is a 2.5% impost that is it is levied on assets rather than income and is required of Muslims but not on guest workers.j
  55. In 2009, King Abdullah appointed Nour Al-Fayez as Deputy Minister for Women’s Education, the first women appointed to the Majlis al-shura, the inner circle of the Saudi Arabian government.j
  56. Not only does Saudi Arabia have a civil police force, it also has a religious police forced called the Mutaween, which is in charge of purifying thought and action in Saudi communities. Its full name is the “Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and for the Prevention of Vice.”j
  57. Book Harry Potter Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned the Harry Potter books and even set up an Anti-Witchcraft Action Unit
  58. Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that the country has banned the Harry Potter books, and the government has set up an Anti-Witchcraft Action Unit, which is under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPV), or Saudi Arabia’s religious police. The unit is charged with apprehending sorcerers and reversing the harmful effects of their spells.i
  59. Saudi Arabian men typically dress in thobes, a lightweight cotton garment which is almost always white; bischts, a garment equal to an academic graduation gown; and gutras, or the traditional head scarf.j
  60. Most people in Saudi Arabia often carry a set of prayer beads, called Misbahah, or “worry beads.” The original purpose of the beads was to count the number of prayers during prayer calls. These beads come on a string like a small necklace, usually in a set of 33 to 99 beads.j
  61. The black abaya is the Saudi national dress for women, and its wearing comes from a Judaic tradition which stretches back to Biblical times.j
  62. Lieutenant Martha McSally, the highest-ranking female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, successfully sued the U.S. Department of Defense in 2001 to end what she considered was discriminatory treatment while she was stationed in Saudi Arabia. She objected not only to the dress code, by which she had to abide, but also to the prohibition preventing her from driving herself around the base. In her trips between the airstrip and her quarters, Lt. McSally had to ride in the rear of the vehicle driven by a subordinate male officer, who held a valid driver’s license in Saudi Arabia. j
  63. Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic Lunar Calendar, with a starting date of A.D. 622, the year the Prophet Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina, an event known as the hejira. Islamic years are noted as Anno Hejira, or AH, similar to Anno Domini, the Latin phrase meaning years following the birth of Jesus Christ.j
  64. Horses have played a key role in Arabian history. They were first thought to have been domesticated about 4,000 B.C. in the area of present-day Ukraine. After domestication, they spread throughout Central Asia, Europe, and Arabia. Arabian horses were bred for their fine features, speed, and endurance and were essential aids in the spread of the Islamic Empire.j
  65. The earliest copies of the Koran were not written in Arabic but in a heavy script known as Kufic. Around A.D. 1000, Kufic was replaced by Nashki, a lighter cursive script joining letters together and still used in Saudi Arabia today. The Arabic alphabet probably came into existence around the 4th century and had 28 letters—22 consonants and six vowels.j
  66. The national language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, and some of the many English words which derive from Arabic include alchemy/chemistry, alcohol, algebra, alkaline, almanac, arsenal, assassin, candy, cipher, coffee, cotton, elixir, garbage, gauze, giraffe, guitar, harem, hazard, humus, jar, jasmine, lemon, lime, magazine, mattress, mohair, mosque, mummy, nadir, orange, ream, rook, safari, saffron, sash, sequin, silk, spinach, sugar, syrup, tamarind, tangerine, tariff, tuna, and zero.j
  67. King Abdul Aziz bin Rahman Al Saud, or Ibn Saud, is considered the father of the Saudi nation. In 1932, after proclaiming independence for Saudi Arabia, he crowned himself king. During the course of his life, from 17 different wives, Ibn Saud fathered 44 known sons—35 of whom were still alive after his death in 1953—and an unknown number of daughters. Ibn Saud is one of the few people in history to have a country named after himself.j
  68. Slavery was not abolished in Saudi Arabia until 1962.d
  69. In 2011, King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to vote in 2015, making Saudi Arabia the last nation on earth to allow women to vote.d
  70. Lingerie Before 2012, only men could sell women’s lingerie in Saudi Arabia because of the law stating women could not work outside the home
  71. Because of the former Saudi Arabian law stating that women could not work outside the home, men used to sell lingerie. In 2012, King Abdullah reversed the law after pressure from Saudi women who were growing increasingly uncomfortable buying their lingerie from male shop assistants and, therefore, men in the country are no longer allowed to sell lingerie at all.c
  72. Ibn Saud’s son Sattam bin Abdul Aziz was the first son of the founder to earn a U.S. university degree and the only son to marry just one wife. Prince Sattam earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego in 1965.d
  73. In 1985, Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Saudi, first Arab, and first Muslim to travel in space when he rode aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery.d
  74. All public schools in Saudi Arabia are religious, and the state mandates daily study of the Koran beginning in first grade and taking up roughly half the school day. At elementary school level, religious studies average a total of 9 periods a week while math, science, geography, history, and physical education combined average only 12 periods a week.d
  75. In 1975, the year of his assassination, Saudi King Faisal was chosen as Time magazine’s Man of the Year.a
  76. Ibn Saud, who is considered the Father of the Saudi nation and its first king, was granted a knighthood in the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth of England in 1935.m
  77. Saudi Arabia’s Arabic name is Al-Mamlakah al-Arabiyah as-Sa’udiyah, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.m

  78. Important Dates g, o
    Date Events
    3000 B.C. Dilmun, the first great civilization on the Arabian Peninsula, is founded off the coast of Bahrain. It extends from Failaka Island, near Kuwait, toward the hills of Oman.
    323 Alexander the Great, who was attracted to Arabia by its great wealth, dies, leaving his plan to explore the region unfulfilled. Nearchus, one of his admirals, establishes an important trading colony on Failaka Island.
    200 B.C.–A.D. 100 The Nabatean Empire controls northwestern Arabia and grows rich by taxing frankincense caravans traveling between southern Arabia and Damascus.
    300 Central and western Arabia develop into a loose arrangement of independent city-states, sustained by either the frankincense trade or by farming.
    570 The Prophet Muhammad is born at Mecca. The Ma’rib Dam, which the livelihoods of 50,000 people depend upon, bursts and scatters the people of Adz in the peninsula’s most significant migration.
    610 Muhammad receives his first revelation and begins to write the Koran, which lays the foundation of Islam.
    622 Muhammad and his followers flee Mecca for Medina, marking the beginning of the first Islamic state.
    632 Prophet Muhammad dies, and Islam flourishes despite his death.
    632–650 Muslim capital is moved to Damascus, encompassing an empire from Spain to India. Mecca and Medina lose their political importance but gain importance as the spiritual homes of Islam.
    850–1300 Arabia’s old trade routes collapse, and the Arabian Peninsula declines in wealth and importance. Petty sheikdoms bicker over limited resources under the control of Tatar moguls, Persians, and Ottoman Turks.
    1498 A celebrated sailor from Oman, Ahmed bin Majid helps Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama navigate the Cape of Good Hope, leading to the occupation of the Arabian Peninsula a decade later.
    1503 Italian explorer Ludovico de Varthema becomes the first non-Muslim to visit Mecca.
    1871 The Ottoman Empire takes control of al-Ahsa oasis, one of the wonders of the world.
    1902 Abd-al-Aziz Bin-Abd-al-Rahman Bin-Faisal Bin-Turki Bin-Abdallah Bin-Muhammed Al Saud, known as Ibn Saud, takes control of Riyadh, bringing the Al Saud family back to Saudi Arabia, which eventually leads to the formation of the Saudi Arabian nation.
    1912 The Saudis gain politically and threaten to take over other Gulf sheikdoms. British intervention saves Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates from being subsumed into Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan(Brotherhood) is founded based on Wahhabism; it grows quickly and provides key support for Ibn Saud.
    1913 al-Ahsa oasis is captured from the Ottomans by Ibn Saud.
    1921 Ibn Saud takes the title of Sultan of Najd.
    1924–1925 The Kingdom of Hijaz, home to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, is captured.
    1926 Ibn Saud is proclaimed King of the Hijaz in the Grand Mosque of Mecca.
    1928–1930 The Ikhwanturns against Ibn Saud due to modernization of the region and the increasing numbers of non-Muslims. Ibn Saud defeats them.
    1932 Ibn Saud combines the two crowns of Hijaz and Najd, renaming his country the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Ibn Saud is proclaimed king.
    1933 The Saadians begin their campaign to expel the Europeans.
    1938 Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia, and production begins under the U.S.-controlled Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company).
    1953 Ibn Saud dies and is succeeded by Crown Prince Saud. The new king’s brother Faisal is named Crown Prince.
    1960 Saudi Arabia becomes a founding member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). The Middle East is producing 25% of the non-Communist world’s oil.
    1964 King Saud is deposed by his brother Faisal.
    1970 The OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) is founded in Jeddah.
    1972 Saudi Arabia gains control of a proportion (20%) of Aramco, lessening U.S. control over Saudi oil.
    1973 Saudi Arabia leads an oil boycott against the Western nations that supported Israel in the October War against Egypt and Syria. Oil prices quadruple and cause shortages and crisis in the United States as well.
    1975 In March, King Faisal is assassinated by his nephew and succeeded by his brother Khalid.
    1979 Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with Egypt after it makes peace with Israel.
    1979 Extremists seize the Grand Mosque of Mecca; the government regains control after 10 days, and those responsible are captured and executed.
    1980 Saudi Arabia takes full control of Aramco from the U.S.
    1981

    Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).

    1982 King Khalid dies of a heart attack and is succeeded by his brother Crown Prince Fahd.
    1986 King Fahd adds the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” to his name.
    1987 Saudi Arabia resumes diplomatic ties with Egypt.
    1990 Saudi Arabia condemns Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and requests the U.S. to intervene. It allows foreign troops as well as the Kuwaiti government and many of its citizens to stay in Saudi Arabia, but expels citizens of Yemen and Jordan because of their governments’ support of Iraq. U.S. and Allied forces launch Operation Desert Storm.
    1991 Saudi Arabia participates in both air attacks on Iraq and in the land force that goes on to liberate Kuwait.
    1992 King Fahd announces the “Basic System of Government,” emphasizing the duties and responsibilities of a ruler. He proposes setting up a Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura).
    1993 King Fahd decrees the division of Saudi Arabia into 13 administrative divisions. The Majlis al-Shura is inaugurated. It is composed of a chairman and 60 members chosen by the king.
    1994 Islamic dissident Osama bin Laden is stripped of Saudi nationality.
    1995 King Fahd has a stroke in November. Crown Prince Abdullah takes on the daily administration of the country.
    1996 King Fahd resumes control in February.
    1996 In June, a bomb explodes at the U.S. military complex near Dhahran, killing 19 and wounding over 300.
    1997 King Fahd increases membership in the Majlis al-Shura from 60 to 90..
    1999 Twenty Saudi women attend a session of the Majlis al-Shura for the first time.
    2001 Fifteen of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks in the U.S. are Saudi nationals. In December, King Fahd calls for the eradication of terrorism, saying it is prohibited by Islam. Government issues ID cards to women for the first time.
    2002 Saudi foreign minister says Saudi Arabia will not allow the U.S. to use its facilities to attack Iraq, even in an UN-sanctioned strike.
    2003 U.S. says it will pull out almost all its troops from Saudi Arabia, ending a military presence dating back to the 1991 Gulf War. Both countries stress that they remain allies.
    2003 In May, suicide bombers kill 35 people at Western housing compounds, hours before a scheduled visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
    2004 In February, a stampede at the hajj pilgrimage leaves 251 dead. In June, three gun attacks in Riyadh within a week leave two Americans and a BBC cameraman dead. That same week, a U.S. engineer working in Saudi Arabia is abducted and beheaded, and his execution is filmed and broadcast, causing revulsion in the U.S. In December, extremists attack U.S. consulate in Jeddah; five staff and four attackers are killed.
    2005 From February–April, first nationwide municipal elections are held in Saudi Arabia. Women are not allowed to take part in polling. On August 1, the death of King Fahd is announced. He is succeeded by Crown Prince Abdullah. In November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) okays Saudi Arabia’s membership after 12 years of talks.
    2006 Saudi Arabia moves to formalize the royal succession in an apparent bid to prevent in-fighting among the next generation of royal princes.
    2008 Saudi Arabia and Qatar agree on final delineation of border.
    2009 In February, Interpol issues its largest group alert for 85 men suspected for plotting attacks in Saudi Arabia. All but two are Saudis. King Abdullah fires the head of the Mutaween (religious police), the most senior judge, and the head of the central bank in a rare government reshuffle. He also appoints the country’s first female minister.
    2009 In June, President Barack Obama visits Saudi Arabia as a part of a Middle East tour aimed at increasing U.S. engagement with the Islamic world. In July, a Saudi court issues verdicts in the first explicit terrorism trial for al-Qaeda militants in the country. Officials say 330 suspects were tried but do not specify how many were guilty. One is sentenced to death.
    2010 In October, U.S. officials confirm plans to sell US$60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia—the most lucrative single arms deal in U.S. history. In December, diplomatic cables intercepted by Wikileaks suggest U.S. concern that Saudi Arabia is the “most significant” source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.
    2011 In March, public protests are banned. King Abdullah warns of a “no tolerance” policy on threats to nation’s security and stability. In June, Saudi women mount a symbolic protest in defiance on ban on female drivers. In September, King Abdullah announces more rights for women, including the right to vote in elections in 2015, to run in municipal elections, and to be appointed to the Majlis al-Shura. A woman is sentenced to 10 lashes after being found guilty of driving, the first time a legal punishment has been handed down for violation on the ban on women drivers. King Abdullah overturns the sentence. In October, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud is named heir to the throne, after Crown Prince Sultan. In December, U.S. confirms major sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.
    2012 In June, Crown Prince Nayef dies, succeeded by more liberal defense minister, the 76-year-old Prince Salman. Saudi Arabia agrees to allow female athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time, against speculation that the entire Saudi athletic team might be disqualified on grounds of gender discrimination.
    2013 In February, King Abdullah swears in 30 women to the Majlis al-Shura, a major step in female participation in public life. It is the first time women have been able to hold any political office. In October, Saudi Arabia turns down a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, accusing the world body of double standards on account of what it sees as an international failure to act on Syria, where it staunchly backs the rebels.
    2014 In February. Saudi Arabia introduces new antiterrorism laws, which activists say will further stifle dissent. In March, Saudi Arabia designates the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

-- Posted September 19, 2014

References

a Bradley, John R. 2005. Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis. New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan.

b Brekke, Kira. “Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower Will Stand One Kilometer High.” Huffington Post. Updated April 20, 2014. Accessed June 27, 2014.

c Buchanan, Emily. “Women Only to Work in Saudi Arabia Lingerie Shops.” BBC. Updated January 4, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2014.

d House, Karen Elliott. 2012. On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Books.

e Howard, Caroline. “The 72 Who Rule the World.” Forbes. October 30, 2013. Accessed July 9, 2014.

f Kirkby, Bruce. 2000. Sand Dance: By Camel across Arabia’s Great Southern Desert. Toronto, Canada: McLelland & Stewart Ltd.

g Lonely Planet Oman, UAE, & Arabian Peninsula (Travel Guide). 2013. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications.

h Malone, Noreen. “How Does Blood Money Work?” Slate. March 20, 2009. Accessed June 27, 2014.

i Miller, David. “Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit Breaks another Spell.” The Jerusalem Post. Updated July 20, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2014.

j North, Peter and Harvey Tripp. 2009. Culture Shock! Saudi Arabia. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.

k Opam, Kwame. “Google Earth Reveal Strange Nazca-Like Ruins in Saudi Arabia.” Gizmodo. September 21, 2011. Accessed June 20, 2014.

l Pollak, Sorcha. “A Lack of Swordsmen May Lead Saudis to Abolish Beheadings.” Time. March 11, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2014.

m "Saudi Arabia (The World Factbook)." Central Intelligence Agency. Updated June 20, 2014. Accessed June 24, 2014.

n “Saudi Arabia Bans Smoking in Most Public Places.” Huffington Post. Updated July 30, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2014.

o “Saudi Arabia Profile: Timeline.” BBC. March 28, 2014. Updated March 28, 2014. Accessed June 28, 2014.

p “Saudi Drivers in ‘Sidewalk Skiing’ Craze.” BBC. Updated May 24, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2014.

q “U.S. Surges Past Saudis to Become World’s Top Oil Supplier?PIRA.” Reuters. October 15, 2013. Accessed July 9, 2014.