Ethnic Groups: Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%
Religion: Muslim (85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shiite, citizens only), Other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh) (2012 est.)
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.683 trillion (2015 est.)
GDP per capita: $53,600 (2015 est.)
Unemployment: 11.4% (Saudi men only, 2015 est.)
Other Facts:Economy -
Saudi Arabia possesses approximately 18% of the world's oil reserves.
It is the world's largest exporter of petroleum liquids and relies on the oil industry
for almost half of its GDP.
Saudi Arabia was a founding member of OPEC
(Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in 1960.
More than 30% of Saudi Arabia's population is made up of foreign workers.
Foreign Relations -
Since the end of World War II
, Saudi Arabia and the United States have maintained a relationship based on an exchange of oil for security
. Their mutual interests have included the free flow of oil, and fighting the spread of communism and extremist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS. Saudi Arabia and the United States have not agreed on support for Israel
or engagement with Saudi Arabia's regional rival, Iran
. In October 2013, Saudi Arabia expressed disappointment in the United States' muted response to unrest in Syria
, another regional rival.
Saudi Arabia was a founding member of the Arab League
It currently maintains close ties with its neighbor, Bahrain, and helped the Sunni monarchy there put down an Arab Spring uprising in 2011
Saudi Arabia was a longtime supporter of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak
before his overthrow in 2011. It did not support the successor government of Mohamed Morsy
and the Muslim Brotherhood. After Morsy's overthrow in 2013, Saudi Arabia returned its support to new president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
After many years of strained relations, Saudi Arabia began constructing a fortified fence along its 1,060-mile border with Yemen
in 2003. This is in response to the ongoing unrest in Yemen
due to Shiite Houthi rebels and terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
It has also started work on a 600-mile barrier along the border with Iraq
, to prevent border incursions by the terrorist group ISIS
The Wahhabi, or Salafi, branch of Sunni Islam has been closely tied to the Saud family since the 18th century. When the Saud family established the modern country of Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam become the country's official state-sponsored religion.
One of the five pillars of Islam is performing Hajj
, by traveling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at least once. Approximately two million people a year make the pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia bans public worship by non-Muslims and severely restricts public displays of religion by non-Wahhabi sect Muslims, including Shiites.
Saudi Arabia has a guardianship system based on strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The system is not a formal law. Under the guardianship system, women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited from driving. In November 2014, King Abdullah's advisory council recommended easing the ban. It is still under consideration. Under the guardianship system, women also cannot open bank accounts, work, travel or go to school without the express permission of a male guardian.
In 2011, King Abdullah announced that women will be allowed to nominate candidates for the next set of municipal elections
. In December 2015, women were allowed to vote for the first time, and 979 women ran for office.
September 23, 1932 - Abd-al-Aziz Bin-Abd-al-Rahman Bin-Faysal Bin-Turki Bin-Abdallah Bin-Muhammad Al Saud, also known as Ibn Saud, establishes the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 30 years after Saud's family returned to the Arabian Peninsula from exile.
Saudi Arabia declares its neutrality at the outbreak of World War II
and maintains it for most of the war.
1944 - California-Arabian Standard Oil changes its name to Arabian American Oil (Aramco).
February 14, 1945 -
Ibn Saud meets with US President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the U.S.S. Quincy in the Suez Canal. This meeting establishes "the marriage of convenience" between the two countries, which continues to this day.
February-March 1945 -
Saudi Arabia declares war on Germany and Japan
March 22, 1945 - Joins the Arab League as a founding member.
October 24, 1945 -
Joins the United Nations
as a founding member.
Sends several hundred troops to fight in the first Arab-Israeli War
after Israel declares its independence.
1950 - Aramco begins sharing 50% of its income with the government of Saudi Arabia.
1953 - Ibn Saud dies and is succeeded by his son Saud Ibn Abd al-Aziz.
September 14, 1960 -
OPEC is formed in Baghdad, Iraq, by founding members Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela
1962 - Yemen's civil war pits Saudi Arabia and Egypt against each other for five years.
November 1964 - King Saud is deposed and replaced by his half-brother Faisal.
October 1973 -
The United States supports Israel during the Yom Kippur war with Egypt,
Syria and other Mideast countries. In response, Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC member countries impose an oil embargo against the United States.
March 25, 1975 - King Faisal is murdered by a nephew. Half-brother Khalid succeeds him.
March 26, 1979 -
Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic relations with Egypt after President Anwar Sadat signs the Camp David peace treaty
with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
December 1979 - The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan
, beginning a 10-year occupation. Saudi Arabia and the United States support the Afghan resistance known as the Mujahideen. Many young Saudis, including Osama bin Laden, spend time in Afghanistan
and join the jihadist movement.
1980 - The Saudi government gains full control of Aramco.
September 1980 - The eight-year-long war between Iran and Iraq begins. Saudi Arabia supports Iraq and the government of Saddam Hussein against the predominantly Shiite country of Iran, with billions in loans. The war ends in a stalemate in 1988.
May 1981 - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates establish the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
June 13, 1982 - King Khalid dies and is succeeded by his half-brother Crown Prince Fahd.
November 1987 - Saudi Arabia and Egypt restore diplomatic ties.
August 2, 1990 - Iraq invades neighboring Kuwait
. King Fahd, fearing an Iraqi invasion, allows a multi-national force of more than 500,000 troops to set up military bases in the country. This angers many Saudis, who consider the foreign troops infidels.
February 27-March 1991 - US and coalition forces defeat Iraq and liberate Kuwait.
November 13, 1995 -
A bomb destroys a building used by the US military in Riyadh, killing five US service members.
June 25, 1996 - A group of terrorists attack the US Air Force housing complex known as Khobar Towers in Dhahran. Nineteen service members are killed.
August 7, 1998 -
Almost simultaneously, bombs explode at US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
, killing 224 people. More than 5,000 are wounded. Twelve of those killed in Kenya are US citizens. The bombings, orchestrated by al Qaeda, take place eight years to the day after US troops were ordered to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
September 11, 2001 -
The deadliest terrorist attack in US history takes place when 19 men hijack four fuel-loaded commercial airlines bound for west coast destinations. The plot is orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden
. A total of 2,977 people are killed in New York, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers are from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia opposes the US invasion of Iraq
April 29, 2003 -
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces the withdrawal of US forces from Saudi Arabia
May 12, 2003 - Assailants set off car bombs at three housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Approximately 23 people are killed, including nine Americans.
November 8, 2003 - Seventeen people of various Arab nationalities are killed in a suicide car bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
August 1, 2005 -
King Fahd dies and is succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah
January 23, 2015 -
King Abdullah dies and is succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Salman
April 29, 2015 - King Salman, in a surprise power-shifting move, appoints Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince, replacing his half-brother Prince Muqrin as his successor, and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, his son, as deputy crown prince. Bin Nayef has closer ties to the US than most major Saudi members of royalty, according to reports.
December 14, 2015 -
At least 17 women are elected to public office in Saudi Arabia
, in the first elections in which women in the country are allowed to vote and to run for office.
January 2, 2016 -
Saudi Arabia announces it has executed 47 prisoners who had been convicted of terrorism over the last decade -- most prominently, a Shiite cleric named Nimr al-Nimr, who had spoken out against the ruling Al Saud family.
This mass execution, which took place in 12 different Saudi sites, marks the country's highest one year total in almost two decades. The executions spark demonstrations throughout the region, including protesters smashing Molotov cocktails into the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran.
January 3, 2016 -
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says his country is severing ties with Iran after Saturday's attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
January 4, 2016 -
The Saudi government announces that all flights to and from Iran are suspended immediately, according to the Saudi Pres Agency. In addition, Bahrain announces it is severing ties with Iran
, while the United Arab Emirates says it is "downgrading" diplomatic relations with Iran, and Sudan
expels the Iranian ambassador and the entire Iranian diplomatic mission in its country.
August 24-25, 2016 -
US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubier, crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other representatives from the region, to discuss plans to end the escalating violence in Yemen.
August 25, 2016 -
The United Nations issues a report
calling for an investigation into possible human rights violations in Yemen. The UNHCHR says the conflict between pro-Saudi government forces, Houthi and other rebels, has resulted in the death of 3,799 civilians, 6,711 wounded civilians, and millions of others displaced from their home. The humanitarian organization says air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition that it monitored, made up the "single largest cause of [civilian] casualties," approximately one-third of the deaths and injuries they recorded.