Saudi Arabia[c] (/ˌsɔːdi əˈreɪbiə/ (About this sound listen), /ˌsaʊ-/ (About this sound listen)), officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA),[d] is a sovereign Arab state in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the fifth-largest state in Asia and second-largest state in the Arab world after Algeria. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south. It is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast and most of its terrain consists of arid desert and mountains.
The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of four distinct regions: Hejaz, Najd and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa) and Southern Arabia (‘Asir). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud. He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia has since been an absolute monarchy, effectively a hereditary dictatorship governed along Islamic lines. The ultraconservative Wahhabi religious movement within Sunni Islam has been called “the predominant feature of Saudi culture”, with its global spread largely financed by the oil and gas trade. Saudi Arabia is sometimes called “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. The state has a total population of 28.7 million, of which 20 million are Saudi nationals and 8 million are foreigners. The state’s official language is Arabic.
Petroleum was discovered on 3 March 1938 and followed up by several other finds in the Eastern Province. Saudi Arabia has since become the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves. The kingdom is categorized as a World Bank high-income economy with a high Human Development Index and is the only Arab country to be part of the G-20 major economies. However, the economy of Saudi Arabia is the least diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, lacking any significant service or production sector (apart from the extraction of resources). The state has attracted criticism for its treatment of women and use of capital punishment. Saudi Arabia is a monarchical autocracy, has the fourth highest military expenditure in the world and SIPRI found that Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer in 2010–2014. Saudi Arabia is considered a regional and middle power. In addition to the GCC, it is an active member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and OPEC.
There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula dates back to about 125,000 years ago. It is now believed that the first modern humans to spread east across Asia left Africa about 75,000 years ago across the Bab el Mandib connecting Horn of Africa and Arabia.
Before the foundation of Saudi Arabia
In ancient times the Arabian peninsula served as a corridor for trade and exhibited several civilizations. The history before the foundation of Saudi Arabia divided into two phases: pre-Islam and after Islam.
Religions of the people of the Arabian Peninsula before Islam consisted of indigenous polytheistic beliefs, Arabian Christianity, Nestorian Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
Al-Magar is prehistoric civilisation that was founded in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Najd. Al-Magar is where the first domestication of animals occurred, particularly the horse, during the Neolithic period.
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