Understanding Saudi Arabia Today

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Archaeological evidence shows that human beings have inhabited this area for over one million years, highlighting a long history of civilisation peppered by many different kingdoms and states and enriched by its geographical location at the heart of ancient international trade routes. Modern-day Saudi Arabia is a traditional and highly conservative society, fundamentally based on strong religious values, beliefs, and customs to which it is expected that expatriates and visitors should respect and adhere.

All Saudis practice Islam, which provides guidance and rules for their personal, economic, political, legal and social lives. Religious obligations such as prayer times are embedded into public and business life and are not considered flexible, and most businesses will close on a Friday, the Muslim holy day.

Despite their deeply conservative culture, Saudis describe themselves as inclined to live for the moment, demonstrative and loud, and with relaxed views in relation to time-keeping and punctuality.


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Saudis are also highly family-oriented. Family bonds are strong and the family is still considered the single most important social institution.

A guide to Saudi Arabia – etiquette, customs, clothing and more…

Family ties and loyalties pervade all facets of Saudi life, including the business world, and are the principal basis of individual identity, status and social alliances. Saudis are also highly conscious of their lineage, their clan ties and their extended family, and obligations are taken seriously while providing a safety net in times of family need.

Nepotism in business is not seen as harmful, but instead as showing the key importance of employing people that are known and trusted. Although Saudi families are traditionally highly patriarchal, the role of women within the family is gradually extending into the workplace following significant encouragement by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and new labour policies. This is leading to an increased growth in the number of Saudi Arabian working women and a noticeable rise in female entrepreneurship. However, being aware of local customs and etiquette always shows good manners and will ensure a warm welcome to visitors.

Many foreigners new to the country will have to adapt to significant limits to public interaction and contact between men and women, even in business environments. Saudi Arabia is the most gender-segregated country in the world and public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and the workplace have entire areas which are female-only. Female businesswomen meeting male counterparts in public locations are expected to be accompanied by another male. Civility is valued highly by Arabs and therefore respectful greetings are important.

Many variations of greeting exist in Saudi Arabia, so it is often best to follow the lead of Saudi counterparts. Greetings are generally warm and involve a strong handshake, strictly with the right hand, and depending on the degree of familiarity an embrace with kisses on alternate cheeks. However there is little to no physical contact between men and women during public greetings.

Appropriate dress is taken very seriously in Saudi society and is an aspect which foreign visitors should familiarise themselves with to avoid giving offence. In public Saudis and visitors alike are expected to dress conservatively and foreign men should always wear long trousers, not shorts, and long-sleeved shirts. There are specific rules for female dress outside the home including covering the hair and wearing the abaya , a traditional black over garment. Although non-Saudi, non-Muslim women are not expected to wear a veil, it is advisable for foreign women to wear the abaya and to carry a headscarf for occasions where covering of the hair is appropriate.

Area: 2,, sq km, about one-fifth the size of the United States. Population: Capital: Riyadh.

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It is the world's largest exporter of petroleum liquids and relies on the oil industry for almost half of its GDP. 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 was a founding member of the Arab League in It currently maintains close ties with its neighbor, Bahrain, and helped the Sunni monarchy there put down an Arab Spring uprising in Saudi Arabia was a longtime supporter of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak before his overthrow in It did not support the successor government of Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.

After many years of strained relations, Saudi Arabia began constructing a fortified fence along its 1,mile border with Yemen in It has also started work on a mile barrier along the border with Iraq, to prevent border incursions by the terrorist group ISIS. Religion - 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 s, 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. Women's Rights - 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 cannot marry, divorce, travel, get a job or have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians. Also, women can't mix freely with members of the opposite sex and must wear a full-length black abaya in public. In , King Abdullah announced that women will be allowed to nominate candidates for the next set of municipal elections. In December , women voted for the first time, women ran for office, and 17 were elected.

In September , a royal decree was issued that will allow women in the country to drive. Saudi Arabia allowed women into three sports stadiums for the first time in January This meeting establishes "the marriage of convenience" between the two countries, which continues to this day. October 24, - Joins the United Nations as a founding member.

November - King Saud is deposed and replaced by his half-brother Faisal. March 25, - King Faisal is murdered by a nephew. His half-brother Khalid succeeds him.


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December - The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, beginning a year occupation. Many young Saudis, including Osama bin Laden, spend time in Afghanistan and join the jihadist movement. September - The eight-year-long war between Iran and Iraq begins.

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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 November - Saudi Arabia and Egypt restore diplomatic ties. What happens in the case of an emergency? YES implementing organizations are prepared to respond to emergencies in the United States. Each organization provides hour assistance in the event of an emergency and facilitates appropriate medical treatment, including evacuation, if necessary.

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