The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is perhaps one of the defining territories of the Middle East – or the Western Asian region, if you want to be politically correct about it. It is considered as one of the premiere destinations of jobseekers from various parts of the globe due to its seemingly unending need for manual labor for its refineries and constructions.
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There are several great gems about this territory which you probably do not know about yet. It is wise to understand what you can expect when you visit the country beforehand.
Tips and Things to Know about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Here are several things to know about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:
- It is the 13th largest country in the world and is one of the countries of the world (in fact the largest country) without any natural river.
- It is the largest country in the Middle East with 83,000 square miles which is roughly a quarter of the United States of America and about the size of all the countries in Western Europe combined.
- The country is in the Arabian Peninsula – consequently, the world’s largest peninsula.
- There is an ongoing construction that is deemed to dwarf the Burj Khalifa Hotel in Dubai – the Kingdom Tower is supposed to be 1 kilometer high (3,280 meters in height) which would dwarf the Burj by 600 feet.
- King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ascended to the throne in 2015 and is officially known by the appellation “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to the mosques built by the Prophet Muhammad.
- Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and is the site of the holiest places for Muslims – Mecca and Medina. Millions of Muslims take their pilgrimage to these holy sites as part of their faith.
- Despite a ban on public smoking as well as strict rules against underage smoking, Saudi is the world’s fourth largest importer of tobacco – with each day ringing up a total of USD 8 million in sales.
- Sidewalk Skiing – a popular yet pretty dangerous car sport entails balancing a car on its side on two wheels while one person (usually the one on the passenger side) sticking out of the window. Probably one of the reasons why the country has more fatalities involved in car crashes per number of heads in the population.
- The country is the last significantly absolute monarchy in the world – with the ruling Al Saud family in power since the nation’s inception in 1932.
- Homosexuality, infidelity, peddling illegal drugs, birth control and public drinking are all considered crimes in the territory which carry a minimum of a public flogging to an extreme death sentence by beheading.
- A Harry Potter fanatic? It is extremely frowned upon in the Kingdom which does not talk of sorcery at all. The country even has its own Anti-Witchcraft Action Unit which is under the religious police force of the Kingdom.
- The last country to allow women to vote, Saudi still frowns upon women driving, opening bank accounts and traveling alone without the permission of their husbands. While there has been a sweeping change in the country, it still is young and it would take years to firmly establish equal rights.
- Camels are among the most important animals in the kingdom – it is used for transport, as a bartering chip – a commodity (to the tune of at least 100 camels sold per day) – a sporting spectacle animal and even as food (camel milk and camel meat are pretty nutritious).
- Coffee or gahwa can be avoided by rigidly practicing members of Islam as it stimulates the body.
- Curiously for Western citizens, the wedding celebrations in Saudi Arabia features separate rituals for men and women – though at the end, the male and the female get together for the first time.
- Non-Muslims will never get Saudi citizenship.
- Non-Muslim worship centers are also not going to be permitted – which is why other religions do not have their places of worship in the Kingdom.
- About 2,000 participants join the King’s Cup yearly – an epic 19 kilometer race that is observed during the Al-Jenandriyah National Festival.
- Only 2% of the territory occupied by Saudi Arabia is considered arable.
- There is no income tax in the country – but for residents – a 2.5% imposition known as the zakat is enforced. Non-residents or immigrant workers are exempt from this imposition though.
While a lot of people may consider Saudi Arabia as one of the most difficult places to live in, it does have several redeeming qualities. Visitors to the country, though, must be aware that the law is being strictly implemented in this territory and any violation may be cause for severe punishment.