Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, and it has the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. Islam united the many traditional groups of Arabia with religion and the Arabic language. The region was further united after 1902, when Abdul Aziz Al-Sa‘ud brought the city of Riyadh under the control of the House of Sa‘ud. In 1933, the lands under the control of the king were renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country is an absolute monarchy.

In 1938, US oil corporation Chevron found large quantities of oil in the region, which has kept the royal family wealthy ever since.

During the First Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Saudi royal family sheltered thousands of Kuwaitis, including the emir and his family. Saudi Arabia allowed US and Western forces to use its military bases during Operation Desert Storm. Because non-Muslims were operating military bases in the same country as the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, extremist groups felt they had a reason to engage in terror. For example, sixteen of the nineteen hijackers in the 9-11 attack in New York were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has improved its efforts against terrorism.

The entire economy of Saudi Arabia is based on the export of oil. More than 20 percent of the known oil reserves in the world are located in Saudi Arabia. Millions of foreign workers in the oil industry make up a vital part of the country’s economy.

The population is growing faster than the economy. Family size is about 3.8 children. The unemployment rate is high, and there is a shortage of job skills in the workforce. The government has been working to diversify the economy by investing in the infrastructure and education.

Saudi Arabia is working towards globalization and modernization efforts. In 2008, the king implemented an initiative for interfaith dialogue in an effort to improve religious tolerance and acceptance. The first woman was appointed to the cabinet, and municipal councils held elections for its members.

Source: Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Saudi Arabia
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0

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