Time: GMT + 3.
Area: 2,240,000 sq km (864,869 sq miles).
Currency: SAUDI RIYAL (pegged to the USD $1= 3.75 SAR)
Population: 26,534,504 (July 2012 est.) note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals
Riyadh (royal). Population: 4.7 million (UN estimate 2005). Jeddah (administrative). Population: 3.2 million (UN estimate 2001; incl. suburbs).
Flag description: Green, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”) above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932
Geography Saudi Arabia occupies four-fifths of the Arabian peninsula. It is bordered to the northwest by Jordan, to the north by Iraq and Kuwait, to the east by the Gulf of Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, and to the south by Yemen. To the west lies the Red Sea. Along the Red Seacoast is a narrow coastal strip (Tihama) which becomes relatively hotter and more humid towards the south and has areas of extensive tidal flats and lava fields. Behind this coastal plain is a series of plateaux reaching up to 2,000m (6,560ft). The southern part of this range, Asir, has some peaks of over 3,000m (9,840ft). North of these mountains, in the far north, is An Nafud, a sand sea, and further south the landscape rises to Najd, a semi-desert area scattered with oases. Still further south the land falls away, levelling out to unremitting desert, the uninhabited ‘Empty Quarter’ or Rub al Khali. Along the Gulf coast is a low fertile plain giving way to limestone ridges inland.
Climate and Weather Saudi Arabia has a typical desert climate of blistering hot days and cool nights, and is one of the driest countries in the world. Summers can be extremely hot with high temperatures in some areas. The higher inland areas are cooler. Coastal cities are humid and hot year round. Sandstorms blow anywhere in the country, some lasting for days. From May to September, expect daytime temperatures of 45°C (113°F) or higher throughout the country with slightly cooler coastal temperatures. In the dead of winter (December to January) temperatures in the main cities (except Jeddah), will drop into the teens during the day and even hit zero in some places overnight (particularly in the central deserts). During winter the mountains can also be shrouded in fog. In the southern coastal areas it rains quite regularly (it’s about the only place that does) with high humidity in the summer, but there’s very little rainfall in the capital Riyadh and the northern parts of the Red Sea coast, making the cooler winter days a pleasure.
Head of State
Prime Minister and King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud since 2005.
Language Arabic. English is spoken in business circles.
Religion The majority of Saudi Arabians follow Islam.
Social Conventions Saudi culture is based on Islam. Both men and women should be conservatively dressed, and women are required to wear an abaya (black robe) and head scarf in public. As a guideline, men should not wear shorts in public. If you do, ensure they are below the knee. Men should also not offer their hand to shake to Saudi women unless the women reaches out first. (This is the correct etiquette in all countries, outside of the business circle. In the business world, so long as you know the women has been educated abroad, there are no special preferences.)
Visa Nationals of every country apart from the GCC states need a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. In addition to a visa, anyone entering Saudi Arabia is required to have a passport with at least six months’ remaining validity and two empty pages facing each other, a return air ticket, and a Saudi Arabian sponsor, which is usually a company, employer or the family member working in the country. The procedure for obtaining a visa to enter Saudi Arabia is as follows. First, the company offering you a visa has to apply for to the Ministry of Interior. On approval of this application, a visa number is sent to the Saudi Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You are then required to submit a visa application to the Embassy or Consulate in your home country or country of current residence.
Photography: Strictly speaking, photography is not permitted. However, many people do still take photos, but are careful to ask permission of the relevant authority before photographing people or any building.
Country Dialing Code: + 966
Weights Measures System: Metric
Electricity: 110/220V 60HzHz
Electric Plug Details
Communications Saudi Arabia has a good telephone network. The country code is +966 and the outgoing international code 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Riyadh. Two mobile telephone service providers operate GSM 900 networks and there are Internet facilities in most cities. Email is accessible from hotels and Internet cafes.
Tipping Service charge is usually included in bills at hotels. Elsewhere a tip of 10% can be offered for services rendered. Taxi drivers can be given 10% of the fare.
King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
Location: The airport is situated 22 miles (35km) from Riyadh city centre.
Transfer between terminals: The terminals are linked by moving walkways.
Transfer to the city: Prepaid airport taxis are available for transport to the city.
Car rental: Car rental counters are located in the lobby and include Avis, Budget and Hertz (women are not allowed to drive on public roads and may not be a passenger with a man who is not immediate family, unless in a taxi).
Facilities: Facilities include restaurants and cafeterias (no bars as alcohol is illegal), banks in Terminal 2 and ATMs in Terminals 2 and 3, first aid clinics, a post office, various shopping opportunities, and visitor information. A mosque is located in the centre of the passenger terminal. Facilities for the disabled are good.
Parking: Two multi-level garages are located directly in front of the passenger terminals, on either side of the mosque, which are connected to the terminals by walkways.
Duty Free Travelers to Saudi Arabia do not have to pay duty on 600 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g tobacco; or perfume or cultured pearls for personal use. Duty is payable on cameras and other electronic goods, and refunds on these are available if the articles are re-exported within 90 days. Strictly prohibited are food products and carbonated water, animals and birds and palm trees or derivatives thereof. Other prohibited items include alcohol, firearms, drugs, pork products and natural pearls.