Last updated on April 18th, 2022
Over the centuries, the Saudi Peninsula has played an important role in world history. It is the birthplace of Islam and served as an ancient trade center. After the discovery of oil, Saudi Arabia was transformed from a desert country to a modern and sophisticated state that plays a vital role on the global stage.
Saudi Arabia is a unique place. With its rich culture, controversial history, larger-than-life princes, strong economy, strategic geography, and a very challenging climate, it is worth discovering the 70 Interesting facts about Saudi Arabia.
Interesting Facts about the Saudi Royal Family
1. A Young Prince Is In Charge
Since his father Salman of Arabia ascended to the throne in 2015, his 30-year-old son Prince Mohammed bin Salman got into a position of unrivaled power. He became crown prince, minister of defense, and deputy prime minister. He serves as chairman of important councils that deal with issues of security and economic development.
2. They Are Worth Around $100 Billion
That makes them the richest royal family in the world. Their main source of income is Saudi’s oil reserves which are currently valued at around $2 trillion.
3. The Saudi Royal Family Lives in Luxury
Leading the pack is Mohamed Bin Salman, the crown prince. He bought the $450 million DaVinci painting, a French chateau for $300 million, and a yacht for $500 million.
4. Saudi Crown Prince Among the World’s Most Powerful People
Forbes Magazine ranked Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi’s crown prince, as the 8th most powerful person in the world.
5. The Saud Family Spent US$ 500 Million Trying to Suppress the Death of a Princess Documentary
The film documents the 1978 execution of Princess Mishaal who was killed because of sexual misconduct. She was married and later divorced, and then she fell in love with another man. The Royal family rejected the relationship. She went to meet her lover in a hotel where they were recognized and caught. Her suitor was beheaded while she was shot.
6. There Are Over 7,000 Princes in the Saudi Royal Family
All of them are given prestigious jobs, which blocks other qualified Saudis from getting great jobs.
7. The Father of the Saudi Nation
King Ibn Saud is the father of the Saudi nation. He crowned himself king in 1932 after declaring independence. In his life, he had 17 wives, 44 known sons, and an unknown number of daughters.
8. Saudi Arabia Is Named After Ibn Saud
He is one of the few people in world history to have a nation named after himself.
9. Founder of Saudi Arabia Was Knighted
In 1935, Ibn Saud, the father of Saudi Arabia and the first king of the country was knighted by Queen Elizabeth of England.
10. Sattam bin Abdul Aziz Was The First Son of Ibn Saud to Earn an American University Degree
He earned a Business Administration degree from San Diego University in 1965. He was also the only son of Ibn Saud who married just one wife.
Saudi Arabia on map
11. Times Man of the Year
King Faisal, one of the progressive kings of Saudi Arabia, was declared man of the year by the Times issue of January 1975. He was assassinated in the same year.
12. First Muslim in Space
In 1985, Prince Sultan bin Salman rode aboard an American space shuttle making him the first Muslim and Arab to travel in space.
13. The Motivating Ideology of Wahhabism Fueled the Success of the Saud Family
The Saud family, after which the country is named, consolidated power and made Saudi Arabia a modern country. Their success is partly due to Wahhabism, a strict type of Islam, which was adopted by early family leaders.
14. The Al Saud Family Might Have Never Ascended to Power
Riyadh was seized in 1893 by the Al-Rashid Family but they failed to notice the approaching Ibn Sauds and their followers. The Ibn Saud troops spent 50 days in the Empty Quarter of the desert. They launched a raid in January 1902 that killed the Rashidi governor and the Al Saud came to power.
15. The Sword Dance
The sword dance is held every year in Riyadh during the Saudi Royal family reunion. It celebrates the union between the Al Saud fighters (men of the sword) and the Wahhabi preachers (men of the pen).
16. The Bin Laden Connection
The Bin Laden family has close ties with the Saudi royal family. In 2011, a Saudi prince awarded a $1.23 billion contract for the construction of Jeddah Tower to the Saudi Bin Laden Group. This tower is set to become the tallest building in the world.
The flag of Saudi Arabia
Interesting Facts about Culture, Society & Lifestyle in Saudi Arabia
17. Saudi Wedding Ceremonies are Held Separately for Women & Men
In Saudi Arabia, wedding celebrations for the bride and her groom are held separately in public venues. Many Saudi couples choose to perform their weddings abroad to celebrate together.
18. Most of Saudi Arabia Still Embraces a Traditional Lifestyle
In the 21st century, little has changed when it comes to the Saudi lifestyle. Ubiquitous tribalism and deep-rooted religious conservatism are still common as was the case thousands of years ago.
19. Saudi Culture Is Rooted in Arab Customs and Islamic Teachings
It is impossible to separate Saudi culture from Islamic teachings. Saudi life involves daily prayers, Ramadan, and the Hajj season among other Islamic practices.
20. Family Is at The Center of Saudi Society
The traditional Arabic family is a social and economic unit. All family members contribute to ensuring their standing in society is improved. Family warmth provides support in times of societal or individual distress.
21. There Is A Vibrant Saudi Community In the Diaspora
Not all Saudis live in Saudi Arabia; millions live abroad. Most Saudis living abroad can be found in North America, South America, and other Arab countries.
22. One Language, Many Dialects
Modern Standard Arabic is used in formal platforms such as books, journals, newspapers, and TV. However, when it comes to speaking, each Arab country has its dialect. A person from Saudi Arabia can find it difficult to understand the Moroccan dialect.
23. Saudi Arabia Has a Rich Cuisine
Saudi cuisine is unique because it encompasses a wide range of hearty and warm dishes that are influenced by Saudi’s nomadic past. Most dishes feature meat, rice, bread, and spices. Kabsa which is a combination of roast chicken and aromatic rice is Saudi’s famous dish.
24. Men Used to Sell Lingerie in Saudi Arabia
The former Saudi law insisted that men should work while women stay at home. Therefore, lingerie could only be sold by men. This law was reversed because of pressure from women who were not comfortable buying lingerie from men.
25. Witchcraft Is a Serious Crime in Saudi Society
Harry Potter books have been banned in Saudi Arabia. The government has an anti-witchcraft action unit that is under the religious police.
26. Saudi Arabia Observes the Islamic Lunar Calendar
The starting date of this calendar is 622 A.D, which is the year the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) moved to Medina from Mecca. This event is called the hijra. Islamic years are represented as Anno Hegirae (AH) like for the Christians which is Anno Domini (AD).
27. Not All Saudis Wear Traditional Robes
In any closet of a Saudi man, you are likely to find t-shirts and jeans with the exception being the ultra-religious. Traditional dresses are considered proper wear for work and formal occasions. In private, most Saudis adopt Western clothing.
28. Arabic Music Has Made Its Way Into the International Pop Scene
An example is “Habibi” which was released in 1996 and became a massive hit internationally.
29. Coffee Culture in Saudi Arabia
The Arabic name for coffee is gahwa. This word was later adopted in Arabic to mean, “A substance that prevents sleep.” The first coffee shops in Saudi Arabia were opened in the mid 16th century in Mecca.
30. Arabic Is One of The Oldest Language Groups
It is also the most widely spoken language in the world having 200 million speakers in over 20 countries.
31. Some English Words are Derived from The Arabic Language
Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. Some English words are derived from Arabic including algebra, tangerine, zero, tariff, arsenal, sugar, lime, and guitar.
32. Baby Camel Meat
Baby camel meat is specialty meat in Saudi Arabia. For the best flavor, the baby camel should be between 6 months and one year.
33. Burial of Non-Muslims Banned in Saudi
For a long time, it was not permitted for a non-Muslim to be buried in Saudi Arabia. However, laws were relaxed in 2012 and certain conditions can allow the burial of a non-Muslim.
34. TV Was Introduced by King Faisal in 1965
Religious fanatics opposed this decision deeming it salacious. During an attack on a TV station, King Faisal’s nephew was killed by the police. Faisal was later assassinated by a brother of the dead nephew, which was done out of revenge. Faisal’s killer was publicly beheaded for his action.
35. Some Saudi Natives Have Converted to Christianity
Saudi Arabia has 1.8 million Christians, most of them are foreigners working in the country and a small percentage are native converts. Christians face widespread discrimination in Saudi Arabia.
Interesting Facts about the History of Saudi Arabia
36. Winston’s Hiccup- A Contemporary Saudi Legend
In 1921, Winston Churchill was the British Colonial Secretary and he was tasked with demarcating the boundaries between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to legend, he had too much brandy over lunch which resulted in hiccups that made his hand slip. That made him allocate thousands of square kilometers of Jordanian land to Saudi Arabia. This piece of land is famously called “Winston’s hiccup.”
37. Horses Are a Key Part of Saudi’s History
Arabian horses were bred to have fine features like endurance and speed. They played a central role in the spread of Islam.
38. The Quran Was Not Originally Written in Arabic
The earliest copies were written in a heavy script called Kufic. About 1000 AD, Naskh which is a lighter cursive script replaced Kufic. Naskh is still being used in Saudi Arabia. The Arabic alphabet was invented around the 4th century.
39. Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia is an epic British adventure film. It documents the story of T.E Lawrence, an Englishman who roamed the Arabian deserts with the Hashemite. He fell in love with Arabia. With the rise of the Al Sauds, the Hashemites fled to Jordan.
40. Alexander the Great & the Arabian Peninsula
Alexander the Great was attracted to the Arabian Peninsula due to its immense wealth. He made plans to explore the region but he died without accomplishing them. One of his admirals, Nearchus, later established an important trading colony in the area.
41. The First Non-Muslim to Visit Mecca
Italian Ludovico de Varthema was one of the first non-Muslim to visit Mecca. He made the trip in 1503 by disguising himself as a guard protecting the pilgrims.
42. Saudi Arabia’s History Has Been Fueled by Three Elements
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Saudi Arabia’s history has been fuelled by three elements; oil wealth, religion, and tribalism.
43. Saudi Arabia Was the Last Nation in the World to Allow Women to Vote
Saudi women were allowed to vote starting in 2015. The first country to allow adult women to vote was New Zealand.
44. The Bedouin & Saudi History
The Saudi Arabian Bedouin have a long history and they form an important part of Saudi society. They insist on maintaining their traditions and have never surrendered to the wider Arabian society. They have strong tribal and family bonds and they still follow the desert codes. There are about 1.8 million Bedouins in Saudi Arabia and they live a semi-nomadic lifestyle.
Religion in Saudi Arabia
45. During Salat (Prayer Time), Everything In Saudi Arabia Closes Down
The salat can last for up to half an hour and it is strictly enforced. It is performed five times a day.
46. All Saudi Arabian Public Schools are Religious
In the first grade, daily study of the Quran takes almost half of the school day. Elementary school students must undertake Quran study for 9 periods a week while other subjects combined including history, geography, science, and math only take 12 periods a week.
47. Saudi Arabia Has a Religious Police Force
Apart from having a civil police force, Saudi Arabia also has a religious police force (Mutaween.) It is tasked with purifying action and thought in the country.
48. For Over 200 Years, Wahhabism Has Been Saudi’s Dominant Faith
It was founded by Prophet Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, from where it gets its name. It grew in the 1990s when Wahhabi mosques and schools were funded by Wahhabi charities.
49. Islam Was The Inspiration of One Person
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was inspired to start Islam; later scholars and clerics made their contributions. Muhammad came from a humble background in Mecca. The rise of Islam is intrinsically linked with the Prophet Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be the last in a long line of prophets that includes Moses and Jesus.
50. The Two Holiest Cities in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia hosts two of the three holiest cities in Sunni Islam: Mecca and Medina. Jerusalem the third holiest city is in Israel.
51. The Hajar al-Aswad Is Considered The Holiest of Islamic Icons
The Black Stone also called Hajar al-Aswad is housed in the Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest of mosques in Islam.
52. The Prophet’s Mosque- Where the Prophet is Buried
The Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina was built by the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). His tomb lies in this mosque. It is the second holiest mosque in Islam.
53. The Kaaba
The Kaaba is in the center of Islam’s holiest mosque. It is made with limestone, marble, and rock.
Business & Economy
54. Best Place to Do Business
A 2020 World Bank report indicates that Saudi Arabia is among the best places to do business in North Africa and the Middle East. The other countries on the report are Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan.
55. The Saudi Stock Market Is the 9th Largest
As of December 2019, Tadawul, the Saudi Stock Exchange, was considered the ninth-largest in the world. It is the largest stock market in the Middle East and North Africa.
56. Saudi Arabia is No Longer the World’s Leading Oil Exporter
Saudi Arabia has been the leading oil exporter for decades. That changed in October 2013 when the U.S. became the world’s largest oil exporter.
57. Biggest Camel Market
The biggest camel market in the world is found in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 100 camels are sold daily in this market.
58. Top Importer of Tobacco
Statistics from Nation Master show that Saudi Arabia is among the top 20 importers of tobacco. Saudis spend about US$ 8 million daily on cigarettes.
59. The Booming Saudi Arabian Property Market
Between 2003 and 2008, the Saudi Arabian property market experienced an extraordinary boom. At the peak of the boom, land located closer to the Grand Mosque was selling for as high as $106,700 per square meter.
60. Saudi Is Set To Become A World Leader in Digital Technology
The Saudi government has invested heavily in 5G, machine learning, the Internet of Things, blockchain, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
. . . continue reading on the next page