People and Culture of Saudi Arabia

The Country's History

  • In 1953, a king by the name of And al-Azaiz designated his eldest son, Prince Saud. He appointed his second son, Prince Faisal the minister of foreign affairs. However, Prince Saud was proven an ineffective ruler. He was didn’t know how to rule or use his money wisely.
  • In the spring of 1967 war is brewing. President Nasser of Egypt moves troops to Israel's border and orders the UN out. Uniting against Israel, Faisal reconciles with Nasser. Fearing an attack is imminent, Israel launches a massive pre-emptive war. In just six days the bulk of Arab armies are destroyed and Arab leaders are humiliated.
  • On August 2, 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait, and moves its troops toward the border of Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden visits members of the royal family and offers his Afghan-trained mujahideen to help fight Iraq, but they don't take his offer seriously. King Fahd turns to his U.S. allies for help. With their approval, over half a million U.S. troops arrive in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.

Current Facts

  • Population- 27,752,316

  • Ethnic Groups- Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%

  • Languages- Arabic

  • Religion- Muslim (official; citizens are 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shia),

Other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh) (2012 est.)

  • Literacy- 94.7%

  • Health Statistics- Health Expenditures = 3.2% of GDP, Obesity = 33.7% (2014), Children Underweight = 5.3%,

Daily Life and Cuisine

  • Clothing- THOBE: The traditional clothing for men is the Thobe, a loose, long-sleeved, ankle-length garment. Thobes worn in summer are generally white and made of cotton. Thobes worn in winter are generally darker in color and made of wool.

TAGIYAH: The Tagiyah is a white knitted skull cap

GHUTRA: The Ghutra is a square scarf, made of cotton or silk, which is worn folded across the head over the Tagiyah. The end of the scarf can be draped across the face as protection in the event of sandstorms.

AGAL: The Agal is a thick, doubled, black cord which is worn on top of the Ghutra to hold it in place.

  • Jobs- Petroleum Engineers, Business Industry, Medical Profession (surgeon), Banking, Construction and Project Management.

  • Transportation- Operated by the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO), the fleet consists of over 2,000 buses. It carries annually more than 3 million passengers within large urban centers such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madinah and Makkah, and to cities and towns across the country.

  • Family- The structure of Saudi families are traditionally patriarchal, with the male being the head of the household and in charge of duties that are usually found outside the household such as protecting and providing for his family. Family identity is also tied to the father and he, therefore, has custody of the children should the question arise. Men can have as many as four wives, but polygamy is no longer widely practiced. If wealthier men do have more than one wife, the wives and their children tend to live in separate units from each other.

  • Education- Education in Saudi Arabia is segregated by sex and divided into three separately administered systems: general education for boys, education for girls and traditional Islamic education (for boys). The Ministry of Education, established in 1952, presides over general education for boys, and education for girls comes under the jurisdiction of the General Presidency for Girls’ Education. Both sexes follow the same curriculum and take the same annual examinations.

  • Housing- A number of housing programs have been established to support expatriate employees and their families in making a home in Saudi Arabia. The housing programs and their availability vary and can be explained best by a relocation advisor after an employment offer has been made. In general, there are housing assignments in a Saudi Aramco-operated community or a rental allowance for self-selected housing within the local community.

  • Food- Fatir (flat bread), Haawayij (Spice Blend), Haysa Al-Tumreya (Dip for Dates), Kapsa (Chicken and Rice), Laban Drink (yogurt drink), Hummus.