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Saudi Arabia Information - Page 2
The Arabian Peninsula has always occupied a strategic position on the trade routes between Africa and India.

The Prophet Mohammed was born in Mecca, one of the trading centres, in the sixth century AD. After his teachings met with opposition he moved to Medina (Mecca and Medina are the two holy cities of Islam). From there his following grew to such an extent that Medina, then Mecca came under his influence and converted to his teachings.

Within a hundred years the Islamic Empire spread from Spain in the West to India and China in the East.

By the sixteenth century the Arabian Peninsula was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. At around the same time contact with traders from Portugal began, followed by the British, French and Dutch.

In the middle of the eighteenth century a reforming movement known as Wahabism became an important factor in Arabia. This movement became linked with the Al Saud family, rulers of Diriyah. Despite conflict with the Ottoman Empire and its supporters and after a number of setbacks, including a period of exile in Kuwait, the Al Saud family, led by Abdul Aziz Al Saud captured Riyadh in 1902, drove the Turks out of Eastern Arabia and conquered the rest of Arabia. In 1926 Abdul Aziz became King and in 1932 the Kingdom was renamed Saudi Arabia.

Oil was discovered in 1938 by the Standard Oil Company of California which had been granted prospecting rights in 1933. In 1944 the company changed its name to the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO); in 1980 the Saudi government took full control, renaming it Saudi Aramco.

In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading to the Gulf War, in which Saudi Arabia supported the Allied cause.

Saudi Arabia's economy, prior to the discovery of oil, depended on trade, the export of local produce such as dates and the revenues brought in by pilgrims to Mecca and Medina.

The oil resources of Saudi Arabia are estimated to represent around seventeen percent of the world's proven reserves. The resources of natural gas are equally huge: some of the gas is used as an energy source, the remainder for petrochemical products. The country's other mineral resources include gold, copper and iron ore.

The oil revenues are used to diversify the country's industrial base, with industrial centres such as Jubail and Yenbu leading the way in the establishment of the manufacturing ventures. Similar investment has been made in the transport system and other infrastructure projects.

Water is an important resource in such an arid region and Saudi Arabia is now a large producer of desalinated water, with plants turning the salt water of the Gulf and the Red Sea into drinkable water.

Farming depends on the supply of water and concentrates on high value crops that need less water. Among the vegetables and fruit grown are dates, citrus fruits, tomatoes and watermelon. Fishing has always been important along the Saudi Arabian coasts; the fisheries industry expanded with an increase in fish farms. (2011)

The Holy Koran cautions against images of living creatures. Calligraphy is an important Islamic art form and throughout Saudi Arabia training, competitions and exhibitions are organized to encourage calligraphy.

Saudi Arabia's music and traditional dance are derived from the chants of desert poets. The national dance, the Ardha, is a men's sword dance involving singers, dancers and a poet/narrator. Other traditional songs and dances use a variety of instruments such as the oud, tar and al-mizmer.

The traditional poems and stories of the desert people are carried on today with poetry competitions and popular readings.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sports facilities, with a number of Sports Cities - each with outdoor and indoor stadia, swimming pools, outdoor and indoor courts and other facilities. Smaller neighbourhood centres and local sports clubs are also strongly supported.

The traditional sports are not neglected, with falconry, horse and camel racing more popular than ever. In the most important annual camel races more than two thousand camels compete on a 13.6 mile track.

The Saudi national soccer team has been particularly successful, qualifying for Olympic finals and World Cup finals.

The Red Sea and the Gulf provide wonderful facilities for diving, snorkelling and other watersports such as sailing and windsurfing. The Red Sea also offers excellent deep-sea fishing.

Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, the End of Ramadan, for four to five days and  Eid Al Adha, the time of Pilgrimage (Haj), lasts about a week.

News can be found in Newslink.

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