Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abd al-Aziz, captured Riyadh at the turn of the 20th century, and began his efforts to unify the many factions on the Arabian Peninsula. It took many decades but he enjoyed a large measure of success.

One of his many sons, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, rules the country today, and in fact, irrevocable Saudi law dictates that the throne of Saudi Arabia must remain in the hands of the sons and grandsons of the founder.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Middle East, is 95% desert, including the Rub' Al Khali, the biggest mass of sand on the planet.

In 1937 (near Riyadh) large oil reserves were discovered, and today, the country is the world's largest producer and exporter of oil.

Saudi Arabia (to its credit) still uses much of the profits from that industry to improve the infrastructure of the country and the lives of its people.

As an example; with an overall lack of rain and fresh water, it successfully (and very expensively) constructed the world's largest desalination plant on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

It's a strictly Muslim land and home to both Medina and Mecca, Islam's holiest cities, and each year an estimated two-million Muslims take part in the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars, or duties, of the Islamic faith, requiring all able-bodied Muslims to make the journey to Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed, at least once in their lifetime.