A western Asian state squeezed between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia occupies over two thirds of the Arabian Peninsula. According to findjobdescriptions, it is the country that gave rise to the Arab-Islamic civilization and that more than any other has remained faithful to the ancient traditions of Islam, to the most genuine and puritanical forms of its religiosity: not surprisingly, however, given that in Saudi Arabia there are the Sunni holy cities, Mecca and Medina. It is also the Arab country that has less known colonialism, which settled north of it and in the peripheral sheikhdoms of the peninsula: its borders are due to this fact. Passed through an astonishing process from ancient pastoral and Bedouin traditions to the lucrative oil industry, Saudi Arabia has exploited the extraordinary wealth that resulted to increase investment in various sectors: education and social security, infrastructure, other productive activities. Despite the enormous development, the country still retains authoritarian and conservative traits, especially as regards the condition of women and immigrants.
The desert nature of the territory influences the characteristics of the Saudi biological environment. The vegetation cover is very poor, mostly represented by thorny bushes and, in the higher areas, especially along the uidians, by tamarisks, acacias and other xerophilous plants. In the oases all over the country the date palm dominates. Its location makes it one of the countries at risk of desertification and depletion of water resources. In Saudi Arabia, protected areas in various capacities represent 36.8% of the entire territory. Their location ranges from the northern regions on the border with Jordan and Iraq to the large area (64 million hectares) of the south-eastern region, between the Persian Gulf and the border with Oman, called Ar-Rub’al-Khāalīi. In the 1980s, a National Commission for the Conservation and Development of Nature was established with the aim of establishing and monitoring a system for the protection of these areas. There are also areas aimed at protecting the marine environmental heritage, threatened by pollution due to oil spills. Especially the west coast,
Already six years before the constitution of the state (1932), Ibn Saʽūd I, Emir of the Neged and founder of the kingdom, had secured the current borders with the conquest of the Higiaz, torn from the Hascimites, and with the protectorate of Asīr. In 1934, Yemen, which also had its sights on the latter region, took up arms against the Saudis. The war, which lasted a few months, was resolved in favor of Saudi Arabia with the treaty of Taʽif he settled the border disputes with Yemen in his favor. In 1945 Saudi Arabia joined the Arab League. The deep rivalry that opposed it, despite the resolution of border issues, to the Hashemite dynasties reigning in Iraq and Jordan pushed Ibn Saʽūd I, who died in 1953, and his successor Ibn Saʽūd II to a policy of rapprochement with Egypt. But when Cairo became the center of a revolutionary and progressive pan-Arab movement, Saudi Arabia sought to lead the conservative and pan-Islamic Arab forces. The Yemeni civil war (1962-70) was to some extent the product of the rivalry between the RAU and Saudi Arabia. In 1964 Ibn Saʽūd II was deposed by his brother Fayṣal, who had been prime minister from 1958 to 1960 and from 1962 onwards; Fayṣal promoted a policy of cautious modernization internally and abroad intended to resolve, by insisting on the conservative option, the problems posed by the withdrawal of the British from the Arabian Peninsula. But he could not prevent the already reactionary Federation of Southern Arabia from becoming the progressive People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1967. As for the real Yemen, Fayṣal obtained in 1967 the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops: but, against the forecasts, the Yemeni republicans prevailed over the monarchists. After the killing of King Faisal (March 25, 1975) by a nephew, his half-brother Khaled took the throne. Upon his death in 1982, he was succeeded by his brother Fahd ibn ‘, promoter of agreements for the achievement of peace in the Middle East. The affirmation of Shiite fundamentalism in Iran brought about a decisive change in the equilibrium in the region, inducing a general relocation that also affected the Saudi monarchy and its foreign policy. In particular, the long war between Iran and Iraq, which lasted for most of the 1980s, had made oil routes precarious, but it was also the sign of a wider struggle for hegemony in the area and in the Arab world itself. Officially neutral, Saudi Arabia was however forced to suffer some consequences of the war for the damage to Saudi oil tankers, but also for the internal turmoil unleashed by the Shiite rite groups that instead claimed a shift in favor of Iran. The fear of ever more direct involvement pushed Riyadh to rearm, while diplomatic relations with Egypt were re-established (1987) and a more general rapprochement with the United States took place. In the new climate of detente in East-West relations, diplomatic revival with the Soviet Union was also maturing and that with China was inaugurated. The precarious regional balance, however, was violently shaken in August 1990 by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He felt himself in direct danger due to the presence of Baghdad’s troops at the borders and Saddam’s obscure threats Ḥusayn, King Fahd had no hesitation in asking for direct US intervention. A move somewhat obligatory, but fraught with consequences in the Muslim world due to the evident contradiction generated by the massive presence of Western troops right in the cradle of the holiest places of Islam: a contradiction made a little less strident by the presence of others Arab countries and Saudi Arabia itself in the rapidly forming anti-Iraq coalition.
CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
The cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia is intimately linked to the Islamic tradition and customs of the Bedouin people and the fascination exerted by a millenary and conservative culture in a country where the enormous wealth brought by oil represents a bridge to modernity is great. In any case, the Islamic religion and the Arabic language constitute the common motif of a nomadic and originally fragmented population. Traces of the ancient Bedouin civilization remain in poetry, music and dance, later contaminated by Arab culture. The public celebrations admitted are the two religious feasts of ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘ Id al-Adha and the anniversary of the unification of the kingdom (23 September). Non-Islamic religious holidays are prohibited.