Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of (Arab. Mamlaka al-Arabiya as-Saudiya)
- Lisa A. Urkevich
(Arab. Mamlaka al-Arabiya as-Saudiya)
Country in the Middle East , flanked by the Red sea and the Arabian Gulf . The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with an area of 2·2 million km², covers nearly 80% of the Arabian peninsula. The population is small (21·66 million, 2000 estimate) but comparatively diverse; over one quarter is non-Saudi.
The area of the present kingdom has been exposed to many cultures, including Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Indian, Persian and Chinese, because of its important ancient trade routes, as well as the visits by millions of Muslim pilgrims to its Islamic holy cities, Mecca (Makkah) and Medina (Medinah). The Islamic era dates from the hijra (hegira), 622 ce, when the Prophet Muhammad returned to his birthplace of Medina. Ottoman Turks, who controlled the coastal regions of Saudi Arabia from the 16th century until the first quarter of the 20th, have also had significant influence on the area.
The Saudi state was cultivated in the 18th century on the basis of Wahhabism, a Muslim reform movement: in ...