General information on Saudi Arabia


Moving to Saudi Arabia? Before you do, here is all that you need to know about the country, its economy, demographics, politics, climate, language, etc.

Moving to Saudi Arabia can be a really enriching experience. Here is an overview fact sheet of the country's economic, social, and political situation.

Saudi Arabia is deemed to be an absolute monarchy, founded in 1744 by Saoud bin Mohammed al-Mouqrin. The country has been one of the Middle-East region's major strategic economic and political players, being a direct rival to Iran. Stretching over some 2,149,690 km2, covering 80% of the Arabian Peninsula, it is considered to be the region's biggest and most prosperous country. Riyadh is Saudi Arabia's capital city while a few other major cities include Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina.

Population

Saudi Arabia is home to 33,000,000 inhabitants. The population is overwhelmingly young with roughly 70% of the citizens below 30yrs old. The population also includes a large expat community of nearly 9 million foreigners who now call Saudi Arabia home.

Language

The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, although English is widely used and spoken by most of the population. Almost all official signage and businesses offer both Arabic and English translations and services.

Law

Saudi Arabia's society is made up mostly of Sunni Muslims, and a marginal Shia Muslim population. The country is ruled by Islamic Law (Sharia) and everyone in the Kingdom is obliged to follow the rules and customs. Sharia Law is derived from the principles of the Islamic religion and is closely tied to the Quran, the holy book for Muslims. Sharia Law governs all daily activities and major issues such as family rights, criminal law, and businesses.

Currency

Saudi Arabia's currency is the Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR).

Petroleum

Petroleum, which is also known as Black Gold, is undeniably one of Saudi Arabia's key aspects. It is a fundamental part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and makes up about 50% of the contribution.

Economy

Saudi Arabia has built up a solid reputation worldwide in terms of its economy. In fact, the country's economy relies not only on the petroleum sector, which contributes some US$ 727.3 billion per year to its GDP, but also on the very developed and dynamic services sector which consists of religious tourism, banking, finance, insurance, trade, hotels, restaurants, and government services. As regards to the secondary sector, it involves mining, construction, and manufacturing. The primary sector makes a 2% contribution to the country's GDP through fishing and agriculture, among others. This should give you an idea of the fields in which you are more likely to find job opportunities if you wish to settle and work there.

Politics

Being an absolute monarchy, Saudi Arabia is led by a king, who has the final authority as Head of the Government and State. His powers have been transmitted by heredity, by his predecessor. Note that this system is known as dynastic tribalism. In fact, Saudi Arabia does not carry out elections, hence the total absence of political parties. Indeed, those who have ventured in this field have been qualified as illegal groups.

Climate

Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with very hot temperatures during the day and relatively cold at dusk. In summer, you should expect temperatures rising up to 50°C. However, given the size of the country, the west side has a subtropical climate with high humidity in the summer and moderate temperatures in winter. You are also likely to have rainfall over the central area, including in Mecca and Jeddah. In short, you will often feel hot in Saudi Arabia.

Expatriation

Expatriation requires appropriate reflection and planning, regardless of the destination. Culture shock is expected of any new destination, but with a positive and open mind, it can be very rewarding.

When moving to Saudi Arabia, it is important to understand the country's cultural and religious subtleties. If you manage to overcome this challenge, Saudi Arabia can be an ideal and attractive destination for expatriation.

In spite of all paradoxes, Saudi Arabia sails between old traditions and modernism. Millions of foreigners have decided to live and work within the monarchy so as to benefit from its economic prosperity and various opportunities and benefits attached.

According to many Expat.com members who have posted on the forum, their decision to settle in Saudi Arabia has been motivated by the following:

  • Tax-free salary
  • Learning Arabic
  • Low cost of living
  • Positive work-life balance
  • More free time (for recreational activities/ family time)
  • Beautiful environment (landscapes, terrains, coasts)
  • Experiencing a new and different culture and heritage
  • Warm temperatures (despite extremes)
  • Higher salaries & incentives