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Understanding the Basics of Saudi Arabia


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Saudi Arabian native and Silicon Valley techie Motaz Hajaj gives you the basics on the culture of his homeland. Part 1 covers basic information about the country and its people. Learn about the history, government, economy and its vision for the future. This is a great place to start if you want to bridge the gap between cultures so you can communicate, collaborate and connect with ease.

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Understanding the Basics of Saudi Arabia

  1. 1. MOTAZ HAJAJ & Charis Intercultural Training SAUDI ARABIA Understanding the Basics of
  3. 3. Flag The flag of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has a green background with white letters showing the Muslim creed in Arabic: “There is no god but God: Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
  4. 4. Emblem A date palm, representing vitality and growth, and two crossed swords, symbolizing justice and strength rooted in faith.
  5. 5. Terrain The terrain is varied; fairly barren and harsh, with salt flats, gravel plains and sand deserts. There are a few man-made lakes but no permanent streams. The south features the Rub Al- Khali (Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the world. In the southwest, mountain ranges stand over 9,000 feet. Photo Source: Javierblas
  6. 6. Climate June throughAugust, it can get over 43 °C midday in the desert. Humidity in the coastal regions reaches up to 100 percent. In the winter, temperatures can go below freezing in the northern and central regions. It is possible for the Rub Al-Khali to get no rain for 10 years. The mountains of the Asir Province can get up to 20 inches a year.
  7. 7. Currency Saudi Riyal (SR) $1 = SR3.75 Bank notes are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500. All but the 500 denomination feature a picture of former King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. Coins in denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 halalahs. 100 halalahs = 1 riyal
  8. 8. Population 32.13 million people live in KSA While most of the population used to be nomadic (1960s) , 95% are now settled. The median age is 28.6 Women have, on average, 3 children.
  9. 9. People Ethnic Groups: 90% Arab 10% African or Asian Arabic is the native language, however English is spoken widely in urban areas. Islam is the official religion. Up to 30% of the population may be foreign nationals.
  11. 11. An Ancient Trade Center Trade routes through the Arabian Peninsula allowed transport of agricultural goods, such as spices, dates and almonds, from the Nile Valley to Mesopotamia. The desert climate and trade importance of the peninsula kept it somewhat immune to invasion from powerful neighbors.
  12. 12. The Birth of Islam Islam is the religion that is deeply entwined with Saudi Arabia’s culture. According to tradition, in 2000-1700 B.C.E., Abraham had two children, Ishmael and Isaac. Muslims claim descent from Ishmael and Jews track their descent through Isaac. In 622 the Prophet Muhammed was revealed the Quran from the angel Gabriel. Muhammed moved from Mecca to Medina, taking the Quran with him and starting the Islamic faith.
  13. 13. Science Flourishes 600-1600: Muslim rulers promote science and many fields were furthered such as: Mathematics-the use of zero Astronomy-calculating the round (Earth’s diameter) Medicine-surgeries and a medicinal volume of texts that was later used by European doctors (allowing emergence from the Dark Ages)
  14. 14. The First Saudi State In the 18th Century, a Muslim scholar named Shaikh Muhammed bin AbdulWahhab began advocating a return to the original form of Islam. Facing persecution, Abdul Wahhab moved to the town of Diriyah, ruled by Muhammed bin Saud. The two men formed an agreement to restore the pure teachings of Islam and formed the First Saudi State known as the Shaikh. Photo Credit: Guilherme Paula
  15. 15. The Second Saudi State In 1818, Ottomans destroyed the city of Diriyah. By 1824, the Al-Saud family regained control of central Arabia. As their rule continued, they ensured the rights and well-being of their people. The Saudi State was overthrown by the Al-Rashid family in 1891. The Al- Saud family took refuge in the Rub’ Al-Khali, then moved to Kuwait where the young son Abdulaziz became a fierce warrior for the cause of Islam. Photo Credit: Petrovic-Njegos
  16. 16. The Modern Kingdom In 1902, Abdulaziz staged a daring night march with only 40 followers and retook the city of Riyadh. This marks the beginning for the modern Saudi state. Abdulaziz united warring tribes of the area into one nation. The country was named the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in 1932. The Holy Qur’an was made its constitution, and Arabic its national language.
  18. 18. Government KSA is a monarchy, based on Islam. The king is supported by the Crown Prince (2nd in line to the throne) and: • Council of Ministers • Consultative Council • Provincial Councils Political change is gradual, reflecting the primary concern of the king- maintain unity of senior family members and satisfying concerns of influential clerics.
  19. 19. Government Council of Ministers (Cabinet)- usually chosen from the royal family. Responsible for drafting and overseeing policies and general affairs of state. Consultative Council- provides the king with advice Provincial Councils- headed by regional governors Municipal Councils- responsible for local services
  20. 20. Basic Law The Basic Law of Government was introduced in 1992 and states that the Quran, and the hadith (sayings) and sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Mohammed are the constitution of Saudi Arabia. At no time should the law clash with these three, which are referred to as Shari’ah. Basic Law also codified the process of royal succession, under which the king would choose his heir from the “most upright” of the sons of the founding king, Abdul-Aziz, or their descendants.
  21. 21. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud The king holds the title, “Custodian of theTwo Holy Mosques”. Saudi Arabia has been ruled since its foundation by the Al Saud dynasty. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was crowned in 2015 following the death of his half brother, King Abdullah. Salman began as the Governor of Riyadh Province, a role which he held for 48 years. Photo by: Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
  22. 22. Prince Mohamed bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz The Crown Prince is the King’s successor, known as “Crown Prince Deputy Prime Minister.” In case of absence of the king, the Crown Prince becomesVice Custodian of theTwo Holy Mosques. Muhammad bin Naif became Crown Prince in 2015 and also holds the title Minister of Interior as well as Chairman of the new Council for Political and Security Affairs.
  23. 23. Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud The Deputy Crown Prince is 3rd in line to the throne. Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud also hold the title of Minister of Defense, and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs. He is the son of the king, and has been a close advisor to his father since King Salman’s governance of Riyadh Province.
  24. 24. Oil Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country’s exports and nearly 75% of government revenues. Saudi oil reserves are the largest in the world, about ¼ of total reserves. The government is working to shift dependence on oil to industry, agriculture, and business.
  25. 25. Economic Forecast Population growth has strained the government’s ability to finance improvements. Key priorities are economic diversification and reducing dependence on expatriate labor. Plans for new “Economic Cities” contain large-scale integrated construction projects to meet the infrastructure and housing needs of a larger economy and a new generation. Photo Source:
  26. 26. 2030 VISION
  27. 27. “We have outlined a comprehensive and ambitiousVision for Saudi Arabia until the year 2030. It is the first step on our journey toward a better, brighter future for our country and our citizens… ThisVision will be the point of reference for our future decisions, so that all future projects are aligned to its content.” -Vision 2030
  28. 28. Advantages of the Kingdom Saudi Arabia’s status as the heart of the Islamic world and the Land of theTwo Holy Mosques Determination to become a global investment powerhouse Unique strategic geographic location connecting Asia, Europe and Africa
  29. 29. Themes of the Vision Vibrant Society- Islamic principle of moderation, national identity, ancient cultural heritage, caring families, and a good social and health care system Thriving Economy- opportunities for a good educational system, improving the quality of services and businesses Ambitious Nation- applying efficiency and responsibility at all levels as well as preparing the right environment for facing challenges and seizing opportunities
  30. 30. Executing the plan Some examples of changes spurred byVision 2030 are: The investment of $3.5 billion into the rideshare service Uber will help diversify the Saudi Public Investment Fund and give more options for mobility to its people. KSA plans to sell shares in its oil company, Aramco, using the profits to set up its sovereign wealth fund.
  31. 31. Future Opportunities Education reform, focusing more on market needs than religion Over 450 clubs for entertainment and culture are planned More tourism “on a selected basis” More opportunities to take part in sports Enhanced health care with more competition and transparency
  32. 32. Want more information on Saudi Arabian Culture? Saudi Arabia +1 925 931-0555 Connect with us to learn how to work across cultures. Motaz Hajaj ChessTag United States Marian Stetson-Rodriguez Charis InterculturalTraining @motazhajaj
  33. 33. To Continue Learning: Click to view the next presentation in my series- Cultural Differences
  34. 34. THANK YOU
  35. 35. Photo Sources Photos used under: Creative CommonsAttribution- Share alike 3.0 Unported license Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license GNU Free Documentation License Public Domain