Population: 27.3 million.
Riyadh is the capital city 4.7 million; Jeddah 3.2 million; and Mecca 1.5 million.
All Saudis are considered Muslim and there are harsh penalties including death for any that try to leave Islam. A large section of society is foreign workers and so these include many from other religions.
Saudi Arabia is another of the Middle East nations that has high obesity rates of 33%, ranked 19th in the world.
There is 28% youth unemployment but no one lives below the poverty line.
The population of Saudi Arabia is about 28 million, of which about 6 million are foreign residents.Over 100,000 westernersare employed in Saudi, and other foreigners include Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as many Arabs from nearby countries.
Though the Government does not officially allow churches in Saudi Arabia, there are many underground churches among the expatriate workers. A growing number of Saudi believers are beginning to meet together, however they face harsh persecution and even death if they are discovered.
Saudi Arabia is mostly desert. The Rub al Khali (empty quarter) holds about half as much sand as the whole Sahara desert, and is prone to frequent sand and dust storms.
80% of the labor force is non Saudi (like the UAE and other Gulf states).
Saudi Arabia exports huge amounts of petroleum and petroleum products, estimated to be worth $3.7 billion a year.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Every year millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia's two holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by Abd AlAziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. One of his male descendants rules the country today, as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law.
Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003.
Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 16% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 80% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings.
Over 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors, while Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population, which generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, most recently with the opening of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology - Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university.
Human Trafficking: the current situation is that Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution.
Long Term Opportunities
YWAM is developing in Saudi Arabia as new people find employment and move in the country. Our jobs and homes are scattered in different locations throughout Saudi, but we gather as much as possible to encourage and learn from one another. It is our hope to grow and welcome all newcomers to connect and join us in fellowship.
There are many job opportunities in Saudi and this is the only way to come to the country. The medical field is made up primarily of foreigners. Companies as well as the Universities hire English teachers. Often a masters degree is required, but it is sometimes possible to get a job with experience. There are American, International, and British schools, which hire teachers for all grades of children.
Saudi Aramco Oil Company is the largest oil company in the world and the main industry in Saudi. They hire many foreigners from all over the world to fill positions for engineering, administration, medical, and education.
There is a great deal of segregation in Saudi.
Men and women do not attend public events together. Restaurants have separate family sections and men only sections. Festivals will have days for men only and days for families. The work place has separate areas for men and for women. Women, even foreign workers, are not allowed to travel between cities on their own and all foreign workers need the permission of their employer/sponsor to be allowed to leave the country.
There is a degree of segregation between Saudis and foreigners. Other than business, interaction between Saudis and foreigners can be limited.
Foreigners generally live in compounds or apartment complexes, often provided by their company. It is not very common and often discouraged, but it is possible for a foreigner to rent a residence in the community. Foreigners finding jobs in towns and cities with very few expats, find it somewhat easier to make relationships with Saudis.
Currently the Saudi government is taking steps to reduce the numbers of foreigners in the country and to encourage more jobs to be filled by Saudis.
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river.
Saudi Arabia is a very segregated society. Women are not allowed to drive and cannot travel between cities without a male relative. There are no cinemas, and most universities are fully segregated.
Saudi Arabia imposes the death penalty for people caught and convicted of trafficking drugs.
It is easy to find a local Arabic teacher. English is widely spoken by most in the major cities.
There is a good Arabic school in Oman, which is easy access for most with a Saudi residency.
However, it is preferable to pursue language learning before applying for employment as employers in Saudi Arabia usually expect their employees to work very hard.
Saudi is a difficult country to get into, but there are possibilities and the effort is worth it. There are steps you can take to improve your chance of open doors in the future with education being a major key.
To get a visa in Saudi you need a sponsor.
A tourist visa is only given:
- If you are sponsored by an immediate family member who is a citizen or holds a residents visa; or
- to Muslims wanting to visit for a Hajj (pilgrimage)
To obtain a business or residents visa you need tobe sponsored by a company in Saudi. Companies hiring foreign workers will usually complete the interview process outside Saudi Arabia and then process a visa once you have a job that you are going to.
Citizens and residence of the neighboring gulf countries may be able to get a short-term visitor’s visa or a business visa.
Cost of Living
Utilities are cheap and gasoline is extremely cheap at 46 cents a gallon (no that is not a typo, $0.46), but the cost of housing is very high in the major cities.
However, it depends a lot on the company you work for and the benefits they provide. Many companies provide housing for their expat employees and some provide a vehicle and/or a driver.
International flights are available into Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. Manywho live in Dammam or the surrounding areas, fly in and out of the island of Bahrain, which is only a short drive away across the causeway.
Flights within Saudi are expensive, but expected to come down as the government recently opened the doors to competition to the Saudi Arabia Airlines for domestic flights.
Only Muslims are allowed to travel to Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina.