The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia means different things to different people. For millions of followers of Islam across the world it is the ultimate Holy Land and pilgrimage destination.
For a large number of expatriates from Asia, Europe and the United States, it is a land of opportunities.
For the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia means oil – the lifeline of present and future economies.
Saudi Arabia has so far lived up to all these definitions, and is now entering a new phase of its development.
On September 23, 1932, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud laid the foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Large reserves of oil were discovered soon after, and within a span of six years, commercial production of oil began.
The fortune of Saudi Arabia changed forever and the Kingdom rapidly moved on the path of a modern industrial state.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is largely known for its desert environment. Although desert represents bulk of the vast area, its geographic terrain is rich in diversity. There are mountains, plains and plateaus, and long coastline along the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. There are oases dotting the desert, gushing springs in the mountains, coral islands around its seas.Sprawling countryside with date orchards border Kingdom’s cities and towns.
Such a diversity in due time, has generated a growing interest in tourism in Saudi Arabia, both in the people from outside the Kingdom and the local residents, who frequently visit these locations to enjoy the rich diversity.
Saudi Arabia is spread over 2,150,000 square kilometers (830,000 square miles), occupying almost 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. Located in the southwest corner of Asia, the Kingdom is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is surrounded by the Red Sea on the West, by Yemen and Oman on the South, the Arabian Gulf and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on the East, and Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait on the North. Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline stretches about 1,760 kilometers (1,100 miles) while its Arabian Gulf coastline roughly 560 kilometers (350 miles).
Huge area and the variety of terrain of the Kingdom is reflected in its climate, which is characterized by its diversity throughout the year.
This has made it a seamless tourism resort, where you can spend and enjoy most beautiful seasons in different places in different times of the year. For instance, in the same year, the weather varies from province to province depending on whether you are near the sea, in the desert or in the mountains.
Each province has an outstanding season of its own, that has turned Kingdom into a tourist destination throughout the year during the summer, the average temperature in Saudi Arabia is between 28 °- 42 ° C, and in winter, it falls between 8 °- 22 ° C. Atmospheric pressure is normally low during the summer and it increases during the winter, changing the speed and wind directions. During the winter due to rainfall, a temperate climate prevails in most of the provinces. Rains visit most of the provinces expect the Southern Highlands. In the western parts of Saudi Arabia, seasonal rains are heavier than other provinces during the summer.
Recently, snowfall was in the North of Saudi Arabia had covered Tabuk region with a white blanket.
The number of population in the Kingdom in 2014 has been estimated at about 30.7 million of whom 20.7 million Saudis while non-Saudis constitute more than 10 million. Around 13.5 million Saudis are in the working age, about 7.1 million children under the age of 14 years and 741 thousand above the age of 64 years. Riyadh, which is the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the largest city in the kingdom, is home to about 7 million people.
This accounts for 25% of the population of the WHOLE COUNTRY. The rising number of foreign inhabitants is an outcome of the growing interest of foreigners in the Saudi investment sectors.
Furthermore, this came because of Saudi government policy of using its oil revenues to expand general services and build a solid infrastructure.
The Saudi Riyal (SAR) is the official currency of the Kingdom issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). It is made of 100 Halalas. The riyal is covered by gold and can be converted to foreign currencies. There are no restrictions on cash transfers to and from Saudi Arabia. The US dollar equals 3.75 Saudi Riyals. The Saudi Riyal has been pegged to the US dollar since 1984.
Saudi Arabia has multi traditional markets as well as modern shopping centers that are created according to the latest international standards and provided with all the essential services. These markets and shopping centers are spread throughout the Kingdom. If you love fashion and the latest global brands, you can find them in shopping centers spread across the Kingdom, especially in large cities. Also, you can find souvenirs, gifts, clothing, jewelry, and perfume at competitive prices. In general, all the shops are open from the morning until midnight.
Transport: Given its position in the oil sector, petrol is cheap in the Kingdom; expats can often afford a more luxurious SUVs in Saudi Arabia than they could back home.
Accommodation: Cost will depend on the standard of living expats aspire to, and can range from 15,000 SAR for a small apartment per year to more than 150,000 for a compound villa.
Household goods and food: Electronic goods, groceries products are reasonably priced. Malls and traditional markets provide a variety of Asian, European and American vegetables, fruits and different food ingredients.
Saudi Arabia has a modern banking industry with 13 commercial banks. Saudi banks provide retail and corporate banking, investment services, brokerage facilities, and derivative transactions in addition to credit cards, ATMs and point-of-sale transactions.
The Kingdom’s banking sector has developed excellent IT basis. Plenty of ATMs across the Kingdom offer wide-ranging services from cash withdrawal to utility bill payment. Saudi Riyals can be easily converted to any foreign currency (dollars, euro, etc.) at local banks. The most readily accepted credit cards are American Express, Visa and MasterCard.
There are also banks in the Kingdom that provide Islamic banking services. Islamic banking is a system of banking that is consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Shari’ah).
It prohibits usury, the collection and payment of interest and trading in financial risk
The banking and finance sector is overseen by several government agencies. The Ministry of Finance supervises economic policies. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Association (SAMA) manages fiscal policy, issues the country’s currency, the Saudi Riyal and oversees the nation’s commercial banks.
The government has also established five specialized credit institutions to provide loans to citizens for development projects in agriculture, industry and construction – the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), the Saudi Arabian Agricultural Bank (SAAB), the Real Estate Development Fund, the Public Investment Fund and the Saudi Credit Bank.
245 entertainment centers (registered at SCTA), including FECs, outdoor parks, water parks, and zoos. There are many unregistered entertainment centers in the country. The young population of KSA (69% of its inhabitants under the age of 35) and higher disposable income has led to the increased demand for entertainment offerings. There are many different styles of restaurants ranging from the usual fast food outlets to the more sumptuous restaurants, mostly found in hotels such as the Four Seasons in Kingdom, and Mondos in The Intercontinental. There are many Turkish restaurants offering the ‘flat’ bbq chicken with hummus, tabula and methabula. There are also many Chinese, Indian, Thai and Italian eating-places. More recently, such American chains as Chillies and TGI have appeared. There are even the ubiquitous fish and chip shops.
Riyadh is home to a large number of entertainment centers, with most of the centers being indoors, i.e., within malls. There are around 50 public parks in Riyadh. Moreover, Riyadh boasts of historical places such as the beautiful 19th century Masmak Castle and in addition, Al Faisaliyah Center, the first skyscraper and the second tallest building in Saudi Arabia.
Jeddah is home to Corniche, and promenades by the Red Sea, interspersed with fountains, parks, lakes, and kiosks. The coastal location makes it a popular destination for water sports such as diving, surfing, and sailing. Jeddah witnesses the highest number of visitors to entertainment centers in the country.
Al-Khobar offers a balance of indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor entertainment includes many modern malls, restaurants, and boulevards with various shops operated by international franchises. Outdoor activities include amusement parks (Castle Park) and zoos.
The cities and towns across the Kingdom offer good housing facilities including apartments, private villas and compounds. Companies employing large numbers of expatriates normally have private facilities for their employees. Costs will depend on the standard of living expats aspire to.
Expatriates have a marked preference for residing in compounds, although many independent villas and apartments are available. Compounds usually offer a high level of recreational facilities (Tennis courts, swimming pools, special events halls, restaurants, etc.) and group transportation – for example for wives to visit the shopping centers and malls.
Saudi Arabia's transport infrastructure must cater for the needs of an expanding population. However, it not only services the Saudi population but also its tourism industry, mainly based around religious pilgrimage. The annual Hajj - the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca - places intense pressure on the Saudi infrastructure framework, as estimated1.9mln overseas visitors and 500,000 domestic pilgrims make the trip every year.
Air travel is the preferred method of travel within the Kingdom because of the distances separating the main cities. Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) is the national carrier and has recently added 60 new Boeing aircraft to its fleet. Riyadh's King Khalid International airport is 35 kilometers outside of Riyadh. The airport has facilities such as a hotel, a buffet, a bank, a post office, shops and many rental car agencies. Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International airport is 18 kilometers North of Jeddah, also with a hotel, restaurants, a bank, a post office, shops, car hiring agencies and special pilgrimage facilities. Dammam's King Fahd International airport is 50 kilometers Northwest of Dammam with facilities including a mosque, a cargo terminal, a restaurant and a duty free shop.
There are currently two major railway lines in Saudi Arabia, the first is a core 570km line, which operates between Riyadh and Dammam. A second and more direct line linking Riyadh and Hofuf was opened. The kingdom has total track length of 1,392km, which is standard gauge. Major expansion is predicted in this sector as the country is to become part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)'s Gulf Railway Network. The country plans to vastly improve its rail network, with USD25 bn of rail projects under development or at the bidding phase, adding 3,900km of track through three major railway projects.
Part of the Riyadh Public Transport Project (RPTP), the Riyadh metro is a rapid transit system under construction in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The RPTP will be the largest public transport project, which comprises construction of a metro network, a bus system and other transport services in Riyadh. Construction of the Riyadh metro started in April 2014 and is expected to be completed by 2018. There are four major and two minor ports in Saudi Arabia. The largest is the combined Jubail commercial and industrial port, which accounted for 38% of all non-oil related tonnage in 2002, followed by Yanbu industrial and commercial port (25%), Jeddah (22%) and Dammam (13%). Two further ports, Jizan and Duba, account for the remaining 2%.
Saudi Arabia’s ICT market is the biggest in the Middle East in terms of capital value and volume of spending. The future is promising, with both government and businesses keen on keeping up to date with the latest telecom developments. Smart technologies, in particular, offer interesting opportunities for investors.
The mobile market in Saudi Arabia is fiercely competitive. Reported penetration rates are upward of 180%, but mobile indicators tend to fluctuate due to the country’s fluid population with large numbers of pilgrims and expatriate workers. Services are provided by three Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) – STC, Mobily, and Zain – and by two Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) – Virgin Mobile and Lebara. Saudi Arabia is the second country in the gulf region (after Oman) to have allowed MVNOs, but other countries are likely to follow suit, as Saudi Arabia is generally considered the region’s trendsetter.
The fixed broadband market is experiencing a major technology shift from ADSL to fibre, with STC expanding FTTH coverage to most urban centres, and another two companies – Go Telecom and Mobily – also offering FTTH services.
Mobile broadband subscriptions outnumber fixed broadband subscriptions by a long way in Saudi Arabia, which reflects the country’s large household size. While fixed broadband normally serves the home, mobile broadband subscriptions are individual. Therefore, mobile broadband subscriptions are likely to continue growing beyond the 100% per capita penetration threshold due to some users having more than one mobile connected device (for example, a smartphone plus a tablet), but fixed-line broadband will hit market saturation when household penetration reaches 100% – which is not far away for Saudi Arabia.
Local state schools are usually not an option for foreign children. There are numerous private schools, which cater to the expat community. Often, these private schools are under government control to a certain extent, in order to ensure that curriculum and standards of education meet those of state schools.
The clear advantage of private schools is that the language of instruction is often English, and classes are co-educational. Families with older children, however, should make sure that the curriculum and standards of education are similar to those in their home country in order to ease the transition, especially concerning their children qualifying for higher education
Expat families with children usually opt for international schools, of which there are a many in cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, or Al-Khobar. Some of them follow certain national curricula (such as British, American, Indian, and Pakistani). Others offer the International Baccalaureate or a combination of international and third-country curricula. You can go through the below links for some international school:
Medical technology is continuously being upgraded in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has its own facilities to train doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, and Saudi Arabians rarely travel abroad to get specialized medical treatment. These services now extend to the most remote communities in the country. The private sector, which makes a vital contribution to health services, has expanded over the past decade. It operates a number of hospitals and clinics in the country.
Major hospitals provide all sorts of sophisticated treatments including open-heart surgery, kidney transplants and cancer therapy. Saudi Arabia has one of the World's largest and best-equipped eye hospitals, the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, and one of the largest medical facilities in the Middle East, the King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh. The complex includes various medical departments and provides housing for approximately 3000 employees.
Approximately 11,350 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, including the Saudi Red Crescent Society, provide medical service to the millions of people who visit the Kingdom for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj. Immunization against TB, polio, hepatitis and tetanus is freely available. Medical insurance schemes are available at reasonable cost.