a kingdom in SW Asia, occupying most of the Arabian peninsula between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea: founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud, who united Hejaz and Nejd; consists mostly of desert plateau; large reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Official language: Arabic. Official religion: (Sunni) Muslim. Currency: riyal. Capital: Riyadh (royal and administrative), Jiddah (diplomatic). Pop: 26 939 583 (2013 est). Area: 2 260 353 sq km (872 722 sq miles)
Saudi Arabia sits on at least one-fourth of the world's known oil reserves, a geological gift that makes this otherwise resource-poor, desert nation very rich and important to the industrial nations of the world.
Overwhelmingly Muslim, the country is ruled by a royal family according to conservative Muslim law.
Saudi Arabia is the location of Mecca (see also Mecca) and Medina, the two most holy places in the world for Muslims, pilgrimage sites equivalent to the Catholic Rome and the Christian and Jewish Jerusalem (see also Jerusalem).
Saudi Arabia became the major staging ground for United Nations forces seeking to expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1990–1991. (SeePersian Gulf War.)