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TOP 10 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT SAUDI ARABIA

Continuing our global exploration on the Archivist Express, we’re heading to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a desert country tucked between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. We’ll be serving a light lunch of fatir and tabbouleh as we trek through the Middle Eastern country - so keep an eye out for sandstorms as we explore the history and culture of the fifth-largest state on the Asian Continent in this Top 10 Amazing Facts About Saudi Arabia!



10. Cuisine of Saudi Arabia
One of the best ways to get to the heart of a country is through its cuisine and Saudi Arabian has some rather unique tastes when it comes to local delicacies. More common dishes typically include pita bread, lentils, hummus, and burghul, or cracked wheat, while more exotic tastes may include Hashi, or baby camel. In 2009, Hashi found its place in local Saudi restaurants. Four years later, the tender meat was served to Prince Charles during a visit to the Saudi Royal family and the Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. A more regionally accepted offering includes Arabic coffee from the Arabian peninsula. Whatever your tastes, just don’t get caught eating or drinking in public during Ramadan.

9. Fame of Saudi Arabia
Notable and recognizable names can be linked back to countries across the globe and Saudi Arabia is no different! While many of the more notable Saudis are more regal, there are a still some recognizable to outside parties. People like actor Mohamed Dione, writer and poet Mutlaq Hamid Al-Otaibi, actress Ashleigh Cummings, musician Alaa Wardi, footballer Omar Abdulrahman, Jorn Wemmer from Germany’s Schwarz-Rot Neustadt football team, and “Saudi’s Seinfeld,” Fahad Albutairi. When it comes to YouTube, be sure to check out the likes of Rotana, MrMrSnB2, zSHOWz, and MjrmGames.

8. The Festival of Al-Jenadriyah
The two-week-long Al-Jenadriyah was first held in 1985 as a symbol of cultural preservation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Sponsored by the Saudi National Guard and held in Jenadriyah annually, the festival is considered one of the largest annual festivals held within the Arabian Peninsula. Each year, Al-Jenadriyah showcases a series of light-hearted events including the opening camel racing, which typically features upwards of 2,000 participants. To locals, the festival is a show of the importance of the local culture and each province is offered the chance to show off its own local art and crafts in a pavilion created to represent its local architecture. Al-Jenadriyah draws in an estimated 1 million people each year, including a presence from foreign governments that host pavilions to show good relations with the Saudi Kingdom.

7. Capital Punishment and the Legal System
In January of 2017, Saudi Arabia saw its first execution after Mamdouh al Anzi was convicted of murdering another Saudi national. Currently, it’s a small number, but as history is known to repeat itself, chances are that figure is going to increase tenfold by the year’s end. In 2016, an estimated 154 convicted criminals were executed in Saudi Arabia, putting it third behind China and Iran for the highest number of executions. Executions performed in Saudi Arabia are typically done via beheading, though firing squad and stoning have been used sparsely in the past. Within Saudi Arabia, crimes are judged under Sharia, or Islamic law which is divided into three categories - Hudud, Qisas, and Tazir. Hudud are crimes described in the Quran, Qisas refers to retaliatory punishments, and Tazir are crimes against the nation.

6. The Jordan/Saudi Arabian Border
Ever looked at a sectional map of the Arabian Peninsula and wondered why Saudi Arabia sort of juts into Jordan? While its borders with Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman are generally smoother, this pointed section of Saudi Arabia was said to be a product of Winston Churchill and his adoration for alcohol. While drawing the Transjordan borders in 1921, legend has it that the then Secretary of State for the Colonies inadvertently drew the unexpected angle, forming what’s called ”Winston’s Hiccup.” While it remains in place today, it has changed slightly since its original creation after a small exchange of territory between Saudi Arabia and Jordan changed the angles slightly. It’s a fun story to tell, but many believe it to be a falsity meant to glorify something that came about through years of territory swapping.



5. The Oil Reserves
In 2015, the United States Energy Information Administration reported that the U.S. produced an estimated 15 million barrels of petroleum a day. Trailing closely behind was Saudi Arabia, with over 12 million barrels produced. By May of the following year, however, The United States dropped production enough to return the top spot to the Saudi Kingdom, which had also increased its output by over 400,000 barrels a day. Saudi Arabia may be home to 1/5th of the world’s known oil reserves and is now the largest producer and exporter of oil, but in 2011, Venezuela surpassed the kingdom for largest reserves when it revealed over 297 billion barrels compared to Saudi’s approximate 267 billion barrels. Despite not having the most reserves, the kingdom’s economy is oil-based, with 87% of its budget revenues, 90% of its export earnings, and 42% of its total GDP made up of oil sales.

4. Football and Saudi Arabia
Like many countries that aren’t the United States, soccer – er, football – is considered a major sport in Saudi Arabia. Since 1957, the country has hosted the on-again-off-again “Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Cup,” a football knockout competition run by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. Up until 1990, the competition was consistently held but took a 17-year hiatus before returning in 2007 as the “King Cup of Champions.” By 2014, it was renamed to the “King Cup” and features 153 different clubs, including the 2016 champions and 13-time titleholder, Al-Ahi. While much of Saudi Arabia’s football competition is internal, the Saudi national team took part in four FIFA World Cup and seven AFC Asian Cup competitions. Over the course of September of 2016 to September of 2017, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification.

3. Saudi Arabian World Records
As they say, it’s either “go big or go home”, so when Ahmed Mohamed Saleh Baeshen & Co. sought to create an oversized tea bag in 2014, they decided to go for the largest. In 2014, the company took its known brand, Rabea Tea, and gave it the Guinness World Records treatment by creating a 250-kilogram or roughly 551-pound tea bag capable of making 100,000 cups of tea. Along the same lines, Al Masaa CafĂ© was awarded a record in 2014 for its 1,050-seat coffee shop, making it the largest in the world. Throughout time, Saudi Arabia has also been awarded the record for largest bottle of shampoo, highest above-ground mosque, and largest oil field. Proving once again that size does matter, Saudi Arabia started construction on the Jeddah Tower in 2013, a skyscraper that, once completed in 2020, will be the tallest building in the world.

2. The Birthplace of Islam
The Islamic faith may be practiced by over 1.7 billion people from many countries across the globe, but only one can claim being the birthplace of it. In 570 AD, the city of Mecca welcomed Muhammad, member of the Quraysh mercantile tribe and eventual creator of Islam. During the 7th century, Muhammad gained favor through his charisma and solution to a dilemma regarding the repair of the Kaaba and the sacred black stone within. By 613 AD, Muhammad declared himself a prophet and encouraged peace and generosity to the poor and promoted better treatment for slaves. After condemning the Pagan followers to hell and insisting that the Kaaba be converted into a shrine for the Judeo-Christian God, Allah, Muhammad and his followers were forced to flee Mecca to Medina.

1. The Unification of Arabia
Saudi Arabia as we know it stems from the control of much of the Arabian Peninsula by the Ottoman Empire, the result of World War I, and the control of Muhammad bin Saud, or Ibn Saud. Under the Ottoman suzerainty, the peninsula was divided into small tribes that constantly fought for control of regions like Al-Ahsa. Despite a failed British-backed Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state, the end of World War I marked the end of Ottoman rule of Arabia. Shortly after the war, Ibn Saud took control of the kingdom of Nejd and, shortly after, declared himself king of the Hejaz. After defeating the Ikhwan, who rebelled against Ibn Saud’s rule, Hejaz and Nejd were united in as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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