10 Unusual Facts about Saudi Arabia
You may be aware that Saudi Arabia is one of the top oil-producing countries in the world or the only country where, until 2018, women were forbidden from driving. But there is a lot more to the Middle East’s largest country than you may know. Here are 10 unusual facts about Saudi Arabia that might surprise you.
1 Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river.
Saudi Arabia occupies approximately 80% of the Arabian Peninsula and covers a land area of around 2,150,000 km².
The Arabian Desert, several mountain ranges, shrubland, highlands, steppes, and volcanic lava fields dominate the country’s diverse geography.
What you won’t find here is a single river! Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest country that does not have any permanent rivers.
Instead, it has numerous “wadis,” or valleys, which are riverbeds that stay either permanently or intermittently dry. (1, 2, 3, 4)
2 Saudi Arabia has the largest water desalination plant in the world.
Now that you know that Saudi Arabia has no rivers, you might wonder where the country gets its water from. Well, from the sea, of course!
Since we cannot drink or use seawater, the water needs to go through a process called “desalination,” which removes contaminants, salt, and other minerals.
Saudi Arabia has over 33 water-desalination plants, one of which is the largest in the world in terms of production volume.
The Jubail desalination plant produces more than 1.4 million cubic meters of water every day! (1, 2)
3 Saudi Arabia has the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
As of 2016, Saudi Arabia holds about 266,578,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, which ranks as the 2nd largest in the world and accounts for around 16.2% of the world’s total oil reserves.
The country has proven reserves that are equivalent to 221.2 times its yearly consumption. That means without exports, they would have around 221 years worth of oil left.
Water, on the other hand, is so scarce in Saudi Arabia that 1 liter of portable water costs more than 1 liter of diesel! (1,2)
4 The net worth of the royal family of Saudi Arabia is estimated to be $1.4 trillion.
Did you know that the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia, commonly known as the “House of Saud,” holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest royal family in the world?
In 2002, the family had over 4,000 royal princes and 30,000 royal relatives. Furthermore, the combined net worth of the entire royal family is estimated to be around $1.4 trillion, which also includes holdings in the Saudi Arabian Oil Company.
By comparison, the combined net worth of the British royal family is estimated to be around $88 billion, which means the House of Saud is nearly 16 times wealthier. (1, 2)
5 Saudi Arabia’s only black metal band operates under extreme secrecy!
In a staunchly Islamic country such as Saudi Arabia, antireligious views are never welcome. Openly criticizing Islam can have severe repercussions.
That hasn’t deterred the members of the black metal band Al-Namrood from expressing their views on religion and religious oppression.
They have to record their music in secrecy, and band members also keep their identities secret by never using their photos or real names.
Staying anonymous is the only way they can avoid death or imprisonment. (1, 2)
6 Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has some pretty tough laws regarding alcohol. The manufacture, possession, sale, and consumption of alcohol are illegal throughout the country.
Drinking is a punishable offense, and if you are caught, you may be subjected to fines, public flogging, or lengthy imprisonment.
Even drinking on your way to the country can be risky. If you get caught smelling like booze on the border, you may be arrested!
They also have import bans on items such as liquor, cooking wines, flavoring extracts, wine-making kits, foods with alcohol as an ingredient, and more. (1, 2)
7 In Saudi Arabia, weddings are segregated by gender.
Saudis are known to host lavish and exuberant weddings. They are a big part of their culture, but weddings typically do not have any religious ceremony.
Instead, the celebration is basically a bachelorette party and a fashion show combined, but men and women do not participate in the festivities together.
When guests arrive, men enter one ballroom and hang out with the groom, while the women enter another ballroom. (1, 2)
8 Saudi Arabia has million-dollar beauty pageants for camels.
In Saudi Arabia, camels are associated with wealth and status, and the country celebrates the animal by hosting beauty pageants for them!
The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival is an annual, month-long festival. Over 30,000 camels participate and a few hundred thousand spectators gather.
A spectacle of tradition, beauty, and tremendous wealth, the camel beauty pageants have a prize pool of around $45 million! The winners, chosen in six categories, each get around $7.5 million along with the title of “Miss Camel.”
The competition is so fierce that in 2018, a dozen camels were disqualified after a veterinarian was caught injecting them with Botox to make them look more attractive. (1, 2, 3)
9 The world’s longest straight road is in Saudi Arabia!
Highway 10 in Saudi Arabia holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest stretch of a completely straight road. It is nearly 150 miles long and stretches from Haradh to Al Batha.
Originally built as a private road for King Fahd, Highway 10 cuts through the desert and has no left or right bends. It does not even have any appreciable gradient up or down. You can cover this super-straight stretch by driving for two hours.
Needless to say, with nothing in sight for miles, the drive can be pretty boring. (source)
10 Until 2018, Saudi women were not allowed to enter sports stadiums, even as spectators!
When it comes to women’s rights, Saudi Arabia leaves much to be desired. Women’s sports, for example, have long been a controversial topic in the country.
Sports activities for girls are prohibited in public schools, and before 2018, women were not even allowed to enter sports stadiums as spectators, let alone as participants. Now, sports stadiums allow women to enter, but there is segregated seating.
Although several extensive reforms are being made to liberate the women of the country, there is still a long way to go. (1, 2)
Which of these facts about Saudi Arabia surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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