Saudi Arabia ( or ), officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area (approximately , constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest geographically in the Arab world after Algeria. It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, and Yemen in the south. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast and much of its terrain consists of inhospitable desert. The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of four distinct regions: Hejaz, Najd and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Hasa) and Southern Arabia (‘Asir). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud. He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. The country has since been an absolute monarchy governed along Islamic lines, namely under the influence of Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia is sometimes called “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. The Kingdom has a total population of 28.7 million, of which 20 million are Saudi nationals and 8 million foreigners. Saudi Arabia is the world’s dominant oil producer and exporter, and controls the world’s second largest hydrocarbon reserves. Backed by its fossil fuels, the kingdom is categorized as a high income economy with a high Human Development Index (HDI), and is the only Arab country to be part of the G-20 major economies. However, Saudi Arabia has the least diversified economy in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). It is ruled by an authoritarian regime and is ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House. Saudi Arabia has the fourth highest military expenditure in the world, and is considered a regional and middle power. In addition to the GCC, it is an active member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and OPEC.
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