Capital: Riyadh

Area: 756,981 sq. miles

Population: 35,000,000

Government: Monarchy

Religion: Muslim 100%

Language: Arabic

Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city where the prophet Mohammad was born in 570 BC.  Each year more than a million Muslims from throughout the world visit the city.  All Muslims are obligated to make this pilgrimage, known as the hajj, at least once.  While in Mecca they will pray at the Kaaba shrine which, according to the Koran, is the site of an earlier shine built by Abraham.

About 200 miles north of Mecca is Islam’s second most-holy city, Medina.  This is where Mohammad established his religious community before dying in 632 BC.  He was buried in Medina at the Mosque of the Prophet.

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The country grew extremely rich due to its oil production.  Until recently Saudi Arabia was the world’s leading oil producer.  Today that position is held by the United States.  Its decline in oil revenue coupled with population growth has brought high unemployment and economic stagnation to Saudi Arabia.

Although the monarchy which rules the nation has close ties with the west, there is a growing anti-American, Muslim fanaticism among its people.  Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the orchestrator of the attack, Osama Bin Laden was the son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family.  Much of this anti-American hostility stems from the presence of U.S. troops occupying the nation’s land during on-going intervention in the region.