Saudi Arabia. On January 23, King Abdullah, 90, died. He was succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother Crown Prince Salman. A few months later, Salman replaced the new Crown Prince Muqrin with Muhammad bin Nayif, the first of the next generation in the royal family after a long line of sons to the state founder Ibn Saud. At the same time, the king appointed his own son Muhammad bin Salman as new Vice Crown Prince. Thus, the king’s branch of the royal house had taken a clear grip on power.
At the end of March, Saudi Arabia, with the support of nine other countries, launched air strikes against the Shiite Muslim Huthirbels in Yemen, who at the beginning of the year forced the neighboring country’s president to flee. Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran supported the rebels and many saw it as Riyadh and Tehran waging war through agents in Yemen. The air strikes continued during the year, mediation attempts were made and several ceasefires were entered but were quickly broken. The UN warned of a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. The rebels also attacked Saudi targets at the border and into Saudi territory. Eventually, the Huthis were pushed back and in November, President Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Hadi was reported to be back after his Saudi escape. But the rebels still controlled Yemen’s capital Sana and much of the country. In December a new ceasefire was concluded and new peace talks started in Switzerland.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia which is located in Western Asia. Saudi Arabia also continued to support the US-led air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. At the same time, many around the world pointed out that many Saudis were fighting the terrorist organization, that well-to-do Saudis were an important source of funding for it, and that Saudi Arabia itself had long been the same fundamentalist form of Islam. However, IS also saw Saudi Arabia as an enemy and called the country a province in its self-proclaimed caliphate. In May, IS conducted for the first time a suicide attack on Saudi soil when 21 people were killed in a Shiite Muslim mosque in Qatif. Several other suicides followed against both Shi’a Muslims, whom IS considered defunct, and against security forces near the border with Yemen.
In December, Saudi Arabia formed a new anti-terror alliance with 34 predominantly Sunni Muslim countries and headquartered in Riyadh.
The world was upset when blogger Raif Badawi in January was subjected to the first 50 of a total of 1,000 whips he was sentenced, something that critics considered was a death sentence. The continued whipping is postponed with reference to his health, but the country’s highest court upheld the verdict in June. During the year, Badawi received Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Award and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Human rights organizations also responded to a sharp increase in the number of executions. By the beginning of November, more than 150 people had been executed, the highest figure in 20 years. It was reported that a further 50 or so were in turn being beheaded. The outside world was worried about death sentences against, among other things, a Palestinian poet – for blasphemy – and against young Shia Muslims.
A serious accident occurred in September when a construction crane overturned the Great Mosque in Mecca and more than 100 people died. A couple of weeks later, when the annual pilgrimage had begun, a congestion disaster occurred in Mina outside Mecca. According to Saudi data, 769 people died, but compilations in other countries of dead citizens showed that it was probably three times as many. The accident caused many in the Muslim world to question Saudi Arabia as “guardian of the holy places of Islam”: Mecca and Medina.
When elections for the municipal council assemblies in December were held for the third time in the country’s history, women were first elected both to vote and to vote. More than 20 women took seats in the parishes with a total of 2,100 selectable seats.
THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Named after the ruling Saudi family, Saudi Arabia covers most of the Arabian Peninsula. The great desert state has abundant oil reserves – about one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves – and produces oil for the world’s leading industrialized nations. Saudi Arabia also plays a significant role as the home of the Mecca and Medina of Islamic holy places. Saudi Arabia has long been closed to Western tourists, but now with the Vision 2030 project, it has begun to tear the curtain on tourism in a broader sense as well. In November 2021, we will make our first trip to this interesting country.
There are no year-round lakes or rivers in Saudi Arabia, but the land is for the most part a dry or semi-arid desert. The Asiri plateau in the southeastern corner of the country is the only place where there is enough rainfall for agriculture. Of the approximately 2 million square kilometers of land in the country as a whole, only about one percent is arable. There are also grasslands and mountains.
About 90% of the population are Arabs; the remaining 10% are mainly African and Asian. Virtually all Saudi Arabians are Muslims, Sunnis about 95% and Shiites 5%. The customs associated with food culture have been largely adopted from the Bedouin tradition. Many dishes use rice, wheat, vegetables and spices and are enjoyed with traditional bread, khubzia or kubez. Pork is forbidden, but chicken and lamb are eaten in abundance. Coffee drinking has a long tradition, but alcohol consumption is completely forbidden.