15 Mindblowing Facts About Saudi Arabia

Saudi arabia students youth schoolFahad Shadeed/ReutersSecondary students sit for an exam in a government school in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s been front and center the last few months.

The oil-rich kingdom pushed OPEC, the 12-nation oil cartel, to keep oil production activity up in order to put price pressure on other major oil producers like the Iran, Russia, and the US.

Aside from the oil story, there are many more behind-the-scenes facts about this Middle East powerhouse that most people don’t know.

We’ve got them here.

80% of the labour force in Saudi Arabia is foreign.

Saudi Arabia's labour force is around 8.412 million -- but 80% (or about 6 million) of those people are considered non-national. Most of these people work in the oil and service sectors.

And right now, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia's capital) is working hard to reduce unemployment of Saudis.

Source: CIA Factbook

Saudi Arabia's Ghawar oil field has enough reserves to fill 4,770,897 Olympic swimming pools.

The Ghawar oil field.

Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field is the largest in the world. It has an estimated 75 billion barrels of oil left.

An Olympic sized swimming pool can hold 660,253.09 gallons of liquid.

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Saudi Arabia is building the world's tallest building, which will be 1 kilometer tall (aka taller than 492 Lebron Jameses standing on top of each other.)

The Kingdom Tower.

Saudi Arabia is building Kingdom Tower, which will be the world's tallest building in 2018. It's going to stand 1 kilometer tall.

(China is also planning on building a 1 km tall building, so technically speaking the two will be tied for first place.)

Lebron James stands at 6' 8' or 2.03m.

Source: CNN

Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are forbidden to drive.

Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

'The conservative Islamic state has no written ban on women driving, but Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued licence while in the country. Such licenses are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive,' according to Reuters.

Additionally, over approximately 54.4% of women are unemployed, signifcantly higher than the male unemployment rate of 20.8%.

Bill Gates criticised the Saudi Arabia's female employment at the World Economic Forum in 2007. When one person asked him if Saudi Arabia might become a major, competitive economy by 2010, Gates responded, 'Well, if you're not fully utilising half the talent in the country, you're not going to get close to the top.'

Source: Reuters

Saudi Arabia may end executions by beheading because there's a shortage of swordsmen in the country.

'This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents; the aim is to avoid interruption of the regularly-taken security arrangements,' stated the a Saudi committee composed of representatives of the ministries of interior, justice and health.

Source: Ahram Online

47% of Saudi Arabia's population is under the age of 24.

Over a quarter of Saudi Arabia's population is under 14 years old, and almost half of the population is under 24 years old.

Source: CIA Factbook

Saudi Arabia's petroleum sector makes up 45% of GDP -- which makes it greater than the total combined GDPs of Iraq, Morocco, Rwanda and Tonga.

Ali Ibrahim Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

Saudi Arabia's petroleum sector is 45% of the country's total GDP -- which puts it at around $US335.372 billion.

Iraq's GDP is $US222.879 billion, Morocco's GDP is $US104.4 billion, Rwanda's GDP is $US7.451 billion, and Tonga's GDP is $US466 million.

Source: CIA Factbook

Saudi Arabia's health expenditures are 4.5 times the GDP of Sierra Leone.

Saudi Arabia's health expenditures are 3.7% of the GDP.

Sierra Leone's total GDP is $US4.9 billion.

Source: CIA Factbook

Saudi Arabia is 14.5 times larger than Bangladesh in size, but Bangladesh's population is almost 6 times as large.

Bangladesh's population is around 166,280,712, while Saudi Arabia's population is only at 27,345,986.

Over 80% of Saudis live concentrated around cities -- leaving lots of land sparsely populated.

Bangladesh is way smaller in size at 56,980 square miles.

Source: CIA Factbook

Saudi Arabia is building six 'economic cities' that are expected to add an amount 3.5 times as large as Kenya's total GDP to Saudi Arabia's GDP.

In an effort to diversify its economy (instead of only having a huge oil sector), Saudi Arabia is building 'six economic cities' that are expected to add $US150 billion to the country's GDP.

The cities are spread around the country and are expected to add 1.3 million jobs and raise the GDP per capita from $US13,000 to $US33,500.

Kenya's GDP is $US44.1 billion.

Source: OECD

In 2012, over 3 million Saudis and people from outside of Saudi Arabia went on Hajj -- that's like taking the total combined populations of Phoenix and Philadelphia and putting them in Mecca.

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca .

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims go to Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage -- one of Islam's five pillars of faith.

In 2012, 3.16 million people reportedly went on Hajj -- with approximately 1.7 million of them coming from outside of Saudi Arabia.

Phoenix's population is around 1.513 million and Philadelphia's is around 1.553 million.

Source: The Huffington Post

And now... how about an inside look at the hermit kingdom.

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