13 Fun Facts About Saudi Arabia For The Ultimate Pilgrimage

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From sunken ships through sprawling sands and epic pilgrimages to exquisite cars, sprawling camel markets, and the world’s 4th tallest building, Saudi Arabia is a country of exhilarating extremes. The birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia is home to Medina and Mecca, two prominent Arab cities that many travelers admire.

Beyond its rich history and the exciting facts I just mentioned, here are 13 fun facts about Saudi Arabia for the ultimate pilgrimage.

1. Saudi Arabia Boasts More Oil Reserves Than Any Other Country Worldwide

Saudi Arabia first struck oil in the Dammam Oilfield in March 1938. Today, 17% of the proven petroleum reserves worldwide are within its borders.

The country’s Ghawar Oilfield is the world’s largest oil reserve, with roughly 75 billion oil barrels left. To put that into context, the Ghawar Oilfield boasts enough reserves to fill up to 4,770,897 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

2. Saudi Arabia Is A Monarchy

After he crowned himself king, Ibn Saud is the nation’s father. He later joined the four regions into one state in 1932 after declaring independence for Saudi Arabia.

Ibn Saud is one of a few to have a country named after him. The Al Saud monarch has been in rule since then.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia has the 3rd richest monarch under King Salman Bin Abdelaziz Al Saud with a net worth of $18 billion.

3. Saudi Arabia Has The World’s Largest Sandy Desert

Rub-Al Khali is the world’s largest continuous sand desert, with dunes reaching 250 meters. The vast sand desert is 650,000 sq. km. making it largest than France, Belgium and Holland combined.

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empty chairs in Rub-Al Khali desert

Saudi Arabia is also the biggest country worldwide without a river, with more than 95% of the country being semidesert or desert.

While the country does not have any rivers, it boasts an extensive coastline alongside the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

4. The Harry Potter Book Is Banned In Saudi Arabia

Sorcery and magic are banned in Saudi Arabia, which means the Harry Potter book (and many others like it) are illegal. Witchcraft can attract the death penalty, so you won’t stumble upon any Potterheads in the country!

5. Saudi Arabia Has The World’s Largest Airport

Saudi Arabia is that it is home to the world’s largest airport – the King Fahd International Airport. The DMM airport is located in Dammam and covers an extensive area of up to 192,000 acres of land.

Here are additional fun facts about the airport;

  • The five passenger terminals feature eight bridges each
  • The combined parking lots have enough space for 11,600 vehicles
  • It has a particular royal terminal for VIP guests, state heads, and the Saudi royal family
  • The central control tower is one of the world’s tallest
  • It features two parallel runways measuring 4,260 meters
  • The terminal has a mosque that can accommodate 5000 worshippers inside and 5,000 more in the plaza outside

6. Saudi Arabia Hosts The World’s Largest Working Clock Face

Saudi Arabia’s Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca host the world’s most prominent working clock face.

Saudi Arabia's Abraj Al Bait Towers clockface

Standing at 601 meters high, it’s the tallest clock face worldwide and at 43 meters wide, it’s 6x times bigger than London’s Big Ben.

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7. Saudi Arabia Is The Origin Of Islam

Islam’s origin is in Saudi Arabia. The country is home to the Islamic holiest shrines, Medina and Mecca.

Non-Muslims are not granted Saudi Arabia citizenship, while other religious practices are permitted but must be practiced strictly in private.

8. Saudi Arabia Is Home To The “Winston’s Hiccup”

The “Winston’s Hiccup” is a curious zigzag of the border between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Legend has it that Winston Churchill, during one of his drinking sprees in 1921, hiccupped, and his hand slipped, forming a random triangular shape which resulted in Saudi Arabia getting several thousand sq. kilometers off of Jordanian land.

The tract of land is today known as “Winston’s Hiccup.”

9. Saudi Arabia Is Constructing The Largest Building

Saudi Arabia is already home to the world’s 31st tallest building known as the Kingdom Center. Construction recently commenced on the Kingdom Jeddah Tower, which will eventually stand at least 3,280 feet tall.

Comparison vector of the Kingdom Jeddah Tower
Concept Jeddah skyline with Kingdom Tower – World’s Tallest Building, vector engraved illustration, hand drawn

The tower will be the world’s tallest building and is expected to be 200m taller than the famous Burj Khalifa which currently holds the record.

10. Saudi Arabia Imports Sand And Camels

Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia regularly imports camels and sand from Australia. The sand is handy for construction or glass making.

Camel meat is a considerable part of the Saudi Arabia diet which has led to a shortage of camels in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has popularized the camel industry as it has the largest camel market in Riyadh, where more than 100 camels are sold daily.

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Baby camels between 6 months and one year provide the best flavor for a slice of specialty meat in Saudi Arabia.

11. Weddings Are Held Separately In Saudi Arabia

Both the bride and the groom get separate public venues for their wedding. It is against the customs to share a platform.

Surprised? It’s little surprise that most couples in Saudi Arabia choose to get married overseas where they can celebrate together.

12. Saudi Arabia Has Many Immigrants

Saudi Arabia depends heavily on the labor force from southeast Asia and Africa. Approximately 80% of the labor force is non-national.

This also means that 30% of Saudi Arabia’s population are immigrants.

13. Saudi Arabia Is The Last Country To Allow Women To Vote

Saudi Arabia is the world’s most gender-segregated nation. Women weren’t allowed to vote until 2015, making it the last country to allow female voters.

The current king has provided more power to women in recent years, such as allowing women to drive and travel without a male guardian.

A woman driving a car in Saudi Arabia

It will take longer for the country to fully embrace women’s rights. Saudi women must get permission from their male counterparts before making decisions, such as opening a bank account or even filing a police complaint.

They have to abide by a strict dress code and things like interacting with men or playing sports seem like a distant dream.

Joshua Smith

Joshua has visited 10 countries and has another 110 to go! He plans to sail around the world over 5 years, and then spend the next 5 years driving around the world in a 4×4. He prefers to explore the more remote places without the tourists, and yet, doesn’t mind the ritzy feel of business class at 10,000 feet either.

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