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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south. The Persian Gulf lies to the northeast and the Red Sea to its west. It has an estimated population of 27.6 million, and its size is approximately 2,150,000 square km (830,000 square miles).
The Kingdom is sometimes called "The Land of The Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. In English, it is most commonly referred to as Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Sauds ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation, and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the world's leading petroleum exporter and petroleum exports fuel the Saudi economy. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and nearly 75 percent of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly expressed concern about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia, although these concerns have been dismissed by the Saudi government.
The kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemen signed an agreement to settle their long-running border dispute. A significant length of the country's southern borders with the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government's estimate is 2,217,949 km² (856,356 miles²). Other reputable estimates vary between 1,960,582 km² (756,934 mi²) and 2,240,000 km² (864,869 mi²). The kingdom is commonly listed as the world's 14th largest state.
Saudi Arabia's geography is varied. From the western coastal region (Tihamah), the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center. The southwestern 'Asir region has mountains as high as 3,000 m (9,840 ft) and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abha in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The geographically hostile Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter") desert along the country's imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.
Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation's landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs. Less than two percent of the kingdom's total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofuf and Buraydah. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub' al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry is constructing a few planned communities there. Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for 2640 km (1640 miles) and, on the Red Sea side, offers world-class coral reefs, including those in the Gulf of Aqaba.
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