The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comprises around 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula, and is home to about one-quarter of the world’s oil reserves. For centuries, the Arabian Peninsula has enticed travelers with an intriguing culture, and Islam’s two holiest cities (Mecca and Medina). The country’s terrain varies from the spectacular Rub al-Khali desert in the south, to a vast and serene plateau in the center, to mountains emerging from an arid coastal plain along the Red Sea, to the oil-rich, crystal blue Persian Gulf.
The commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is a 3,000-year-old city situated along the Red Sea. It is renowned for its exquisite scuba diving amid colorful coral reefs and is home to more than 2 million people—3 million during Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to nearby Mecca. The national capital of Riyadh was built on an oasis in the middle of the desert, and is the traditional homeland of the ruling Saud family. Saudi culture is strongly centered on the religion of Islam, and values dignity, respect, modesty, and self-control.