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Total population
77.1% of the population of Saudi Arabia
2010 Saudi Census
33.1 millionIncrease[2]
2016 estimates
Regions with significant populations
 Saudi Arabia +33,335,377 (2017)[3]
 Egypt 1,771,894 (2016)[3]
 United States 567,511 (2013)[3]
 Kuwait 540,773[3]
 Lebanon 108,842[3]
 United Kingdom 98,604[3]
 Australia 91,900[3]
 Turkey 90,878[3]
 United Arab Emirates 150,247 (2015)[3]
 Jordan 86,622
 Syria 83,560 (2010)
 Iran 82,314 (2016)[4]

Saudis (Arabic: سعوديون‎‎ Suʿūdiyyūn), or Saudi Arabians are a nation; comprised mainly of the different regional Arabic ethnic groups including Hejazis, Najdis, Hassawis, Southern Arabs and others, who are mostly native to the Arabian Peninsula and share a common general Saudi culture and a Saudi nationality. Saudis speak one of the accents and dialects of the Peninsular Arabic, including the Hejazi, Najdi, Gulf and Southern Arabic dialects (which includes Bareqi), as a mother tongue. According to the 2010 census, Saudi Nationals represented approximately 19,335,377 making up 74.1% of the total population. Saudi Arabia is a state governed by absolute monarchy, with the king as its head of state.


The ethnic Saudi population as of the 2010 census was 19,335,377 making up 74.1% of the total population. The remaining population has 6,755,178 non-nationals representing 25.9%.[5] S Saudis by region:[6]

Until the 1960s, most of the population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled. 80% of Saudis live in three major urban centers—Riyadh, Jeddah, or Dammam.[7] Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600/mile²). Saudi Arabia's population is characterized by rapid growth and a large cohort of youths.


DNA tests of Y chromosomes from representative sample of Saudis were analyzed for composition and frequencies of haplogroups, a plurality (42%) belong to Haplogroup J-M267 (Y-DNA). Other frequent haplogroups are J-M172 (14%), E1-M2 (8%), R1-M17 (5%) and T-M184 (5%).[8]

Most Saudis are ethnically Arab of whom they immigrated as pilgrims and reside in the Hijaz region along the Red Sea coast such as Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. According to a random survey, most would-be Saudis come from the Subcontinent and Arab countries.[9] Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There also are significant numbers of Asian expatriates mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.[citation needed] In the 1970s and 1980s, there was also a significant community of South Korean migrant labourers, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but most have since returned home; the South Korean government's statistics showed only 1,200 of their nationals living in the kingdom as of 2005.[10][11] There are more than 100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom live in private compounds in the major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran. The government prohibits non-Muslims from entering the cities of Mecca and Medinah.


Saudis welcome their guests by serving traditional Arabic coffee

The cultural setting of Saudi Arabia is Arab and Islam, and is deeply religious, conservative, traditional, and family oriented. Many attitudes and traditions are centuries-old, derived from Arab civilization. The Salafi Islamic movement, which arose in the 18th century and is sometimes described as austerely puritanical, now predominates in the country. Following the principle of "enjoining good and forbidding wrong", there are many limitations on behaviour and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially, often more so than in other Muslim countries. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, for example, and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films.

Daily life is dominated by Islamic observance. Five times each day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques scattered throughout the country. Because Friday is the holiest day for Muslims, the weekend is Friday-Saturday.[12] In accordance with Salafi doctrine, only two religious holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, were publicly recognized, until 2006 when a non-religious holiday, the 23 September national holiday (which commemorates the unification of the kingdom) was reintroduced.[13]


Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and its law requires that all citizens be Muslims.[14] The government does not legally protect the freedom of religion.[14] Any overseas national attempting to acquire Saudi nationality must convert to Islam.[15] Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its implementation of Islamic law and its poor human rights record.[16][17]


The official form of Islam is Sunni of the Hanbali school, in its Salafi version. According to official statistics, 85-90% of Saudi citizens are Sunni Muslims, 10-15% are Shia.[18] (More than 30% of the population is made up of foreign workers[18] who are predominantly but not entirely Muslim.) It is unknown how many Ahmadi there are in the country.[19] The two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina, are in Saudi Arabia. For many reasons, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the holy cities although some Western non-Muslims have been able to enter, disguised as Muslims.[20][21]


The large number of foreign workers living in Saudi Arabia (8 million expatriates out of a total population of 27 million[22]) includes non-Muslims. Irreligious population also exists in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no official published statistics by the Saudi government, according to a Gallup poll, 5% of Saudi Arabians are atheists.[23][24][25]

Policy of exclusion[edit]

According to scholar Bernard Lewis, the Saudi Arabian policy of excluding non-Muslims from permanent residence in the country is a continuation of an old and widely accepted Muslim policy.

The classical Arabic historians tell us that in the year 20 after the hijra (Muhammad's move from Mecca to Medina), corresponding to 641 of the Christian calendar, the Caliph Umar decreed that Jews and Christians should be removed from Arabia to fulfill an injunction the Prophet uttered on his deathbed: "Let there not be two religions in Arabia." The people in question were the Jews of the oasis of Khaybar in the north and the Christians of Najran in the south.

[The hadith] was generally accepted as authentic, and Umar put it into effect. ... Compared with European expulsions, Umar's decree was both limited and compassionate. It did not include southern and southeastern Arabia, which were not seen as part of Islam's holy land. ... the Jews and Christians of Arabia were resettled on lands assigned to them -- the Jews in Syria, the Christians in Iraq. The process was also gradual rather than sudden, and there are reports of Jews and Christians remaining in Khaybar and Najran for some time after Umar's edict.

But the decree was final and irreversible, and from then until now the holy land of the Hijaz has been forbidden territory for non-Muslims. According to the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence, accepted by both the Saudis and the declaration's signatories, for a non-Muslim even to set foot on the sacred soil is a major offense. In the rest of the kingdom, non-Muslims, while admitted as temporary visitors, were not permitted to establish residence or practice their religion.[26]

While Saudi Arabia does allow non-Muslims to live in Saudi Arabia to work, they may not practice religion publicly. According to the government of the United Kingdom:

The public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is illegal; as is an intention to convert others. However, the Saudi authorities accept the private practice of religions other than Islam, and you can bring a Bible into the country as long as it is for your personal use. Importing larger quantities than this can carry severe penalties.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Population and Household Census, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2010: Facts and Figures
  2. ^ KSA population Arabnews
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "World Migration". International Organization for Migration. 
  4. ^ "Saudi Gazette: Nov. 24, 2010 – Census shows Kingdom's population at more than 29 million" [1]
  5. ^ Population and Household Census, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2010: Facts and Figures
  6. ^ Population and Household Census, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2010: Facts and Figures
  7. ^ House, Karen Elliott (2012). On Saudi Arabia : Its People, past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future. Knopf. p. 69. 
  8. ^ Khaled K Abu-Amero; Ali Hellani; Ana M González; Jose M Larruga; Vicente M Cabrera; Peter A Underhill (2009). "Saudi Arabian Y-Chromosome diversity and its relationship with nearby regions". BMC Genet. 10: 59. PMC 2759955Freely accessible. PMID 19772609. doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-59. 
  9. ^ Siraj Wahab (30 July 2009). "It’s another kind of Saudization". Arab News. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  10. ^ Seok, Hyunho (1991). "Korean migrant workers to the Middle East". In Gunatilleke, Godfrey (ed.). Migration to the Arab World: Experience of Returning Migrants. United Nations University Press. pp. 56–103. ISBN 9280807455. 
  11. ^ "President Roh Moo-hyun's Official Visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia". Cheongwadae (Office of the President), Republic of Korea. 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-23. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Weekend shift: A welcome change",, 24 June 2013
  13. ^ Lacey, Robert (2009). Inside the Kingdom : Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia. Viking. p. 267. "... for decades the sheikhs successfully resisted attempts to add September 23 to the short list of official conges. But with the accession of Abdullah, the battlefield changed. If the king wanted a holiday, the king could grant it, and whatever the clerics might mutter, the people approved. Since 2006 the night of September 23 has become an occasion for national mayhem in Saudi Arabia, the streets blocked with green-flag-waving cars, many of them sprayed with green foam for the night. 
  14. ^ a b "International Religious Freedom Report 2004". US Department of State. Retrieved 22 September 2012. 
  15. ^ Ministry of the Interior| dead link
  16. ^ Human Rights Watch, World Report 2013. Saudi Arabia.] Freedom of Expression, Belief, and Assembly.
  17. ^ Amnesty International, Annual Report 2013, Saudi Arabia, Discrimination – Shi’a minority
  18. ^ a b "The World Factbook". 2012. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Saudi Arabia: 2 Years Behind Bars on Apostasy Accusation". Human Rights Watch. May 15, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  20. ^ (Sir Richard Burton in 1853) The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian world| By Dane KENNEDY, Dane Keith Kennedy| Harvard University Press|
  21. ^ (Ludovico di Barthema in 1503) The Arabian Nights: The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1001 Nights ...) edited by Richard F. Burton
  22. ^ "New plan to nab illegals revealed". Arab News. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  23. ^ "Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism" (PDF). Gallup. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  24. ^ "A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  25. ^ "Atheism explodes in Saudi Arabia, despite state-enforced ban". Salon. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  26. ^ Lewis, Bernard (November–December 1998). "License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin's Declaration of Jihad". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  27. ^ "Foreign travel advice. Saudi Arabia.Local laws and customs". Gov.UK. Retrieved 23 March 2014.