23 September is Saudi Arabia’s national day. It was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud in 1932 as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is the largest Arab country in Middle East which has an estimated population of 28 million, and its size is approximately 2,149,690 square kilometers (830,000 sq mi). The kingdom is called “The Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to 2 holy places of Islam Masjid al-Haram Makkah and Masjid Al-Nabawi Madinah.
Saudi Arabia is hosting a huge number of expatriates from many countries around including Egypt, Jordan, Lebnon, Syria, UAE, Pakistan, Indian, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and many others. About 31% of the Saudi Arabian population is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There are over eight million migrants from countries all around the world.
Statistics of Expatriates in Saudi Arabia (July 2010)
|Westerners (Europeans and Americans)||250,000|
On Saudi Arabia’s national day Arab News published a review of Education, Development and Heritage. Have a look.
Today is Saudi National Day.
It is an occasion to celebrate the country’s achievements as well as its heritage and culture. It is also a time to reflect on where it is going.
The achievements are almost too numerous to mention but at the forefront is education. Its towering importance in Saudi thinking cannot be overstated and is seen in the fact that education accounts for a quarter of budget spending. A massive SR138 billion, almost $37 billion, was allocated for education and training this year. Few other countries in the world, certainly none with the same population size, are spending so massively that the next generation, women as well as men, can have the skills and the knowledge that will be needed for the country’s future growth — a growth that will not always be oil-based.
This investment, which stems directly from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s personal vision of a Saudi Arabia that is as high-tech, high-skilled as any developed economy, is so widespread that it is perhaps beyond most observers’ comprehension. New universities, new colleges, new schools and new facilities are springing up all over the country, but seeing them all and appreciating the scale and speed of the development is virtually an impossibility. However, anyone flying in or out of Riyadh can have an impressive glimpse of what is going on. The hundreds of construction cranes at a 94-square kilometer site that is being turned into the all-women Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University next to the airport is a staggering sight. This is construction on an epic scale — and it is just one university, albeit one that will be the biggest women’s university in the world.
In many ways, the construction crane is the symbol of Saudi Arabia at the moment, not just building schools and universities but the continuing development of the new economic cities, airports, industries and a host of other projects. But while the country’s great oil wealth has enabled the Kingdom to plow ahead despite the international recession there is much more to celebrate than material growth.
The Kingdom, again at the personal direction of the king, has taken a leading role in promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Learning to live with each other and respect each other’s beliefs is an absolute priority in a world that seems to be increasingly bigoted and inward looking. The furor over the proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center near New York’s Ground Zero provides stark evidence of that but no faith community is without its bigots and there are Muslims who fit into that mold just as there are Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. The barrier has to be broken down and helping that happen is no mean achievement.
Heritage is another crowning development. For too long, the world — and Saudis — has seen the country as a land with a great future but no past. This year’s remarkable exhibition in Paris of treasures from the Kingdom brings an end to the stereotype. It shows that Saudi Arabia is a land with a rich history that has been a crossroads of civilizations for millennia. That is definitely something to celebrate.
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