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International Coffeehouses: Saudi Arabia

This guide will provide links to resources related to the countries featured in the International Coffeehouses.

Panoramic photo of Mecca

Makkah Panorama. (2012) Wurzelgnohm. Retrieved from on 30 Oct, 2018. Used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Facts in Brief

Saudi Arabia flag

Capital: Riyadh

Official language: Arabic

Official name: Al-Mamlaka Al-Arabiyya Al-Saudiyya (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

Population: 32,400,000 (2019 estimate)

Flag and coat of arms: Saudi Arabia's flag, adopted in 1973, has a Muslim religious inscription and horizontal white sword on a green background. The coat of arms features a palm tree and two crossed swords. The symbols appear in green, the traditional Muslim color.

Climate: Hot. Slightly cooler from November to April. Rainy along coasts in summer. Nights can be cold in winter. Extremely dry in the middle of the country.


Doumato, E. (2017). Saudi Arabia. In World Book Advanced. Retrieved from

Snapshots of Saudi Arabia from Encyclopedia Britannica

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Kingdom Centre

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Kingdom Centre

The King Fahd Causeway connecting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

The King Fahd Causeway connecting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea coastline of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Red Sea coastline of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.



Terminal building at Dhahran International Airport, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Terminal building at Dhahran International Airport, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Bedouin woman with Arabian camels (dromedaries) near Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ, Saudi Arabia.

Bedouin woman with Arabian camels (dromedaries) near Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ, Saudi Arabia.

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The Oil Industry of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the leading producer of both natural gas and oil and exports more oil than any other nation. Because of this, Saudi Arabia is one of the leading economic powers in the Middle East. The development of the oil industry has caused many advances in the Saudi way of life, especially in the cities. The country has used much of its oil income to build schools, transportation systems, and communication networks. The government also has taken steps to improve housing and to extend electric service and other modern conveniences to Saudi Arabia's remote rural areas. The oil industry is owned by the state and largely operated as the Saudi Arabian Oil Company. 

Another important organization within the oil industry in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The countries that are apart of this organization are shown here. 


Religion in Saudi Arabia

All people who hold Saudi citizenship are Muslim and 90% belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. Another branch, the Shi’ah, live in the Eastern Province. Within Sunni, Wahhābism is the most common Islamic religious interpretation. Mutawwiin, a religious police force, uphold rules of behavior set by Wahhabism to sustain control and order within social life.

Important Locations in Saudi Arabia

The Kaaba at the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Mada’in Salih). This site was a part of the Nabataean Kingdom (1st Century).


Al-Masjid an-Nabawi - “the Prophet’s Mosque”. The second mosque built by Muhammad in Medina. 

The Turaif District in Diriyah, the first capital of Saudis, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. 

The Gate of Mecca

Currency: 100 Saudi Riyals

Al Kabsa: A Popular Dish

Al Kabsa

"This was the first Arabic dish I ever made and it turned out extremely delicious, a new favorite! Serve Al Kabsa with a fresh mixed cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and tomato salad -- preferably with a little lime vinaigrette. Some fresh pita bread on the side would be nice also. Saudis like their Kabsa with a hot sauce called 'Shattah'. Enjoy!"


  • Kabsa Spice Mix:
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried whole lime powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (3 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • 1 pinch ground coriander
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 2 1/4 cups unrinsed basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds


  1. Mix together the saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, white pepper, and lime powder in a small bowl, and set the spice mix aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and brown them over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Mix in the tomato puree.
  3. Stir in the canned tomatoes with their juice, the grated carrots, whole cloves, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and the Kabsa spice mix. Cook for about 3 minutes; pour in the water, and add the chicken bouillon cube.
  4. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot. Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 30 minutes.
  5. Gently stir in the rice. Cover the pot and simmer until rice is tender and almost dry, about 25 minutes; add the raisins and a little more hot water, if necessary. Cover and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the rice grains are separate.
  6. Transfer the rice to a large serving platter and arrange the chicken pieces on top. Sprinkle the toasted slivered almonds over the dish.

Additional Resources and Research Guides


Abdul Majeed Abdullah

Abdul Majeed Abdullah is one of the most popular singers of Saudi Arabia. His career has been extensive, with over 17 studio albums as of 2008. In 2019, he received a star on the Dubai Walk of Fame.

Abdul Majeed Abdullah headshot

Rashad Al Fares

Rashad Alfares album cover

Bashir Abdel 'Aal

From his Discogs bio:

Bashir Abdel 'Aal was born in Damascus, Syria, into a family of Musicians. His father was a virtuoso of the quanoon (Arabic zither) in Egypt and his brothers are all accomplished musicians: Aboud, Mounir and Fouad are virtuoso violinists and Nabil plays guitar and bass.
At the age of ten Bashir began playing music - first on a bottle, trying to imitate the sounds of the nay (Arabic reed flute) and then he went on to learn the nay itself.
After moving to Beirut, Lebanon, Bashir quickly became known through-out the Middle East for his virtuoso flute playing both in orchestras as well as accompanying some of the most famous Middle Eastern artists such as Farid Al Atrash, Fouad Mohammed, Mohammed Abdul Wahab, Abdul Halim Hafiz and others.
In 1977 he moved to England, settling in London, and has since become renowned as one of the finest exponents of the nay. He has played on countless film and TV scores and even for rock artist Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on their "No Quarter - Unledded" album (Bashir played on the famous 'Kashmir session'.)
Recently he has been touring with the group 'Nara' with Abdullah Chhadeh and musicians from many nations working together on musical projects."

Bashir Abdel 'Aal headshot

Books on Saudi Arabian Music

Soundstorm Music Festival

Saudi Arabia has a growing Electronic Dance Music scene. In 2019 the MDL Beast Soundstorm Festival was held in Riyadh from December 19-21 with over 400,000 attendees. Soundstorm will be happening again this year from December 16-19, with over 80 different artists performing on six stages. Read more about the 2019 festival from Business Insider here or about the upcoming 2021 festival from MDLBEAST here.

Image: Photo of the 2019 Soundstorm Festival
Image source:

Image: Photo of the Soundstorm Festival
Image source: