Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country that occupies most of the Arabian peninsula and has both Persian Gulf and Red Sea coast lines. Its surrounding countries are Jordan to the northwest, Iraq to the northeast, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar to the east, United Arab Emirates to the south east, Oman and Yemen to the south. Saudi Arabia contains the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, to which all physically and financially able Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage at least once if possible (see Hajj).
Saudi Arabia is one of three countries named for their royal families, along with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and also Liechtenstein. The family were sheikhs of Nejd, the area around Riyadh, but were driven out by a neighbouring dynasty, hiding with their relatives, the emirs of Kuwait. Then in 1902, young Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud and a few dozen lads rode out to raid their home territory. As it turned out, the invaders had been ruling badly, so many locals joined them. They not only re-captured Riyadh, but much of the surrounding territory.
After that, Abdul Aziz set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. The area united under him became known as Saudi Arabia.
In the 1930s, the discovery of oil transformed the country. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its sand for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. A burgeoning population, unemployment, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all major governmental concerns.