National Geographic : 1966 Jan
SAUDI ARABIA LAND OF MOHAMMED and fountainhead of an empire that once stretched from Spain to India, the Kingdom of Saudi Ara bia (whose name in Arabic script appears on page one) today works to catch up with the 20th century. Income from petroleum eases the way; the barren desert country happily sits atop an estimated 10 percent of the world's oil supply. The government receives half the profits from this subsurface wealth and puts most of it into new roads, airfields, schools, water projects, and hospitals. Three decades have brought spectacular gains, notably in the towns, where air-condi tioned offices and apartments rise. In Mecca and Medina, electricity and running ice water await the devout hadjis, or Moslem pilgrims, who come from all parts of the world. Despite such prog ress, half the people remain nomads. Another million are farm ers; their thick-walled mud houses border groves of date palms and fields of grain that cluster around the scattered oases in this country lacking both lakes and rivers. GOVERNMENT: Monarchy. AREA: 870,000 square miles. POPULATION: 6,630,000; 90percentArabs, 10 percent with Negroid ancestry. LANGUAGE: Arabic. RELIGION: Exclusively Moslem. IN SCRIPTION ON FLAG (above): "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God." ECONOMY: Oil provides 83 percent of the nation's revenues. Pilgrims to Mecca bring in several mil lion dollars a year. Dates, millet, wheat, and vege tables grown. MAJOR CITIES: Riyadh (popula tion more than 170,000), royal capital; Jidda,port; Mecca, Medina, holy cities. CLIMATE: Dry and hot. Temperatures may soar beyond 120° F., and villages may go without rain for years. Humid coastal areas, temperate mountain localities. Ri yadh average daily high 107° F. June-August; January maximum 70°, minimum 40°.