The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the largest countries in the Middle East. At 1,960,582 sq km, it is roughly the size of Western Europe, or of the United States, east of the Mississippi River. The country is bounded by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba on the West, Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait on the North, the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf and the states of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on the East, and Oman and Yemen on the South.
Its population is over 22 million people, with about 6 million expatriate, foreign workers according to census figures released in 2005.
As home to the cities of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia is the center of the Islamic faith. Over 1.3 billion Muslims around the world look to Saudi Arabia as a source of religious guidance. Annually, over 2 million visit the country on haj.
The country is a relatively modern one, achieving statehood only in the 1930s, after a series of battles between the followers of Abdel Aziz bin Saud and followers of rival clans. The country is a monarchy, headed by King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, after the death of King Fahd in 2005. The country is divided into 13 provinces, each ruled by a governor.