Approximately 4.5 million have main telephone lines; almost 20 million have mobile cellular telephones; and more than 6.25 million have radio sets (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2004). More than 5 million own television sets, 4.7 million people use the internet, and there are around 22 internet service providers. Saudi Arabia has 213 airports; 8 heliports; 1.392 km railways; 59 marine ships. The average consumption of electricity by the population is 150 billion per kilowatt hour (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor).
Wildlife and environment issues center on desertification, depletion of underground water resources, the lack of perennial rivers or permanent bodies of water, and coastal pollution from oil spills (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2005).
Saudi men wear the traditional dress called a "thobe," which symbolizes equality (ArabNet 2002). Their headdress consists of the taiga, the gutra, and the iqal. A Saudi woman wears a thick black cloak called an "ibayah." It is a scarf, which covers her hair and a full-face veil when in public or near men who are not close relatives (ArabNet).
The Kingdom provides all Saudi citizens with free and high-standard health care as a matter of high priority (Ministry of Planning 2008). The Ministry of Health reported that the number of hospitals and hospital beds increased by 25%. This was complemented by an increase in the size of the labor force in the health care sector. This occurred during the fifth development plan in conjunction with the overall expansion of health services.
The number of doctors increased by 22.7%.The number of nurses and technicians also increased during the same period (Ministry of Planning).
Satellite television in Saudi Arabia has been one of the most rigidly controlled media in the Middle East (BBC News 2008). Objections and criticisms against the government were generally not tolerated. But since the September 11 attacks in New York, there have been signs of increasing openness on the part of the government. The government-run Broadcasting Service of the Kingdom operates four TV networks. Private radio and TV stations cannot operate within the Kingdom. But it is a major market for pan-Arab satellite and pay-TV broadcasters. Newspapers, on the other hand, are created by virtue of royal decrees. Today, there are 10 daily newspapers and many magazines. These follow the guidelines and policies of state-run news agencies on the choice of stories and subject matter. The government reserves the right to monitor and block websites and topics (BBC News).
The Saudi people are food lovers. Cooking the finest dishes is considered a centuries-old heritage among them (Maby 2008). Arabic literature carries stories and poetry of the celebration and lavish banquets of caliphs at Baghdad. Food the table of both princes and peasants went with marching armies. Saudi food is legendary. It is believed to have evolved from a collection of cultures - Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Turkish, Western, Eastern and Inland traditions. Nomads spoke proudly of how their renowned ancestors drew their courage and strength and character as well as their nourishment. For centuries, they thrived on the food of the desert and the oasis. From these sources of survival, the Bedouins molded their means of survival and rituals. Generations later today, Bedouins still respect and follow the same traditions, honor and celebrate the way their fathers lived and ate (Maby).
Jeddah, on the other hand, is called the coral city hidden behind the new office blocks and shopping malls (Jones 1995). It has remained a place of great antiquity and important link in the pre-Islamic trade between India and the Mediterranean. It is the entry to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah (Consulate General of India 2008). It is the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia complementary to Riyadh as the capital of the Kingdom. It is also called the Bride to the Red Sea. Travelers have described Jeddah as "the city surrounded by walls with beautiful markets" and buildings. Other observers describe it as "the small city... crowded with pilgrims.." From its origins as a small fishing settlement more than 2,500 years ago, it has grown into what it is today. Caliph Osman Ibn Affan made Jeddah the main port of the city of Makkah and called Bilad al Kanasil or the City of Consulates. The Ottomans of the 16th century fortified it against the Portuguese by building a stone wall around the town. The four gates were Bab Sherif towards the south, Bab Makkah towards the east, Bab Madina towards the north and a west gate facing the Red Sea. Bab Jadeed was built in the early 1900s with sentries at the gates. Jeddah remained a protected and walled town for centuries under the Ottomans. It was freed from them by the Turks in 1915. Turkish influence remains evident today in Jeddah's architecture, which is among Jeddah's greatest attractions (Consulate General of India).
In the old Jeddah, tall buildings of coral limestone were built with elaborately decorated wooden facades, known as rawasheen (Consulate General of India 2008). These facades catch the sun's glare and the cool sea breeze. Inhabitants in early times were, therefore, inclined to build tall houses and to sleep on the roofs in summer nights. Some of these houses can still be found in Jeddah today but they are getting fewer because of the lack of repairs. The Historical Area Preservation Department program was started in 1990 to protect the city's grand architecture and heritage. The Department now has more than 50 employees performing this function. It also organizes tours and local research. Modernization proceeded with the passing of the years. The first house of reinforced concrete was built in 1929 although less attractive than those built with coral limestone but more durable. King Abdul Aziz' reign unified the Kingdom and made Jeddah more stable. Enclosing with walls was rendered unnecessary by expansion. The building boom continued to the 70s to the present time. New shopping centers, office buildings and apartments rose in every place. Large parts of former desert have been part of the expansion into a healthy-looking green city. In Jeddah, the dignity and tradition of the past merges with the sophistication and dynamism of the present and modern business world (Consulate General of India).
The small city has expanded into a metropolis yet has retained its original charm for both the residents and visitors (Consulate General of India 2008). Its expansion occurred mostly in the last two decades. In 1947, it was only one square kilometer in size with a population of only 30,000. Today, Jeddah has increased to 560 square kilometers with roughly one and a half million people. Jeddah's population doubled from 1974 to 1980, considered boom years. The figure doubled again at the end of the century. Through the centuries, Jeddah has kept its status as a trading center (Consulate General of India 2008). Two big government-owned companies are based in Jeddah. These are the Saudi Arabian Marketing and Refining Company or SAMAREC and Saudia, the national airline. The companies maintain a substantial workforce and this asserts a strong impact on the economy of Jeddah (Consulate General of India).
Like it is in the rest of the Kingdom, eating is a passion in Jeddah. It is a favorite occupation in the City, followed by shopping only as a close second (Consulate General of India 2008). As a shopping center, it offers almost anything to whoever wants to shop. Its souqs and shopping malls are all comfortable and air-conditioned. They were designed for the adventurous and bargain-seekers. They are, however, not the place for hagglers (Consulate General of India).
From a distance as well as at close range, Jeddah is a mystifying city endowed with the richness of tradition, history, culture and distinct heritage (Consulate General of India 2008). The Prophet Muhammad and his calips mentioned its grandeur, which dates back to pre-Islamic times. Many travelers and recorders also describe it as "the city surrounded by walls with beautiful markets" and as brimming with buildings. Others referred to Jeddah as "the small city on the Red Sea coast, crowded with pilgrims." That "small" city already teemed with inns, caravan sarays and hostels to serve travelers and pilgrims. Today, the city is an expanded metropolis, which has retained its original magic and uniqueness. It continues to cater to the demands of residents and visitors (Consulate General of India) who want to experience the mystery for themselves.
ArabNet. Clothing, 2002. Retrieved on May 7, 2008 at http://www.arab.net/saudi/sa_clothing.htm
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Saudi Arabia. International Religious
Freedom Report. International Religious Freedom: U.S. Department of State, 2004
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Saudi Arabia. Bureau of Public Affairs: U.S. Department of State, 2008
Consulate General of India. Jeddah City. Saudi Arabia, 2008. Retrieved on May 4, 2008 from http://wwwcgijeddah.tripod.com/general/jeddah.html
Jones, Rosie Llewelyn. The Coral City of Old Jeddah - Saudi Arabia. Architectural Review: EMAP Architecture, 2004