- 13 November 2000
Total population: 18.5 million
Jiddah: 2.5 million, Riyadh: 3 million, Makkah: 900,000.
Total fertility rate: 6.34 children born per woman in 1999.
Literacy rate: male – 71.5%, female – 50.2%.
Government: Monarchy and sovereign Arab Islamic State operating under Sharia Law.
Islam does not recognize a separation of the religious and secular lives of followers and thus, in accordance with Sharia Law, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict gender separation in the workplace, restaurants and public transportation for all nationalities. At work separate elevators and entrances for both sexes are required. Covered Saudi women eat in partitioned family sections separated from male-only areas. The Kingdom’s law does not allow women to use fitness centers and health clubs, even in up-market hotels. Since 1998, less than a handful of ‘women-only’ health clubs have opened in major cities. Buses, trains and ferries have separate sections for women as do hospitals and medical offices, which have segregated waiting rooms. Women are not allowed to drive – not even foreign women with international driving permits. Foreign women like locals must adhere to the Islamic dress wearing an abaya, a loose, black robe-type dress, with a headscarf that becomes optional in larger cities.
All of this is done in the name of Islam.