On March 3, 1938, an American-owned oil well in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, drilled into what would soon be identified as the largest source of petroleum in the world. The discovery radically changed the physical, human, and political geography of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and the world.Before the discovery (made by the company that would eventually become Chevron), Saudi Arabians were largely nomadic. The country’s economy was based on tourism revenue from observant Muslims’ pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca. After the discovery, Saudis established strong infrastructure dotted with wells, pipelines, refineries, and ports. Today, oil accounts for more than 92% of the Saudi budget.Saudi Arabia is one of the largest producers and exporters of oil in the world. The lucrative petroleum trade fostered sophisticated diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and the West, as well as Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Most industrialized nations depend on petroleum imports, and critics claim this allows Saudi Arabia to have an outsized role in some foreign policy decisions, especially those surrounding the Middle East.The discovery of oil also changed the demographics of the kingdom. Today, millions of foreign workers—from the U.S., India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and the Middle East—live and work in Saudi Arabia.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry demographic Adjective
having to do with the social characteristics and statistics of a population.
developed country Noun
a nation that has high levels of economic activity, health care, and education.
diplomatic relations Noun
the formal ties between nations.
to make a hole using a rotating digging tool.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
to form or officially organize.
good or service traded to another area.
foreign policy Noun
courses of action or thought that guide a nation's relationship with other nations.
to promote the growth or development of something.
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography holy Adjective
spiritually blessed or sacred.
to move to a new place.
good traded from another area.
to develop large-scale factories and plants (industry).
activity that produces goods and services.
structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.
type of government with a king or queen as its leader, or the land ruled by that king or queen.
Encyclopedic Entry: kingdom lucrative Adjective
profitable or money-making.
Middle East Noun
region of southwest Asia and northeast Africa.
to shed fur, skin, feathers, or other body covering.
having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.
having to do with a way of life lacking permanent settlement.
attentive and obedient to a custom, ritual, or rule of law.
fossil fuel formed from the remains of ancient organisms. Also called crude oil.
spiritual journey or travel to a sacred place.
place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.
Encyclopedic Entry: port radically Adverb
completely or extremely.
income, or money earned before production costs are subtracted.
knowledgeable or complex.
the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.