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Saudi Arabia, Population

The resident population of Saudi Arabia is composed mainly (82 percent) of Arabs whose ancestors have lived in the area for many centuries. A substantial minority (13 percent) consists of Yemenis and other Arabs who came to Saudi Arabia after the 1950s because of the economic opportunities the country afforded. Nomads, known as Bedouins, make up a declining proportion of the population, and the number of settled residents has also decreased. In the early 1990s, 27 percent of the people in the country were nonresident foreign workers, primarily from Asia and Africa. By 2000 an estimated 86 percent of the population was urban. The national language is Arabic. Virtually all Saudis are Muslims. The great majority are of the Sunni sect, although some Shia Muslims live in the east (Sunni Islam; Shia Islam). The Wahhabi sect, comprised of reformers who settled in Arabia during the 18th century and who have sought to purify and simplify the practice of Islam, has greatly influenced the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia.

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