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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. The Najd plateau forms the center of the country, while deserts cover its northern and southern parts, the Hijaz mountain range its western coast, and coastal lowlands its eastern coast. Despite a mostly hot and arid climate that accounts for a lack of permanent rivers and lakes, scattered oases dot the territory and periodic rainfalls bring humidity. The area witnessed the emergence of early ancient civilizations but has been especially significantly marked by the birth of Islam on its soil. Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest cities of Islam—Mecca and Medina—and Islam lays the foundations of its legal system exemplified in, among others, gender segregation, conservative female dress, and a complete ban on ...

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