Saudi Arabia has always been a place where the world meets, mostly due to it being home to some of Islam’s holiest cities. Although the country is mostly ethnically Arab (the majority of whom are Bedouins), throughout its history its population has always comprised a diversity of ethnicities as well.
A closer look and you will see that a Saudi Arabian can be ethnic Arab, Persian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian. In fact, an estimated 10 perfect of the population are of African descent, as reported by Arab News. Living mainly in the western region of the Kingdom, particularly in Mecca, many trace their roots to Chad, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Djibouti, and Nigeria.
It is also reported that many Saudis can trace their lineage to Turkey from the time of the Ottoman empire. In addition, there is a significant part of the population who have Central Asian ancestry, many of them arriving after the Soviet occupation of their countries and today known to the people of the Hejaz region as Bukharis.
In a recent study by the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, the geographical and social structure in the paternal lineages of Saudi Arabia were examined. Results showed high diversity in seaside cities in both the eastern and western regions.
As with every nation that has an ethnically diverse population, Saudi Arabia today is working on ensuring that its diversity remains a harmonious one. Last year, the Kingdom’s Shoura Council began studying a 13-article draft law that criminalizes discrimination “against individuals and groups because of their skin color, gender, ethnicity or sect, and outlaws the spread of tribal, regional, sectarian, political and ideological prejudices.”
Speaking to Arab News at the time, Dima Talal Al-Sharif of the law firm Majed M. Garoub, said, “This regulation is currently being studied by the Islamic affairs committee at the Shoura in order to launch it very soon […] And under article 3 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, defamation and inflicting damage upon others through social media are punishable by imprisonment for up to a year up and/or a fine of up to 500,000 riyals.”s