Saudi Arabia profile
Head of state, prime minister: King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud
Saudi Arabia has been ruled since its foundation by the Al Saud dynasty. King Abdullah succeeded the late King Fahd, his half-brother, in August 2005.
As crown prince, Abdullah had been the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia since King Fahd suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s.
He became heir to the throne in 1982, commanded the powerful National Guard and rapidly rose to be was the most influential figure in the country. His son, Mutib, is deputy commander of the National Guard.
Abdullah is said to have forged alliances with other members of the ruling family to offset the influence of his seven half-brothers. The latter "Sudairi Seven" are the most powerful bloc within the ruling family.
He has a reputation for incorruptibility and won respect for his drive to stamp out graft. He has favoured some reforms, balanced with a respect for Saudi traditions in order to defuse potentially explosive tensions.
One of his responses to the Arab Spring has been to use financial sweeteners in an effort to keep the Saudi people happy. He also promised Saudi women the vote in future elections to municipal councils, the highest elected bodies in the country, and in 2013 he appointed 30 woman to the consultative 150-member Shura Council.
King Abdullah is believed to have been born in 1924. He received a traditional religious education and is close to the Saudi tribal way of life, often spending periods of time in the desert. But he has never shared the severely puritanical view of Islam of his country's Wahhabi religious establishment.
The King has already outlived two of his crown princes. Conservative Interior Minister Prince Nayef was named heir to the throne on the death of Prince Sultan in October 2011, but Prince Nayef himself died in June 2012.
King Abdullah then named the more liberal 76-year-old defence minister, Prince Salman, as crown prince.