Dubai is often noted as being unique for its large proportion of foreign residents. By some accounts more than 90% of the metropolitan population is foreign. This is not unique to Dubai, or even the UAE — for decades, Saudi Arabia has imported workers, and at present about 5.5 million of the 27 million people living in the country are foreigners — 23% of the total population. Many people are surprised to hear this because of the Kingdom is so strictly conservative. Alcohol is forbidden, women cannot drive, and even property crimes can be punished by flogging, amputation, and execution.
Nonetheless, millions of foreigners live in the country, and many have actually naturalized as Saudi citizens and culturally feel (and are accepted as) Arabs. In 2004, the law was modernized to allow anyone who has lived in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship, with priority being given to those with degrees in various scientific fields. In Dubai I have met a person of Pakistani descent who was born in Saudi Arabia and who naturalized as a Saudi under this law. Officially, such persons must also be Muslims, although this is not reportedly the case for all who are granted citizenship.
This option to naturalize is available to citizens of all countries, with only one exception — Palestinians. As many as a quarter of a million Palestinians live in Saudi Arabia, but they are prohibited to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship because of Arab League instructions barring Arab states from granting them citizenship in order “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.”
This seems rather tragic to me — that a people who are by their heritage Arab, who speak the language fluently, who are born and raised in Saudi Arabia, are nevertheless banned from merely submitting an application for Saudi citizenship — and indeed, if the application of this rule is universal, citizenship anywhere else in the Arab world. Don’t expect any changes from the Saudi regime if you want to criticize that, they don’t take kindly to outside comments on their legal system.