Different phases of Jeddah’s rich history under spotlight


  • the Red Sea port city was added to UNESCO’s World Hertitage Sites list in 2015

RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has published highlights of Jeddah’s heritage since the pre-Islamic era and the use of the city as a port for Makkah by Caliph Uthman ibn Affan in 647.
Darah documented the era’s buildings, neighborhoods, balconies and windows, found in the architecture of the “Historical Jeddah” area, on its Twitter account.
Those characteristics are still being appreciated, making Jeddah an open museum that was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 2014.
While documenting the establishment and unification of the Kingdom, Darah mentioned the arrival of King Abdul Aziz to Jeddah in 1925, where he stayed in the house of Nassif and used a council room and a prayer room next to Al-Hanafi Mosque.
The city became a large one and became the gate of the two holy mosques and the Kingdom’s first port.
Darah highlighted the area’s important heritage and historical sites and buildings such as historical mosques of unique architectural style, in addition to the city’s markets.
Jeddah’s wall was built by Hussein Al-Kurdi, one of the Mamluk princes, during his campaign to fortify the Red Sea against attacks by the Portuguese.
He equipped the wall with fortresses, towers and cannons to stop invading ships and dug a trench around the wall.
Darah noted that the wall, which was built with the help of Jeddah’s residents, had two doors, one from the side of Makkah and the other from the side of the Red Sea. It also had six towers each with 16 branches. Six doors were built — Bab Makkah, Bab Madinah, Bab Sharif, Bab Jadid, Bab Al-Bant and Bab Al-Magharibah — before Bab of Al-Siba was added at the beginning of this century.
The wall was torn down because it merged with the urban area in 1947.
The city was divided into several neighborhoods inside the perimeter of the wall called “Hara.” These were named according to their geographical location inside the city by the events that made them famous: Harat Al-Mazloum, Al-Sham, Al-Yaman, Al-Bahr and Al-Karantina.
The city’s residents built their houses from rocks they extracted from the 40th lake before modifying them by hand to fit according to their sizes next to the wood they brought from neighboring areas such as the Valley of Fatima or imported from other countries, mainly India.
They used the contents from the Sea of Mud to strengthen the structure.
These houses look a lot like modern cement buildings. Some of the famous buildings still found today are the houses of Al-Nassif, of Al-Jamjoum, Al-Baesh, Al-Kabel, Al-Banaja, Al-Azahed and Al-Sharbatli.
Darah also documented the most famous mosques in Jeddah’s historical area such as Al-Shafei Mosque, Uthman ibn Affan Mosque, Al-Basha Mosque, Akkash Mosque, Al-Memar Mosque, Al-Rahma Mosque, King Saud Mosque, Al-Jaffali Moque and Hassan Anani Mosque.
The old neighborhoods still carry a touch of the past and are surrounded by old handicraft and traditional shops. Significant public markets in the historical area include Al-Alawi Market, Kabel Market and Al-Nada Market.
Some of the most important specialized markets in Jeddah’s historical area are the fish market, also known as Al-Banqala, the vegetable and butcher’s market in Al-Nawariyyah at the end of Kabel Street, the large fabric market, Al-Khaskiyah, located behind Sheikh Mohammed Nassif’s house, Al-Nada Market, Al-Jami, named after Al-Shafei Mosque, Al-Hababa Market located in Bab Makkah, Al-Hiraj auction Market in Bab Sharif, Al-Badou (Bedouin) market in Bab Makkah, Al-Aser in Bab Sharif, Al-Baraghiyah, where donkey, mule and horse saddles were made, and Al-Sabhiyah in Al-Khaskiyah where prayer beads were made.
Jeddah was also known for its “Khanat” (“Al-Kaysariyah”) — markets made up of a number of small shops.
Some of the most important “Khanat” of Jeddah’s historical area are Khan Al-Hunud, Khan Al-Kasaba, where fabrics were sold, Khan Al-Dallalin and Khan Al-Attarin.
Jeddah’s traditions and its people still unite loved ones — residents decorate their houses with lights while others chant to welcome visitors.
These traditions represent Jeddah’s beauty on religious occasions such as the holy month of Ramadan, especially in the central historical area.

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Nafthah’ — an art exhibition on the history of oil in Saudi Arabia


  • Fourteen artists are participating in the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah”

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Culture will organize an extraordinary art exhibition that looks at the cultural impact that oil has left on the history of Saudi Arabia.

Scheduled on June 8 until July 18, 2019 at the historic Khuzam Palace in Jeddah, the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah” showcases the first oil exploration agreement between the Kingdom and the United States in 1933. Fourteen artists are participating in the exhibition dubbed “Nafthah”.

This discovery oil in the Kingdom resulted in a social and economic transformation that made Khuzam Palace a gateway to development.

The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight the Kingdom’s modern past in an innovative and fresh creative approach, where artists express their own reflections on this great history and their vision of the positive and cultural impact it has left on Saudi society.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Window on the past as ‘Red Palace’ exhibition opens in Jeddah


Fifteen Saudi and Arab artists will present interpretations of the historic oil deal signed between the Kingdom and US at Khuzam Palace in 1933, exploring the agreement’s social and cultural impact on the Kingdom. (SPA)

  • Groundbreaking display explores Riyadh palace’s historic role

JEDDAH: The “Red Palace” exhibition — a groundbreaking exploration of the Kingdom’s artistic, political and economic past — will open its doors in Jeddah following a three-month display at its historic namesake in Riyadh.

The exhibition will be on show at Khuzam Palace in Jeddah from June 8 to July 18.

Under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, the exhibition will include an artistic presentation on the history of the Red Palace, and its national and political importance in the Kingdom’s history.

Fifteen Saudi and Arab artists will present interpretations of the historic oil deal signed between the Kingdom and US at Khuzam Palace in 1933, exploring the agreement’s social and cultural impact on the Kingdom.


• The exhibition will include an artistic presentation on the history of the Red Palace, and its national and political importance in the Kingdom’s history.

• Artists will display innovative works based around oil, reflecting the identity of the Kingdom and the role played by oil products since the signing of the agreement.

• The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight various creative aspects of the Kingdom’s history.

• The event will be on show at Khuzam Palace in Jeddah from June 8 to July 18, 2019.

Khuzam Palace, the first residence of King Abdul Aziz, was chosen as the site for the “Red Palace” exhibition in recognition of its important role in the history of the Kingdom.

The exhibition celebrates the Red Palace, built by King Abdul Aziz in 1943 for his son King Saud in Riyadh.

The palace has had a pivotal role in the history of the Kingdom. It was King Saud’s official residence, where he hosted visitors to the Kingdom, ranging from Arab representatives to worldwide leaders.

The palace then became the headquarters of the Council of Ministers under the reign of King Faisal and then King Khalid and then the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.

The history of the Red Palace was used to create an innovative story reflecting the value of the palace in both social and national dimensions.

Artists will display innovative works based around oil, reflecting the identity of the Kingdom and the role played by oil products since the signing of the agreement.

The Ministry of Culture aims to highlight various creative aspects of the Kingdom’s history, with artists presenting their own interpretations and their vision of the impact on society.

The exhibition is divided into seven chapters, with art pieces displayed in different forms in 14 rooms.

In the first room (Chapter I) titled “Red Palace” is the piece “To Dust You Will Return.” In Chapter II, titled “1979,” are two pieces, “1979”and “Taqa.”


• The Red Palace was King Saud’s official residence, where he hosted visitors to the Kingdom, ranging from Arab representatives to worldwide leaders.

• The palace then became the headquarters of the Council of Ministers under the reign of King Faisal and then King Khalid and then the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.

• The history of the Red Palace was used to create an innovative story reflecting the value of the palace in both social and national dimensions.

Chapter III, titled “Labor Force,” includes “Labor Force 1: Trusteeship Trip,” “Labor Force 2: Preparing Dinner,” and “Labor Force 3: Polishing.”

Chapter IV is titled “Stormy Desert,” while the eighth room includes the piece “Distress.”

Chapter V includes many pieces such as “The Role of Bush,”  “Broken Phone” and “Confidence.” Chapter VI, titled “Dinner at the Palace,” includes “Dinner at the Palace” and “1440 m.” Finally, Chapter VII, titled “Praying Room,” includes a piece of the same name.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Masmak: Majestic fort in Riyadh opens a door on Saudi Arabia’s past

Time: June 05, 2019  

The museum will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • ‘Masmak’ in Arabic means high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s initiatives in consolidating Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s most important historical sites, Masmak Fort in Riyadh, will open its doors to visitors during Eid Al-Fitr.

The fort became a focal point in the history of the Arabian peninsula when it was stormed by the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, in 1902.

Now the magnificent citadel is home to a museum that has become an important historical destination.

“Masmak” in Arabic means high, fortified, thick and huge — important qualities for a fort that witnessed King Abdul Aziz’s initiatives in consolidating the Kingdom.

Nasser Al-Arifi, the museum’s director, invited residents to visit “this important milestone in the history of Saudi Arabia, depicting the struggles and efforts exerted by King Abdul Aziz to unite this great entity.”

The museum contains photographs, maps, models, display cabinets, old weapons, heritage objects, and exhibition and audiovisual halls. It will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight during Eid Al-Fitr, with a wide range of programs, events and activities aimed at visitors.

Masmak Fort is a tourist favorite and a must-visit destination in the Saudi capital. Many of the Kingdom’s most important historical artifacts are found here.

The fort has become virtually an official symbol of the rise of the Saudi nation, capturing the feel of old Arabia and the struggle that led to the modern Saudi state.

Visitors can find traditional dresses and crafts, a diwan with an open courtyard, functioning well, and a mosque as well as several other attractions.

This article was first published in Arab News

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A look back at 50 years of OIC as it meets in Makkah for Islamic Summit

Time: May 30, 2019  

Family photo from the 13th OIC ordinary summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016 shows the heads of state and government who attended it. (AFP)
  • Makkah summit aims to build on highlighting Palestinian issue and unifying Islamic position on key issues
  • The OIC first met after an arson attack inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1969

JEDDAH: From defending Palestinian rights to taking a unified stand on threats against member states, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — the world’s second-largest inter-governmental body after the UN — has been making a difference in the Muslim world for the last 50 years.

The Islamic Summit in Makkah on Friday will be the organization’s 14th ordinary summit, and will be attended by kings and heads of state and government of the OIC’s 57 member countries.

The OIC first met a month after an arson attack inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Aug. 21, 1969.

An Australian tourist had set fire to a structure in the main Al-Qibly Mosque, destroying the 800-year-old pulpit of Saladin.

Reacting to the incident, representatives from 24 Islamic states gathered in Rabat, Morocco, from Sept. 22 to 25 for the first Islamic Summit, marking the birth of the OIC.

Saudi Arabia’s late King Faisal arriving in September 1969 at the Islamic Summit in Rabat, where the OIC was established. (Getty Images)

The next year, the first ever meeting of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) was convened in Jeddah, and a decision was taken to establish a permanent secretariat in the Saudi city, headed by the OIC’s secretary-general.

The summit in Rabat was attended by representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with observer status.

The attendees pledged their adherence to the UN Charter and condemned Israel for the Al-Aqsa arson attack.

The second Islamic Summit was convened in February 1974 in Lahore, Pakistan, after a gap of five years.

Representatives from nearly 35 countries attended, proclaiming that “the solidarity of the Islamic peoples is based not on hostility towards any other human communities nor on distinctions of race and culture.”

The Lahore gathering called on OIC member states to sever all relations with Israel in favor of Islamic solidarity.

Seven years later, in January 1981, Saudi Arabia hosted the third Islamic Summit, known as the “Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif Session,” from which Iran and Libya stayed away.

The final declaration read: “All Muslims form one nation of moderation, rejecting alignment to any and all blocs and ideologies, steadfastly refusing to surrender to divisive influences or to conflicts of interests.”

Convened against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the summit in Jeddah expressed its deep concern over Cold War developments, and renewed its call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.

A crowd watches as firefighters put out a fire in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque in August 1969. (Getty Images)

The delegates decided that OIC member states would contribute at least $3 billion for the creation of an Islamic World Development Program.

The Saudi crown prince at the time, Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, declared a grant of $1 billion by the Kingdom for its implementation.

In January 1984, Morocco hosted the fourth Islamic Summit in Casablanca at the invitation of King Hassan II, with representatives from 42 member states and international organizations, notably the UN and Arab League, in attendance.

The summit reaffirmed its commitment to the principles on which a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict was to be based: Israel’s withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967, and the restoration of the Palestinians’ national rights, including their right of return and right to self-determination.

Three years later, in January 1987, Kuwait hosted the fifth Islamic Summit. The four-day meeting, attended by 44 member states, condemned the US for its support for Israel. With “Al-Quds Al-Sharif, Concord and Unity” as the theme, Senegal hosted the sixth Islamic Summit in Dakar in December 1991.

In the Dakar declaration, participants reaffirmed their “resolve to face the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967; as well their determination to continue to reject and oppose the pursuit of Israeli plans and practices.”

The Islamic Summit returned to Casablanca for its seventh session in December 1994. The session, which coincided with the OIC’s 25th anniversary, was attended by 49 member states and international organizations.

At this gathering, delegates pledged to correct the image of Islam, referring to the spirit of “jihad” based on general principles of Shariah law.

The Palestinian issue also featured prominently at the summit, with participants voicing their support for the PLO in its struggle for Palestinian rights.

The delegates condemned Serbia’s aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina, its non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and its rejection of the Five-Nation Peace Plan.

The eighth session was convened under the patronage of Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s then-president, in December 1997, with “Dignity, Dialogue, Participation” as the theme.

The summit in Tehran was attended by 53 member states and inaugurated by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Large contributions were made by several Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia alone giving $10 million for OIC activities and institutions.

The ninth Islamic Summit was convened in Doha, Qatar, in November 2000, with the theme “Peace and Development: Al-Aqsa Intifada.”

It was attended by 52 member states, with Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Thailand participating as observers, and Russian President Vladimir Putin taking part in the opening session.

Against the backdrop of the US invasion of Iraq, the 10th Islamic Summit was convened in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in October 2003.

A Palestinian helped by a paramedic out of her building damaged by an Israeli air raid on Gaza City on Nov. 19, 2012.  (AFP)

Delegates strongly condemned threats by the Israeli government against then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and appealed to the international community to force Israel to respect UN resolutions.

The summit strongly condemned the terrorist bombing of the Jordanian and Turkish embassies and the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and of holy sites in the Iraqi city of Najaf.

It also rejected “unfounded campaigns and allegations against Saudi Arabia,” and called for their end.

The summit expressed solidarity with, and support for, the Kingdom, and its backing of all Saudi efforts to fight terrorism.

The Islamic Summit returned to Dakar in December 2005 for its 11th session, where leaders pledged that their governments would do whatever it would take to make contributions amounting to $10 billion to the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development, which was established under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

In 2013, the 12th Islamic Summit was convened in Cairo, Egypt, with the participation of 56 member states along with a number of international and regional organizations.

Participants condemned the Israeli assault of November 2012 on the Gaza Strip, and the policy of collectively punishing the Palestinian people, particularly Israel’s blockade of the enclave.

The last Islamic Summit before the upcoming one in Makkah was held in April 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

There, delegates reaffirmed their commitment to the OIC’s central purpose: The Palestinian cause and the preservation of Haram Al-Sharif as an Islamic site.

They expressed concern for Muslim refugees who had to leave their home countries, notably Syria, due to armed conflicts and oppression. They also decried the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Western countries.

This article was first published in Arab News

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A man and his dog — bonded through Arab history


  • The image is the earliest evidence for the use of leashes to control dogs, with the earliest records previously found in Egypt, dating from 5,500 years ago

JEDDAH: Recent engravings discovered in northwestern Saudi Arabia depicting a man with a pack of hunting dogs are thought to be among the oldest records of man domesticating animals in the world.
Estimated to date back more than 9,000 years, the engravings, found at Shuwaymis and Jubbah, show a man drawing his bow and arrow surrounded by thirteen dogs, each with unique coat markings, and two on leads.
The area is home to over 1,400 rock carving panels, but these are now considered to be the crown jewel for the subject they convey, according to Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, which is overseeing the site in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
Despite the fact that Guagnin and her team cannot precisely date the panel, the condition of the rock and the sequence of the engraving suggest they date back at least nine millennia. However, there remains conflict over when domesticated dogs first arrived on the Arabian peninsula, and whether these animals were descended from the Arabian wold, or dogs tamed by other peoples abroad, somewhere between 15,000 to 30,000 years ago.
Certainly, the image is the earliest evidence for the use of leashes to control dogs, with the earliest records previously found in Egypt, dating from 5,500 years ago.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province palaces tell tales of its rich past

Time: January 02, 2019

1 / 2
The palace includes several military watchtowers. (Supplied)
  • Experts believe these palaces played a significant role in the early history of the Kingdom
  • Archaeological expert Wael Hassan explained that the palace barriers include a number of lookout points that offer a view over the entire region and small openings for guns and canons

JEDDAH: The first Emara Palace, built more than 65 years ago, symbolizes the rich history of the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, home to many archaeological and historical sites that have attracted visitors for years.
Formerly known as Saleh Islam Palace, it is one of the most significant landmarks in the region, in addition to the citadel in Dammam.
The palace, which spans an area the size of a football field, bears Gulf architecture typical of the time, making it a symbol of the region’s cultural heritage.
What distinguishes the five-story palace is the large, intricately decorated columns that decorate the structure from outside.
Abdullatif Al-Bunyan, director of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) for the Eastern Province, said foreign delegations are officially hosted at the palace. The palace’s headquarters was moved from the Al-Ahsa region to Dammam, making it the city’s official landmark.

Ibrahim Palace in Hofuf
Built almost 500 years ago, Ibrahim Palace in Hofuf is one of Al-Ahsa region’s most significant landmarks.
Spanning an impressive 16,500 square meters, the palace combines modern and Islamic architectural styles typical of the time.
The palace includes several military watchtowers. It was said to have been renamed after Ibrahim bin Afysan, an architect who renovated the palace in 1801.
Its local imprint lies in the domes and arches that characterize its ceilings.

The palace has come to symbolize the financial wealth of the region, being built along a vital commercial route that connects with the rest of the world.
King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud added a new dimension to the palace when he ruled Al-Ahsa in 1913.
He fortified the structure with Islamic domes and huge, military-style towers, as well as soldiers’ barracks in the palace’s eastern wing.
The walls are a mixture of local mud and straw, while the roofs are made of the trunks of palm trees, wood and stone.
The palace also has a mosque depicted by several domes and a minaret with a spiral, stone-built staircase. It has a huge wooden gate with a wooden key to one side, while the muezzin’s room (a room from which someone calls for prayer) is decorated with wooden shutters.
The palace includes a service pavilion, horse stables, bedrooms for officers, an ammunition depot, toilets and several towers with communications rooms.
The palace is also characterized by barracks for Al-Ahsa’s soldiers of the time. In the middle of these barracks is a central commanding cabin with a double staircase, which is only used by officers and administrators. In fact, the commanding cabin is located in the middle of the palace’s eastern wing and divided into four rooms with two reception halls. The cabin overlooks the entirety of the palace and can only be accessed through guards. The two rooms located on the top floor have their own staircases.
Archaeological expert Wael Hassan explained that the palace barriers include a number of lookout points that offer a view over the entire region and small openings for guns and canons.
In the middle of the palace is a large hall that enabled soldiers to look down the fence for intruders.
Hassan pointed out that the palace has undergone several restorations in recent decades to preserve its architectural style. He said that the palace was opened to visitors and that the SCTH continues to holds conferences and seminars inside the palace to raise awareness about the region’s history and archaeology.

This article was first published in Arab News

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History of Saudi Arabia

Time: December 31, 2018

History of Saudi Arabia – Wikipedia

The history of Saudi Arabia in its current form as a state began with its foundation in 1744, although the human history of the region extends as far as 20,000 years ago. The region has had a global impact twice in world history:

  1. In the 7th century it became the cradle of Islam and the capital of the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate.[citation needed]
  2. From the mid-20th century the discovery of vast oil deposits propelled it into a key economic and geo-political role.[citation needed]

At other times, the region existed in relative obscurity and isolation, although from the 7th century the cities of Mecca andMedina had the highest spiritual significance for the Muslim world, with Mecca becoming the destination for the Hajj pilgrimage, an obligation, at least once in a believer’s lifetime, if at all possible.[1]

For much of the region’s history a patchwork of tribal rulers controlled most of the area. The Al Saud (the Saudi royal family) emerged as minor tribal rulers in Najd in central Arabia. Over the following 150 years, the extent of the Al Saud territory fluctuated. However, between 1902 and 1927, the Al Saud leader, Abdulaziz, carried out a series of wars of conquest which resulted in his establishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1930.

From 1930 until his death in 1953, Abdulaziz ruled Saudi Arabia as an absolute monarchy. Thereafter six of his sons in succession have reigned over the kingdom:

  1. Saud, the immediate successor of Abdulaziz, faced opposition from most in the royal family and was eventually deposed.
  2. Faisal replaced Saud in 1964. Until his murder by a nephew in 1975, Faisal presided over a period of growth and modernization fueled by oil wealth. Saudi Arabia’s role in the 1973 oil crisis and, the subsequent rise in the price of oil, dramatically increased the country’s political significance and wealth.
  3. Khalid, Faisal’s successor, reigned during the first major signs of dissent: Islamist extremists temporarily seized control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.
  4. Fahd became king in 1982 – during his reign Saudi Arabia became the largest oil producer in the world. However, internal tensions increased when the country allied itself with the United States, and others, in theGulf War of 1991. In the early 2000s, the Islamicist opposition to the regime carried out a series of terroristattacks.
  5. Abdullah succeeded Fahd in 2005. He instituted a number of mild reforms to modernize many of the country’s institutions and, to some extent, increased political participation.
  6. Salman became king in 2015

Pre-Islamic Arabia[edit]

There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula dates back to about 63,000 years ago.[2][3]

Archaeology has revealed some early settled civilizations: theDilmun civilization on the east of the Arabian Peninsula,Thamud north of the Hejaz, and Kindah kingdom and Al-Magar civilization in the central of Arabian Peninsula. The earliest known events in Arabian history are migrations from the peninsula into neighbouring areas.[4]

There is also evidence from Timna (Israel) and Tell el-Kheleifeh (Jordan) that the local Qurayya/Midianite pottery originated within the Hejaz region of NW Saudi Arabia, which suggests that the biblical Midianites originally came from the Hejaz region of NW Saudi Arabia before expanding into Jordan and Southern Israel.[5][6]

The spread of Islam[edit]

Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was born in Mecca in about 570 and first began preaching in the city in 610, but migratedto Medina in 622. From there, he and his companions united the tribes of Arabia under the banner of Islam and created a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the Arabian Peninsula.

Following Muhammad’s death in 632, Abu Bakr became leader of the Muslims as the first Caliph. After putting down a rebellion by the Arab tribes (known as the Ridda wars, or “Wars of Apostasy”), Abu Bakr attacked the Byzantine Empire. On his death in 634, he was succeeded by Umar as caliph, followed by Uthman ibn al-Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib. The period of these first four caliphs is known as the Rashidun or “rightly guided” Caliphate (al-khulafā’ ar-rāshidūn). Under the Rashidun Caliphs, and, from 661, their Umayyad successors, the Arabs rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim control outside of Arabia. In a matter of decades Muslim armies decisively defeated the Byzantine army and destroyed thePersian Empireconquering huge swathes of territory from theIberian peninsula to India. The political focus of the Muslim world then shifted to the newly conquered territories.[7][8]

Nevertheless, Mecca and Medina remained the spiritually most important places in the Muslim world. The Quranrequires every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, as one of the five pillars of Islam, to make a pilgrimage, or Hajj, toMecca during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah at least once in his or her lifetime.[9] The Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Mecca is the location of the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, and the Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) inMedina is the location of Muhammad tomb; as a result, from the 7th century, Mecca and Medina became the pilgrimage destinations for large numbers of Muslims from across theMuslim world.[10]

Umayyad and Abbasid periods[edit]

After the fall of the Umayyad empire in 750 CE, most of what was to become Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule soon after the initial Muslim conquests, and remained a shifting patchwork of tribes and tribal emirates and confederations of varying durability.[11][12]

Muawiyah I, the first Umayyad caliph, took an interest in his native Mecca, erecting buildings and digging wells.[13] Under his Marwanids successors, Mecca became the abode of poets and musicians. Even then, Medina eclipsed Mecca in importance for much of the Umayyad period, as it was home to the new Muslim aristocracy.[13] Under Yazid I, the revolt ofAbd Allah bin al-Zubair brought Syrian troops to Mecca.[13] An accident led to a fire that destroyed the Kaaba, which was rebuilt by Ibn al-Zubair.[13] In 747, a Kharidjit rebel from Yemen seized Mecca unopposed, but he was soon defeated by Marwan II.[13] In 750, Mecca, along with the rest of the caliphate, was passed to the Abbasids.[13]

Sharifate of Mecca[edit]

The Arabian Peninsula in 1914

From the 10th century (and, in fact, until the 20th century) theHashemite Sharifs of Mecca maintained a state in the most developed part of the region, the Hejaz. Their domain originally comprised only the holy cities of Mecca and Medinabut in the 13th century it was extended to include the rest of the Hejaz. Although the Sharifs exercised at most times independent authority in the Hejaz, they were usually subject to the suzerainty of one of the major Islamic empires of the time. In the Middle Ages, these included the Abbasids ofBaghdad, and the FatimidsAyyubids and Mamluks of Egypt.[11]

Ottoman Era[edit]

Beginning with Selim I’s acquisition of Medina and Mecca in 1517, the Ottomans, in the 16th century, added to their Empire the Hejaz and Asir regions along the Red Sea and the Al Hasaregion on the Persian Gulf coast, these being the most populous parts of what was to become Saudi Arabia. They also laid claim to the interior, although this remained a rather nominal suzerainty. The degree of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the Empire’s central authority. In the Hejaz, theSharifs of Mecca were largely left in control of their territory (although there would often be an Ottoman governor and garrison in Mecca). On the eastern side of the country, theOttomans lost control of the Al Hasa region to Arab tribes in the 17th century but regained it again in the 19th century. Throughout the period, the interior remained under the rule of a large number of petty tribal rulers in much the same way as it had in previous centuries.[14]

Rise of Wahhabism and the first Saudi state[edit]

Arabia in the 19th century

Second Saudi State
Second Saudi State



realm 1830-1921, at its greatest extent

The emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. In that year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the tribal ruler of the town of Ad-Dir’iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab,[15] the founder of the Wahhabi movement.[16] This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control of the peninsula.[3][11]

The first Saudi State was established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia through conquests made between 1786 and 1816; these included Mecca and Medina.[17]Concerned at the growing power of the Saudis, the OttomanSultan, Mustafa IV, instructed his viceroy in Egypt,Mohammed Ali Pasha, to reconquer the area. Ali sent his sonsTusun Pasha and Ibrahim Pasha who were eventually successful in routing the Saudi forces in 1818 and destroyed the power of the Al Saud.[3][11]

Return to Ottoman domination[edit]

The Al Saud returned to power in 1824 but their area of control was mainly restricted to the Saudi heartland of the Najdregion, known as the second Saudi state. However, their rule in Najd was soon contested by new rivals, the Rashidis ofHa’il. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Al Saud and the Al Rashid fought for control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia. By 1891, the Al Saud were conclusively defeated by the Al Rashid, who drove the Saudis into exile inKuwait.[3][11][11][18]

Meanwhile, in the Hejaz, following the defeat of the first Saudi State, the Egyptians continued to occupy the area until 1840. After they left, the Sharifs of Mecca reasserted their authority, albeit with the presence of an Ottoman governor and garrison.[11]

Arab Revolt[edit]

By the early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers (including the Al Saud who had returned from exile in 1902 – see below) with the Sharif of Mecca having preeminence and ruling the Hejaz.[11][14][19]

In 1916, with the encouragement and support of Britain and France[20] (which were fighting the Ottomans in the World War I), the sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire with the aim of securing Arab independence and creating a single unified Arab state spanning the Arab territories from Aleppo in Syria to Aden inYemen.

Soldiers in the Arab Army during the Arab Revolt of 1916–1918, carrying the

Flag of the Arab Revolt

and pictured in the Arabian Desert.

The Arab army comprised bedouin and others from across the peninsula, but not the Al Saud and their allied tribes who did not participate in the revolt partly because of a long-standing rivalry with the Sharifs of Mecca and partly because their priority was to defeat the Al Rashid for control of the interior. Nevertheless, the revolt played a part in the Middle-Eastern Front and tied down thousands of Ottoman troops thereby contributing to the Ottomans’ World War I defeat in 1918.[11][21]

However, with the subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, the British and French reneged on promises to Hussein to support a pan-Arab state. Although Hussein was acknowledged as King of the Hejaz, Britain later shifted support to the Al Saud, leaving him diplomatically and militarily isolated. The revolt, therefore, failed in its objective to create a pan-Arab state but Arabia was freed from Ottoman suzerainty and control.[21]


In 1902, Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, leader of the Al Saud, returned from exile in Kuwait to resume the conflict with the Al Rashid, and seized Riyadh – the first of a series of conquests ultimately leading to the creation of the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1930. The main weapon for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan, the Wahhabist-Bedouin tribal army led by Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibi and Faisal al-Duwaish.[18][22][23]

By 1906, Abdulaziz had driven the Al Rashid out of Najd and the Ottomans recognized him as their client in Najd. His next major acquisition was Al-Hasa, which he took from the Ottomans in 1913, bringing him control of the Persian Gulfcoast and what would become Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves. He avoided involvement in the Arab Revolt, having acknowledged Ottoman suzerainty in 1914, and instead continued his struggle with the Al Rashid in northern Arabia. In 1920, the Ikhwan’s attention turned to the south-west, when they seized Asir, the region between the Hejaz and Yemen. In the following year, Abdul-Aziz finally defeated the Al Rashid and annexed all northern Arabia.[12][18]

Prior to 1923, Abdulaziz had not risked invading the Hejaz because Hussein bin Ali, King of the Hejaz, was supported by Britain. However, in that year, the British withdrew their support. At a conference in Riyadh in July 1924 complaints were stated against the Hejaz; principally that pilgrimage from Najd was prevented and it boycotted the implementation of certain public policy in contravention of shari’a. Ikhwan units were massed on a large scale for the first time, and under Khalid bin Lu’ayy and Sultan bin Bajad rapidly advanced on Mecca and plundered it, laying waste to symbols of “heathen” practices.[24] The Ikhwan completed their conquest of the Hejaz by the end of 1925. On 10 January 1926 Abdulaziz declared himself King of the Hejaz and, then, on 27 January 1927 he took the title King of Najd (his previous title was Sultan). The use of the Ikhwan to effect the conquest had important consequences for the Hejaz: The old cosmopolitan society was uprooted, and a radical version of Wahhabi culture was imposed as a new compulsory social order.[25]

By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on 20 May 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul-Aziz’s realm (then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Najd).[12][18] After the conquest of the Hejaz, the Ikhwan leaders wanted to continue the expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of TransjordanIraq and Kuwait. Abdul-Aziz, however, refused to agree to this, recognizing the danger of a direct conflict with the British. The Ikhwan therefore revoltedbut were defeated in the Battle of Sabilla in 1929, and the Ikhwan leadership were massacred.[26]

In 1930, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Najd were united as the ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’.[18][22] Boundaries with Transjordan, Iraq, and Kuwait were established by a series of treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two “neutral zones” created, one with Iraq and the other with Kuwait. The country’s southern boundary with Yemen was partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Ta’if, which ended a brief border war between the two states.[27]

Modern history[edit]

Abdulaziz’s military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in 1938 in the Al-Hasa region along the Persian Gulf coast. Development began in 1941 and by 1949 production was in full swing.

In February 1945, King Abdul Aziz met President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal. An historic handshake agreeing on supplying oil to the USA in exchange for guaranteed protection to the Saudi regime is still in force today. It has survived seven Saudi Kings and twelve US presidents.

Abdulaziz died in 1953. King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in 1953. Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of political leverage in the international community. At the same time, the government became increasingly wasteful and lavish. Despite the new wealth, extravagant spending led to governmental deficits and foreign borrowing in the 1950s.[12][28][29]

However, by the early 1960s an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother, Prince Faisal emerged, fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud’s competence. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964.[12]

The mid-1960s saw external pressures generated by Saudi-Egyptian differences over Yemen. When civil war broke out in 1962 between Yemeni royalists and republicans, Egyptian forces entered Yemen to support the new republican government, while Saudi Arabia backed the royalists. Tensions subsided only after 1967, when Egypt withdrew its troops from Yemen. Saudi forces did not participate in the Six-Day (Arab-Israeli) War of June 1967, but the government later provided annual subsidies to EgyptJordan, and Syria to support their economies.[12][30]

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia participated in the Arab oil boycott of the United States and Netherlands. A member of the OPEC, Saudi Arabia had joined other member countries in moderate oil price increases beginning in 1971. After the 1973 war, the price of oil rose substantially, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia’s wealth and political influence.[12]

Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musaid,[31] and was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid during whose reign economic and social development continued at an extremely rapid rate, revolutionizing the infrastructure and educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with the US were developed.

In 1979, two events occurred which the Al Saud perceived as threatening the regime, and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic revolution. There were several anti-government riots in the region in 1979 and 1980. The second event was theseizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of theSaudi regime.[12][28][29][32] Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of Islamic and traditional Saudi norms. Islamism continued to grow in strength.[12][28][29][32]

King Khalid died in June 1982.[12] Khalid was succeeded by his brother King Fahd in 1982, who maintained Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy of close cooperation with the United States and increased purchases of sophisticated military equipment from the United States and Britain.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia joined the anti-Iraq Coalition. King Fahd, fearing an attack from Iraq, invited American and Coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. Saudi troops and aircraft took part in the subsequent military operations.

In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince, Prince Abdullah assumed day-to-day responsibility for the government. In 2003, Saudi Arabia refused to support the US and its allies in the invasion of Iraq.[12] Terrorist activitywithin Saudi Arabia increased dramatically in 2003, with theRiyadh compound bombings and other attacks, which prompted the government to take more stringent action against terrorism.[32]

In 2005, King Fahd died and his half-brother, Abdullah, ascended to the throne. Despite growing calls for change, the king has continued the policy of moderate reform.[33] King Abdullah has pursued a policy of limited deregulation, privatization and seeking foreign investment. In December 2005, following 12 years of talks, the World Trade Organization gave the green light to Saudi Arabia’s membership.[34]

On 23 January 2015, King Abdullah died and was succeeded by King Salman.

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IN PICTURES: Six doors of Ka’aba over 5,000 years

Time: December 26, 2018  

The current door was ordered by King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz to be made of gold by the jeweler Ahmed bin Ibrahim Badr. (Supplied)

Since Abraham built al-Ka’ba and called for Hajj 5,000 years ago, its doors have been of interest to kings and rulers throughout the history of Mecca.

Historians say that when it was first built, the Kaaba had no door or roof and was simply made of walls. The first person to build a door for al-Kaaba was King Tubba, long before Prophet Mohammed, according to historians and what Ibn Hisham said in his biography.

What confirms this is what al-Arzaqi mentioned in Kitab Akhbar Makka (Book of Reports about Makka) about Ibn Jarir al-Tabari saying: “It was claimed that Tubba was the first to cover al-Kaaba, and that he instructed the leaders of Jurhum tribe to maintain its purgation and make a door and a key for it.”

The door made by Tubba, which was made of wood, remained in place throughout the pre-Islamic era and the early Islamic era. It was not changed till Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr made an 11-arms-long door.

The door’s changes

Historians say that after changing the door in the year 64 AH, and as it corroded throughout the time and during the era of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, the door was remade into its original height of six arms.

In 1045 AH, the door was changed again. Silver ornaments that weigh up to 200 pounds were added and the door was painted with gold. This was done in the era of Murad IV. It was the first door to have silver and gold in it and it remained that way until the year 1356 AH.

Tours around the world

The oldest Ka’ba door is one of the Kingdom’s masterpieces that tours the world as historical and archaeological pieces, as the Saudi General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage works on introducing Saudi Arabia’s history and civilization to the world.

The door is now in the Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi, as one of the rare pieces. The door dates back to 1045 AH, and it is the fourth door for al-Kaaba after the doors of Tubba, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf.

The door was divided into two parts with geometrical decorations on it. Special type of metal plates of high quality and resistance to climates were used in manufacturing the door; which is the reason of the durability for more than 300 years on al-Kaaba’s Eastern wall.

Doors in the Saudi era

Three centuries later, founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz al-Saud, got a new door made in 1363 AH, from his own money, after he was informed that the door had started to shake. This is mentioned in one of the historical documents of King Abdulaziz publishing house.

It took three years to build this door, which had a metal base, with two wooden shutters fixed on its surface. It was decorated with silver and copper and plated with gold.

The last door

The current door was ordered by King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz to be made of gold by jeweler Ahmed bin Ibrahim Badr.

The amount of gold used in the doors is about 280 kg with quality of 99.99. Its total cost was 13 million 420 thousand Saudi riyals, excluding the gold.

Its manufacturing started in 1398 AH and took 12 months.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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