Table of Contents
ALSO BY ROBERT LACEY
Robert, Earl of Essex
The Queens of the North Atlantic
Sir Walter Ralegh
God Bless Her!
The Year 1000
The Queen Mother’s Century
Monarch: The Life and Reign of Queen Elizabeth II
Great Tales from English History: Cheddar Man to the Peasants’ Revolt
Great Tales from English History: Chaucer to the Glorious Revolution
Great Tales from English History: The Battle of the Boyne to DNA
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First published in 2009 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Robert Lacey, 2009
All rights reserved
Photograph credits appear on page 403.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Inside the Kingdom : kings, clerics, modernists, terrorists, and the struggle for Saudi Arabia / Robert Lacey.
Sequel to: The Kingdom. New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982, c1981.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14073-4
1. Saudi Arabia—History—1932- 2. Saudi Arabia—Politics and government—1982- 3. Saudi Arabia—Social
conditions. 4. Saudi Arabia—Description and travel. 5. Lacey, Robert—Travel—Saudi Arabia. I. Lacey, Robert. The
Kingdom. II. Title.
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To Faiza, Fawzia, Ghada, Hala, Hatoon, Maha, Najat,
and all the mothers of Saudi Arabia
And to the memory of my own mother,
Vida Lacey (1913 -2008)
Welcome to the Kingdom
n theory Saudi Arabia should not exist—its survival defies the laws of logic and history. Look at its princely rulers, dressed in funny clothes, trusting in God rather than man, and running their oil-rich country on principles that most of the world has abandoned with relief. Shops are closed for prayer five times a day, executions take place in the street—and let us not even get started on the status of women. Saudi Arabia is one of the planet’s enduring—and, for some, quite offensive—enigmas: which is why, three decades ago, I went to live there for a bit.
It was 1979. I had just published
my biography of Elizabeth II, which recounted the paradoxical flourishing of an ancient monarchy in an increasingly populist world. Now I was in search of more paradox, and it was not hard to find in Riyadh. After many a morning sipping glasses of sweet tea in the office of the chief of protocol, I finally secured an audience with King Khaled, the shy and fragile old monarch who had become the Kingdom’s stopgap ruler following the assassination of his half brother Faisal in 1975. (The five Saudi monarchs who have ruled the Kingdom since 1953 have all been half brothers, with more than a dozen brothers and half brothers, not to mention their sons, still waiting in the wings—see the family tree on page xxiv.)
In the weeks of tea sipping I had given much thought to the important question of what I might
the king. What could I offer to the man who had—or could have—just about anything? I had decided on photographs. Before coming to the Kingdom, I had read the papers of the earliest British travelers to Arabia, intrepid servants of His Majesty’s imperial government who had trekked across the desert sands in the early decades of the twentieth century in their solar helmets and khaki puttees. A surprising number had loaded their camels with the heavy wood-and-brass cameras of the time, complete with fragile glass plates and portable darkrooms so they could develop and print their negatives in their tents.
I made up an album of these images, which were then comparatively unknown, wrote out long captions and had them translated into classical Arabic, and bore my gift into the royal presence. It was
meaning “the place of sitting”—and the bedouin had come out of the desert to sit with their king. Inside the manicured palace grounds were dusty Toyota pickup trucks parked higgledy-piggledy on the marble among the burnished Rolls-Royces and BMWs of princes and ministers. The trucks did not have sheep or goats in the back at that moment, but from their smell it was clear they had recently contained some woolly passengers.