The story of all the king’s men

The story of all the king’s men
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A photograph of the army of Abdulaziz on the march, photographed by British envoy Captain Shakespeare near Thaj in March 1911. (Photo by W.H.I. Shakespeare /Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images)
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A photograph of the army of Abdulaziz on the march, photographed by British envoy Captain Shakespeare near Thaj in March 1911. (Photo by W.H.I. Shakespeare/Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images)
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Updated 22 September 2021

The story of all the king’s men

A photograph of the army of Abdulaziz on the march, photographed by British envoy Captain Shakespeare near Thaj in March 1911. (Photo by W.H.I. Shakespeare /Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images)

LONDON: “Hero” is a word all too easily bandied about. But on a simple metal plaque at Masmak fortress in Riyadh are recorded the names of 63 men to whose heroism the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owes its very existence.

After their defeat by the rival Rashidi dynasty at the Battle of Mulayda in 1891, the Al-Saud were driven out of Riyadh and into 11 long years of exile.

That ended on Jan. 15, 1902, when Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud and a small force stormed Riyadh’s Masmak fortress, ousting the Rashidis for good in the single most important founding event in the story of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Unable to stomach exile any longer, Abdulaziz and his volunteers set out from Kuwait in late September 1901. Abdulaziz decided to surprise Riyadh’s defenders by attacking from an unexpected direction, and at first led his men southwest, keeping the Gulf coast to their left.

Surviving on little more than butter, dates and the water in their goatskins, at night they laid up in desert hollows, careful not to be seen by wandering tribesmen.

Unknown to them, waiting to be discovered beneath the desert sands where they lay their heads each night was the world’s largest oilfield. Within a generation it would transform the fortunes of the state whose very existence they were poised to lay down their lives to secure.

By November the small force was camped in the vicinity of the modern town of Haradh, on the northern edge of the Empty Quarter and some 250 km from Riyadh. It was there that a messenger from Kuwait caught up with the party, bearing bad news — the Turks were said to be coming to the aid of the Rashid in Riyadh.

Back in Kuwait, it was assumed that Abdulaziz would give up and return home. Instead, goes the legend, he gathered his men about him, read them the letter and invited those who wished to return to Kuwait to do so, without shame.  

As for himself, he said, he would prefer to die at the gates of Riyadh, and those of a like mind were welcome to join him.

All stood by him, crying out “To the death!”, and only the messenger returned to Kuwait, carrying a message from Abdulaziz to his father: “Tell him we shall meet again, God willing, in Riyadh.”

Abdulaziz may have been courageous, but he was not foolhardy. Instead of heading straight for  Riyadh, he took his men further south into the Empty Quarter, where they lay up unseen for almost 50 days in the vicinity of the oasis of Yabrin, hoping their disappearance would lull Riyadh’s garrison into a false sense of security.




A photograph of the army of Abdulaziz on the march, photographed by British envoy Captain Shakespeare near Thaj in March 1911. (Photo by W.H.I. Shakespeare/Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images)

The plan worked. They were seven days’ ride from Riyadh and Abdulaziz timed his party’s arrival to coincide with the thin moon and dark nights at the end of Ramadan. Finally, as the city’s defenders slept late after the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations of the night before, Abdulaziz and his men gathered on the plateau overlooking the city.

At sunset the assault party moved silently forward, climbing the walls of the city and taking up position in a house opposite the gates of Masmak fortress. Behind its walls lay the sleeping Rashidi governor, Ajlan. 

The next morning, as the governor and a handful of guards emerged from the fortress, Abdulaziz and his men rushed forward. There are various accounts of what happened next, but most agree on the following dramatic narrative.

As Ajlan and his guards turned back for the safety of the fortress, the governor was tackled to the ground by Abdulaziz himself. As the future King fought with Ajlan, Abdulaziz’s life was saved by his cousin, Abdullah ibn Jalawi ibn Turki Al-Saud, who slew a guard who was about to strike his cousin from behind.

As defenders on the battlements opened fire, a spear thrown by Fahad ibn Jalawi ibn Turki Al-Saud, another cousin of Abdulaziz, missed Ajlan and became embedded in the woodwork of the gate, where the tip of the weapon can still be seen today.

Wounded, Ajlan managed to slip inside the fortress through the small opening within the gate, but Abdullah plunged in after him and slew him.

It was all over. The garrison surrendered and later that day thousands of Riyadh’s citizens gathered to pledge allegiance to Abdulaziz. In the words of author Robert Lacey’s 1981 book “The Kingdom”, “the Al-Sauds were masters in their own home again — and they have remained the masters ever since.”

The fate of all 63 of the men who accompanied Abdulaziz to Riyadh is lost to history. What is certain is that all earned the epithet “hero.”

On that fateful day in January 1902, Abdulaziz ordered 23 men to remain in reserve, guarding the camels, and assaulted Masmak fortress with the remaining 40.

Among them were 10 members of Abdulaziz’s own family, all of whom played a key part that day in the restoration of the Al-Saud.

Abdullah ibn Jalawi fought in many of the subsequent battles that led to the unification of the Nejd and the Hijaz. He would later serve as governor of Al-Qasim and Al-Ahsa and lived long enough to witness the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sept. 23, 1932. He died in 1935.

Fahad ibn Jalawi, whose spear tip remains embedded in the gate of Masmak fortress to this day, was killed in one of the battles of unification later that same year. 

Also there that historic day were Abdullah ibn Saud ibn Abdullah Al-Saud and Fahad ibn Ibrahim ibn Meshari Al-Saud. Both survived the recapture of Riyadh and several of the major battles that followed, only to be killed at Al-Bakiriya in 1904.

Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history

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Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border
Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

JEDDAH: Saudi border patrols in Jazan, Najran, and Asir on Tuesday thwarted attempts to smuggle more than one ton of cannabis and 66 tons of qat into the Kingdom.

Border Guard spokesman, Col. Misfir Al-Qarni, said 150 people were arrested in connection with the smuggling bid, 47 of them Saudis, and 103 illegal immigrants of which 89 were Ethiopian, 10 Yemenis, three Somalis, and one Eritrean.

Al-Qarni said that the border guards will be not lax in carrying out their duties to confront anyone who tries to endanger the security of the Kingdom or transfer such substances through its borders illegally.

Saudi authorities, in cooperation with their UAE counterparts, recently prevented an attempt to sneak 1.5 million amphetamine pills into the Kingdom through Batha port hidden in a truck carrying grain.

A Saudi citizen, and a resident of Syria were arrested in Riyadh.

In May, Saudi authorities foiled a plot to smuggle almost 1,000 kg of hashish into the Kingdom through its southern borders. Twenty-four people — 18 Ethiopians, four Yemenis and two Saudis. were arrested. AN Jeddah


Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
Updated 20 October 2021

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
  • Grand parade and fireworks display in opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest entertainment festival

RIYADH: The Cuban-American rap star Pitbull will launch this year’s Riyadh Season festival with a sold-out concert on Wednesday that will be broadcast live.
The opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest celebration of music, dining, and entertainment will also feature a parade and fireworks show.
The festival site covers 5.4 million square meters, divided into 14 zones — Boulevard Riyadh City, Al’Athriyah, Oasis, Combat Field, Riyadh Front, Qariat Zaman, Winter Wonderland, the Groves, VIA Riyadh, Riyadh Safari, Nabd Al Riyadh, Alsalam Tree, Almurabaa, and Khaloha.
There will be 16 events this month alone — WWE Crown Jewel on Oct. 21, Rush Gaming Festival from Oct. 22 to 26, the Crystal Maze live experience on Oct. 22, the Global Town Festival on Oct. 27, the Champions of Magic show on Oct. 27, and the Messi 10 Cirque Du Soleil show on Oct. 29.
And that’s just the start, with a total of 7,500 events, programs and activities for all age groups and interests. This year, children and fans of the nursery rhymes show CoComelon will be able to meet the characters while visiting their home, school, and farm in the Winter Wonderland zone.
Most events are free, and those that require tickets will be listed on the Riyadh Season 2021 website. Visitors must link their tickets to the Tawakkalna app, which has a new security feature to prevent tickets being misused or resold.
The entertainment sector will be a key contributor to the growth of the economy as part of Vision 2030. Riyadh Season will support the tourism and leisure sector and provide a unique experience for visitors. It continues until March 2022.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

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Updated 20 October 2021

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


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Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has urged the need for greater international efforts toward disaster relief assistance at the UN in New York.

It came as the Kingdom addressed the UN Sixth Committee, the body’s primary forum for legal questions.

The 76th session of the UN General Assembly was held Monday to discuss agenda item 87, “the protection of persons in the event of disasters.”

In a speech, Nidaa Abu Ali, a member of the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN in New York, addressed item 87 as a “fundamental principle” of humanitarianism.

Abu Ali said that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic “demonstrated the fast-paced speed at which disasters occur,” urging the need for a global response framework and cooperation in disaster situations.

She added that the Kingdom is a leading country in implementing strong and immediate measures in response to emergency crises while also assisting at the international level by providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance to developing countries.

Abu Ali noted that since its establishment in 2015, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has contributed to meeting urgent needs in cooperation with international organizations by combating disasters and food scarcity through financial and logistical support. During the Kingdom’s 2020 G20 Presidency, Abu Ali said that the most notable effort in combating the global pandemic and salvaging the global economy was the $11 billion allocated for medical support in developing countries.

On a national level, Abu Ali stressed the Kingdom’s initiative, associated with the Sustainable Development Goals, to activate a national strategy to reduce disaster risks, integrating measures into local development activities.

The strategy will aid in the reduction of risk, especially in vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In her final comments, Abu Ali urged the need to find a common legal framework to facilitate international humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

She expressed the Kingdom’s support for preparing an international legal instrument and convention to ensure the protection of people during times of disaster in a manner that does not conflict with the sovereignty or national legislation of countries around the world.


Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

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Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms
  • Pupils under the age of 12 will continue to be taught remotely for safety reasons pending further studies, officials said

JEDDAH: With less than two weeks to go until elementary students were due to return to classrooms in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education has announced that they will continue to be taught remotely until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The proposed Oct. 31 return to in-person teaching has been postponed for safety reasons, the ministry said.

It added that it requires further epidemiological data about the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom as part of a risk assessment before a decision can be made on the resumption of in-person learning for children below the age of 12.

“The ministry will continue its efforts to offer virtual learning to the age group through ‘Madrasati’ (online platform) for the elementary level and ‘Rawdaty’ for preschool level,” it said.

The Ministries of Health and Education have been working together to ensure the successful resumption of in-person education for middle-school and high-school students.

In August, the Ministry of Education announced that, in accordance with regulations issued by the Health Ministry, fully vaccinated students over the age of 12 would return to classrooms. Those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be taught remotely, with classwork uploaded to the ministry-approved Madrasati platform.

On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Education issued a directive urging education authorities across the Kingdom to ensure that all students are fully vaccinated, and reiterating that those who are not will have to remain at home. Students were given two weeks from the start of the semester to complete the vaccination process.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom and two related deaths.

The latest figures put the total number of cases so far recorded in the country at 548,018 and the overall death toll at 8,767.

Health officials said there were currently 2,214 active cases, of which 90 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

Among the newly reported cases, 16 were in Riyadh, nine in Jeddah, three in Jubail, and two in both Al-Darb and Makkah.

The ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.

A further 45,275 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the last 24-hour period, meaning that to date more than 29.8 million PCR checks had been conducted in the country.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that at least 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started and more than 20.8 million people were now fully vaccinated.