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 Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 17 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 536,900
  • A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 45 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 20 were recorded in Riyadh, five in Jeddah, two in Tabuk, two in Makkah, two in Al-Khobar, and two in Yanbu. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 536,900 after 41 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 44.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 16 October 2021

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.


Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.