How Imam Mohammed achieved tribal unity to create the First Saudi State

How Imam Mohammed achieved tribal unity to create the First Saudi State
A drawing of Imam Muhammad bin Saud as envisaged by Manga Production in Riyadh. (Manga Production)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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How Imam Mohammed achieved tribal unity to create the First Saudi State

How Imam Mohammed achieved tribal unity to create the First Saudi State
  • Saudi Arabia took the first steps on the road to nationhood in 1727 when Imam Mohammed became ruler of Diriyah
  • By the time of his death in 1765, he had laid the foundations for the greatest political entity central Arabia had ever seen

LONDON: The House of Saud took the first steps on the long road to nationhood in 1727, when Imam Mohammed bin Saud succeeded his cousin, Zaid bin Markhan, as ruler of the city state of Diriyah.

It is this pivotal moment, recognized as the date when the First Saudi State came into being, that is celebrated in the Kingdom on Feb. 22 each year as Founding Day.

Imam Mohammed had learned the art of politics at his father’s side. He played a significant role in supporting him throughout his reign and proved his mettle as a leader when Diriyah was attacked in 1721 by the Banu Khalid tribe of Al-Ahsa.

Imam Mohammed led his father’s forces to victory, strengthening Diriyah’s regional standing in the process.

After the death of his father in 1725, Imam Mohammed pledged his support to Markhan of the Watban clan of the tribe Zaid, and after he emerged victorious served him loyally until the prince’s short reign was ended by an assassin the following year.

From the outset, unity was Imam Mohammed’s dream, as the official history published by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority attests.

Contemporary Arab chroniclers recorded that “the people of Diriyah were fully confident in his abilities and (that) his leadership qualities (would) free the region of division and conflict.”

Imam Mohammed was already known for “his many personal characteristics, such as his devotion, goodness, bravery, and ability to influence others,” and the passing of power to him was “a transformative moment, not only in the history of Diriyah, but in the history of Najd and the Arabian Peninsula.”

Already renowned as a man of action, Imam Mohammed would also prove himself to be a wise leader.




Imam Mohammed set about the daunting task of achieving political unity among the tribes, with the ultimate aim of establishing a greater Arabian state. (Sotheby’s)

Imam Mohammed set about the daunting task of achieving political unity among the tribes, beginning with the neighboring towns of Najd, with the ultimate aim of establishing a greater Arabian state.

As the official history published by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority attests, “it wasn’t an easy task,” but by the time of his death in 1765, Imam Mohammed bin Saud had laid the foundations for the greatest political entity central Arabia had ever seen.

From the day of his ascension, “he began planning to change the prevailing status quo of that day and time, laying down a new path in the region’s history toward unity, education, the spread of culture, enhanced communication between members of society, and perpetual security.”

Over the next nine decades, the power and influence of Diriyah grew, as the great task of unity was handed on to Mohammed’s three successors — his son Abdulaziz, who would found the royal district of At-Turaif, Abdulaziz’s son Saud the Great, under whose direction the authority of the First Saudi State reached its peak, extending over most of the Arabian Peninsula and, upon his death in 1814, his son Abdullah, who was known to be great warrior.

But challenging the vast and aggressive Ottoman empire for control of Makkah and Madinah would prove to be Diriyah’s undoing. Imam Abdullah inherited the wrath of Istanbul, which dispatched a vast force to end the threat Diriyah posed to Ottoman authority in Arabia.

It took far longer than the Sultan could have imagined. Fighting a series of fierce battles over several years against impossible odds, the Arabs were slowly driven back from the Red Sea coast to their last stand before the walls of Diriyah.

After a six-month siege, Diriyah fell. Imam Abdullah was taken as a prisoner to Istanbul, where he was executed.

Undeterred, the Second Saudi State sprang up from the rubble of the first, this time in Riyadh — the ancient capital of the Hajer Al-Yamamah region, where it thrived from 1824 to 1891.

This, too, would fall.

But among the members of the family ousted from Riyadh in 1891 by the rival House of Rashid was the 16-year-old son of the last Imam of the Second Saudi State, a young man destined to take the last great step on the path upon which his predecessor Imam Mohammed had embarked generations before.




Above, warriors of Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud on camel back in Nejd, on their way to recapture Riyadh, c. 1910. (Alamy)

The story of how Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud and a small band of warriors recaptured Riyadh in 1902, restoring the House of Saud to its rightful home in the Nejd, is well known to every schoolchild in Saudi Arabia.

But Abdulaziz’s most remarkable achievement — the bringing together of the many tribes of Arabia to make possible the foundation in 1932 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — would require decades of unwavering dedication to his ancestor’s vision of unity.

Today, familial attachment to one or other of the tribes rooted deep in the history of the Arabian Peninsula remains a source of great pride for many Saudis and their families, and part of the fabric of the country’s diverse but unifying heritage.

This was, however, not always the case, as John Duke Anthony, founding president and chief executive of the Washington-based National Council on US-Arab Relations, noted in 1982.

“For much of Arabian history, most of these tribes existed as independent political entities in microcosm,” he wrote in an essay “Saudi Arabia: From tribal state to nation-state.”

“As such, they were capable of uniting for common action. At the same time, however, they more often than not acted as divisive forces in any larger societal context.

“It was this latter characteristic as much as any other attribute that prompted the late King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, to seek a number of means by which he could integrate the various tribes into the new national political structure of the Kingdom.”

It was, added Anthony, “the religious content of Abdulaziz’s message as he set about knitting Arabia into a single state (that) proved to be his greatest source of strength.




Above, Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud in Kuwait, circa 1910. (Alamy)

“He was able to direct and control a strict adherence to Islamic doctrines and, in this manner, affect a significant modification of the tribal distinctions which formerly had divided the realm.”

In 2022, Hasan Massloom, a member of the Shoura Council of Saudi Arabia, wrote that in the modern Saudi Arabia tribalism complemented rather than contradicted the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 ambitions, which were unveiled to Saudi citizens and the world by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016.

“No discussion of social change is conceivable without acknowledging the tribal background of the society of Saudi Arabia,” Massloom wrote in an op-ed piece for Arab News.

“Tribalism in Arabia has existed for thousands of years, predating Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was an independent, cohesive system for survival in the desert that provided social status, economic advantage and physical protection for its members.

“People of one tribe shared a common ancestry, a collective dignity and a coalesced reputation. Harsh life in the arid desert decreed a firm and binding moral bond among tribes to defend their progeny and possessions. Tribal history prided itself on social hierarchy, an obligation for vengeance and a deep commitment to territory, pasture and water wells.”

King Abdulaziz, he continued, had “tactfully pivoted the Arabian tribal scene toward his dream of a national kingdom when he persuaded hostile and fighting tribes to cast their conflicts aside and unite under his leadership to build a modern state.”

Indeed, Abdulaziz, the man known to the wider world simply as Ibn Saud, had completed the journey begun by the founding of the First Saudi State by Imam Mohammad in 1727.

On Jan. 27, 2022, Founding Day was established by a Royal Order of King Salman in recognition of this pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and to honor the wisdom of a leader who “provided unity and security in the Arabian Peninsula following centuries of fragmentation, dissension and instability.”


Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh
Updated 21 April 2024
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Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

RIYADH: Award winners were crowned on the final day of the fourth Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh on Saturday, at a ceremony attended by prominent artistic and cinematic names, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The winners were nominated by a jury headed by Ibrahim Al-Hasawi from Saudi Arabia, who was joined by Bassam Al-Thawadi from Bahrain, Rawda Al-Thani from Qatar, Khaled Amin from Kuwait, Nujoom Al-Ghanem from the UAE and Ibrahim Al-Zadjali from Oman.
“Hajjan,” a coming-of-age drama set in Saudi Arabia about two brothers who battle to save their favorite camel starring Omar Al-Atawi and Abdulmohsen Alnemr, won the award for best feature film.
It also picked up the best photography award, with Jerry Fassbender recognized for his work on the film. Al-Atawi won the best actor award for his role.
The best actress award went to Bahraini Maryam Zeman for her part in the movie “My Word.”
The award for best short film went to the heavily tipped “Clouds,” about a widower and war veteran who are forced to balance their own morals with societal expectations in southern Oman, directed by Muzna Almusafer.
The award for best documentary film went to Mansoor Al-Dhaheri’s climate change expose “Swimming 62.”
Ziad Al-Hussein took home two awards, including one for best director, for his film “Shiabni Hani.”
The award for best original soundtrack went to Khaled Al-Kammar for his music that featured in the movie “Hawjan,” a modern twist on the ancient Arab jinn mythology, which also opened the latest edition of the Red Sea Festival last year.
The Gulf Cinema Festival was held under the patronage of Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Film Commission, which organized the event.
This year’s festival hosted screenings of 29 films, three training workshops and six cultural seminars.
Abdullah Al-Qahtani, CEO of the commission, said in a speech during the ceremony that the festival embodied a commitment to supporting the film sector in the region and building bridges for cinematic cooperation between the Gulf countries.
He thanked Prince Badr for his sponsorship and support of the festival and the film sector in Saudi Arabia, as well as the general secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
Updated 20 April 2024
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Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
  • World’s largest music production studio is nurturing Saudi talent, streamlining local industry

RIYADH: Riyadh’s Merwas, considered the biggest art and entertainment factory globally, is proving to be one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest music industry assets.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, co-founder and CEO of Merwas, told Arab News that the facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, “is home to all artists.”

She added: “The methodology behind it is to create solutions through the subsidiaries, and invest in both talent and infrastructure.

“Alongside it being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.”

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The entertainment zone and audiovisual production studio, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

Some of the top musicians in the world have visited Merwas since it opened in 2022. These include DJ Khaled, the acclaimed Saudi singer Rabeh Saqer, and the Emirati singer Ahlam. Afrojack, a world-renowned Dutch DJ and producer, also led an electronic music boot camp to nurture local talent and inspire a new generation of Saudi artists.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Merwas, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

• The academy’s classes offer local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise.

• The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, the culture factory fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, while providing artists with access to top-tier services, facilities and industry expertise.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah, features state-of-the-art technology, such as the SSL console, which is used to create depth on music tracks and ensures the true soul of the artist’s voice is protected.

This live recording space is booked almost every day by various artists, and has been used by some of the Arab region’s biggest stars.

The facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, is home to all artists according to co-founder Nada Al-Tuwaijri. (Supplied)

One of the only five Neve consoles in the world can be found in the Neve Studio. The panel is known for its high-quality sound and warmth, and is ideal for music recording, vocal tracking, and mixing for exceptional audio quality.

Its live studio can accommodate over 120 orchestra members and their instruments to provide a unique recording experience.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Specifically designed for electronic music production, the EMP Suite is a DJ’s dream, with cutting edge synthesizers and digital audio workstations ensuring an artist leaves the room with a fully produced track.

Merwas is also home to three production suites, designed for content creators who require a comfortable and professional environment for music production, editing, and mixing. Each suite is equipped with industry-standard gear, software, and acoustics to support a wide range of projects.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

The studio also provides private rehearsal spaces to ensure Saudi talents are nourished to their full potential. The versatile space is designed for musicians, performers, and other artists to rehearse and refine their craft within a comfortable environment with access to instruments and equipment.

Part of the charm of recording studios is the live jam sessions that have given birth to some of the most iconic records to date. Merwas’ Band Live/Control Room also captures the spontaneity of live performance within its soundproof walls.

Alongside (Merwas) being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

Championing audiovisual pursuits, the studio has made space for high-quality podcasts and videos to come to life.

The podcast suite and FM radio recording spaces are tailored to immerse listeners with unbeatable audio clarity, while the 25-meter-long Green Screen room helps ideas come to life, whether commercial, film, or music video.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Material can then be edited at the color-grading suite, which is essentially a small theater with 4K projector. Producers, directors, writers, and engineers gather here to put the final visual touches on video projects through its DaVinci color grading software and hardware.

Academy Classes offers local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise. These feature advanced stations for sound production, engineering, and technical programs, with everything necessary for a basic understanding and training of music production.

The studio hosts workshops, networking sessions, and community events in an effort to flourish the music industry locally while making it a magnet for international talent. Anyone can be a part of this community by booking a suite or signing up for a workshop on their website merwas.sa.

Merwas has positioned itself at the the forefront of the entertainment industry being the first of its kind in the MENA region. In less than a year since its launch, it has already became a hotspot for musicians across the globe to visit and utilize its services, from rising talents to international A-listers.

Founded by Al-Tuwaijri and Chief Content Officer Rumian Al-Rumayyan in partnership with Sela, Merwas treasures Saudi creativity and is a vital part of building an ecosystem and community for local artists.

Their partnership with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property has set a new focus on preserving the rights of local creatives, pillared by the aim to enrich the culture of the Kingdom while empowering its citizens and their creativity in an environment of abundant knowledge, education in culture, art, entertainment and music.

 


15k held for labor, residency, border violations in KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2024
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15k held for labor, residency, border violations in KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
  • The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 9,479 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 3,763 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,430 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 37 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and six were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.

 


Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
Updated 20 April 2024
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Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected]

RIYADH: Saudi authorities recently made several drug-related arrests and confiscations in operations across the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Border Guard land patrols in Al-Ardah governorate, Jazan region arrested a Yemeni national attempting to smuggle 60 kg of qat.

In the Saqam sector of Najran region, the land patrols thwarted the smuggling of 58 kg of hashish.

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested a Bangladeshi resident in the Hail region for attempting to sell methamphetamine, a narcotic substance commonly referred to as “shabu.”

The authorities also arrested a citizen in Jazan for selling amphetamines, highly addictive drugs that stimulate the central nervous system.

Preliminary legal procedures have been completed for all the individuals involved and all seized items have been handed over to the relevant authorities.

The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected].

Tips received relating to smuggling and breaches of common customs law are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for valid tips.

 


Saudi deputy FM meets Colombian counterpart in Bogotá

Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
Updated 21 April 2024
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Saudi deputy FM meets Colombian counterpart in Bogotá

Francisco Coy Granados receives Waleed Elkhereiji in Bogotá. (Supplied)
  • The two reviewed bilateral relations and ways in which they could be strengthened, along with the latest developments and issues of mutual concern

BOGOTÁ: Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Elkhereiji recently met his Colombian counterpart, Francisco Coy Granados, the foreign ministry reported on X on Saturday.

During the meeting, the two reviewed bilateral relations and ways in which they could be strengthened, along with the latest developments and issues of mutual concern.

The meeting was also attended by Acting Charge d’Affairs of Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Colombia Mohammed Al-Shatri, and the director general of the deputy minister’s office, Mutashar Al-Enezi.