Preface

All books are written at particular historical moments. Especially in nonfiction writing, special concerns that color media, governmental, or scholarly publications are reflected, if not in the author’s intent, in the questions formulated by editors and readers. This is true of both contemporary and historical writings. I want to note that both immediate and uncertain political currents are now impacting Saudi Arabia’s neighbors in the Middle East; the Tunisians have ousted their long-time president, the Egyptians have overthrown Hosni Mubarak and are trying to implement a democratic and pluralist political system, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has left Yemen for Saudi Arabia after months of protests when he was wounded in an attack, the Libyan people are battling the loyalists of Col. Mu‘ammar Qadhdhafi, and Syrians, Bahrainis, Omanis, Moroccans, Algerians, and Jordanians are calling for reform or changes in government. Saudi Arabian efforts to organize protests were anticipated and repressed, but it seems unlikely that the country will remain untouched by the regional fever for political change.

My second prefatory note is a general one; one finds far too schizophrenic a treatment of Saudi Arabia at this historical juncture. Portraits are painted with great love or sharp distaste, so strong as to cover over a truer panorama. Saudi Arabia is far too often essentialized as an unchanging archaic and exotic desert monarchy whose primary importance to the Western world is oil and/or Islamic extremism. Over many years, I have found it fascinating that so many outspoken American critics of Saudi Arabia were consulted at expert meetings in Washington, DC, primarily on the basis of their profound dislike of the country, which some had never visited. On the other

-xiii-

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Saudi Arabia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • About the Author xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Chapter 1 - Geography 1
  • Chapter 2 - History 17
  • Chapter 3 - Government and Politics 79
  • Chapter 4 - Economy 137
  • Chapter 5 - Society 175
  • Chapter 6 - Culture 245
  • Chapter 7 - Contemporary Issues 355
  • Glossary 385
  • Facts and Figures 399
  • Major Saudi Arabian Holidays 415
  • Country-Related Organizations 419
  • Annotated Bibliography 445
  • Thematic Index 495
  • Index 519
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