Courtesy Reuters

Prince of Arabs

WHEN Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdur-Rahman al-Faisal Aal Saud, the present King of Arabia, was just past his twentieth year, he took a band of forty of his brothers, cousins and their servants, stole into the central Arabian city of Riyadh in the dead of night, took the garrison by surprise, killed the governor and proclaimed to the stupefied townsfolk that a Saud had come back to power in the city of his fathers. This spectacular coup took place in the year 1900. It hurled Ibn Saud into the political arena of the desert and placed his foot on the first rung of the ladder that was to lead him to mastery of the Arabian peninsula and his present key position in Near Eastern affairs.

Ibn Saud was born in this city of Riyadh in 1880. His family had fallen on evil days. When his great-great-great-grandfather, Muhammad Ibn Saud, ruled in the valley around Riyadh in the first part of the eighteenth century, a certain religious reformer had come to him for sanctuary. This reformer was Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, a man of great and fanatical piety, who was offended in his soul at the corruption fallen upon Islam and resolved to revive the word of the sacred Koran in its primitive virtue. The preaching of Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab and the swords of Ibn Saud's forebears conjured up a dominion throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula and offered a direct challenge to the Ottoman Empire. But the Turks roused themselves and swept away the creation of the Wahhabis; and once again the desert became a cockpit of petty tribal feuds and persistent bloodshed, intrigue and assassination. When Ibn Saud was born, Riyadh lay under the heel of Ibn Rashid, a capable and ruthless Bedouin chief.

At the time of Ibn Saud's birth his uncles and his father, Abdur Rahman, were engaged in an internecine struggle for the privilege of leading Riyadh in revolt against Ibn Rashid. But eventually Ibn Rashid made up his

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