Related Topics:

The country that Ibn Sa‘ud created by force of arms and then ruled from 1902 until his death in 1953 had little to bind it together. The merchants of the Red Sea coast saw themselves as sophisticated and cosmopolitan. The nomads and oasis-dwellers of the center saw themselves as strong physically and spiritually. Both groups looked down on those in the east, many of them Shi‘is. Remarkably, the country did hold together after Ibn Sa'ud's death, even though his two most powerful sons fought over it for the next decade.

Sa‘ud, usually described as conservative, was king during this period; Faysal, usually described as a reformer, was the crown prince who deposed him in 1962. Although Yizraeli accepts these characterizations, her careful historical account also shows its limitations. Yes, Sa‘ud wanted to follow his father's example of ruling personally, while Faysal favored rule by the family and the development of institutions. But Sa‘ud's policies were more modern, favoring large-scale development; Faysal, more cautious, did not want to upset the traditional way of life. Sa‘ud wanted close ties with the United States, while Faysal did not want to antagonize the violently anti-Western and pan-Arabist Gamal Abdel Nasser. In the end, Faysal put his stamp on the country in what Yizraeli accurately describes as the remaking of Saudi Arabia into a family-run kingdom.