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the ruler who saw Saudi Arabia become an oil giant
Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Saud was born in Kuwait on January 12, 1902, the second son of Ibn Saud. With his half-brother Faisal, he participated in his father's conquest of Saudi Arabia in the 1920's. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed on September 23, 1932, and Saud was sworn in as Crown Prince on May 11, 1933.
As heir to the throne and his father's agent, Saud traveled widely and visited such countries as Great Britain, India and Egypt. He commanded the army in Asir in 1934, led his army into Yemen during the Saudi-Yemeni conflict of the mid-1930s, and became commander-in-chief of the armed forces in 1939.
Crown Prince Saud became King Saud upon the death of his father, on November 9, 1953; Faisal became Crown Prince and Saud's chief advisor on financial and foreign affairs.
Soon after assuming the throne, King Saud established the Council of Ministers, which included ministries of Health, Education, and Commerce. Other domestic events during his reign included: establishment of religious institutes to teach the provisions and fundamentals of Islam; the development and arming of a more efficient army; establishment of Saudi Arabia's first two institutions of higher learning, King Saud University (now Riyadh University) and the King Abdul Aziz Military Academy; and the abolishment of slavery in 1962. The Saudi oil industry also developed rapidly during his reign, which in turn provided a dramatic increase in the nation's gross national product.
Although Saud initially supported the government of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, he went against Nasser when in 1956 he entered into close relations with Jordan and Iraq, both of which had until then been long-time enemies of Saudi Arabia. He opposed the union of Egypt and Syria as the United Arab Republic in 1958, and was a bitter opponent of Nasser's pan-Arabism and reform programs. In September 1962, after pro-Nasser revolutionaries overthrew the Yemeni imam and declared Yemen to be a republic, Saud joined with King Hussein of Jordan and dispatched aid to the Yemeni royalist troops. In 1963, Saudi Arabia withdrew its troops from Kuwait, ending its conflict with Iraq over that region.
Fall from Power
King Saud's reign was marked by major financial crises, due to the plundering of state coffers for King Saud's personal luxury. Saudi Arabia was raking in millions of dollars from its oil reserves, but the country as a whole saw very little of that money spent on infrastructure. It did, however, see that money being spent on lavish palaces, expensive cars, and the king's very extensive household, which included dozens of children. This blatant disregard for the Saudi people as a whole led to widespread social turmoil, which in turn led to political turmoil.
In 1963, while King Saud was out of the country for medical treatment, he was removed from the throne by his family, which appointed Faisal as king on November 2, 1964.
Saud spent the rest of his life in fairly luxurious exile, first in Geneva, Switzerland, and then in Athens, Greece. He died in Athens on February 23, 1969.
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This page was last updated on January 29, 2019.