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Monday, August 01, 2005


When the Alchemist were a lad he spent his time in Saudi Arabia, oh yes (not in Yorkshire, despite the first five words of the sentence). Therefore I’ve to say something about his ex majesty Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. It’s not that I will necessarily have any great insights into the man, but that there aren’t many of us who know a thing about him – so sit back while I educate you.

In fact he was not a very popular man, even though, in your authors opinion, he deserved to be.

It is an unfortunate fact of our world that a god deed is forgotten rather more swiftly than an ill one. A case in point, he had built, or donated to the building of dozens of mosques both in Saudi Arabia and around the world, from the perspective of the Muslim in the street a fine thing indeed, but when he hosted, and backed American forces during the first Gulf War he committed a sin not easily forgiven by his people or his co-religionists.

He also aided, started and or financed secular projects, a football tournament (named after himself), an airport (named after himself), a 25 mile bridge to Bahrain (named after himself) and at least one desalination plant (named after himslef0 which kept the Alchemist hydrated during his formative years. But these secular projects, the which might have helped his reputation with non-Muslims were overshadowed by his policy of religious government and law.

You begin to see what I mean when I say he was painted blacker than he was. Muslims disliked his foreign policy, and thought him too close to the west, non-Muslims disliked his domestic policy and thought him to Muslim.

‘This,’ you are no-doubt saying, ‘Is the price of leadership.’ Well, you are right to say that, and if you find it hard to feel sorry for a man richer than Riley then you are of a feeling with the Alchemist.

Certainly when the Alchemist read that one of his wives was divorcing him and demanding £X billion (sorry, I cannot remember, but it was double figures), my immediate thought was not ‘oh, poor fellow’. Actually, I thought it was funny as hell, but that’s just me.

In actual fact Fahd has not been a well man for many years. In reality he has not even been the ruler of his people, the Regent in all but name was Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, now King and head of the House of Saud.

King Abdullah, like his predecessor is a man of bifurcated interest. Also a philanthropist, he is most noted for funding institutes of learning, especially religious schools, but is also known to be less enamoured of the west than Fahd was, though wily enough to be politic when the situation demands.

Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud

1923 - 2005

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