Saudi Arabia History and Politics

Saudi Arabia History and Politics

Early time

The area of ​​what is now Saudi Arabia was settled very early on. Rock carvings, in which primarily hunting scenes were depicted, bear witness to this. Based on the drawings we can now assume that the region of the Arabian Peninsula was much more fertile thousands of years ago than it is today.

Over time, the landscape became deserted and people adapted to the changed conditions. Nomads roamed the country with their herds of cattle, always looking for fertile pastures for their animals. The first kingdoms emerged, such as the kingdom of the Nabataeans, of which we can still marvel at great testimonies today. like the Nabataean tombs at Mada’in Saleh.

Pre-Islamic period

Even in the time before the spread of Islam, the city of Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula was of great importance. It was located at the crossroads of various trade routes and the Kaaba was also located there.

Kaaba means cube. The Kaaba is a building in Mecca that measures approximately 12 by 10 by 15 meters. Today the Kaaba is an important sanctuary in Islam, in pre-Islamic times the regional gods were worshiped with the Kaaba.

Mohammed and Islam

In the 7th century Islam emerged as a world religion, based on the words and deeds of the Prophet Mohammed, who lived and worked around 570 to 632 AD. He was expelled from Mecca in 622. This is the time when the Islamic calendar begins.

Mohammed founded a Muslim community in today’s Medina, which was then still called Yathrib, and convinced more and more people of the Islamic faith. He also united the quarreling tribes of the region, so that in the end there was a great Arab empire that extended beyond the Arabian Peninsula, from Andalusia to India and Central Asia.

But then the center of the empire shifted towards Damascus. The area of ​​what is now Saudi Arabia was divided into small parts. With one exception, there was no longer a single state, but rather several small empires that were ruled by Bedouin sheiks. Mecca and Medina remained important cities and holy places of Islam.

In the 16th century, the Ottomans conquered parts of the coast and the northern areas of the peninsula.

A connection with consequences

Then in 1745 a sheikh named Muhammad ibn Saud and a religious reformer got together. That was Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. He was the founder of Wahhabism. Wahhabism is a particularly strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. Both united the tribes in the interior. This is how the first Saudi state came into being. Muhammad ibn Saud became the founder of the Saudi dynasty.

The 19th century

As a result, the first Wahhabi empire came into being. In 1806 Mecca was conquered. But this should only last a short time, because the Ottomans conquered it again in 1816.

But the Saud dynasty did not give up so quickly and recaptured the territories from the Turks. The ruler Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud was able to occupy the city of Riyadh in 1902 and thus founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This Saud III. allied with Great Britain by signing a protection treaty with the British against the Ottoman Empire.

But the north of the country was not yet under his rule, because this was the kingdom of the Hashemites. Its ruler, Hussein ibn Ali, also ruled over the holy cities. But it did not stay that way, because Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud also brought the northern province of Hejaz under his leadership.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

In 1932, Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and declared himself king. He married a daughter from each subject tribe and had 46 sons. From 1938, oil production began with the help of America. Oil should make Saudi Arabia a very rich country.

Establishment of the Arab League

In 1945 the “Arab League” was founded, of which Saudi Arabia was one of the founding members. An American military base is established in the Arabian Gulf.


In 1960, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and Kuwait founded OPEC, the organization of oil-producing countries. In 1962, slavery was banned. Workers mainly from Asia came to the country.

1960s and 1970s

In 1964 the then king abdicated and was succeeded by his brother Faisal, who carried out reforms in the country. But Saudi Arabia remained a monarchy. In 1973, King Faisal reduced oil production to force America to change its stance on Israel. Saudi Arabia has always had a negative attitude towards Israel and supported the Arab camp in the fight against the country with weapons and money.

Already during the 1960s, but also in the 1970s, there were repeated disputes with the border country Yemen, which were only ended in 1976 with a peace treaty.

The Gulf Wars

During the First Gulf War from 1980 to 1988, Saudi Arabia sided with Iraq as a bitter enemy of Iran. In the Second Gulf War, between 1990 and 1991, Saudi Arabia was an ally of the United States and allowed troops to rally on national territory for the invasion of Iraq. However, this led to bitter resistance from parts of the population and especially from the Islamists in the country.

They also carried out attacks on Western facilities. In the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, 15 of the 19 attackers were originally from Saudi Arabia.

In the third Gulf War in 2003, US troops were no longer stationed on Saudi territory, but instead relocated to Qatar.

Careful reforms

In 1993 some reforms took place in the country, the effects of which were, however, minor. The king was given a “consultative assembly” aside, which, as the name suggests, was only active in an advisory capacity and had no political power. In the mid and late 1990s, there were disputes between Saudi Arabia and neighboring Yemen. As is so often the case, it was about oil, because one suspected oil fields in the border region.

Strict laws and lack of separation of powers

Saudi Arabia is still a monarchy today, where the king makes politics and rules with the help of Sharia law. There is no separation of powers. The king also presides over the council of ministers and appoints the ministers. He is also the supreme commander of the army. The legal system is strongly influenced by religion. There are still provisions of the Sharia that apply today, such as the death penalty for particularly serious crimes.

The royal family is at the head of the country and its members hold important positions in politics. That’s why it’s so powerful. After King Abdullah died on January 23, 2015, his half-brother Salman became King.

Violations of human rights and murder of a journalist

As a country located in Asia according to dentistrymyth, Saudi Arabia is repeatedly criticized for violating human rights. Because the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pro-Western and has an important ally, especially in the USA, many states are turning a blind eye here.

The Saudi crown prince is accused of having been an accessory to the murder of the Saudi journalist Kashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Or even a client? We do not yet know the exact circumstances and it is questionable whether the murder will ever be solved in detail.

Saudi Arabia History