Brief history of Saudi Arabia
Historic area of the Arabian Peninsula, which now occupies the western Saudi Arabia, is usually called Hijaz and Najd. At the beginning of the VII century Muhammad’s prophetic mission began in Mecca, where the Meccan pagans denied it. After 13 years he moved to Medina (Yathrib), inhabited by Arabs and Jews. A peace treaty was signed with the latter. Gradually, Arabs all of the Arabian Peninsula became his followers.
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Saudi Arabia map
In 632, Arab Caliphate with its capital in Medina was founded. It engulfed almost the entire Arabian Peninsula. As a result of voluntary annexations and conquests by the IX century Arab state spread in the entire Middle East, Persia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa and Southern Europe.
In the XV century Turkish domination began to establish in Arabia. By 1574 the Ottoman Empire led by Sultan Selim II finally conquered the Arabian Peninsula. The result of Turks’ actions was strengthening of the Islamic religion throughout the Ottoman Empire. Using the weak political will of Sultan Mahmud I (1730-1754), the Arabs began to take the first attempts in building their own statehood. One of the most influential power at that time in Central Arabia was Arabic Al Saud clan.
Restoration of Saudi state began in 1744 in the central region of the Arabian Peninsula. The local ruler, Muhammad ibn Saud and founder of Wahhabism, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab united against the Ottoman Empire to create a single powerful state. This alliance made in the XVIII century laid the foundation for today’s ruling Saud dynasty. After some time, the young state was subjected to pressure from the Ottoman Empire, alarmed by the Arabs’ empowerment in its southern borders. In 1817 the Ottoman Sultan sent troops to the Arabian Peninsula under the command of Muhammad Ali Pasha, who defeated the relatively weak army of Imam Abdullah. Thus, the first Saudi state lasted 73 years.
Despite the victory of the Ottoman Empire, just 7 years later (in 1824) the second Saudi state with its capital in Riyadh was founded. This state lasted 67 years and was destroyed by longtime Saudi rivals – Al Rashid clan hailing from Ha’ilya. Saud family was forced to flee to Kuwait. Saudi Arabian future founder of Abd al – Aziz ibn Saud of Saudi family was in exile in Kuwait since 1893. In 1902, a 22 -year-old Abd al- Aziz began his numerous wars with the capture of Riyadh, disposing of Governor Rashidi and his family. In 1904 Rashidi appealed to the Ottoman Empire. The Empire sent troops, but this time was defeated and withdrew. In 1912, Abd al-Aziz captured the entire Najd. In 1920, using the strong support of the British, seeking to establish themselves in the territory of the fragments of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Aziz finally defeated Rashidi. In 1925 Mecca and the entire Hijaz were captured. As a result of this capture the United Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz was created. Nejd and Hejaz kingdom was recognized by the Soviet Union in 1926, the UK – in 1927, the United States – in 1931. On September 23, 1932 Najd and Hijaz kingdom was renamed to Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Aziz became king of the state.
In March 1938 huge oil deposits were discovered in Saudi Arabia. Because of the Second World War, their development began only in 1946, and by 1949 the country had already a well-established oil industry. Oil has become a source of wealth and prosperity of the state.
Saudi Arabia oil map
The first king of Saudi Arabia led a rather isolationist policy. During his reign country did not become a member of the League of Nations. Until his death in 1953 he left the country only 3 times. Nevertheless, in 1945, Saudi Arabia was among the founders of the United Nations and the Arab League.
Abdul Aziz ibn Saud’s successor became his son Saud. His ill-conceived domestic policy led to the fact that there was a coup in the country. Saud fled to Europe, and power passed to his brother Faisal. Faisal made an enormous contribution to the country. Under his reign oil production increased significantly, which enabled a number of social reforms in the country and created a modern infrastructure. In 1973, Saudi oil removing from all marketplaces by Faisal provoked Western energy crisis. His radicalism did not found understanding among all, and two years later, Faisal was shot his own nephew. After his death, the King Khalid of Saudi Arabia conducted moderate foreign policy. After Khalid his brother Fahd inherited the throne, and in 2005 – Abdullah.
Saudi Arabian culture
Saudi culture is inextricably linked to Islam, as the two main shrines of Islam are here. Islam is a belief in one God and the Koran obliges people to serve the Lord. Five times a day Saudi people pray, following the call of the muezzin from the minaret. Islam is derived from the same monotheistic roots as Judaism and Christianity, Muslims and Christians and Jews worship, and Jesus is considered one of the prophets of Allah. Muhammad was Allah’s last prophet and Allah dictated the Koran to him. Quran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia, and Sharia law – the basis of the legal system.
Saudi people during the prayer
One of the folk ritual dances is Saudi Arabia – ardha. This sword dance originates from the ancient Bedouin dances when drummers beat out a rhythm, poets chant recitative, and people with swords dance shoulder to shoulder. Al sihba, folk music of the Hijaz, has its roots in the Arab Andalusia region of medieval Spain. In Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, dances are accompanied by al-mizmare play, which is local variety of oboe.
Arabian clothing symbolically connects people with the culture of Islam. Clothing here is quite practical and at the same time meets the requirements of Islam. Usually men wear long shirts of wool and cotton (tavb) with guthrie (cotton cloth wrapped around the head). In those rare days when it is cool, men wear a cloak of camel’s hair. Women wear clothing decorated with folk ornaments and decorations made of coins, beads and pottery. Unfortunately, only members of families may see women in all their beauty, as when women go out into the street, they wear a black cloak and a veil to protect their modesty.
Traditional women and men clothing
Islam forbids eating pork and drinking alcoholic beverages. The favorite dishes are falafel, fried balls of leguminous plants, shawarma, special cooked sliced lamb and poole – frayed boiled beans with garlic and lemon. Full-fledged restaurants are gradually replacing traditional coffee shops.
Religion permeates all society: it shapes and defines cultural and artistic life of the country. Historically, Saudi Arabia has not been subjected to foreign cultural influences that have experienced other Arab states. The country has no literary tradition, comparable with the traditions of the Arab countries of the Mediterranean. Perhaps the only known Saudi writers are historians of the late 19th century, of which the most famous can be considered Uthman ibn Bishr. Lack of literary traditions in Saudi Arabia is partly offset by deep-rooted tradition of oral poetry and prose, dating back to pre-Islamic times. Music is not a traditional art form in Saudi Arabia. Its development in the past decades as a means of artistic expression was negated by the ban imposed by the Council of Ulema for its performance in the entertainment purposes. There are not many performers of folk music and songs, and they are all men. Among the most famous music artists one can mark the first pop star of Saudi Arabia Abdul Majid and Abdallah and virtuoso Abadi Al Johar. Egyptian pop music is quite popular in the country. A strict ban was imposed on the images of human faces and figures in painting and sculpture, although it is not for the photograph. Art is quite limited to creating architectural ornaments such as friezes and mosaics, including the traditional forms of Islamic art.
Wahhabism does not approve the construction of exquisitely decorated mosques, so that modern religious architecture is not that expressive as ancient, which is aesthetically more interesting for Western person (for example, the sanctuary Kaaba in Mecca). The most important religious architectural work in recent years, apparently, is the restoration and decoration of the mosque at the burial place of the Prophet in Medina, as well as a significant expansion and renovation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Flourishing civil architecture compensates strictness of religious architecture. The palaces are being built in the cities on a large scale; most of them combine contemporary and traditional design ideas. The country has no public theaters and cinemas are prohibited spectacle and performance.
Kaaba and the Grand Mosque
Saudi Arabian holidays
Feast of the Sacrifice coincides with the day of completion of the pilgrimage to the major shrines of Islam in Saudi Arabia in Mecca and Medina. On this day in all mosques and Muslim prayer houses solemn prayers and public preaching – khutbah take place. Muslim religious leaders in their appeals to fellow Muslims remind of the importance and greatness of feast Eid al-Adha, call Muslims for unity, a and wish health and happiness. Feast of the Sacrifice embodies the ideals of moral perfection, human striving for compassion and mercy. This holiday reminds Muslims of the heroism of faith, teaches sacrificial love toward neighbor.
Feast of Sacrifice cow
Ramadan is month of mandatory fasting for Muslims, and one of the five pillars of Islam. During the month of Ramadan, devout Muslims in the daytime refuse from eating, drinking, smoking and intimacy. Duration is 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar calendar. Fasting begins with the beginning of dawn (after the morning azan) and ends after sunset (after the evening azan).
Pilgrims during Ramadan
Saudi Arabian long and dramatic history has been interrelated with Islam as its core feature. Therefore we can observe Islam’s impact on Saudi traditions and customs. Music, architecture, feasts and even cuisine have deep religious meaning for Saudi people. Nevertheless we cannot say that achievements of modernity passed by Saudi Arabia. The country perceived many innovations, which make Saudi Arabia unique country that combines cultural heritage with modern life. This combination can be appreciated by Western people and make country attractive to broader scale of visitors.