According to Healthinclude.com, Saudi Arabia is a Southwestern Asian state. The original nucleus of the state was the Saudi Wahhabi emirate of Najd, in central Arabia. Hence ‘Abd al-‛Aziz ibn Sa‛ud moved in 1924-25 to conquer the Hijaz, ousting the Hashemite dynasty of Mecca and ensuring control of the holy places of Islam, with the British consent (Treaty of Gidda of 1927). In 1932, the new Saudi dominion took its current name. Ibn Sa‛ud continued the armed expansion (war of 1934 against Yemen, for the possession of Najran and ‛Asir), while aiming at improving the internal organization of the state, with the sedentarization of nomadic tribes, the development of ‘agriculture and the road network and the exploitation, by means of American capital and technicians, of the huge oil fields discovered in the Najd, which made the Saudi Arabia the world’s largest producer of crude oil. In 1945 the kingdom became part of the UN and the Arab League. On his death (1953) Ibn Sa‛ud left a developing unitary state, endowed with considerable prestige in the Islamic world, at the helm of which, in order of seniority, his sons Sa‛ud (1953-64) would take turns., Faisal (1964-75), Khalid (1975-82), Fahd (1982-2005) and ‛Abd Allah (from 2005). The internal politics of ‛Abd al-‛Aziz’s successors was characterized by a growing dependence on the legitimacy provided by the Wahhabi religious class, which imposed scrupulous respect for the shari‛a to the exclusion of any other form of political and religious expression, with negative effects on individual and civil freedoms and rights. At the same time, the work of modernization and development of the country’s resources continued, with the use of foreign experts and companies, with particular attention to education, communications and industry in the search for alternative sources of income to those of the Petroleum. In foreign policy, the Saudi Arabia has focused on strengthening inter-Muslim solidarity, with the foundation of the OCI and with constant diplomatic action aimed at resolving conflicts (➔ Ta’if, agreements of) and to strengthen Sunni religious hegemony in the Muslim world against the influence of Soviet socialism first, then Iranian Shiism. Collaboration with Western countries, above all on an economic and financial level, however, continued uninterrupted, with the parenthesis of the embargo 1973 oil rig promoted by the Saudi Arabia in retaliation for helping Israel in the fourth Arab-Israeli war. The Saudi Arabia is today the United States’ main Middle Eastern ally, despite the existence of various points of conflict, from human rights violations to Saudi Arabia’s failure to recognize Israel. Saudi support for the US-led multinational anti-Iraq coalition in both Gulf wars has, however, sparked tensions with Middle Eastern countries aligned on different positions, such as Jordan, Libya and Tunisia, while fueling internal radical Sunni opposition, with the birth of the al-Qaida movement, author of several terrorist attacks within the kingdom before the global expansion of its operations. Meanwhile, the Saudi authorities had to face internal and international pressure to introduce democratic reforms. The monarchy responded by granting more powers to the Advisory Council, which could have proposed new laws on its own initiative, banning torture and calling the first local elections in Feb-Apr. 2005, from which however women were excluded. In the year of 2005, following the death of King Fahd, his half-brother ‛Abd Allah ibn‛ Abd al-‛Aziz al-Sa‛ud ascended the throne. In the nov. 2005, the Saudi Arabia was admitted into the WTO.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
An accentuated and singular contrast between tradition and innovation characterizes the architectural image of the major urban centers of the Saudi Arabia; cities such as Riyadh or Gidda flaunt a striking coexistence of impressive buildings made of glass, steel, concrete and high technologies (skyscrapers and commercial buildings, tourist and hospital centers, airports) with ancient buildings made of clay or mud bricks dried in the sun (regions oriental) or with a large use of coral from the Red Sea (region of Gidda). The typical courtyard houses with one or two floors, whitewashed and with small windows (which survived in Riyadh thanks to a 1971 master plan that provided for the preservation of ancient parts of the city) and the usually 4-story buildings, present in Jiddah,rawāshin), an Ottoman and Egyptian stylistic code (from the middle of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century), are the subject of conservative restorations and adaptations to the new housing needs. New mosques reinterpret traditional elements and styles (typical of the Egyptian architect Saudi Arabia Wahed El-Wakil in Jeddah). At the same time, the intense construction activity begun in the decade 1970-80 gave the opportunity to internationally renowned architects to build commercial and residential or administrative complexes (al-Khairia Center by K. Tange; Institute of Public Administration of the Architects Collaborative studio with M. al-Sabiq, both 1982), airports (King Khalid International Airport by Hellmuth, Obta & Kassabaum, 1984) or office skyscrapers such as N. Foster’s Al Faisaliyah Center (2000).