The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Yesterday & Today
December 1991 / January 1992
A note of acknowledgement and appreciation is due here, to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Ottawa .. specifically to the Cultural Attache : Dr. Al Jasser
for providing this wealth of information and his willingness to share it
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoys a long and rich history. The region’s ancient nomadic peoples developed a deep love for the land as well as a strong sense of independence.
The Arabian peninsula has supported agricultural, herding and hunting cultures for thousands of years. Living on important ancient trade routes, the ancestors of the Saudi Arabians were touched by diverse civilizations, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, India, Persia and China.
It is one of the regions that historians know little about. However it is rich in old historical monuments narrating the history of the old man. The first studies or excavations started only in the sixties; and although there are some different evidences, it is clear that the region known today as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was populated for intermittent periods since earliest human history.
Permanent settlement dates back to 5000-4000 B.C.
In prehistoric times, the Arabian peninsula was very different from what we know today.
There were lakes and inland streams, where now, there is desert and saline rocky plains. Stone age implements found on the edge of the great desert, the Rub al Khali, indicate that hunters and fishermen once reached the area.
The people of the Arabian peninsula were a mixture of various Semitic tribes who used each others’ customs and dialects.
Trade exposed them to many different ideas and sciences, most important of which were mathematics and the alphabet. This tradition of accepting, and promoting human achievements was especially useful to the Arabs as they entered the next major period of historical development, the Islamic Era. With the advent of Islam in the 7th century, the various tribes and clans were unified under the new religion.
The Qur’an (Kuran), the holy book of Islam, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the western Arabian cities of Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina) beginning about 610 A.D. Islamic rule had flourished in many countries throughout the 16th century, and it had significant cultural, artistic, and scientific impact.
The Muslim Arab civilization remained vigorous for centuries, providing stability and advancing human knowledge. The Arabs made extensive and original contributions to chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, mathematics literature, and philosophy. They invented Algebra, they also transmitted the number system, called Arabic numerals, to the West.
In the 13th century, the Mongol invasions dealt a devastating blow to the Arabs’ eastern lands, and their empire began to decline.
The modern Saudi Arabia begins with Abdul Aziz al Saud, known in the West as Ibn Saud. The al Saud family had reigned over much of Arabia in the early 19th century. It lost part of its territory to the Turks later in the century, however, and was driven from its capital, Riyadh, by the rival House of Rashid.
In 1902 Abdul Aziz recaptured the city and began to reconquer and reunify the country, which he completed some three decades later. In 1927 he was officially proclaimed king, and the country was named the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Since the discovery of oil (petroleum) in commercial quantities in 1938, rapid economic development and rising prominence in world affairs have dominated the most recent chapter in Saudi Arabia’s history.