Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Royal Lineage Profile

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Born in 1923 King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud was the fourth son of Ibn Saud and ruled over Saudi Arabia from 1982 until his death from a long-term illness in 2005. King Fahd watched his father found the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the historic signing of the “Treaty of Jedda”.

King Fahd’s early education took place at the prestigious Princes’ School in Riyadh, a school established by Ibn Saud specifically for members of the Royal House. Whilst reading at the Princes’ School the young Fahd excelled in his studies, under tutors including the renowned Sheikh Abdul-Ghani Khayat. Following his education at the Princes’ School, Fahd moved on to the Religious Knowledge Institute in Mecca where he studied Wahhabi Islam.

Upon graduating from his studies Fahd took an active role in the polictical life of his country, and in 1945 on his a state visit to New York City to attend the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. On this somewhat formative trip, Fahd served under his brother, King Faisal who was at that time Saudi Arabia’s acting foreign minister.

Having somewhat proven himself as an astute political mind Fahd was appointed Education Minister in 1953. Later that year, Fahd led his first official state visit, attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Fahd soon after lead the Saudi delegation to the League of Arab States in 1959, signifying his growing influence and importance in the House of Saud – being groomed for a more significant role. Finally, in 1962, Fahd was given a post of prodigious responsibility, Interior Minister and the five years later appointed Second Deputy Prime Minister, a significant post in the House of Saud.

On March 25, 1975 King Faisal was assassinated and Khalid came to the throne. Fahd then became first deputy prime minister and next in the line of succession. The new Crown Prince took an active role in the kingdom’s second five-year development plan (1975-1980), and with it the Saudi government’s effort to achieve orderly economic progress and careful financial planning for its oil revenue during an extraordinary period of booming development. With the king, Fahd actively worked for the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council. An organization founded to help coordinate and unify Saudi economic, industrial, and defense policies with those of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Yet it was also known during this era that Khalid suffered from heart trouble and delegated much of his job to Fahd.

When King Khalid passed away on June 13, 1982, Fahd succeeded to the throne. After assuming power, King Fahd continued the rapid development of the kingdom’s infrastructure fueled by the oil boom of the 1970s; constructing new highways, airports, universities, hospitals, and industrial complexes giving rise to gleaming metropolises that dotted the nation’s vast desert landscape. Despite this, spending decreased rapidly when oil prices crashed during the mid 80’s. This began a period marked by budget deficits.

In matters of policy and ideology, King Fahd was one of the most pro-Western Arab rulers. Fahd’s lifetime witnessed a transformation of Saudi Arabia. From a collection of Bedouin desert tribes to the modern, high-tech world economic leader. Yet the country, and its ruling family, were sometimes criticized for interference in delicate Middle East politics and human-rights violations. In an attempt to deflect criticism, Fahd decreed a new constitution in 1992, and the following year the nation’s first national council was seated. Fahd also tried to demonstrate goodwill through humanitarian aid to certain causes. Fahd also continued to conduct friendly relations with a succession of American presidential administrations. During the Gulf War the U.S. were given state permission to base troops within Saudi Arabia’s borders, a move that helped turn Osama bin Laden against the royal family. However, King Fahd’s Western sympathies and lavish lifestyle were deemed inappropriate by many Muslim clerics. The resulting social and political tensions served to undermine the royal family’s power base.

By the early 1990s aging Fahd was in poor health. Overweight for many years, the king suffered from diabetes and both back and knee problems. And deteriorating health did not keep him from enjoying his vast personal wealth: he had counted among his residences 12 palaces. One of his yachts was accompanied by a warship carrying anti-aircraft missiles as a defence. Unfortunately in 1995 the aged King suffered a stroke plunging the royal family into a crisis—albeit one that went on behind closed doors. At the same time, some of the minor personal freedoms that had been allowed in the years following the Gulf War were rescinded, the kingdom’s economic picture was became heavily debt-ridden.