The Kings of Saudi Arabia

The modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was founded in 1932 by Abdulaziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud), is a hereditary monarchy. Since 1986, the king of Saudi Arabia holds the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques."

After King Abdulaziz, the kingship has passed from brother to brother, not father to son.

King Abdulaziz

Name: Abdulaziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud)

Date of Birth: January 15, 1876

Reign: September 23, 1932 to November 9, 1953 (death)

Death: November 9, 1953

Some Details:

  • Family's ancestral home was Riyadh
  • Start of his reign is now celebrated as the Saudi National Day
  • Oil was discovered during his reign (1938)
  • Under King Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia was one of the 51 original members of the United Nations in 1945
  • Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport, which opened in 1981, was named for him
  • Had 22 wives, 34 sons, and numerous daughters
  • All the kings of Saudi Arabia since King Abdulaziz have been his sons

King Saud

Name: King Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Date of Birth: January 12, 1902

Reign: November 9, 1953; November 2, 1964 (deposed)

Death: February 23, 1969

Some Details:

  • Eldest surviving son of King Abdulaziz
  • During his reign, Saudi Arabia became one of the five founding members of OPEC (1960)
  • Deposed in 1964 by a group including family members, including the Crown Prince Faisal, the King's brother

King Faisal

Name: Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Date of Birth: 1904

Reign: November 2, 1964 to March 25, 1975 (assassinated)

Death: March 25, 1975

Some Details:

  • In 1962, prior to becoming king, was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery in the Kingdom
  • The first Saudi television broadcasts officially began in 1965
  • Established strong ties with the West, but led OPEC in placing an embargo on export of oil to US markets for approximately six months to protest US military support of Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War
  • Has a reputation as a reforming and modernizing leader; in 1970, the first of the five-year plans to modernize the country's infrastructure (concentrating on education, utilities, transportation, and military) became effective
  • His wife, Iffat, was strong proponent of women's education
  • Laid the foundation stone for the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in 1970; the hospital opened its doors in 1975; regarding healthcare, in 1970 there were only 74 hospitals in the Kingdom, with 789 physicians, 2,253 nurses, and1,396 allied health staff - by the 1999, thanks to the development efforts of Kings Faisal, Khalid, and Fahad, there were 314 hospitals, with 14,786 physicians, 36,340 nursing staff, and 22,188 allied health staff

King Khalid (also spelled "Khaled")

Name: King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Date of Birth: 1912

Reign: March 25, 1975 to June 13, 1982 (death)

Death: June 13, 1982

Some Details:

  • Prior to becoming king, had represented Saudi Arabia at the United Nations
  • In August 1979, a Royal Order was issued to build the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital; the king passed away before the hospital was opened in late 1982
  • He instituted the second five-year plan in 1975 - the plan's goals included introduction of free medical service, free education and vocational training, interest-free loans and subsidies for the purchase of homes, subsidized prices for essential commodities, etc. - as well as the third five-year plan in 1980.
  • Riyadh's King Khaled International Airport, which opened in 1983, was named for him

King Fahad (also spelled "Fahd")

Name: King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Date of Birth: March 16, 1921

Reign: June 13, 1982 to August 1, 2005 (death)

Death: August 1, 2005

Some Details:

  • In 1988, laid the foundation stone for the third expansion of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
  • During the Gulf War in 1991, he gave permission American and other coalition troops to be based in the country, which brought considerable criticism upon him
  • In 1992, introduced the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia (aka the Basic Law of Governance), which is essentially a constitution
  • Due to King Fahad's ill health, the then Crown Prince Abdullah (see below) acted as regent for approximately 10 years (1995 to August 2005)
  • Dammam's King Fahd International Airport, which was started in 1983, was named for him

King Abdullah

Name: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud

Date of Birth: August 1, 1924

Reign: August 1, 2005 to Present

Some Details:

  • Had acted as regent for approximately 10 years, after his brother King Fahad became too ill to actively govern
  • His first television interview after becoming king in 2005 was with ABC News' Barbara Walters; the interview was aired on 20/20 and Nightline. A transcript is available.
  • In February 2009, appointed the first female cabinet-level official in Saudi Arabia, a deputy minister for women's education
  • Established a $10 billion endowment to fund the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a co-ed (a first for the Kingdom) graduate-level research institution located approximately 80 km north of Jeddah
  • A promoter of cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue, in June 2010, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington announced the king had donated funds to establish a Chair for Dialogue Among Civilizations at the University of Toronto
  • An August 2010 article in Newsweek named King Abdullah one of the top 10 most respected leaders of the world

Also see our article on The Political System of Saudi Arabia.

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