Thursday, February 24, 2011

The King is Back in Town

Every time I heard someone say the title today, I couldn't help but think of this song.

There he is!

Yes, you read right. Abdullah has returned to Saudi Arabia. He had gone to the States for back surgery in December and then went to Morocco to recover. He returned...sometime in the past 24 hours. I'm not really sure when he arrived exactly because there are conflicting reports. Did he land last night? Did he land this afternoon? I dunno.

The important part is that he BACK (and we get a 3 day weekend because of it)!

Here are some interesting tidbits I learned about the Saudi monarchy in the past few weeks:

Abdullah's dear old dad.
  • King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is the fifth son of King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia.
  • Abdulaziz set it up so that all the succeeding rulers of Saudi Arabia had to be one of his sons (he had 37). Apparently Abdulaziz didn't have all that much foresight.
  • This is why King Abdullah, 87, will be succeeded by his brother Sultan, 82. Sultan will be succeeded by his brother Nayef who is rumored to be almost 80.
  • I say "rumored" because apparently the sons of Saud are famous for changing their birth certificates to make them younger than they actually are. This isn't for vanity reasons, but to repudiate thoughts of an infirm ruler.
  • Perhaps seeing the flaw in the original king's plan of succession (and shuttering at the thought of leaving his country in the hands of the reckless younger generation), King Abdullah set up the Allegiance Council in 2006. The council is made up of a bunch of Saud's (change comes slow here) and, after the reign of Sultan, will vote by secret ballot for the future kings of Saudi Arabia.
  • One loophole: Sultan is not in good health, so no one's really sure what would happen if he should die before his brother (between you and me, I've heard Nayef isn't all that popular of a guy so not many people want the succession to skip right to him).
I know I should probably be focusing on all the civil unrest surrounding Saudi Arabia, but for the moment I'm just fascinated by all the Kingdom-y stuff around me. I've never lived in a country with a King! The Saudi people seem to be genuinely excited to have their king back on home turf. It's like their grandfather has come back after a long trip. Everybody was praising Abdullah, espousing his good deeds and commenting on how happy they were that he is back and in good health.

As I mentioned, we get the day off on Saturday to celebrate his return, and I really think that Saudis will probably sit around on Saturday and talk about Abdullah and what a great guy he is.

A fellow American colleague and I commented on how funny it would be if the States got the day off every time the President came back from a trip abroad. We'd never get anything done!

Yes, living in a kingdom is very different indeed and today was one of those days that made moving abroad seem like a pretty cool decision.

Vicariously yours,

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