How Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family Is Shaking Things Up In The Middle East

Saudi Arabia is a complicated place. It’s a nation that has made peace with many western countries, while at the same time, participating in some of the most heinous and archaic human rights violations of the 21st century.

Saudi Arabia now has a new Crown Prince, Mohommad bin Salman. He did something no royal has done before and allowed a princess to speak around the world about the rights of women in his country. Still, Saudi Arabia has a long way to go before we can call it progressive. One princess might be shaking things up in Saudi Arabia but there is still a lot of controversy around it. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this contradictory country.

All About King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Emir of Kuwait
Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In 2015, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s half brother died of pneumonia at age 90. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had no choice but to step up as king. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made some changes when he rose to power. he was tired of the government bureaucracy, so he got rid of a lot of unnecessary government positions.

He’s also appointed Mohammad bin Salman as the crown prince back in 2017.

How Religious Laws Are Enforced

Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention
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There is a religious law enforcement body in Saudi Arabia known as The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This committee patrols the streets making sure that women are dressed modestly and that men and women are kept separate.

This isn’t the most objective committee, though. There’s an agreement between the committee and the royals. The rules of virtue and vice don’t exactly apply to the royal family in Saudi Arabia.

Strict Rules That Must Be Obeyed

Saudi Prince Al Whaleed, grandson of Saudi Arabia founder Muhammad ibn Saoud
michel Setboun/Corbis via Getty Images
michel Setboun/Corbis via Getty Images

Even though the rules of virtue and vice are different for the royal family, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to follow any rules at all. Members of the royal family aren’t allowed to consume alcohol or drugs a all. If a member of the royal family is caught doing something they shouldn’t, they’re sent out of the country to keep their indiscretion discreet.

They do break the rules though. Royal men and women have more relaxed dress codes than citizens, as seen here with Prince Al Whaleed and his family in jeans and low cut shirts.

Meet The Royal Rebel: Princess Ameerah

princess ameerah women's right advocacy saudi royal family
YouTube
YouTube

Princess Ameerah married Prince Al-Waleed when she was just 18 years old. Prince Al-Waleed was 28 years old at the time. Princess Ameerah refused to dress like a typical Saudi princess. She wore modern clothes and spoke her mind.

Ameerah stood up for women’s rights in her country and in many countries in the middle east. Princess Ameerah and Prince Al-Waleed got divorced in 2013, but they remain friends to this day, and the princess still calls her ex-husband an “inspiration.”

Princess Ameerah Continued To Campaign For Women’s Rights

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Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images
Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

Even after her divorce, Ameerah continued to fight for the rights of women all over the world. Somehow, she has managed to build relationships with both conservatives and liberals.

She recently stated, “everyone knows me, I sit with extreme conservative, I sit with extreme liberals. My agenda is never to create negativity, but unity.” Ameerah knows that we can never achieve equality until we all recognize how necessary and beneficial it is to be equal.

Princess Ameerah’s Name Actually Means “Princess”

princess ameerah wearing headscarf
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Princess Ameerah wasn’t born into the royal family, she married into it, so people think that she was granted more freedom for that reason. In a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Princess Ameera said, “it’s so ironic because my name means ‘Princess’ in Arabic, so people referred to me as “Ameerah Ameerah” or “Princess Princess”.

It’s almost as though her parents knew she was going to be a princess when they picked out her name.

Body Guards For Days

GettyImages-646561968
ACHMAD IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images
ACHMAD IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images

You will never see a Saudi prince walking around in public without at least one bodyguard. These bodyguards are called Khawi, and they’re usually taken from African countries while they’re quite young. They grow up with the princes so that they develop a sense of loyalty to their employer

The Khawi bodyguards develop close relationships with the princes and they’re often considered family to the royals. Sometimes, the royals need bodyguards for their bodyguards.

Princess Misha’al bint Fahd Tragic Death

misha misha
Wikipedia
Wikipedia

There’s no shortage of tragedy in the saga of the Saudi royal family. Princess Misha’al was forced by her family to marry her own cousin. After the wedding, she fell in love with somebody else in Beirut and started having an affair.

Unfortunately for her, news of the affair reached the royal family and her secret was out. The princess tried to escape Saudi Arabia with her lover but she was arrested at the border. At age 19, she was publically hanged for what she had done.

These Royals Take Vacation Very Seriously

king salman
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Nobody does vacations quite like the Saudi royal family. These people spend an incredible amount of money on private jets, private resorts and private boats. When they went on a trip to the Maldives recently, they took over three entire resort complexes.

he King owns a private villa in southeastern France in the seaside town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan. Every year when he goes to France, he closes down an entire beach, which ends up irritating both the locals and other travelers.

How Saudi Arabia Did In The Olympics

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JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi Arabian Olympic team got in some trouble with the Olympics because they refused to let female athletes participate in the games. The Crown Prince died in 2012 and the more liberal Prince Salman took over. He let female athletes compete, so the Saudi team was allowed to participate in the London Olympics.

That was the first year that Saudi women competed in the Olympics, and it was a huge milestone for the country and for the world.

Women Were Finally Given The Right To Vote

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Jordan Pix/ Getty Images
Jordan Pix/ Getty Images

Saudi Arabia was the last nation to grant women the right to vote. Women weren’t allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia until 2015. Recently, women were also granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. As of 2016, women are now allowed o leave the country without the written permission of a male relative.

These might seem like small steps in the right direction, but for Saudi Arabia, these new laws indicate that they are becoming more tolerant and more progressive.

Laws About Bras

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MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Until recently, Saudi women weren’t allowed to work outside of the home, which meant that all sales clerks in Saudi shops were men. Men would sell everything from spices to cleaning supplies to lingerie. Yes, lingerie.

Women didn’t like the idea of buying bras and underwear from men, so they pressured King Abdullah to reverse the law in 2012. King Abdullah obliged and took their request one step further. Now men aren’t allowed to work in lingerie shops in Saudi Arabia at all.

Princess Maha Bint Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al-Sudairi Got Into Some Money Trouble

Princess-Maha-Al-Sudairi
saudi online/YouTube
saudi online/YouTube

Princess Maha Bint Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al-Sudairi is Prince Nayef’s ex-wife and cousin. Prince Nayef has passed away, but before he died, he and Princess Maha Bint Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al-Sudairi had five children together. This princess liked to spend money.

In 2010, she went on a $20 million shopping spree in Paris. Unfortunately, she didn’t actually pay for any of the stuff she “bough.” She literally handed store clerks “I owe you”s. These were physical cards that said: “Payment to Follow.” It’s reported that the Saudi embassy had to cover all her financial troubles so she could return home.

Great Wealth And Great Power

adbuddlah
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013, Forbes named King Abdullah the 8th most powerful person in the world. Forbes reported, “King Abdullah holds the keys to Islam’s two holiest sites, and the world’s second largest oil deposit of some 265 billion barrels, amounting to about 18% of global reserves”.

Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Most of that wealth (around 77% of it) comes from their oil exports. They also export other materials such as plastic and aluminum.

When The Princesses Went Missing

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HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images

King Abdullah wasn’t the most progressive king in Saudi history. Before he died, he put his four daughters under house arrest because they had modern views on women’s rights. They felt like their country needed to change for everybody’s sake. The men in the family decided that they needed to control these women.

To this day, the public has seen no trace of these princesses. We don’t know if they’re okay, or even if they’re alive.

Norah bint Abdallah Al Faiz Broke Into The Saudi Government

Norah
Wikipedia / Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz
Wikipedia / Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

In 2009, Norah bint Abdallah Al Faiz became the first woman to hold a cabinet-level office in Saudi Arabia. King Abdulla appointed her as the deputy minister of education in charge of women’s affairs.

It became Norah’s job to direct girls’ education in Saudi Arabia and encourage young girls to educate themselves. Norah said that her appointment was a “source of pride for all women.” Not everyone in Saudi Arabia was happy about a there being a female member of government, but overall, the response to her appointment was positive.

Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Was Different From The Other Royals

Sattam Bin
Wikipedia / Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Wikipedia / Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was one of the senior members of the House of Saud. He was also the 12th governor of the Riyadh Province. Sattam was a rather modern member of the Saudi royal family. He was the first member to graduate from an American university. He got a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

He was also the Saudi prince to marry only one wife. He apparently really liked shopping because he changed the law to allow single men to visit malls on evenings and weekends. Before, they were only allowed into malls at lunchtime on weekdays.

Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Made Some Big Changes

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Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was known as “The Red Prince.” He was a senior member of the royal family who was well known for his liberal views. He advocated for a national constitution, the full rule of law, and equality before the law. He was also the leader of the Free Princes Movement.

Even though he was a member of the royal family, he wasn’t so keen on the concept of a monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Ibn Saud Was Knighted By Queen Elizabeth

ibn
Wikipedia / Ibn Saud
Wikipedia / Ibn Saud

In 1935, Ibn Saud participated in the Order of the Bath in England and was granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth of England. This is Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, who was also known as the Queen Mother.

Ibn Saud fathered many children and had many wives. He had a total of 45 sons who all became kings of Saudi Arabia. It was Ibn Saud who began the widespread enforcement of the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (Wahhabism).

A New Stance On Foreign Policy

bin salman
Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Even though Prince Salman has been moving in a more liberal direction with his policies, he has actually intensified the country’s foreign policy rules and tactics. Salman is quite a noisy neighbor. He has already launched a war in Yemen and severed all ties with Iran and Qatar.

The people of Yemen are struggling significantly because of the war. Food and water are already scarce there, and with resources being redirected to the war efforts, people are dying of starvation.

Relations Between The U.S. And Saudi Arabia

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Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Even though the United States of America and Saudi Arabia are very different places, these two countries recently signed the biggest arms deal in history. The Trump administration gave the Saudis $350 billion in weapons and military goods.

Both liberals and conservatives were concerned about this move, especially because Saudi Arabia was allegedly behind the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi while he was overseas in Turkey. Plus, the American government may not have the funds to be handing out billions of dollars.

Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud Became The First Muslim To Visit Space

Sultan bin Salman Al Saud
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images
HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images

Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud is a former Royal Saudi Air force pilot. He traveled as a payload specialist aboard the STS-51-G Discovery when he was 28 years old. This trip made him the first Arab and first Muslim to ever visit space.

Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud is King Salman’s second-born son. However, Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud’s older brother passed away in 2000. He now serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Space Agency.

Prince Fahad Al Saud Got A World-Class Education

Prince Fahad Al Saud
Jim Spellman/WireImage
Jim Spellman/WireImage

Although Prince Fahad Al Saud attended Stanford University. This man is incredibly smart. Soon after graduating, he landed himself a job as the Head of User Operations for Facebook Arab.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, he also founded the tech company NA3M, also known as New Arab Media which produces games for the public. Right now he lives in Los Angeles and serves as the Foreign Ministry’s Head of Student Affairs. He may have to move back to Saudi Arabia if he gets called to the throne, though.

Assassinations Definitely Aren’t Unheard Of

Faisal Ibu Musaed
Tumblr
Tumblr

It probably won’t surprise you at all to learn that many members of the Saudi royal family have been assassinated over the years. That’s why they need all of those bodyguards. Back in 1975, King Faisal was popular among the people, and he worked closely with the United States. He wanted to bring Saudi Arabia into the future.

Even though the people loved him, his nephew, Prince Faisal Ibu Musaed, resented him. Prince Faisal Ibu Musaed actually shot the king three times on March 25, 1975. King Faisal didn’t survive, but he didn’t want his nephew to be executed for what he had done. The Prince was executed anyway, though.

Women Can Drive In Saudi Arabia Now (Finally)

Allowing Women To Drive
Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images
Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to allow women to drive. This new law was passed thanks to King Salman. He and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been trying to make this very conservative nation just a little bit more progressive.

The ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted in June 2018. Yes, that’s much too late, but better late than never. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

Women Can Own Businesses Now

Women in Business
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Allowing women to drive wasn’t the only positive thing that Crom Prince Mohammed bin Salman did right. He also helped establish a law that made it possible for Saudi women o own their own businesses. This law was put into action in February of 2018.

Before this law was made, it was very difficult for women to live in Saudi Arabia without being completely dependent on a man. Now women are starting to get a taste of freedom.

What The Crown Prince Has In Mind For The Future

Vision 2030
Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

The Crown Prince is already looking ahead at what is to come for Saudi Arabia in the future. he has a plan he refers to as Vision 2030. He wants to lessen the country’s dependence on oil and build up Saudi’s tourism industry.

He stated that “I’m young. 70% of our citizens are young. We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era. That age is over.”

One Of The Last Remaining Monarchies

Final Monarchies
Pool/SPA/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Pool/SPA/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There are very few countries left in the world that are true monarchies. Even England doesn’t have an absolute monarchy anymore. The Saudi princes have more power in their countries than Elizabeth II has in hers. The Saudi nation was officially created on September 23, 1932, and since then, the Al Saud family has ruled the country.

It doesn’t look like Saudi Arabia is moving over to democracy any time soon. All of these princes like being in power.

Different Groups Of Royals

Clans
Reza/Getty Images
Reza/Getty Images

Many of the Saudi princes have more than one wife, so if you thought the British royal family was difficult to keep track of, wait until you see this. The Saudi royal family is divided into groups called clans. The current king, King Salman is part of the Sudiari clan. Technically, no two consecutive kings are supposed to be from the same clan.

It doesn’t always work out that way, though. In fact, the throne belonged to the Sudiari clan right before King Salman rose to power.

How They Spend Money

Monthy Allowances
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The Saudi royal family has an incredible amount of wealth, but that wealth has to be shared amongst a very large group of people. A lot of this money comes from the government. The royals are allowed to take “allowances” from the government, but in recent years, it looked like they were taking more than they were entitled to.

In 2017, many of the government officials and princes were arrested during the purge on corruption charges.

King Faisal’s Magnificent Final Year

Time Man of The Year
Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Remember King Faisal? The guy who was assassinated by his own nephew? Well, in the same year that he was killed, King Faisal was named 1975 Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

this honor meant a lot to King Faisal and to the entire country of Saudi Arabia. The country was going through a tough time back in the ’70s, and this move by Time Magazine really made a difference to the Saudi Arabian people.

Some Secrets Should Stay Secrets

Family Secrets
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The Saudi royal family is very invested in keeping their private life private. They don’ want all of their dirty secrets out in the open for everybody to judge. They’ve been able to keep a lot of secrets, but even so, every now and then a secret manages to slip through the cracks.

The royal family tried to keep things quiet when Princess Mishaal was put to death in 1976 for loving the wrong man.

A Recent Royal Execution

Recent Execution
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Pinterest

The Saudis take law enforcement very seriously. In 2016, Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer was executed by beheading for murdering another man. This Saudi prince was the direct successor of Saud ibn Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud.

The victim’s father had a choice— he could either accept a large sum of money from the prince or have him sentenced to death. This prince became the first Saudi royal family member o be executed since the execution of Princess Mishaal in 1977.

How The Saudi Government Feels About Homosexuality

Homosexuality
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that homosexuality is still very illegal in Saudi Arabia. Sleeping with another man (if you are a man) or another woman (if you are a woman) is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

What actually might surprise you is that the man that Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud murdered in 2010 was his supposed male lover in the UK. The prince spent some time in a U.K. jail before being sent back to Saudi Arabia.

All Corrupt Officials Were Removed

Purge
Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On November 4, 2017, 17 Saudi princes along with numerous government ministers, and prominent businessmen were arrested on charges of corruption in a move kown as “the purge.” Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman called for this purge because he wanted to make a point.

He said, “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement…About 1 percent are able to prove they are clean and their case is dropped right there. About 4 percent say they are not corrupt and with their lawyers want to go to court.”

Donald Trump Was Celebrated By The Saudis

Highest Honor
RT Arabic/Twitter
RT Arabic/Twitter

Saudi Arabia is very found of American President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump was awarded the highest honor in Saudi Arabia known as the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Saudis were grateful for Trump’s arms deal, and they wanted to show the world just how appreciative they were.

This medal is a huge honor, even if Trump can’t appreciate the magnitude of it. More recently Donald Trump was presented with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud by King Salman.

One Prince Got Into Some Legal Trouble

Trouble With The Law
Biography Documentary Films/YouTube
Biography Documentary Films/YouTube

Prince Nayef bin Fawwaz Al Shalaan attempted to smuggle 4,400 lb of cocaine from Columbia to Europe in 1999. He wasn’t successful because the French police intercepted him at the airport.

Eight years later, on May 10, 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail. The public hasn’t seen Prince Nayef bin Fawwaz Al Shalaan in quite some time, and nobody is really sure where he is. We may never know if he actually served his jail time.

Black Market Dealings

Black Market
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Some members of the House of Al-Saud have been involved in some very questionable activities. Wikileaks exposed some of the shady deals going on in the Suadi royal family.

According to a Wikileaks in 2011, ‘Princes also use their clout to confiscate land from commoners, especially if it is known to be the site for an upcoming project and can be quickly resold to the government for a profit.” The family also supposedly has ties to the black market.

A Real Family Feud

Speaking Out
AP Archive/YouTube
AP Archive/YouTube

With so many membersof the Saudi royal family is it any wonder that they don’t all get along? Many of the Saudi royal family members have actually spoken out publically about other members of their family.

Prince Khalid Bin Farhan al-Saud lives in Germany, and he has gone on record saying “The people have less money than before, but the royal family have the same. There is a lot of state money which is concealed from the budget, which is determined by the King alone.”

Going To Rehab In Secret

Rehabs
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Drugs and alcohol are strictly off-limits in all of Saudi Arabia. Most average citizens don’t have access to drug and alcohol because there isn’t much of it in the country, but members of the royal family have power, money, connections, and time to travel. Many of them become exposed to drugs and then they become addicted.

Apparently, there are rehabs in Saudi Arabia just for royals. These special institutions are kept very secret from the public.