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Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

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What happened in the Middle East's oil-rich powerhouse while we weren't looking? Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox. It's a modern state driven by contemporary technology & possessed of vast oil deposits, yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs & practices rolled back 1000 years to match those of the prophet Muhammad. With Inside the Kingd What happened in the Middle East's oil-rich powerhouse while we weren't looking? Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox. It's a modern state driven by contemporary technology & possessed of vast oil deposits, yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs & practices rolled back 1000 years to match those of the prophet Muhammad. With Inside the Kingdom, journalist & bestselling author Robert Lacey has given us one of the most penetrating & insightful looks at Saudi Arabia ever produced. While living for years among the nation's princes & paupers, its clerics & progressives, Lacey endeavored to find out how the consequences of the 1970s oil boom produced a society at war with itself. Filled with stories that trace a path thru the Persian Gulf War & the events of 9/11 to the oilmarket convulsions of today, Inside the Kingdom gives a modern history of the Saudis in their own words, revealing a people attempting to reconcile life under religious law with the demands of a rapidly changing world. Their struggle will have powerful reverberations around the globe. This rich work provides a penetrating look at a country no one can afford to ignore.


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What happened in the Middle East's oil-rich powerhouse while we weren't looking? Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox. It's a modern state driven by contemporary technology & possessed of vast oil deposits, yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs & practices rolled back 1000 years to match those of the prophet Muhammad. With Inside the Kingd What happened in the Middle East's oil-rich powerhouse while we weren't looking? Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox. It's a modern state driven by contemporary technology & possessed of vast oil deposits, yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs & practices rolled back 1000 years to match those of the prophet Muhammad. With Inside the Kingdom, journalist & bestselling author Robert Lacey has given us one of the most penetrating & insightful looks at Saudi Arabia ever produced. While living for years among the nation's princes & paupers, its clerics & progressives, Lacey endeavored to find out how the consequences of the 1970s oil boom produced a society at war with itself. Filled with stories that trace a path thru the Persian Gulf War & the events of 9/11 to the oilmarket convulsions of today, Inside the Kingdom gives a modern history of the Saudis in their own words, revealing a people attempting to reconcile life under religious law with the demands of a rapidly changing world. Their struggle will have powerful reverberations around the globe. This rich work provides a penetrating look at a country no one can afford to ignore.

30 review for Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Well, what an excellent book and so important at this time in history. While the major focus of Inside the Kingdom is the history of Saudia Arabia and it's interactions with the world from the mid 1970s forward, history of the founding of the house of Saud is provided. This was enough for an uninformed reader such as this one to follow the rest of the story. I would suggest that readers not worry if they lose track of names while reading this book...I can almost promise that it will happen to mo Well, what an excellent book and so important at this time in history. While the major focus of Inside the Kingdom is the history of Saudia Arabia and it's interactions with the world from the mid 1970s forward, history of the founding of the house of Saud is provided. This was enough for an uninformed reader such as this one to follow the rest of the story. I would suggest that readers not worry if they lose track of names while reading this book...I can almost promise that it will happen to most Western readers. The major players will become obvious. The major factors in Saudi Arabia from the start have been the monarchy and the clerics. The interplay between the two has both helped and hindered the nation in the past and has had a spectacular impact in the time frame covered here. I have learned so much that now makes the last 10 to 15 years of world and U.S. history more fathomable, not reasonable, but I now know where it came from. I had heard of the origins of Osama Bin Laden and other Saudi young men who grew to be terrorists but now I have a better feeling for the factors that led to that end and the great difficulty the monarchy has in making change in a society based on religion. I really think this should be required reading for high school students. We as a people need to know more about others in the world. Knowledge hopefully can lead to better understanding. As another reviewer wrote, I hope King Abdullah does get his university.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    My wife and I are about to begin an assignment in Saudi Arabia that will have us living there for months or possibly years, thus my need to quickly increase my knowledge about the Kingdom and its culture. This book by Robert Lacey is actually a follow-up to a much larger volume titled simply, The Kingdom, that Lacey first published in 1981. This, basicaly, is a sequel, but one written with the purpose of understanding the events that occurred after 1981 related to Saudi Arabia, specifically the My wife and I are about to begin an assignment in Saudi Arabia that will have us living there for months or possibly years, thus my need to quickly increase my knowledge about the Kingdom and its culture. This book by Robert Lacey is actually a follow-up to a much larger volume titled simply, The Kingdom, that Lacey first published in 1981. This, basicaly, is a sequel, but one written with the purpose of understanding the events that occurred after 1981 related to Saudi Arabia, specifically the war in Afghanistan, the rise of Al-Qaeda, 9/11, the embassy attacks within Saudi Arabia, and Guantanamo Bay. The title, therefore, is both accurate and inaccurate: if anything, Lacey's premise is that the last 30 years has forced Saudi Arabia to come to the realization that the Kingdom affects and can be affected by events outside its borders, for better or worse, and can no longer be denied by the King. It's a fascinating book, and Lacey an engaging and smooth writer. Things I was able to learn from the narrative include finally understanding some of Saudi Arabia's attitude towards its neighbors (as well as sections of its own population) by Lacey's clear explanation of the Sunni and Shia differences. The book also illustrates the strange shift in Saudi attitudes towards hardline Muslim extremists and business-focused Westerners by focusing on several of the important power brokers in addition to the Al-Saud family. The book was published in 2009, but based on what I've already learned from my first trip to the country, is in need of a couple of additional chapters, as Saudi Arabia continues to both embrace and fight a rapid pace of change. Just in the last year, a university dedicated to women's education has been completed near the Riyadh airport and several economic cities dedicated to trade, banking, and manufacturing are due to be completed in the next year. Women continue to press for more rights (not just the right to drive, but with regards to family and property rights) and the religious police have recently been pulled back from some more egrigious behavior. All of these are on a pendulum, one that Inside the Kingdom reveals can just as easily swing back in a more conservative direction. It's going to be an interesting time here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Daabel

    Lacey starts this book with "Angry Face," Juhayman, and his followers, including the expected "Mahdi," who seized the mosque in Mecca (Makkah) in 1979. (This event is also covered well by Trofimov, in The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine). The author selected a wonderfully appropriate epigraph for this section, from Dostoevsky: "Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer. Nothing is more difficult than to understand him." Lacey did a commendable job in explaining Lacey starts this book with "Angry Face," Juhayman, and his followers, including the expected "Mahdi," who seized the mosque in Mecca (Makkah) in 1979. (This event is also covered well by Trofimov, in The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine). The author selected a wonderfully appropriate epigraph for this section, from Dostoevsky: "Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer. Nothing is more difficult than to understand him." Lacey did a commendable job in explaining the grievances of those being overwhelmed by the "future shock" that was roiling the Kingdom as a result of the influx of money and foreigners (and their ideas) following the sharp increase in oil prices after 1973. This event, plus the revolt of the Shia, in the eastern town of Qateef, in the same year, had the net effect of nudging Saudi Arabia to a much more conservative governmental social policy, yes, in effect, co-opting a portion of Juhayman's agenda... and the women disappeared from the TV, and the "Opera House" remained closed for many a year! Lacey also covers the Saudi-American alliance of the `80's, ironical in retrospect, openly supported "jihad," certainly when it was fighting the "godless" Soviet Union in Afghanistan. And now both countries suffer from the "blowback," in CIA parlance. Part Two deals with the second decade of the 30 year period, the `90's. The author again commences with an all too appropriate epigraph, this time from Edward Gibbon: "So intimate is the connection between the throne and the alter that the banner of church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people." The seminal event in this decade was Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, and his expulsion, lead by an American coalition. The net effect on the Kingdom, who saw American female soldiers driving, which was emulated by their Saudi counterparts, was to again nudge the Kingdom into a more conservative mode. Still, despite the various "fetishes" developed by the religious police, say, against red roses on Valentine's day, the country continues to be overwhelmed by Western (and world) influences, and sadly, the upholders of tradition saw nothing wrong in the influx of fast food restaurants, which led to an "epidemic" of diabetes. Paralleling events in the Kingdom, Lacey devotes space to events in not so far off Afghanistan, where the "students," (the Taliban) were seizing power, and welcomed Bin Laden from the Sudan. The last third of the book starts with "15 flying Saudis," the events of 9/11, and the aftermath, and the Kingdom's own "9/11", which occurred on May 12, 2003, when three upscale compounds were attacked by suicide bombers in Riyadh. Clearly Lacey empathizes with the modernizing goals of now King Abdullah, who had been de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since King Fahd's stroke in '95, but only obtained the full title after his death in 2005. He closes his epilogue poignantly, with the King praying longer one evening after seeing the progress at KAUST, the university that bears his name, slower than he had hoped. There is a small "cottage industry" which publishes books, and promotes articles that depict the Kingdom as "mysterious," that wants to "rip the veil" off Saudi society, that "exposes" the Kingdom, that produces sheer fantasies of life in the Kingdom. Lacey might have foregone a few book sales by not following this gamut, but for those who want to understand the country (and even ponder how we in the West perceive the country), this book is an essential read. The author has an extraordinary range of contacts in the Kingdom, and has woven the stories of real Saudis into his story, such as the "jihadis," Mansour Al-Nogaidan and Khaled Al-Hubayshi. Overall, through the sheer number of Saudis who were willing to speak "on the record," you had a sense that they trusted Lacey to tell the story in a balanced way, which I think he has. Tis a shame that it will be one more book on the Kingdom that will be banned by their Ministry of Information. I loved the way Lacey utilized Saudi parables, as Saudis themselves do, to make a point, with my favorite being "The Donkey from Yemen." Lacey should also be commended for correctly translated the meaning of "Tash ma Tash," the Saudi sit-com, unlike the authors of a couple other books on the Kingdom. Quibbles? Well, I have a few, and they only underscore the difficulty for a foreigner to get it "all right," but often they can, even better than a Saudi, due to the perspective, and "lack of baggage," including tribal ones. Per Lippman, in Inside The Mirage: America's Fragile Partnership with Saudi Arabia it is unlikely American women were in Al Kharj before 1950, not 1944, as Lacey indicates (p 9). There would have been no "hilal" moon (or any other), on Muharram 01, 1400 (p 22). I'd love to know how the M113 armored personnel carrier was a "success" story of the Vietnam War (p 32). Al-Nakba (the disaster) is usually associated with the Palestinian expulsion of 1948, not the defeat of `67 (p 56). Steve Coll, in his The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century says that there are two versions of how Osama's father, Mohammed, lost his eye, but both occurred in Ethiopia and neither involved soccer; Lacey says that it happened in the Sudan, as a result of a soccer game (p 58). Concerning the formation of "Al Qaeda", the BBC documentary "The Power of Nightmares, directed by Adam Curtis, gives a much more plausible explanation its origins - it was invented by Americans, (!!) for the trials of the 1993 bombers of the WTC, legally, so that RICO laws could be utilized, which involve "conspiracy" and an organization. Later, Bin Laden co-opted the term! It is extremely unlikely that Bin Laden had (has) a "database" of names of all the muhahideen and their contact details, save in his brain (p 148). "Only" three compounds in Riyadh were attacked on May 12, 2003 - the Oasis compound was not (p 244). And Lacey entitles a chapter on the women of Saudi Arabia the "girls" of Saudi - and not a single "girl" was in the chapter (p 274). Overall, though, a thoroughly researched, and balanced book, written to illuminate Western and in particular, American readers on Saudi Arabia, (Lacey, a British writer even explains that Sandhurst is the "West Point of England.") and should be read in conjunction with Lacey's earlier work, The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Sa'Ud Though I'm sure Lacey would demur that "it is beyond the scope of this course," should not all Americans ponder the progress made after each countries "9/11" concerning the issues he only discusses about the Kingdom, be it educational policies, human rights, detention facilities, employment of youth and counteracting those who advocate endless conflict with "the other." An essential 5-star read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I have tried to write this review three times, but lost multiple versions due to internet crashes. I hope it is coherent. Inside the Kingdom: Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey, is an interesting look at the competing forces of economic progression and the religious/traditional Saudi society. The book begins by analyzing the first terrorist attack in Saudi Arabian history, the Great Mosque Siege of 1979 in Mecca. Religious zealots closely related to I have tried to write this review three times, but lost multiple versions due to internet crashes. I hope it is coherent. Inside the Kingdom: Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey, is an interesting look at the competing forces of economic progression and the religious/traditional Saudi society. The book begins by analyzing the first terrorist attack in Saudi Arabian history, the Great Mosque Siege of 1979 in Mecca. Religious zealots closely related to the powerful Salafi movement took control of the Great Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites. A siege ensued, and the resulting attack by Saudi forces saw over 200 people killed, evenly split between factions. Lacey then begins to look at the internal issues of the Saudi state. The Salafi movement is widely respected in Saudi Arabia, and its adherents promote a strong respect for Islam amongst Saudi citizens, a distrust of foreign culture, and a literalist interpretation of Islam and its teachings. Salafi's also have close connections to the Saudi throne, and the Saudi monarch has long claimed power due to its respect for faith and its management of Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. Therefore, the Saudi throne is often politically connected to the Saudi religious body, and the two work interchangeably to formulate policy that respects their beliefs. This has led to a state where it is frowned upon for women to be seen in public alone, or to drive. Shia minorities and foreign workers also struggle for rights and freedoms. This is due to the religious background of Saudi Arabia, their traditions, and the absolute nature of their monarchy. These tensions for women's rights and recognition of minorities play against the Saudi's traditional culture. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has seen a marked shift in both its economic and geopolitical position. Saudi oil wealth has made social reform more attractive, and the business of extracting oil and managing wealth brings Saudi Arabia in close contact with other nations through trade. This has led to calls for reform not just from minority rights activists, but from internal members of the Saudi family. The states relationship with the West is another factor. Although rocky, the strategic partnership between the US and Saudi Arabia is deep. Both parties supported anti-communist movements in Africa throughout the 1970's and 1980's, and Saudi Arabia largely foot the bill for many pro-western militant groups. Both parties also supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan as a resistance to Soviet occupation in the 1980's. Saudi Arabia, however, has deep roots to extremist militants worldwide. Their support for the Mujahedeen led to a natural support for the Taliban, originally the only faction to pull Afghanistan out of warlordism following the Soviet withdrawal. This support saw many radicalized Saudi citizens travelling to the region to fight. Saudi Arabia's own Osama Bin-Laden cut his teeth in Afghanistan, and with (for a short time) support from the Saudi government, the Bin Laden construction conglomerate, and moral support from Saudi Arabia's general population. Radical Islam is appealing in many ways to the Salafi traditions of Saudi Arabia, and some aspects of it appeal to the general population. However, Bin Laden's increasingly hostile attitude to his homeland strained this goodwill, and indeed soon destroyed Saudi support for the Taliban, as the Taliban refused to extradite the terrorist leader. Saudi Arabia soon cut ties with Bin Laden, and his family disowned his behaviour. Bin Laden went on to attack the US and Saudi Arabia in multiple terrorist attack, citing anger with foreign troops being stationed on Saudi soil during and after the Gulf War. US embassies were bombed in Eastern Africa, military bases and foreign guest houses attacked throughout Saudi Arabia, and foreigners were targeted by gunmen. This spate of attacks shook up the relationship between the Salafi bodies and the Saudi government. After the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, which Bin Laden mastermind, the Saudi's began to move away from the Salafi's more zealous attributes. Girl's schools were reopened and guarded by Saudi troops, Salafi Imam's were targeted for surveillance, and reforms were (and continue to be) experimented with. Saudi Arabia's relationship with the US, although strained by its support for Israel during this period, remained strong. Saudi Arabia up to 2009 was (and is) still an absolute monarchy. However, local elections were tried out, women's rights activists are being marginalized less (a step, but a small one). Shia activists were allowed to return home with guarantees, and so on. So how was the book? Lacey's account of Saudi Arabia is interesting, focused and concise. It looks mostly at Saudi Arabian politics as the relationship between extremism and reform that are so prevalent within the country. Many of the political facts about Saudi Arabia were interesting, especially the parts on the Saudi's past relationships with what are today terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia is one of the world's big players, and Lacey offers a good background on the forces that shape the country and its internal situation. Even so, I had a few issues with the book. The first is the poor sourcing in the book. Lacey uses no in text citations (at least in the version I read) which makes fact checking a bit difficult. Much of the information in the book comes from first hand stories by anonymous subjects, making it less than historically accurate. Lacey also has an axe to grind, it seems, and deliberately thumbs his nose at various aspects of the Saudi state within the narrative of the text. I am not claiming it is undeserved, but such snubbing seems a bit out of place in a book where the facts already speak for themselves. The extra narrative is not needed, and does not add anything to the books credibility. So all in all, a good read with a few flaws in citation, sourcing and narrative. It is easily recommendable to those looking to read more on one of the Middle East's regional powers, as well as to those looking to read more on the background to the modern "War on Terror." Although it suffers flaws, it has enough good stuff to offer a commendable read on Saudi Arabian politics and culture.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Betule Sairafi

    Do I want to read some white guy making fun of my country? Hell, yeah! Clearly, this book is illegal. I almost feel the need to hide my review in spoiler tags just to add a hardly substantial layer between me and the black GMC. Hey, is that actually a spoiler? Eight years later and everything is still illegal. Probably a little too long for the casual (non-Saudi) reader to enjoy, this is the political history of Saudi Arabia. But the chapters are nice and small and the style is, in my opinion, fu Do I want to read some white guy making fun of my country? Hell, yeah! Clearly, this book is illegal. I almost feel the need to hide my review in spoiler tags just to add a hardly substantial layer between me and the black GMC. Hey, is that actually a spoiler? Eight years later and everything is still illegal. Probably a little too long for the casual (non-Saudi) reader to enjoy, this is the political history of Saudi Arabia. But the chapters are nice and small and the style is, in my opinion, funny and engaging, so maybe the casual reader can handle it. Come on over if you want to read about how the government was stuck in a cycle of adding more religious intolerance to combat the terrorism that resulted from force-feeding the people religious intolerance. You also learn about how some of the jihadis who came back from Afghanistan went on to have regular, average-citizen lives... one of them became a marriage counsellor and then had to take it to TV because the husbands all refused to go to marriage counselling. Other than his infatuation with the reigning king of the time, Lacey isn't afraid to show how ridiculous (AKA horrible) things can be here. I'm not entirely sure if he uses juxtaposition of culture to humorously convey the Saudi mindset or if it just sounds that much worse in the language of the free world. Is it weird if I think of this book as my autobiography? No, you're right, I'm not Saudi Arabia. But I did just learn from the epilogue that my 25th birthday -in a month and a half- is also the 27th anniversary of the first protest for women's driving, and I still can't drive. (view spoiler)[ whydidheonlymentionanassassinationofakingwithoutanyotherinformationgoddamnwhathappenedthere (hide spoiler)]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A little dated - it went to print in 2009 - but Robert Lacey's sequel to The Kingdom is an excellent introduction to how and why things work (or don't) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The founding of the kingdom was very much the work of one man, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and it is still his sons that sit on the throne, and his clan that basically run things in this most wealthy and god-fearing nation. There's no pretense about democracy, and since the kingdom is still by definition a theocracy, run A little dated - it went to print in 2009 - but Robert Lacey's sequel to The Kingdom is an excellent introduction to how and why things work (or don't) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The founding of the kingdom was very much the work of one man, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and it is still his sons that sit on the throne, and his clan that basically run things in this most wealthy and god-fearing nation. There's no pretense about democracy, and since the kingdom is still by definition a theocracy, run in many ways by the Muslim religious clergy with the Koran as its "constitution," you have a modern society organized by principles right out of the 7th century. This book should be required reading to those who believe that Islamic terror is the result of economic desperation - fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi students who lacked for nothing. The question is what philosophies and circumstances led and still leads these young people to such murderous courses of action, and Lacey goes a long way to answering those question as well. Beautifully written, this work would seem to be a must-read if you have an interest in the modern Middle East.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Very interesting examination of modern-day Saudi Arabia since the late 1970's. The author doesn't tiptoe around criticisms of the Saudi government and Saudi character - but in the end it feels like a fair portrait, highlighting the good and the bad. Very interesting examination of modern-day Saudi Arabia since the late 1970's. The author doesn't tiptoe around criticisms of the Saudi government and Saudi character - but in the end it feels like a fair portrait, highlighting the good and the bad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dramatika

    A light and entertaining book on the last thirty years of the Saudi Arabia. The book is written by British journalist, so it is not as thorough or deep as the ones written by academic historian. Here you can find interesting information mostly on the life of major players in the history of the country: royal family , clergy and that other major export of the Kingdom apart from oil : terrorists. I would love to read more on the life of ordinary people, but understand that it might be impossible f A light and entertaining book on the last thirty years of the Saudi Arabia. The book is written by British journalist, so it is not as thorough or deep as the ones written by academic historian. Here you can find interesting information mostly on the life of major players in the history of the country: royal family , clergy and that other major export of the Kingdom apart from oil : terrorists. I would love to read more on the life of ordinary people, but understand that it might be impossible for the outsider as the author to have access to such information. Read at almost one sitting, very engaging and fascinating book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    FAIZAN KHAN

    If You've Never Travelled KSA, This Book Is Your Ticket, The Book Takes You Back In Time To Post 9/11. Tho Not Everything In The Book I Agree With, It's Still A Good Book To Study. If You've Never Travelled KSA, This Book Is Your Ticket, The Book Takes You Back In Time To Post 9/11. Tho Not Everything In The Book I Agree With, It's Still A Good Book To Study.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Landsman

    I wish I had read this book when it first came out. At the time I had assumed it would be a dry read, as I always forget how a good author can make a non-fiction book into a page-turner! Inside the Kingdom was, for me, as exciting and interesting as was the Looming Tower. The book tries to cover Saudi Arabia's history, but mostly focuses on the times that the author knows best, from 1979 on. This is fine, however, as the the tale of Juhayman's seige of Mecca I have always found to be intriguing a I wish I had read this book when it first came out. At the time I had assumed it would be a dry read, as I always forget how a good author can make a non-fiction book into a page-turner! Inside the Kingdom was, for me, as exciting and interesting as was the Looming Tower. The book tries to cover Saudi Arabia's history, but mostly focuses on the times that the author knows best, from 1979 on. This is fine, however, as the the tale of Juhayman's seige of Mecca I have always found to be intriguing and under analyzed. Lacey does an incredible job outlining the causes and effects of the 1979 events. Additionally, the way that Lacey introduces and develops the characters that play roles from King to journalist/activist to clerics, princes, and ambassadors, is incredible. The characters come and go through the book like characters in a novel. Two criticisms I have are the following: King Abdullah appears to be portrayed in an exceptional light, and it is difficult not to wonder if there isn't some punch-pulling since Abdullah is currently in power. He is portrayed as being on the right side of quite a few issues that I find to be quite gray. For instance, his defense of Palestinians during the second intifada, and his adamant opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Far too little is said of the American struggle to contain Saddam. There is no mention of Saddam's brutal reprisals against his people after the first Gulf War, or his repeated flouting of the cease-fire rules. Additionally, the author makes no mention of the Kingdom's role in the occupation from 04-09 when the book ends. He also does not mention how Aramco became a Saudi owned company. I just found these omissions to be surprising and a bit dissappointing. To be sure, Lacey does not claim that this book is a comprehensive history of Saudi, especially since he is known to have written a 600+ page history The Kingdom, back in 1980. I guess I think the scope of the book wasn't well defined enough in the intro. Nevertheless I 100% recommend this book to anyone interested in Arab culture, the Mid East, or international relations in general.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    This is essentially an account of important political or social events in Saudi Arabia from 1978 to the present. I felt a bit lost the entire first half of the book. I know nothing about Saudi Arabia other than from my general knowledge of current events and basic history. So, it's possible that Lacey's first book on the kingdom is required reading prior to picking up this one, given my background. The second half of the book read more smoothly and made more sense, perhaps because it was intertw This is essentially an account of important political or social events in Saudi Arabia from 1978 to the present. I felt a bit lost the entire first half of the book. I know nothing about Saudi Arabia other than from my general knowledge of current events and basic history. So, it's possible that Lacey's first book on the kingdom is required reading prior to picking up this one, given my background. The second half of the book read more smoothly and made more sense, perhaps because it was intertwined with issues I'm more familiar with like 9/11 and the first Gulf War. A lot of names are tossed around, because the Saudi royal family is a large and complex one, and I'm still a bit confused on the general who's who. But for the most part, I now have an appreciation of the kind of ruler King Abdullah is and the direction he is trying to take his country in the coming years. Managing the conflicting tensions in Saudi Arabia between religious zealots and liberals is a balance the royal family has clearly struggled with for years, and Lacey does a very good job of portraying that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roisín

    The last book I read about Saudi Arabia was so over the top it was laughable. I liked this book because it seemed quite fair. It didn't always show Saudi Arabia in a bad light. And was very good at explaining the reasoning behind why they do a lot of stuff. The author wasn't afraid to discuss controversial issues such as the young girls forced back into a burning school because they weren't completely covered by the religious clothing they needed to be. The author also discussed Bin laden, Iraq, The last book I read about Saudi Arabia was so over the top it was laughable. I liked this book because it seemed quite fair. It didn't always show Saudi Arabia in a bad light. And was very good at explaining the reasoning behind why they do a lot of stuff. The author wasn't afraid to discuss controversial issues such as the young girls forced back into a burning school because they weren't completely covered by the religious clothing they needed to be. The author also discussed Bin laden, Iraq, Sept 11th, Saudi women, Politics, Culture all round a very good read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abdulaziz Alseja

    This book promises an insightful look into the currents that shaped Saudi culture and social norms, in addition to, the events that led to the "current Saudi Arabia" that we live in today. To a Saudi, such as myself, it does not offer much. But to anybody interested in Saudi history, this book offers a vivid recall of the major "forks in the road" that have determined Saudi's standing as it is today from the eyes of someone who has been part of that crucial period. This book promises an insightful look into the currents that shaped Saudi culture and social norms, in addition to, the events that led to the "current Saudi Arabia" that we live in today. To a Saudi, such as myself, it does not offer much. But to anybody interested in Saudi history, this book offers a vivid recall of the major "forks in the road" that have determined Saudi's standing as it is today from the eyes of someone who has been part of that crucial period.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Manar

    I'm not a big fan of politics and history, but this book was different. I guess because It told me about stories and names I usually hear about but know nothing about. I like the details, pictures, and objectivity. An eye-opener, really. Worth reading! I'm not a big fan of politics and history, but this book was different. I guess because It told me about stories and names I usually hear about but know nothing about. I like the details, pictures, and objectivity. An eye-opener, really. Worth reading!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dalia

    While I really enjoyed this book and the historical background it presented, the orientalist undertones were a major drawback.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Basel

    When I heard about this book, I thought that since Saudi Arabia was in the eye of the storm since 9.11 and almost everybody was talking about this country that what would push Mr. Lacey to hand his beer.. And indulge in writing a new book about a country which he knew much better than a lot of people who on the screen all the time, and he had something to tell us.. Actually I was PARTLY right, so in some terms you can consider this book a sequel to: THE KINGDOM:ARABIA AND THE HOUSE OF Sa'ud, but When I heard about this book, I thought that since Saudi Arabia was in the eye of the storm since 9.11 and almost everybody was talking about this country that what would push Mr. Lacey to hand his beer.. And indulge in writing a new book about a country which he knew much better than a lot of people who on the screen all the time, and he had something to tell us.. Actually I was PARTLY right, so in some terms you can consider this book a sequel to: THE KINGDOM:ARABIA AND THE HOUSE OF Sa'ud, but all in all you can tell that the both books written by the same author, you can see that Robert Lacey tried to understand and help us to understand the kingdom, I wrote about the idea of this book (as I see it), Not about the book itself, because I think it worths your time to read it and review it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sami Eerola

    Great book about the modern history of the state of Saudi-Arabia. The writer narrates the history by mixing Western outsider and Saudi insider perspectives, making the reader understand and even sympathise with the Saudi's, even when the absolute barbaric aspects of their culture are openly showed. The book's greatest achievement is showing the different people and Islamic interpretations existing inside the kingdom, bringing forefront that the country is not made just of fundamentalist barbarian Great book about the modern history of the state of Saudi-Arabia. The writer narrates the history by mixing Western outsider and Saudi insider perspectives, making the reader understand and even sympathise with the Saudi's, even when the absolute barbaric aspects of their culture are openly showed. The book's greatest achievement is showing the different people and Islamic interpretations existing inside the kingdom, bringing forefront that the country is not made just of fundamentalist barbarians that hates the West. That even some fundamentalists and Saudi royalry know the problems of their country and are trying to reform it. Very enjoyable read that shows the human side of one of the most oppressive countries in the world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Friederike Leppert

    I believe that this is a super interesting book if the reader is literate in Saudi Arabian history and wants to delve in deep. For everyone else it is difficult to follow but still conveys a general feeling on governance and culture in Saudi Arabia. This is a book I‘m looking forward to return to once I have more knowledge on Saudi Arabia.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Giulia Cavallari

    Extremely informative work of nonfiction. I was skeptical at the beginning that it would be western - point of view focused, but it isn't. I recommend this read to everyone that lives in the region and wants to know more about the dynamics of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Extremely informative work of nonfiction. I was skeptical at the beginning that it would be western - point of view focused, but it isn't. I recommend this read to everyone that lives in the region and wants to know more about the dynamics of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    The first half of this book is the best overview that I’ve been able to find of modern Saudi Arabia - charting how it’s society and the Saud/cleric balance of power shifted before and following the Grand Mosque attack. From the late 1990s onwards, the book becomes less clear - both because it inevitably focuses on 9/11 and US/Saudi relations (to a level that other writers have more insight into), and because the last ten years and the rise of Mohammed bin Salman have largely rendered previous th The first half of this book is the best overview that I’ve been able to find of modern Saudi Arabia - charting how it’s society and the Saud/cleric balance of power shifted before and following the Grand Mosque attack. From the late 1990s onwards, the book becomes less clear - both because it inevitably focuses on 9/11 and US/Saudi relations (to a level that other writers have more insight into), and because the last ten years and the rise of Mohammed bin Salman have largely rendered previous thinking about how KSA would develop irrelevant. Overall it’s worth reading if you’re interested in Saudi Arabia, not least as the extent of the research and lack of reliable forecasting shows just how difficult it is to predict what will happen in the region.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Harn

    One of the most shocking and groundbreaking books on the Al Saud family. You will not look at Saudi Arabia the same after reading this

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    Good information about a Country which we in the U.S. rarely have read about or studied. One one hand, it's a major trading partner of our Country, keeping us provided with needed oil. Yet it's also one of the most conservative countries which promotes an extremely conservative version of Islam throughout the Muslim world. It also gave me some insight as to possibly why the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi. So here's a Country which supplied the majority of the 9/11 terrorists, and yet Good information about a Country which we in the U.S. rarely have read about or studied. One one hand, it's a major trading partner of our Country, keeping us provided with needed oil. Yet it's also one of the most conservative countries which promotes an extremely conservative version of Islam throughout the Muslim world. It also gave me some insight as to possibly why the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi. So here's a Country which supplied the majority of the 9/11 terrorists, and yet gave England and the U.S. advance information about explosive packages being mailed to Synagogues in Chicago from Yemen, probably preventing a pre-election time terrorist attack in our Country. So the book provides valuable information about a complex and conservative Country, and helps explain some of the actions of the Royal Family.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    With my parents living in Saudi Arabia, I was interested in finding a book that would shed some light on the country, its culture, and why it is the way it is. While this book did help answer those questions for me, it didn't really answer the questions it set out to address. In the forward, the author states that his purpose in writing is to examine the blend of tradition, modernity, and wealth that produced the religious fanaticism responsible for 9/11. Instead, the book is a collection of sto With my parents living in Saudi Arabia, I was interested in finding a book that would shed some light on the country, its culture, and why it is the way it is. While this book did help answer those questions for me, it didn't really answer the questions it set out to address. In the forward, the author states that his purpose in writing is to examine the blend of tradition, modernity, and wealth that produced the religious fanaticism responsible for 9/11. Instead, the book is a collection of stories about figures in Saudi's recent history that are never tied back to the author's thesis. I think the author just had a lot to say and didn't edit and organize as well as I would have liked.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Published in 2009, Inside the Kingom updates author Lacey's previous book The Kingdom. Previously I'd only read one whole book about Saudi Arabia, an older one penned by a woman who had lived there as the undercover correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. Her concerns focused on the place of Saudi women and was much less sanguine than this generally sympathetic study. "Sympathetic" I say in the sense that it gives hope that liberalizing elements of the Sunni upper classes will ultimatel Published in 2009, Inside the Kingom updates author Lacey's previous book The Kingdom. Previously I'd only read one whole book about Saudi Arabia, an older one penned by a woman who had lived there as the undercover correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. Her concerns focused on the place of Saudi women and was much less sanguine than this generally sympathetic study. "Sympathetic" I say in the sense that it gives hope that liberalizing elements of the Sunni upper classes will ultimately marginalize the Sunni fundamentalists. As might be expected, much of the book is about current events of concern to Anglo-American readers, i.e. the period since the jihad in Afghanistan in 1980+ through 9-ll in 2001.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ridzwan

    A good understanding of the Salafis should begin with a solid understanding of Saudi history and the opposing forces that are curently holding the Kingdom together. Tribal warfare, patroncy of the clerical class and the pressures of rival schools of thoughts come together in an inalienable context upon which Saudi Arabia has been exporting its puritan brand of Islam onto the world, sometimes with dire consequences. Robert Lacey has captured these details rather luridly in Inside the Kingdom and m A good understanding of the Salafis should begin with a solid understanding of Saudi history and the opposing forces that are curently holding the Kingdom together. Tribal warfare, patroncy of the clerical class and the pressures of rival schools of thoughts come together in an inalienable context upon which Saudi Arabia has been exporting its puritan brand of Islam onto the world, sometimes with dire consequences. Robert Lacey has captured these details rather luridly in Inside the Kingdom and makes for a riveting read for the student who is keen to understand why Muslims around the world are increasingly practising Islam as how the Saudis would have approved.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Baker

    This was fascinating, given that I read it prior to and during my first trip to Saudi Arabia. "It's like Game of Thrones," a Saudi friend said, and it's true. This book goes into detail about the House of Saud's deal with the clerics following the great mosque siege, and how it shaped culture for a generation. It also chronicles the country's attempts to modernize. A big part of that attempt is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which was under construction when the book was This was fascinating, given that I read it prior to and during my first trip to Saudi Arabia. "It's like Game of Thrones," a Saudi friend said, and it's true. This book goes into detail about the House of Saud's deal with the clerics following the great mosque siege, and how it shaped culture for a generation. It also chronicles the country's attempts to modernize. A big part of that attempt is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which was under construction when the book was written. That place is now a fascinating grand experiment in culture and education and would make an interesting extra chapter.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Harmeet

    It covers a lot of ground. It tries to explain the unique nature of Saudi government, its' relationship with America, the internal crackdown to keep radicalism in check, woman liberation baby steps and many more. The king seems to be pin that holds a lot together. One unexpected thing was that, author suggests the government become more conservative to keep radicals in check and that led to more radicalism. It covers a lot of ground. It tries to explain the unique nature of Saudi government, its' relationship with America, the internal crackdown to keep radicalism in check, woman liberation baby steps and many more. The king seems to be pin that holds a lot together. One unexpected thing was that, author suggests the government become more conservative to keep radicals in check and that led to more radicalism.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bill Bennett

    I'll give this book a 3.75. It was very readable and the interplay between the secular and religious sectors of society was intriguing. For me, however, the narrative lost a bit of steam over the last 50 or 60 pages. A tale of a country and its people being dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming. Give it a try if your interested in the middle east. I'll give this book a 3.75. It was very readable and the interplay between the secular and religious sectors of society was intriguing. For me, however, the narrative lost a bit of steam over the last 50 or 60 pages. A tale of a country and its people being dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming. Give it a try if your interested in the middle east.

  29. 4 out of 5

    JM

    Good overview of Saudi Arabia's development and society. Seems as if the author's access to Royals for perspective may have prevented more pointed critiques (the last pages don't make up for this, but at least he put them in there). Good overview of Saudi Arabia's development and society. Seems as if the author's access to Royals for perspective may have prevented more pointed critiques (the last pages don't make up for this, but at least he put them in there).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hatem

    One of the few objective books about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I highly recommend it.

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