Interview with HRH Princess Fahda on King Saud history

Questions and answers about King Saud reemergence of history

1-What was the purpose of creating the King Saud Foundation and Exhibition?
The early stages of this life commitment undertaking to document the history of King Saud started in 1999 by presenting a research paper concerning the life of King Saud which is intertwined with the history of King Abdul Aziz and the rise of the third Saudi state in 1902, and more precisely the recapturing of the city of Riyadh by Abdul Aziz's army on the 15th of January of that same year which coincided with the birth of Saud, the second son of Abdul Aziz.
The research presented by me to the Kingdom's centennial conference in Riyadh concentrated on King  Saud's  participation  in the creation and cohesion of what was to come to be known as the (kingdom of Saudi Arabia) since the tender age  of thirteen with his father King Abdul-Aziz, a renowned judge of character and mettle, treating him as his trusted right arm in crises, time and again and with success .Indeed, with the large range of choices before him, had he detected in Saud a lack of what it takes, he would hardly have appointed him as his heir in early years and then continued to abdicate function after function in his favor throughout his reign.
Upon his succession, which was without challenge, Saud had adopted as his reign s mission (the eradication of poverty, disease and illiteracy), always preferring to lead by example, and the foundations of a modern state and its organizational and administrative structures were laid during his reign, but by always adhering to and inculcating the values held dear by his father. It can well be imagined that, this transformation of a country from a tribal phase to one of a developing state and within a rapid time frame could not be achieved without the facing of risks and the payment under the circumstances- of a higher cost. King Saud tried to realize this in keeping with the advice of modern advisors some loaned to him by international bodies, whilst striving to abide by the advice of his father and by attempting to emulate him as his and the family s ideal, realizing as well as the rulers of oil rich states do today that to posses large reserves of oil underground was almost the same as gold in the vaults.
He personally started: the First two female schools in Najd in (1951 &1956) followed by a royal decree in 1960 to establish for the first time in Saudi history :(the presidency of Girls Education) which started formal female education in the kingdom, as a result of which he had to face the wrath of many who opposed this courageous step.)., he Also established the first university in the kingdom (king Saud's university).Besides all the schools which he has built around the kingdom.

2- It was during his reign that the infrastructure of the country was built (roads all over the kingdom, hospitals, transfer all ministries from Jeddah to Riyadh the capital (which commemorated the first town planning) in the kingdom.

3- He established all ministries in the kingdom beside the already five existing ones at the time of his father, and issued the famous royal decree for the liberation of slavery in 1962.

King Saud wanted to address his domestic issues, and to strengthen his regime, administration , economy, society and build his nation, he wanted this to happen in a short period of time in order to promote his country and achieve his goals but also ,knew that this process required incessant patience ,efforts and an extensive budget .So, between (1954-1958) ,the cost of building the new ministries in Riyadh coasted the government$ (20000000) million dollars which was the main reason behind the financial difficulties ,the country faced during that period of time . Meanwhile, we can see that during the crisis the budget of health & education were not affected, on the contrary they have increased for ex: the budget of health was (440000000) forty four million SR  in 1957became88000000)SR eighty eight million SR in 1962).Also,2000 miles of fast roads were constructed to link the kingdom together ,besides the construction of four major ports and, the military budget reached( 28000000)two hundred million srin1958.Moreover ,the Saudi oil income have decreased between the years(1956-1958) ,from m$(34000000)to$(29000000) because of the oil embargo king Saud imposed on Britain &France  by stopping transporting oil to these countries that joined Israel in its war on Egypt in 1957 which made Saudi debt reach$200000000 two hundred million dollars right after the war ,out of which $(50000000)  fifty million dollars were from the oil income. Subsequently, IMF experts were called to Saudi Arabia to assist in this crisis, and they arrived to the kingdom on the 10th of November 1957. Their suggestions to improve the financial situation in the country were successful as they have largely reorganized the already existing funds previously allocated for developing government projects. So, the government money reserves increased from SR (272000000) two hundred &seventy million .in 1960 to SR (844000000) eight hundred &forty four million .All these disclosed information in the research paper  Created then an upheaval and disbelief by the public towards the unrevealed facts of Saudi history which  resulted     seven years later in the creation of the first  touring exhibit  in the Kingdom of King Saud 's  pictorial biography , personal belongings and important documents which was inaugurated on the evening of Sunday 26 November2006 in the capital of Riyadh by the Governor HRH Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz , chairman of( King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives) , who organized the conference on King Saud's history Which documented the biography of King Saud, his attributes, achievements and the accomplishments undertaken during his reign .As well as , the exhibition o f pictorial   biography  which took place  in a historical celebration , and  marked a new era and a significant breakthrough in the modern history of the Kingdom , because it  reinstalled the history of King Saud back on the map of the Kingdom after thirty five years  of obliterating it    from the  collective memory of the Saudi nation by forbidding the circulation of any material or photographs  related to him as a person or his history by a royal order of King Faisal whom he had a personal disagreement  which resulted in the overthrow of King Saud by his brother  . Hence, King Faisal attributed all King Saud's achievements to himself through a process of rewriting the Kingdom's history by a number of rewarded pens   who forfeited facts and replaced them with others to fit the new King's vision  based on his personal inclination. That's why The efforts behind these events were very strenuous, because the documents needed to present an evidence for his achievements as a monarch, and a co founder of the third Saudi state were scattered, hidden, and inaccessible most of the time, as people kept them locked up with their memories in the dark corridors of history in the absence of a national archive. My first mission was to  elevate the deep  fear of people to open up  to me , provide me with books, publications , documents,  and photographs to be able to prove  the achievements of eleven years of  the King's reign    through which he   laid dawn the foundations of the Kingdom 's infrastructure  , and prove to the public    that they were not an illusion of a devoted daughter whose mission was to expose the truth and gain credibility because no one else dares to undertake this role, although many were very supportive and willing to help me in uncovering the truth.
I had a dual duty, one of which  for the memory of my father, and second and most important was to my country, and my people's inherent right to be acquainted with the history of their country and its early development, and permit them to be a judge of their history and the achievements of their leaders.


2-How would you describe the effect that the exhibit would have on your audience?
 People's feelings were a mixture of joy for King Saud  immediate family, because we were finally able to overcome the taboos and revive his history, which  made us survive many years of denunciation People shared   feelings of deep sorrow, longing and, curiosity for the old days which they remembered with great affection for their loving monarch. Hundreds of thousands of people of all generations flocked  to the National museums in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Khobar to learn and discover their glorious past with all its hidden treasures and, glories in its early days .Students were organized in large numbers to learn their real history in a new  visual approach which has greatly influenced them.


3- Some could say that your exhibition was not only displaying history but also making history, to what extent has the exhibition set a standard in the future of narrating national history in Saudi Arabia?
We definitely made history, because the exhibition was unique in its perception, its goals, its execution, and finally in its impact on the Saudi public who expressed their emotions in various ways. It was one of the great events the Kingdom has witnessed in its recent history. We received invitations from all over the country, especially where people had personal memories of the Monarch who visited them on various occasions as he was known during his life. It was an incredible learning experience where I was offered important documents, from individuals and tribes shedding more light on King Saud's history .These correspondences, photographs, and documents have certainly supported my arguments even more and helped in building my archives which I cherish dearly, and became a reference to researchers on the Kingdom's history.
The exhibition was so well received and influential on   the public to the extent that all monarchs' symposiums which were organized by King Abdul-Aziz s Foundation afterwards had to follow the same approach in organizing exhibitions. I believe we set an example for others to follow ,.

4. What impact do you believe the exhibition will have on the methods and materials in?
I wrote extensively to the authorities, and various concerned ministries in order to take this opportunity and modify the Kingdom's curriculum in rewriting history, and introduce more visual material in it . I made life easier on researchers by publishing pictorial biography books which were made available in book stores to every interested person in the history of the Kingdom.

5. Since memory is personal, and history is collective; to what extent does the exhibition display a product of your personal memory and collective memory?
I am a product of my past, and personally I eye witnessed the development of my country at an early age, which made me an observer of the early stages of change in my surrounding .for example female education which King Saud believed in and fought for ferociously, he proved this belief by enrolling his daughters in the first private girls school ever existed in the Najd region, which he opened for us to be role models for other girls in the country. He was a pioneer in his vision, courage, and convictions and I believe that has affected me greatly and made me more determined in disclosing his role to the public.

6. How would you describe the interpretation of Saudi Arabia's history in the West?
Sadly enough I think that Saudi history is greatly misunderstood, and misinterpreted in the west due to the unreliable sources both from inside the Kingdom and outside it. Saudi Arabia has come a long way from a newly created country at the beginning of the twentieth century until our present days. However, we both share the responsibility, on one hand, the Saudis "public relations mechanism was not up to date in presenting our history in a way that it would interest the western public, i.e. exhibitions, books, films, documentaries, and media in all its forms. On the other hand, the western public didn’t make enough efforts to find the true face of Saudi Arabia except for the old misconceived image of the orientalists.

7. How would you describe the difference in visual culture and the displaying of history between Saudi Arabia and the West? (i.e memorials, museums, exhibitions)
This  is still in its early stages in our country , but people are recognizing the importance of it for a more understanding of the cultures. Of course, the west know the rules of the game and mastered it through the existence of museums all over their countries which has spread visual knowledge , and it became part of their culture, while we are at the early stages of this field of knowledge.

8. What do you hope to achieve by bringing Saudi history abroad to a wider global context?
A lot, so that . we  could bring our history and culture to the ordinary citizen, who makes little effort in finding the accurate information. It's an important communication tool which we should use to its maximum capacity to reach the western public opinion.

9. How do you envision the future of narrating national history in Saudi Arabia?
It is very promising, if we exert more effort in that direction, and it's every body's responsibility to use different mediums other than books to deliver our message to the people.

10. To what extent is it necessary to shift from narrating Saud Arabia's national history from an oral tradition to a visual culture?
I don’t think that shifting is the right word, I believe a combination is the right thing to do because we need both besides, we are not in full capacity , or even ready to embark on such a scheme , neither in skilled  technicians, nor in media market , or interests. Because we haven’t reached the stage of being ready for such a move. It will take time .

12. What are your future goals and projects regarding the King Saud Foundation and Exhibition?
We are working on establishing King Saud Foundation in London, also organizing an exhibition in Kuwait.

13. What are some of the challenges you were faced with in the process of reaching your goal regarding the exhibition and foundation?
Many, peoples responses are slow , and procedures take a lot of time to accomplish .

14. What guidelines would you provide to someone who is attempting to document history in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a vast country, and contains various aspects to it. To find the right people to work with who can assemble a selective group who have the proper knowledge of the country s history and different characteristic of its lifestyle representing diverse parts of it.