Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Beyond the Headlines: Saudi Arabia from Bedouin culture to a leading power

As the kingdom celebrates its 90th anniversary this week, we reflect on the growth of one of the Middle East's most important countries

As the kingdom celebrates its 90th anniversary this week, we reflect on the growth of one of the Middle East's most important countries from a tribal Bedouin culture to one of the leading forces in the region.

It is a history that charts the development of the modern world – where the rise of oil as the basis of the world economy tracks the rise of Saudi Arabia as the largest producer of crude.

In just a few short generations, the kingdom has gone from the harsh reality of life in largely hot and dusty deserts to glittering skyscrapers that rise in downtown Riyadh.

While many of the old ways have been swept aside, the kingdom has retained its traditional roots, preserved its heritage and – in recent years – opened up and begun to attract the outside world.

Under King Salman, women can now drive, tourists are welcomed and the country’s overwhelmingly young population has seen a cultural revolution unknown in its history.

This week, Balquees Basalom joins from the kingdom to chart that course, speaking with Marcel Kurpershoek, a Senior Humanities Research Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi who has been researching oral narratives in Arab culture for over 3 decades. She is also joined by Nadia Abdulwahab is a Lecturer in English Literature at Umm Al Qura University, the oldest university in Saudi Arabia.

Updated: September 23, 2020 08:03 PM

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