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Twenty one hours of listening to this book is the shortest way to educate oneself on the history of the modern state of Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that I had some idea of Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud's raids and conquering of territory, it wasn’t the complete story nor made much sense. Thanks to this book which not only filled the void but actually went beyond: it filled it to my delight.
This book covers in detail the entire history of the tribes, the politics, the fighting within and without which spanned the Arabian peninsula from 1890 to 1957 with Abdul Aziz (referred throughout the book as Ibn Saud) taking the central role. It covers all aspects of Ibn Saud – his soldierly spirit, his fighting strength, his political maneuvering, yet not overlooking his personal failings. It was only after reading this book that I was able to get an idea of how the oil wealth has been and is being consumed by the House of Sauds. I could hardly believe that in 1950s two-third of the income from oil went in to serving the lifestyle and needs of the self acclaimed Royals. There is also ample humour and stories to give the reader enough chuckles. Ibn Saud’s marriages and his losing account of how many wives he married: his insistence of taking sheep aboard USS Murphy (to which the US Navy relented) enroute for his meeting with President Roosevelt aboard USS Quincy provide for a fair amount of light reading.
Elsewhere I had read a comment that the narrator could not pronounce the Arabic names correctly. Indeed that is true but I had rather listen to a good English narrator and compromise listening to a few incorrect Arabic names than listen to some one pronouncing the Arabic names correctly but debar me the pleasure of smooth English listening for twenty hours. I enjoyed the narration so well that I have no hesitation rating it 5-stars.
Any Muslim or a non Muslim, an Arab or otherwise who intends serving anywhere in the Arabian peninsula would find himself enriched reading this book and better equipped in knowledge to serve in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Ibn Saud?
This work feels like it was meant for Audible. During the several days it took me to finish listening, I never felt bogged-down by names, dates or factoids. Instead, the author gives us almost lyrical descriptions of the Arabian landscape and paints a living portrait of Ibn Saud as well as figures instrumental in his rise to power. The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes and personal details that help the reader/listener become emotionally invested in the narrative.
What did you like best about this story?
I was impressed by how accessible and easy to follow the narrative Was considering the vast scope of the work. Beyond covering the life of Ibn Saud, this work goes into great detail on Bedouin customs, the formation of Islam and the geopolitical climate of the era. Even though they wern't central to the story, I felt like I better understood the importance of figures such as T.E. Lawrence, Churchill and the Hashemite kings in shaping the modern Middle East after finishing this work.
Which character – as performed by Brian Bascle – was your favorite?
This wasn't that kind of book, but if I had to pick a favorite person portrayed in the narrative it would be Captain William Shakspear. He seemed worthy of the veneration that figures such as T.E. Lawrence were later to inspire more through publicity than by actual exploits.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes, it was that good.
Any additional comments?
Certain passages of this work, especially of those related to Ibn Saud's personal religious beliefs and his control (or lack therof) on some of the more fanatical Wahabis in his service seemed a bit biased. But no book is perfect.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful