|Biographical detail : ||A successful nation builder Saudi monarch.
A pious, austere man King Faisal became a successful nation builder of Saudi Arabia. If his father created Saudi Arabia within its current borders, it was King Faisal who knitted it together, using oil wealth to turn a backward desert society into a modern state and an actor on the world stage.
A remarkable apprenticeship was obtained when his father sent him on his first mission abroad when he was 13. He started his career as a viceroy of the province of Hejaz in 1926. Faisal also represented Saudi Arabia at the United Nations when his country became its member in 1945.
Faisal had extensive experience of both warfare and statecraft. The discovery of oil made the country more important, and Faisal became his father’s interlocutor with a world that had little understanding of the desert kingdom.
Realising that education was the key to ending the country’s backwardness, King Faisal supported his Turkish wife, Iffat, in opening the first girls’ school, in the teeth of conservative opposition. He initiated numerous reforms in the kingdom, introducing universal education and television that ultimately led to deadly protests by conservative elements.
The fourth son of King Abdul Aziz, who was the founder of Saudi Arabia, Faisal Ibn Saud reigned from 1964 to 1975. Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by a disgruntled nephew, whose brother had been killed in those protests.
Modernising Arabia – the project that King Faisal so ably pioneered – remains a work in progress.