History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Arabic States




House of Su'ud / Saud
AD 1735 - 1932

Arabia was home for the most part to nomadic tribes, apart from a few settled areas such as Mecca. Arabs emerged late into the history of the ancient world, with northern tribes creating kingdoms such as Kedar and Nabataea, which were later subsumed within the Roman empire. The first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts occurred in 853 BC, when they were involved in an alliance of states which defeated the powerful Assyrians under Shalmaneser III. The prophet Muhammed was born in Mecca around AD 570 and went on to found the Islamic empire in the seventh century. In the tenth century, Mecca and Medina came under the control of the sharif of Mecca, while much of the rest of Arabia reverted to a nomadic tribal existence.

The Arabic House of Su'ud is named after its founder, Saud, the father of the emir of Diriyya. A small and mostly independent Saudi state began to expand its borders in the eighteenth century, pushing against regional Ottoman control with varying degrees of success. This began a process which ended with the creation of an independent Saudi kingdom in modern Arabia.


Founder of the dynasty.


Muhammad I bin Saud gains the emirate of Diriyya (on the north-western edge of Riyadh in Arabia) from Zaid bin Markhan. The town becomes his powerbase, and soon serves as the first capital of his expanded emirate.

1735 - 1765

Muhammad I bin Saud / Ibn Saud

Son. Emir of Diriyya (Ad-Dar'iyah).


The emerging power of Muhammad ibn Saud unites with a religious leader named Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab in Nejd in central Arabia. Wahhab is the proponent of a radical form of Islam, something which forms the basis of Saudi dynastic rule from this point onwards. Together they forge a small Saudi state (otherwise known as the First Saudi State), based around Riyadh. It pushes outwards from there.

Arab Revolt 1916-1918
This photo of Arab fighters of the revolt of 1916-1918 is probably not too different to the appearance of the Saudi Arabs of the mid-seventeenth century

1765 - 1803

Abd al-Aziz I / Abdul Aziz

Son. Assassinated by a Shia from Iraq.

1803 - 1814

Su'ud I / Saud I

Son. Annexed Makkah and Madinah from the Ottoman empire.

1814 - 1819

Abdallah / Abdullah

Son. Executed by the Ottomans.

1818 - 1822

Unable to spare forces to retake Makkah and Madinah in the Hijaz themselves, the Ottomans send Muhammed Ali Pasha, viceroy of Egypt to destroy the Saudi state. He does so in a merciless campaign which ends with the siege of Diriyya. Abdullah is executed and Arabia is temporarily occupied by the pasha's forces. However, the garrisons in Arabia are unable to prevent the rise of a new Saudi state under a cousin of Abdullah who has taken refuge in the desert to avoid the Ottoman purge of his family.

1822 - 1834


Son of Abdallah, son of Muhammad I. Ruled in Najd. Assassinated.


The Second Saudi Sate is formed, smaller and more circumspect than before, although it still manages to secure Riyadh as its capital. Turki faces strong rivalry from another Arabic family, the Al Rashid (the Rashidis), for power in the region.



Distant cousin. Killed his predecessor, but held power only briefly.

1834 - 1838

Faysal I

Son of Turki. Killed Mushari.

1838 - 1843

Muhammed Ali of Egypt re-occupies Arabia. Faysal is transported to Egypt along with other members of the Al-Saud family and a senior member of the family is the preferred candidate to head the House of Su'ud.

1838 - 1841

Khalid I

Vassal of Egypt. Supported by the Egyptian governor of Arabia.

1841 - 1843

Abdallah II

Vassal of Egypt. Seized control from Khalid.


Faysal manages to escape from captivity in Cairo and returns to reclaim his rightful position in Arabia.

1843 - 1865

Faysal I / Faisal

Restored. His death leads to family in-fighting.

1865 - 1871

Abdallah III



Su'ud II / Saud II

Half-brother. Revolted against Abdallah. Overthrown.

1871 - 1873


Uncle. Son of Turki.

1873 - 1875

Su'ud II / Saud II

Regained power. Died.

1875 - 1887

Abdallah III

Restored. Later a governor under the Rashidis (1887-1889).


Muhammad II

Son of Su'ud II.

1887 - 1902

The Rashidis are ascendant in central Arabia, reducing the Al Saud to the position of governor, although the serif of Mecca & Hijaz continues to hold pre-eminence in the region.

1887 - 1889

Abdallah III

Restored to power, but now as governor.

1889 - 1891

Abd al-Rahman

Brother of Muhammad. Governor.


Muhammad III


1891 - 1902

The Rashidis instigate direct rule in central Arabia in 1891, ending the need for local governors and forcing the Al Saud into exile. From that exile, Abdul Aziz captures Riyadh in 1902 and becomes emir, effectively kick-starting the process which will lead to the formation of a fully independent kingdom in 1932.

1902 - 1932

Abd al-Aziz II / Abdul Aziz

Son of Abd al-Rahman. Emir (1902). King of Najd & Hijaz (1926).

1916 - 1918

The Arab Revolt against the Ottoman empire is led by Hashemite Mecca & Hijaz, together with British Army officer T E Lawrence. Lawrence manages to combine the power of several Arabic tribes to drive the Turks north in a series of campaigns in coordination with the British forces in the Middle East. Once the Arabs capture Damascus they secure a semblance of power (well depicted in the feature film Lawrence of Arabia). In subsequent bargaining with the British who now control the region, the Hashemites claim Hijaz and Greater Syria.

1925 - 1932

The Hashemite King Husayn and his son are overthrown in Arabia. Abdul Aziz declares himself king of the Hijaz in 1926, and king of Najd in 1927. The two kingdoms are united in 1932 as the Saudi kingdom.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
AD 1932 - Present Day

The modern Saudi-ruled kingdom of Arabia encompasses the southern parts of the former Kedarite kingdom of the first millennium BC. To the west it borders Egypt (across the narrow Gulf of Aqaba), to the north Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait, to the east Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, and to the south Oman and Yemen (with a mostly undefined border).

The kingdom is ruled as an absolute monarchy, much against the grain of modern western politics but in line with Arabic practice. In 1986, King Fahd took the title 'Khadim al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn' (Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques) to indicate his protection of the two most holy sacred Muslim sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina, which were seized from the Hashemites in 1925. Saudi Arabia quickly became one of the world's major oil-producing countries in the twentieth century, making big margins on production and exploration even during economic recessions. This put it in a powerful position on the world stage.

1932 - 1952

Abd al-Aziz II / Abdul Aziz / Ibn Saud

Founded the kingdom.

1938 - 1941

Vast reserves of oil are discovered in the Al-Hasa region of Arabia. Production begins in 1941 and is in full swing within a decade, bringing unforeseen huge amounts of wealth to the kingdom.

Oil refinery in Saudi Arabia
The discovery of oil in Arabia brought great wealth to the ruling family and a rapid process of modernisation to the country

1948 - 1949

On the day following the proclamation of the creation of the state of Israel, the neighbouring Arab states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attack, prompting the start of the Arab-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia sends its own military contingent to support the Egyptians. The war lasts for a year before a ceasefire is agreed. The Green Line is established - temporary borders which can be generally agreed by all sides. Egypt gains the Gaza Strip while Jordan controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank region, but an estimated 700,000 Palestinians have been expelled or have fled their homeland, mostly to enter southern Lebanon or Jordan.

1953 - 1964

Su'ud III / Saud III

Son. Deposed.


Doubts over Su'ud's ability to rule and increasing rivalry from his half-brother, Faysal, lead to the king being deposed.

1964 - 1975

Faysal II / Faisal

Half-brother. Assassinated.

1973 - 1975

The Oil Crisis grips the industrialised world when the Arab oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, put pressure on the USA to withdraw its support of Israel by withholding oil supplies. The attempt eventually fails. King Faysal is assassinated by his nephew, Prince Faysal bin Musa-id.

1975 - 1982

Khalid II

Half-brother. Forged closer ties with the USA.


The Iranian revolution and the introduction of a hardline Islamic state there threatens Saudi Arabia's security, especially in the east (the location of the oil fields), where the possibility exists that a breakaway territory may form that could be absorbed by Iran. As a result, a more strict observance of Islam is enforced within Arabia.

1982 - 2005


Brother. Suffered stroke in 1996. Died 01.08.

1990 - 1991

The First Gulf War is triggered when Kuwait is occupied by Iraq. A United Nations coalition army under the control of the USA is assembled in Saudi Arabia, and it forces the Iraqis out, causing them heavy losses.

First Gulf War 1990-1991
Following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraqi forces suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the popular alliance that removed it, but Kuwait itself also suffered damage that took time to repair

1996 - 2005


Half-brother. Fulfilled most of the king's duties after his stroke.

2005 - 2015


King following the death of his brother.


A wave of popular protests against a deeply unpopular and dictatorial government in Tunisia forces the president to flee to Arabia where he is given asylum. The protests strike a chord in Arabs across North Africa and the Middle East, and similar protests are triggered in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Some protests are also voiced in Saudi Arabia, although on nothing like the scale seen elsewhere.

Prince Sultan

Brother. Crown prince 01.08.2005. Died of cancer 22.10.2011.

Prince Nayef

Brother. Named the new heir on 28.10.2011. Died 16.06.2012.

2015 - Present


Brother. Born 31.12.1935.


Half-Brother. Crown prince 23.01-29.04.2015. Replaced.


Saudi Arabia's new king announces a major cabinet reshuffle at the end of April that puts in place a new generation to succeed him. King Salman appoints his nephew, the powerful interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince. The king's own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is made deputy crown prince, and the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, is replaced. This latest reshuffle shows that Salman is firmly turning the page on his predecessor's era by pushing aside allies of the late monarch such as his half-brother Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who until Wednesday 29 April had been crown prince.

Mohammed bin Nayef

Nephew of Salman. Crown prince from 29.04.2015.

Mohammed bin Salman

Son of Salman. Deputy crown prince from 29.04.2015.