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Inside the Kingdom Paperback – 5 Aug 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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  • Inside the Kingdom
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  • Saudi Arabia in Transition: Insights on Social, Political, Economic and Religious Change
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  • Saudi Arabia and Iran: Power and Rivalry in the Middle East
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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099539055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099539056
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"Beautifully written and thought-provoking ... Robert Lacey has written a highly accomplished book which should go into the bags of anyone who has to travel to the kingdom" (Literary Review)

"Compelling ... [I] know of no book that captures so convincingly the intimate connection between the kingdom and the rise of al-Qaeda and its jihadist ideology...What distinguishes Mr Lacey's account is his use of Saudi voices - many of them, even in this most reticent of cultures, on the record - to anatomise a deeply rooted culture of intolerance" (Economist)

"Incisive ... The real triumph of this book ... is the way it peels away the layers of mystery that shroud a civil society of which we have almost no knowledge" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

The complex story of what's been happening within Saudi Arabia - while the West wasn't looking

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even though I am visiting the Middle East fairly frequently at the moment, I never expected to read a book like this wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next.
How does a Royal Kingdom of such overt wealth and power encompass Mecca , the home of the Muslem faith, and sustain such fierce religious adherence.
The skills and wisdom with which the successive kings worked with and listened carefully to the powerful religious leaders is dissected - Robert Lacey certainly seems to have developed exceptional access to the leading players. The kings are elected in an unexpectedly democratic manner from the various strands of nobility and come with different strengths. As the Saudi proverb goes:
If you did not go hungry in the reign of King Abdul Aziz, you would never go hungry (This is the king who conquered surrounding kingdoms to create the vast Saudi Arabia as recently as 1932)
If you did not have fun in the reign of Kin Saud, you would never have fun
If you did not go to prison in the reign of King Faisal, you would never go to prison
If you did not make money in the reign of King Khaled, you would never make money
If you did not go bankrupt in the reign of King Fahd.....
That is about as far as it goes although, for my money, King Abdullah, the present king comes out the shrewdest.

Starting in 1977, Islam fundamentalism, organised by Juhayman, rose against the Saudi royal family: "The Al-Saud had exploited religion as a means to guarantee their worldly interests, putting an end to Jihad , paying allegiance to the Christians (America) and bringing evil and corruption upon the muslims". The ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood were to re-establish the order of Allah.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very good insight as to how the family runs and the power that is enjoyed by a few, the money that they can fritter away millions not thousands
the luxury they live in is astounding.The control through fear of upsetting the wrong member of the family can be brutal
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Format: Hardcover
This is a disturbing book. Robert Lacey's "Inside the Kingdom" paints a compelling picture of a key ally of the West that is also the breeding ground for our most impassioned enemies. The Kingdom is held together by a skilled and ruthless balancing act by the ruling Al Saud clan. How long can it last? Is it desirable that it should last? What is the alternative?

Lacey describes Saudi Arabia through a series of loosely linked journalistic vignettes and case studies (" think tanks and foreign affairs societies can offer statistics and analyses aplenty," he observes). He introduces us to terrorists, holy men, secret policemen, reformers both male and female, a former Guantanamo inmate, a rape victim (who suffers more perhaps in the social aftermath than in the crime itself) and even princes and kings, both corrupt and benign. Lacey has penetrated deep into the psyche of the Kingdom, and he takes us with him. His overall tone is respectful and even empathic. This makes his picture all the more unsettling.

The central strand of Lacey's episodic narrative is the tight alliance of convenience between the Al Saud and the Wahhabi clerisy (named after the eighteenth century cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab). The terms were straightforward: in return for supporting the dynasty's temporal rule (and disportionate access to the nation's wealth), the Wahhabis would be given supreme authority in matters spiritual, a sphere to which they gave a broad and in some regards an arguably un-Islamic definition. This deal was first struck at the formation of the first Kingdom in 1774 and was reasserted on the formation of the modern state in 1932 by King Abdul Aziz.
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Format: Paperback
Saudi Arabia is a difficult place to understand. This book is an excellent historical narrative that gives the reader an insight as to how things work at the top levels and how the country's history has evolved it into the entity that it is today.

An excellent read, and well recommended for anyone who wants to understand the country, its Islamic traditions, and its relationship with the US.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lacey uses a perfect blend of storytelling and fact-giving to create an informative and rather gripping account of Saudi socio-political history. That's the long and short of it. If you've ever been even mildly interested in Middle Eastern politics or Islamic terrorism (which you should be), this book will shed a lot of light on the murky issue. Lacey charts the creation of terrorists like Bin Laden in an easily accessible form; he makes it quite clear how the move to religious fundamentalism coupled with US and Saudi funding of the mujahideen contributed heavily to the terrorist movement.

What is perhaps more interesting is the power play between the House of Saud and the religious sheikhs (ulema). King Abdullah's push for reforms certainly makes a western audience support his cause but Lacey forms a good question with his last chapters. Would we support a dictator who wants westernising reform or a democracy that would undoubtably be radical and religious? Are we supporters of democracy or rather western ideals? The case of King Abdullah (exemplified in his intervention of a rape victim being punished) makes the latter seem to take precedent over the former.

If this brief account has piqued your interest, do read the book!
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