Abdullah (king, Saudi Arabia), born in 1924, full name Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia since August 2005. As crown prince Abdullah took on many of the functions of governing the country after a stroke severely weakened King Fahd, his half brother, in 1995. On Fahd’s death in 2005, Abdullah was named his successor. Abdullah’s father, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, founded the kingdom in 1932.
Born in Riyadh, Abdullah was groomed by his father for leadership starting at an early age. He received a traditional royal education, learning about Islam and the history of the Arabs from tutors. Ibn Saud sent young Abdullah to live with nomadic Bedouin tribes for periods of time so that he could appreciate traditional Bedouin values and develop his physical and mental strength. Abdullah also sat at the king’s side during consultative meetings with officials and citizens.
Abdullah’s first official roles were as adviser to his father’s successors, Saud, who ruled from 1953 to 1964, and Faisal, who ruled from 1964 to 1975. In 1962 Abdullah was named commander of the National Guard. When Fahd became king in 1982 he named Abdullah crown prince and deputy prime minister. In this role, Abdullah presided over cabinet meetings and acted in the king’s stead when called upon. Abdullah made several visits to regional capitals and to the United States as a high-level representative of his country.
After assuming most of King Fahd’s powers in 1996, Abdullah tried to balance his plans to democratize and modernize Saudi society with opposition to such changes from the powerful conservative religious establishment. Support from Saudi religious leaders is crucial for the regime’s legitimacy and political survival. Domestically, Abdullah (king, Saudi Arabia) has sought to expand social and political freedoms, including the rights of women.