’Saudi Inc’ charts Kingdom’s progress from Battle of Riyadh to Aramco float
What started out as a doctoral thesis turned into a 10-year project for academic turned author Ellen Wald.
Philadelphia-born Wald, whose book “Saudi, Inc.,” has just been published amid much expectation, said she had been interested in the Middle East ever since she could remember. “I’ve always felt drawn to the desert. I just found it all so fascinating.”
A doctoral dissertation entitled “The United States, Great Britain and the Middle Eastern Oil Industry” involved extensive research in America, in the UK and in the region. It also gave her an opportunity to get close to some of the people actually involved in the formative years of the Saudi energy industry, some of whom were still alive and happy to share their recollections.
“I found an incredible amount of source material in the US on the early days of the Saudi oil industry.”
The doctoral thesis eventually expanded into “Saudi, Inc.,” a fascinating blend of business, history and politics, often told through the personal recollections of individuals directly involved in the events that made Saudi Aramco what it is today — the biggest oil company in the world, and one of the most efficient.
The book opens with King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the father of the Kingdom, preparing for the assault on Riyadh in 1902 that was to lead eventually to the establishment of the Saudi state.
After capturing the city’s main fort, “he watched the sun set over the vast desert before him and looked toward Makkah, many miles to the west, and many victories away,” Wald wrote.
We meet Sheikh Abdullah Sulaiman, who rose from the poverty of the Nejd hinterland to become minister of finance to the new king, who had an accounting system that only he could understand and who stored the entire exchequer of the Kingdom in gold, cash and gems in chests at his family home
The book is published just as Saudi Arabia is going through the biggest changes since the discovery of oil, with the Vision 2030 strategy under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the forthcoming initial public offering (IPO) of Aramco.