Golden Sands: Feb. 15, 1973

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SIP­PING CAR­DAMOM- fla­vored cof­fee in Saudi Ara­bia, FORBES’ Stephen Quickel no­ticed how “Saudi men … go to their jobs in tra­di­tional Arab robes and head­dress,” while women donned full-length black veils. More star­tling were the king­dom’s cane-wield­ing re­li­gious po­lice, who “hus­tle off to the mosques any­one who shows signs of play­ing hooky” from ser­vices.

Just as ap­par­ent to Quickel: how rich Riyadh might be­come. By 1976, he es­ti­mated, the king­dom would pass the U.S. as the lead­ing oil pro­ducer. Saudi Ara­bia had nearly quadru­ple Amer­ica’s proven re­serves, and pro­duc­tion had risen 27% to 5.7 mil­lion bar­rels a day from ’71 to ’72. Saudi oil rev­enue, Quickel fig­ured, would soon hit $8 bil­lion (roughly $43 bil­lion to­day). Its wealth would then im­bue it with “power that prom­ises to be one of the most de­ci­sive—and po­ten­tially dis­rup­tive—forces in global eco­nom­ics for the bal­ance of the cen­tury.”

That Oc­to­ber, Saudi-led OPEC im­posed an oil em­bargo as pun­ish­ment for Amer­ica hav­ing armed Is­rael dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War. Oil sky­rock­eted—up 350% to $11.69 a bar­rel ($63 to­day) by Jan­uary— and kept ris­ing even af­ter the em­bargo was lifted in March 1974, wors­en­ing U.S. in­fla­tion and over­all eco­nomic woes. fast for­ward

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