Saudi Arabia held celebrations on Tuesday to commemorate for the first time its foundation nearly 300 years ago, choosing a date that downplays the central role played by ‘conservative’ clerics.
The government lined up events that include musical performances on Saudi modern history, fireworks, drone shows and sound effects, with 3,500 performers taking part, state media reported.
The anniversary marks the day in 1727 when Mohammed bin Saud, founder of the first Saudi state, took over the emirate of Diriyah – a remote town that now lies on the northwest edge of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
That was about 18 years before what historians generally consider as the beginning of the Saudi state when bin Saud, a tribal leader, forged an alliance with Islamic preacher Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab.
The agreement with the clergy boosted the legitimacy of the Al Saud rulers in exchange for lavish funding and influence granted to the ‘conservative’ religious establishment over social issues, education and public morality.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reined in the religious police, opened the country to concerts and cinemas, lifted a ban on women driving and eased the guardianship system, which gives men significant control over the lives of their female relatives.