Profile: New Saudi Defense Minister Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud yesterday appointed Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as the new Saudi Defense Minister, following the death of Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who held the post for 5 decades. Prince Salman is most well-known as the long-time Governor of Riyadh Region, and under his governorship the Saudi capital has developed from a mid-size oasis town into a major urban metropolis with a population of more than 5 million. Prince Salman is succeeded as Riyadh Region Governor by Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was the 25th son of the founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Al Saud. He was born on 5 Shawwal 1354 A.H. [31 December, 1935], in Riyadh, and was brought up – alongside his brothers – in the Governance Palace in Riyadh, where he would accompany his father in meeting with other kings and heads of state. When he was 19, King Abdulaziz issued a royal decree appointing Prince Salman as his representative and the Emir of Riyadh on 11 Rajab 1373 A.H. [17 March, 1954], whilst he was appointed Governor of Riyadh Region at the rank of minister on 25 Shaban 1374 A.H. [19 April, 1955], returning to the Riyadh palace where he was born and grew up, but this time as the governor of the second-largest province in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In addition to his position as Governor of Riyadh Region, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz has held a number of important positions within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including; Chairman of the Arriyadh Development Authority, Higher Commissioner of Development of Diriyah, Chairman of the King Fahd National Library, Chairman of the King Abdulaziz Foundation, Secretary-General of the King Abdulaziz Islamic Foundation, Honorary President of the Prince Salman Social Center, Honorary Chairman of the Riyadh Development Company, Chairman of the Riyadh Charity Association, Honorary Chairman of the Patient Friend Committee in Riyadh Province, Chairman of the Bin Baz Benevolent Project for Assisting Youth to Marry, Chairman of the Prince Salman Charity Housing Project, Chairman of the Riyadh Charity Science Organization, Chairman of the Orphan Care Association in Riyadh Region, Chairman of the Renal Failure Patients organization in Riyadh Region, and honorary chairman of the Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz Charity Organization, amongst others.
For 57 years, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz led the development of the Saudi capital Riyadh, which is one of the fastest growing cities in the Arab world, and today has a population of more than 5 million people. In less than half a century, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz transformed the Saudi capital from a small oasis town deep within the new Kingdom into a thriving metropolis, one of the fastest growing cities in the Middle East. In fact, Riyadh today has a political, social, and economic impact and influence not just locally or regionally, but also internationally, and this is all thanks to Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz.
Indeed the city of Riyadh is larger than many countries, and is approximately three times larger than Singapore, for example. There are more than 5 million people living in Riyadh today, Saudis and non-Saudis, Arabs and non-Arabs, whilst in 1862 the city had a population of less than 8,000. Estimates indicate that by 2020 the population of Riyadh may grow to more than 10 million. Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz led and supervised the Saudi capital, and indeed the entire Riyadh region, during a difficult period of growth and development which has witnessed huge achievements being made.
The city of Riyadh features architectural wonders like the Al Mamlaka Tower [also called the Kingdom Center] whose architectural design, featuring a huge inverted arch, has won plaudits from across the world. Indeed, the Al Mamlaka Tower is the world’s third tallest skyscraper of its kind, and hosts the world’s highest mosque. This is not to mention other architectural feats like the Al Faisaliyah Center and the Riyadh TV tower.
Riyadh, under Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, has also become one of the richest cities in the Middle East, and a focal point for travel and trade within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also witnessed huge infrastructure projects being initiated and completed during the governorship of Prince Salman, including huge highway projects, schools, hospitals, and universities, not to mention museums and even sports stadiums.
There can be no doubt about the influence and effect Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz has had on Riyadh and the Riyadh region, and indeed the affect that Riyadh has had on Prince Salman. In a speech he made more than 4 decades ago, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz himself spoke of his deep and abiding ties to the Saudi capital.
Prince Salman said “I am always close to Riyadh, even when I am not physically present there. For me, Riyadh is the homeland; it is the past and the present and the future. My father, King Abdulaziz, began his grand journey, which changed the course of history of the Arabian Peninsula, in Riyadh. This saw him unifying the fragmented regions where ignorance and backwardness and territoriality had played a large role in dividing and fragmenting our people, until the hero [King Abdulaziz] came to unify these scattered regions into the greatest and strongest united [nation] in modern Arab history. It was here that I was born and raised by the great King who sanctified, in my heart and the hearts of his other children, the love and devotion to the homeland. I spent my youth watching and experiencing the wisdom of this leader, his good deeds, as well as the prestige in which he was held, locally, and internationally, and this influenced me greatly, and I learnt a lot from his experience.”
As for his position as Governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman said “I accepted the responsibility of developing [Riyadh Region], and during this long period of time I monitored development policies, and I had the honor of implementing this [in Riyadh Region]. I witnessed every step taken by the city of Riyadh, and for this reason it is difficult for me to think about being far away from Riyadh. When I am outside of Riyadh – whether I am elsewhere in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or abroad – I live with Riyadh, and for it. To be frank, when I am away from Riyadh, I continue to think about the city; its operations and affairs, its roads and gardens, the children’s playgrounds, the schools, hospitals, and all of its affairs; every corner of the city lives with me and is in my thoughts and my heart! I feel as if I am present on every Riyadh street…I monitor, step by step, every project in the city, and I am filled with love for the city and its people. For Riyadh is my city, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
He added “Every village or town in the Riyadh Region is dear to me, and holds a special place in my heart, and a responsibility such as my responsibility [as then Governor of Riyadh Region] means that I am always committed and attentive to Riyadh and the Riyadh Region, for it lives with me, and I live with it; it is in my mind at all times, and if circumstances beyond my control take me away for some time I am always thinking about Riyadh, and am keen to return to monitor its affairs and supervise its development and address all its issues.”