Tony Penultimate

More Saudi Arabia 1955

I always find it a little sad when people don't document their lives a bit more, even supposedly routine lives can be totally gripping, so having posted some photos I found yesterday, while rooting around in a pile of old family stuff, heres a few notes my dad made about his work concerning the short time he spent in Saudi Arabia in 1955 as a junior diplomat just before the Suez crisis.

I've digitised some of their cine films from that time and I am fairly certain that this film depicts scenes from Jeddah and Riyadh, where my parents lived (the Musmak Fort at 4.30?) but if you're an old timer, and you recognise it - ping me an email (or tell your grandkids to)

If you are interested in further reading about the birth of modern Saudi Arabia, Robert Lacey's book is highly recommended

Rabigh - the main street (I think it says on the photo)

"I began in Jedda as Third Secretary in Chancery and my promotion to Second Secretary came through while I was serving there.  I was not an Arabist, so was dependent on two Chancery colleagues who were, and on our interpreters. I dealt with routine Chancery business; the main element of this was the representation of the interests of the Gulf States (Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Oman, Qatar, Bahrain etc) vis-a-vis the Saudi Government. As there was intense rivalry to secure the areas considered most promising for oil resources, there were constant frontier disputes. The most notable of these was the Buraimi Oasis, now part of Abu Dhabi, over which we negotiated an arbitration agreement. This was fairly soon broken, and the Saudis occupied the oasis, only to have it taken back off them by the Trucial Oman Scouts, a British-trained force operating under the orders of the British political Resident in Bahrain. My job gave me the chance of accompanying the Political Resident for talks with the King in Riyadh, an experience now difficult to imagine when Riyadh, now an ultra modern city still had mud palaces and a few modern buildings."

 "A water cart - takes water to people not connected' (from back of photo)

"I took over as commercial secretary when the incumbent departed. The Commercial department consisted of myself and my Palestinian commercial clerk; I had to send him once a week to Mecca to cover the market there as I could not go. Few British businessmen came - British firms sometimes lost opportunities because they did not take the market seriously enough, or thought they knew better than the Saudis what they needed. The experience of visiting firms was memorable, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan when visiting started at about 9pm and went on in a very convivial atmosphere into the small hours."

Embassy staff and wives in 1955- incredibly, he left a list of who all these people are here

"1956 was the year of the Suez crisis. As Arab allies of Egypt, the Saudis felt obliged to break off relations with us. We had only a few days which to pack up all our belongings, get them put on a ship on its way to Aden (now Yemen) and wait there for a boat to bring us round the Cape of Good Hope and back to the UK - just in time for Christmas."


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