Late Saudi author and diplomat Fahd al-Marek, who died in 1977, reveals an interesting anecdote in his famous book “Arab Traits”.
Detailing the circumstances surrounding his publication of a rare photograph of King Abdulaziz on horseback, al-Marek said: “Ever since this photo went missing, being the only one of its kind, I exerted strenuous efforts to try and procure it. As soon as it came to Prince Salman’s knowledge that I was hunting high and low for it, His Highness sent it to me. I received it while the book was in the final phases of printing. Hence, I expressed my grateful thanks to Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz; not only for the photograph, but also for the highly thoughtful favour he had granted me. One another occasion, Prince Salman felt that the atmosphere around me was being poisoned by slander and gossip, and he realized I was suffering a severe crisis. Out of chivalry, His Highness promptly invited me to his home in Riyadh for a private talk and said: “Rest assured that on the day fortune sinks its fangs into you, I will be there.” Then he went on to say: “You will have to trust me on this, I stand by my word.”
Al-Marek comments on this personal situation by saying: “In any case, such an act is not strange for someone who has a father like King Abdulaziz al-Saud. Anything contrary to that would have been surprising.” Al-Marek then adds: “Salman is one of the sons of King Abdulaziz, and hence he is close to him in nature and character.” (From the book “Arab Traits”, part 3, page 773). This story intensely and symbolically summarizes several “traits” in the character of Prince Salman, who was recently appointed by the country’s leader, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, as Minister of Defence, in succession to his late brother Prince Sultan. It was the right choice at the right time, and additional evidence of King Abdullah’s deep insight.
Prince Salman served as Governor of the Riyadh Province during a period which constituted a major historic stage in the country’s development. He contributed to transforming Riyadh from a small town with a sparse population to a major urban metropolis, with great challenges ahead of course. It was a stage of crossing from one era to another, with all the transformations this entails.
Prince Salman is mentally alert, observant of the Saudi people’s conditions, a friend to the intellectuals, a means of support in times of misfortune, and a diligent worker. He does not get carried away by rumours nor does he pass judgement in haste.
These features are encapsulated in the aforementioned incident recounted by Fahd al-Marek, which took place decades ago. Throughout his life, Prince Salman has not deviated from this path, and has remained steady in his loyalty to his late brother Prince Sultan.
Hence, his appointment as Minister of Defence was the decision of a highly astute Saudi leader. Prince Salman has always been the commander defending Saudi Arabia, in the past, present and future, as a nation and as an entity.
King Abdullah has certainly pumped fresh blood into the body of the Saudi State.