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The flag of Saudi Arabia. The Arabic text translation is: "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God"

Dear FRONTLINE,

I lived in Saudi Arabia for 22 years, and remain interested in the modern history of the Arabian peninsula. I found the program factual and presenting a broad range of opinion. It was fascinating to hear the interviews with both Saudis and Americans who had been involved in historic episodes such as the oil embargo.

Living in a culture so different from my own was very frustrating at times, but it helped if I remembered that in the Muslim calendar it was only the Fourteenth Century. Religious extremism, absolutist government and lack of legal rights for women in Europe in the Fourteenth Century were comparable. What I think remarkable is that the Saudis have come so far so fast without the culture shattering.
As for the comment by a viewer that there is a low unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia, in actual fact the unemployment rate is at least 30%. The "welfare" state has been cut way back and the country is still deeply in debt from the '91 Gulf War, another sore point for Saudis.
Thanks for a very interesting program. Americans need all the information they can get about this part of the world that is so vital to our economic success.

Lois Ruble
San Marcos, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a Saudi student in the USA I have to say it is the first time I have seen an informative movie like this one. However the movie didnt stress the realty of the corrupt regime.
Saudi people see the royal family as an evil power; strengthen its power from the foreign policy of the US. Unfortunately the US seems to support this regime endless without any consideration of the consequent of this type of policy.
All in all I hope you broadcast this movie via any Arabic television so that everyone in that part of the world is able to see it.

mohammed algahtani
tampa, florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

It is indeed the best documentary movie I have ever seen about Saudi Arabia.
I am a Saudi student in the USA. I know the background of my culture and perhaps I can predict the future to a certain degree of accuracy.
There are some people who want to know the view of the average Saudi citizen. Here is the answer.
I can a sure you that 95 % of Saudi wants to get rid and crack down on this corrupt monarchy. Most of Saudis see the royal family as an evil power but they cant do much about it because of one reason. The reason is the fact that the US government is endlessly supporting and protecting the royal family. This factor has caused Saudi people to hate the American as much as they hate this royal family. In fact we dont see any difference between our corrupt government and the Americans. We have a phrase in our culture says If you support the devil then you are a devil.
Now let me predict the future of Saudi Arabia which is something has not been mentioned in the movie. The Saudi monarchy system revolves around the sons of king abdulaziz. If the current king dies the next elder brother in line will take over the power and so on. Most of the sons of king Abdulaziz the founder of Saudi are in late 60 and 70 of their age. Logically 20 to 30 years down the road all the founder sons will die. The question is who will take over the power when all of the sons of the founder die?
WE DONT KNOW

Mohammed Ali
tampa, florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found the documentary The House of Saud to be most fascinating. I sat glued to my chair. It succinctly brought out, in a very interesting way, the whole history of Saudi Arabia and offered interesting insights, specially with regard to Saudi Arabias interaction with USA in the matter of the creation of Israel in Palestine and its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in'67, the crisis spawned by Saudi oil embargo and by the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. An excellent documentary indeed.

One thing that stood out conspicuously was the impact that the Israeli occupation on the one had and the continued failure of the USA to rein in the Israelis and helping it actively -- the adverse way in which this is impacting Saudi-American relations and creating difficulties for the Saudis.

It is rare indeed to see in American media a record of the broken promises made by American presidents to Arabs. Trumans action in this regard is very puzzling. Not only the Saudis but even the American delegation was sure that the American government wanted the delegation to vote against the partition plan. The USA was promoting the idea of trusteeship. ...

Gulamhusein Abba
Danbury, Connecticut

Dear FRONTLINE,

What an enlightening program. I am certainly convinced that Islam and the West are worlds apart. Can't our politicians see that we can not conquer the Middle East for its oil? It is time that we put our efforts into alternative energy sources. I wonder what the money that has been spent could have developed if used for research in alternative energy. At the same time we should have a zero tolerance for terrorism and take every step needed to fight this evil.

Chris Saal

Dear FRONTLINE,

I commend Frontline for doing an incredible job, exceptional work on the documentary, House of Saud. Please rebroadcast or better yet, please offer it in DVD format. My quest for understanding led me to watch your program. Thanks for bringing together most of the pieces of the puzzle regarding Arab world relations. It is such an important documentary that it is disturbing to literally feel the effects of this political chess game.

We are "living" history each time there is news from the Middle East. Ever heard the saying, "a servant is a master in disguise" the kingdom might be 100 years young, but after all is said and done, they have something in the ground that the world values much too much. There is wealth in the kingdom, but money is not everything to them. I pray that everyone concerned seeks first to understand, then to be understood. Yes, the Saudi people and the monarchy will find their way, their own solutions. They also need to realize that change is necessary in order for all of their people to flourish. The Arab women must "never" give up hope.

Amy Jones
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I wanted to say thank you for such an informative program.
"House of Saud",helped me to better understand the history of Saudi Arabia.I have never truly understood my Saudi friends, particularly because their culture is so diverse.

You have shown how religion has affected the political standing of this monarchy. The fear of modernization and greed have played a large role also, and continues to plague such a large and wealthy land.

Juliana Benavides
San Antonio, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

A very informative show by "Frontline". I remember friends going to work in Saudi Arabia during the 70's and had forgotten how much money they had made at the time.

Our mistakes of consistently backing the lesser of two evils continues to haunt the U.S.

jim curry
amherst , ny

Dear FRONTLINE,

Many thanks for your program last night which again highlighted for me the many problems that our country will continue to have in the Middle East.
For example on women- they play a critically important role in Saudi society despite their secondary status which was lost in your report.

Contrary to your assertion, Saudi's are very much aware of who the daughters/granddaughters of King Abd al- Aziz are/were and who they married and the alliances that result both in politics and business.Amb Bandar bin Sultan is married to a daughter of King Faisal- sister of Princes Turki and Saud al- Faisal.

Secondly, it was great to see Amb. Eilts, Bill Stoltzfus, Mike Ameen and Frank Jungers remind us that we have an in-depth knowlege base of Saudi society which is so often lost in current single mindedly Washington focussed USA policies.

I did not get the same sense from Amb. Jordan, who seemed like the latest in an unfortunate long line of US Ambassodors who get the job as a reward for raising the most cash for the winner in the last election. Saudi Arabia is too important for that.

Finally, you call Saudi Arabia an absolute monarchy- yet your program gave a number of examples of the limits to the power of the royal family within Saudi society. The royal family stays to quote your narrator " one step ahead" of Saudi society. That does not sound to me like an absolute monarchy. The majlis of the Crown Prince, may seem largely ceremonial to you- but is in fact repeated by all the senior members of the royal family and is their way of keeping in touch with the Saudi people.

Winn Thompson
Pennington, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was so informative.The history of the middle east has always intrigued me. Frontline continues to be one of the most creative shows on television.Thank you so much.

gerald edwards
memphis, tennessee

Dear FRONTLINE,

Extreme thanks for offering illumination. Please consider a equally comprehensive show about Israel.

laray polk
dallas, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,


Once again you have presented a remarkable piece at a time when all Americans are in need of an understanding of this cultural divide between fundamentalist Muslims and the modern western civilizations.

The continued missteps that our government makes with regard to these people will in time have such extreme consequences on future generations that I would not want to speculate on impending 9/11's.

During the program it became more and more apparent that our dependence on foreign oil must be addressed with a rapid expedience.

Michael Dryden
Edgerton, Mo.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for showing the "House of Saud" last evening. It explained to me how both Saudi Arabia and US are so intertwined together in the Oil business, and how American idealism is so hated in this part of the world. Western ideas should not be forced on someone else's culture. This episode should be rebroadcasted.

Alyce Avakian-Douglas

Dear FRONTLINE,


Your programming is always excellent but the house of Saud is by far the best piece yet. There has always been gaps in my understanding of middle east relations and you have answered a lot of pertinent questions.

The fact that the U.S. plays both ends against the middle in middle east diplomacy seems to be the root of Arab feeling about the west. I guess we have learned nothing since we first began our lying, cheating, andexploitation of the north american indian.

I wish the west (Canada included) would stop acting like we are trying to be crusaders for democracy and just admit straight out that we are only looking out for our own cushy lifestyles.

We have just passed the anniversary of the holocaust and I am always sickened to hear leaders speak about "never again" when we all sit by and let the Rwanda's and Congo's of the world just happen. Why do we do this? Because these are poor countries with no resources so it suits us to call it tribal squabbling.

If there was Oil in the Congo there would be a coalition to restore order there in a flash.

Norbert Farley
Tottenham, Ontario Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

I commend you for the work necessary to produce the piece on The House of Saud. It was excellent and I was mesermized for the entire two hours.

As a woman who lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 1978-1990, as someone who personally knew Saudis from all walks of life--from the poorest (yes, there are poor people in Saudi Arabia) to the richest, to the ruling class, I thought that you perfectly captured the essence of the culture. I only wish you had given more time to the women's issue.

Admittedly, there's a lot of good in Saudi Arabia, yet the radicals' relentless insistence that women are second class citizens continues to bring great harm to the country. I knew many good, moderate Saudis, people who welcomed me into their homes--people I admire and will never forget--yet the negatives of that sexist society are difficult to erase from my memory.

Even today, many years after my last visit in 1992, I can close my eyes and "see" the hennaed dyed bearded Mutawaas with their angry eyes glaring with hatred at foreign women, despite the fact most of us covered our hair and wore conservative clothing. These angry men were everywhere, harassing innocent women. I saw signs on storefronts that said: "No Dogs or Women allowed Entry." I was once shopping with an Muslim female friend (not Saudi) who was appropriately covered, other than her face, and a wild looking Mutawaa leapt at her from an alley way, spraying red spray paint all over her face. She almost choked to death on the paint!

Even Arabs and Muslims from other Islamic nations look with pity at the plight of women in Saudi Arabia. This is tragic because the majority of Saudi Arabian women are educated and intelligent and in many ways, much more interesting than their counterparts in Western nations--for me, Saudi women are way ahead of the men of their society.

I know there are many challenges in Saudi society, but some of the main problems could be solved rather quickly: The ruling family could stamp out corruption (since they are the ones taking most of the kick-backs, they could stop it rather quickly); make job placement for the young a major target, for many young people are angry about the lack of opportunity; and lastly, make certain women's issues a priority... Until The House of Saud tackles these three problems in a serious manner, the chaos will continue. And, for that, I am sad...

Jean Sasson
Atlanta, GA

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posted feb. 8, 2005

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