April 14th, 2013
In King Faisal ibn Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s court I had learned that in order to assess the Arabian states’ deployment of wealth, it is necessary first to learn something of the men who govern those lands and of the past that shaped them.*
Sheikh Shakhbut is an old man now, and dwells comfortably at the oasis town of Al Ain, ninety miles from the coastal city he once ruled, Abu Dhabi. That he is an old man —his three predecessors were assassinated—is due to the kindly nature of his brother Zayid, who took over the rulership from him, and to the wisdom of their mother, Sheikha Salama. Years before she had made her sons vow not to kill one another.
Shakhbut lost his sheikhdom because he could not come to terms with the oil money that began to flow in during the early 1960′s. “A tightfisted old devil, but shrewd,” one friend remembered. Another recalled “a fear of sudden change, a feeling for the old ways.” The years of penury—the sheikhdom’s total annual income in the 1930′s was only about $75,000—had stamped him indelibly.
He kept his growing revenues in a room at his fort; some of the paper currency was later found damaged by insects. A British bank manager finally persuaded him to deposit some of it in the bank: 5,000 pounds for one week. In seven days the manager dutifully brought the money back in a suitcase. Shakhbut counted it: “What’s this extra money for?” “Interest,” the manager replied, and explained the benefits of bank deposits. There is one other option if you are not so familiar with bank deposits – easy getting an online payday loan. You only have to check http://www.citrusnorth.com/
Shakhbut was impressed and let the manager take the money back, this time for a month, and later for longer periods. But Shakhbut wouldn’t spend. The oil money was piling up, the sheikhdom was desperately in need of schools, water systems, electricity, every basic need. The pressure became intolerable.
And so one day in 1966 Zayid and his supporters confronted Shakhbut in his palace: He must depart quietly; his financial future would be assured. Shakhbut flew off to exile, living mainly in Iran until he was allowed to return to Al Ain.