Poem celebrating Ibn Saud's retaking of Riyadh
Poem celebrating Ibn Saud's retaking of Riyadh

This poem was written in 1998 in celebration of the centenary, by the Islamic calendar, of Ibn Saud's retaking of Riyadh.


Banished was I from the heart of Arabia,
Riyadh, my home, had been stolen by others;
banished was I, and my father and mother,
brothers and sisters, deprived of our birthright.
Sadness we felt for the years that denied us
the feel of the sand of the Nejd in our hands.

Kindness we found in Kuwait beyond measure
but kindness alone could not cure the pain
of living in exile, a life without pleasure,
for pleasure, not nurtured in honor, will wither.
I knew from the earliest years of my living
that I must return to the place of my birth.

They told me that only my death would await me,
(but fear is a far harsher master than death);
they warned of the dangers of crossing the desert
but it was the desert had given me breath.
They asked how a lad could recapture a city,
when put to the sword what my pride would be worth;
I asked how the seed, lying dry in the sand, at
the first taste of rain can emerge from the earth.

"Who will ride at my side on this perilous venture?
Who will risk life and limb to expel Al Rashid?"
Sixty answered my call, young and brave, one and all.
"With all of our strength, we will give what you need;
we will stand by your side when the battle is joined
until each of us falls - or Riyadh is freed."

It was not for the glory we rode from Kuwait;
we held faith as our shield and justice our sword.
I sought to regain the land of my fathers
but in all I deferred to the will of the Lord.
We rode towards Riyadh with banners unfurled,
putting trust in the God who created the world.

Through a cold Ramadan we encamped in the desert;
we fasted one month in the village of Haradh,
far away from the eyes of those who might think
that folly could lead us to try to take Riyadh.
When the fasting was over, I summoned my kinsmen;
without hesitation they answered my call.
Like shadows that slip over sand dunes at sunset
we gathered in silence beneath Riyadh’s wall.

On that night long ago, when the time came to act,
I knew in my heart what it was to be free;
the greatest good fortune in life for a man is
to know he has reached for the best he can be.
Whatever might follow that cold, moonless night
we would know we had fought for a cause that was right.

I chose from my band a mere handful of men;
each one read the risks from the look in my eyes.
We scaled the walls under cover of darkness;
we watched for the sun to put light in the skies.
Outnumbered, we knew that our hope of success
must depend in the end on our use of surprise.

In a fight it is true if you strike off the head of
a man or an army, the battle is won.
We few faced a garrison ready to crush us;
such odds left no question what had to be done.
The fate of the Amir of Riyadh was sealed.
He must die for the wounds of Al Saud to be healed.

When Ajlan, the Amir, appeared in the open,
we struck as the lion descends on its prey.
Bin Jelawi forced open the gate of the fortress;
the rest of our brothers then joined in the fray.
The garrison knew that resistance was futile;
Al Saud had returned to its home on that day.

Looking back through the decades, the taking of Riyadh
was merely one step on a path, hard and long.
After many a battle, I put all my heart into
building a nation, devout, proud and strong,
with justice its sword and faith as its shield,
in the land where the message of God was revealed.

Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud). Click to view high resolution version

Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud)

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