Sunday, October 10, 2010

Princess Alice Visits Saudi Arabia in 1938

One of the banquets held for Princess Alice, during her trip to Saudi Arabia, 1938

BBC International in its Middle East section, has a fascinating audio slide show, narrated in Arabic, and here narrated in English, featuring rarely seen photos of the 1938 visit of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Alice, Countess of Althone, and her husband the Earl of Althone, to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of then Crown Prince Saud. The 3 week visit in February-March, began in Jeddah, followed an almost straight line through the peninsula and ended in Khobar. The itinerary included major stops at: Jeddah, Taif,  Riyadh, Masmak Fortress, Dir'iyyah, Hasa ("the last camp and the best"), Khobar, and Dharan. The Princess dressed in a traditional abaya for the journey through a number of oases from Taif to Riyadh.

HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, visiting Saudi Arabia, 1938

The photographs are normally part of the collection at the King Abdulaziz Public Library Riyadh, are rarely seen outside of the Kingdom, only once previously, at George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The Library was established by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1985. In this short span of time, the library has attained one million items including books, rare books, manuscripts, coins, maps, photographs, Audio video, microfiches, and microfilms.
The library has also established an image centre. This includes rare photographs of Muhammad Sadiq Bey 1197 AH (1880 AD); Mirza 1298 AH (1881 AD) and Ahmed Hilmi amongst hundreds of others.
The library has been striving to ensure that it provides a primary resource and base for the promotion of cultural and educational activities through organized international conference, symposiums, seminars and exhibitions. So far the library has organized and sponsored some 50 national and international events.

From the exhibition leaflet accompanying the Exeter Conference
They were on exhibit during a summer conference at the University of Exeter, “Journey of a Lifetime – Photographs taken by HRH Princess Alice in Saudi Arabia in 1938”. Both the exhibition leaflet, and the poster, are well worth viewing.

Some excerpts from the exhibition leaflet, including quotations from Princess Alice in her reminiscences for her grandchildren, follow.

Princess Alice’s historic trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1938 followed an invitation from the future King, then Crown Prince Saud during a chance meeting over lunch at Ascot racecourse in 1936.

A woman who enjoyed adventure, Princess Alice took up the invitation and journeyed to the Kingdom on the Royal Naval cruiser, HMS Enterprise in February 1938. She was accompanied by her husband the Earl of Athlone and the British Minister Plenipotentiary, Sir Reader Bullard.

At the time of the trip, Britain was moving towards war with Germany and the Kingdom was on the brink of dramatic change following the discovery of  huge reserves of oil beneath its desert sands. Although politics were not on the agenda at any time, the objective of the trip from both sides was to strengthen friendly ties between the two Kingdoms.
From the exhibition leaflet accompanying the Exeter Conference

“He was a huge man, a great gentleman with a most engaging manner. He was charming and full of jokes and Granpa and I became his hero worshippers. He was obviously pleased to welcome us, and I thanked him very much for inviting me, as he had never before asked a female to an audience or a meal.”
Princess Alice describing meeting King Abdul Aziz, with her husband, the Earl of Althone, to her grandchildren, in her memoirs, from the exhibition leaflet accompanying the Exeter Conference

“He is most interesting and knows everything one wants to hear about, even to rare birds and gazelles and plants. No one in the English colony likes him, as he is now a Muslim but he’s the only man worth talking to.”
Princess Alice describing meeting Harry St John Philby, the converted to Islam
known to the Saudis as Hajji Abdullah Philby, at the banquet with King Abdul Aziz, to her grandchildren, in her memoirs, from the exhibition leaflet accompanying the Exeter Conference

“thro’ my gloves it was boiling hot and you could feel the oil shaking the pipe as it rushed up thro’ it.”
Princess Alice's impression after placing a gloved hand on the famous well no. 7 at Dharan from the exhibition leaflet accompanying the Exeter Conference

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Related Posts:
Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Children: Introduction
Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Children: Reflections

*Thanks to Fouad Alfarhan whose tweets made me aware of this. :)


Qusay said...

Here is the link to the English narrated slidshow :)

and did u see the woman at 1:06 wearing mens clothing :)

Chiara said...

Qusay--thanks so much for the English language link; my Arabic is now so fluent I didn't even think to check for one. :P ;)

I have amended the post accordingly.

Ah, the lady wearing the ghutra?! Behind the princess, and between her and the man in the fez? Hmmm. Some find greater liberation in countries other than their homeland. :D

Thanks again for the link, and for the very observant comment!

Majed said...

I liked the photos, they tell us the truth about us, what we were, and,what we have become.

And the they tell us about what time can do.
As some wise peoples said:

Time goes, you say? Ah no,
Alas, Time stays, we go.

It strikes! one, two,
Three, four, five, six. Enough, enough, dear watch,
Thy pulse hath beat enough. Now sleep and rest;
Would thou could'st make the time to do so too;
I'll wind thee up no more.


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