Gertrude Bell’s description of Ibn Saud when aged 40

Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) at Thaj, 1911

Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) at Thaj, 1911

“He is a man of splendid physique, standing well over six feet, and carrying himself with the air of one accustomed to command. Though he is more massively built than the typical nomad sheikh he has the characteristics of the well-bred Arab, the strong marked aquiline profile, full-fleshed nostrils, prominent lips and long narrow chin accentuated by a pointed beard. His hands are fine, long slender fingers, a trait almost universal among the tribes of pure Arab blood, and in spite of his great height and breadth of shoulder, he conveys the impression, common enough in the desert, of an indefinable lassitude, not individual but racial, the secular weariness of an ancient and self-contained people, which has made heavy drafts on its vital forces and borrowed little from beyond its own forbidding frontiers.


“His deliberate movements, his slow sweet smile and the contemplative glance of his heavy-lidded eyes, though they add to his dignity and charm, do not accord with the Western conception of a vigorous personality. Nevertheless, reports credit him with powers of physical endurance rare even in hard-bitten Arabia. Among men bred in the camel-saddle he is said to have few rivals as a tireless rider, as a leader of irregular forces he is of proved daring, and he combines with his qualities as a soldier that grasp of statecraft which is yet more highly prized by the tribesmen. To be ‘a statesman’ is perhaps the final word of commendation. ”




One Response to Gertrude Bell’s description of Ibn Saud when aged 40

  1. […] Bell travelled to Ha’il, the base of rival al-Rasheed tribe, and was familiar with the Hashemites in the west. She concluded that Ibn Saud, then aged 40, was the best bet. This is her description of him: […]

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