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Preserving Our Founding Documents

I previously wrote about the need to form a national repository that would contain the founding documents of the kingdom, including the correspondences, orders, and documents issued by our founding father King Abdulaziz, may God have mercy on him. As far as I know, most of these documents have been either preserved at the royal archives or made their way into the hands of various academics and intellectuals who collected them and inherited them to their children. The late Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Abdulaziz, a well-known writer and historian, told me that he held onto some of these documents, which surely exist with his children today. These documents are nothing short of a national treasure that describes the founding story of our country and the great efforts made by the men who built it. These are rich raw materials for those who want to study the real history of the kingdom, and understand the great challenges and the insurmountable obstacles that faced our great king. I feel confident saying that, after studying some of these documents, the real story of King Abdulaziz still has not been told or written. Unfortunately, most of these documents are still scattered around the world. The first step to preserving our history is to publish a comprehensive and declassified repository that houses these writings. Fortunately, until his death, King Abdulaziz used to dictate his orders and instructions to his aides, who wrote them down exactly as he delivered them. He also maintained detailed handwritten notes of his plans and vision. There is also a trove of documents pertaining to the founding of Saudi Arabia in the British National Archives, as well as in France and in the United States. It should be noted that the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Foundation began some of the collection work and appointed the well-known anthropologist Saad Al-Soyyan to oversee the document restoration process. However, there is still much more work to be completed on our way to achieving this great historical mission. If we neglect this history and do not take care of these documents, others might take advantage of them for commercial reasons or, worse, make use of them for malicious purposes. And because we live in an age of social media, the easiest way to share this wide breadth of knowledge is to make it available online — especially to younger generations of Saudis who are unfamiliar with the founding story of their kingdom. Moreover, we can make these resources available to media professionals to extract pictures, events, and stories and incorporate them into cinematic documentary films. Therefore, I raise the hope that our crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, will commission historians and anthropologists to carry out this great historical and intellectual work. I am confident that our ambitious prince will give this project the attention it deserves and make it accessible to every loyal patriot of this kingdom. –Muhammad Al-Sheikh (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)