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The Passing of a Saudi Legend
Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)

The Passing of a Saudi Legend

Al-Etihad, UAE, August 2

The passing of Dr. Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Shabaili, one of the founding fathers of the Saudi media industry, is a real loss to the Kingdom. Despite reaching the noble age of seventy-five, Dr. Shabili’s death came as a shock to all of us, especially given the tragic circumstances in which it unfolded. According to reports from Paris, Dr. Al-Shabaili slipped and fell off his hotel balcony just hours before heading back to Riyadh. During his half-century of work, Dr. Al-Shabaili contributed to the establishment of the media industry in Saudi Arabia. He conducted rare television interviews with people who took part in the establishment of the Kingdom, such as King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and others. He wrote more than fifty books, concluding with his autobiography, which was published just a few months ago. A look at the life of this legendary man is a look at the history of our nation. In one of his most recent speeches, Dr. Al-Shabaili recalled the 1951 launch of Aramco TV, which was the first television channel in the Gulf and the second to launch in the Middle East. Originally airing only in English, Aramco TV later began broadcasting content in Arabic as well. Dr. Al-Shabaili recalled his serious lobbying efforts to launch a state-run television station in Saudi Arabia, beginning at the end of King Saud’s reign in 1963, when Jamil al-Hujailan was Minister of Information. Thanks to his efforts, an agreement was eventually signed with the United States whereby Washington would help launch the Saudi network. This paved the path for the establishment of Al Saudiya, the Kingdom’s official news and entertainment channel, which broadcasts until this very day. In addition to his impressive professional career and his prolific work, Dr. Al-Shabaili was defined by high morals, courteousness and true compassion. He represented the ultimate balance of humor and seriousness, joy and sadness, past and present. May he rest in peace.  –Turki Al-Dakhil

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