Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died on January 23, 2015 at age 90. He was buried in an unmarked grave according to Islamic customs. He has been ruling the kingdom since 1996 and became the King in 2005, after his half-brother’s death from a debilitating heart attack few years back. Saudi Arabia is crucial for the world economy due its dominant oil production and its efforts to fight terrorism. He has been an ally of the West in both fronts.
During his time, the Saudi oil production increased by 30 percent to more than 12 million barrels per day from 8 million barrels a day in 1990s. Even with sliding crude oil prices he resisted calls to cut production to stabilize oil prices. Oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, its $730 billion foreign currency is depleting rapidly and the country has seen its biggest deficit of $39 billion for the first time in its history. Even with the opening of the first mixed-sex university in 2009 and opening of government jobs for women, King Abdullah has been criticized for his slow action to improve women’s rights. Women are still forbidden from driving and cannot travel without permission from a male relative.