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History & Heritage


Saudi Arabia: Princess Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

As the youngest granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Alice was the first member of the Royal family to visit Saudi Arabia in 1938. She not only consolidated Anglo-Saudi relationships, but also undertook the most amazing desert trek between Jeddah and Riyadh.

It happened in the end of February 1938. After a long journey on the Royal Naval cruiser, Princess Alice arrived in the harbour of Jeddah with her husband, the Earl of Athlone.

They then met King Abdulaziz. She later declared, “He himself was a huge man, a great gentleman with a most engaging manner. He was charming and full of jokes, and we became his hero-worshippers. I thanked him very much for inviting me as he had never before asked a female to an audience or a meal.”

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Discovering Saudi Arabia

In the following days, Princess Alice discovered the beauty of Old Jeddah, taking pictures in the streets. On the 1st of March, the royal delegation left Jeddah, discovering the pure charm of the desert in Taif. They camped overnight in this mountainous village – which today has 1.2 million inhabitants – not far from the holy city of Mecca.

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The oil well n. 7

Oil was discovered in the Kingdom in 1938. Princess Alice was there when the famous well No. 7 in Dharan gushed for the first time. After placing a gloved hand on the pipe, she declared, “It was boiling hot and you could feel the oil shaking the pipe as it rushed up through it”.

The day after, she left the port of Khobar, returning to England putting an end to what she described as “a lovely and interesting journey”.

Published on 20 April 2018