Arab leaders pay last respects to King Fahd

The Saudi princes and Muslim heads of state watched as the the body of the 84-year-old ruler, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, wrapped in his simple brown robe, was lowered into an unmarked plot in the barren al-Oud cemetery.

Among those paying tribute to the king, who had ruled since 1982, were the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.

In Riyadh's packed Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque, ordinary Saudis mixed with leaders from across the Islamic world, including Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan-istan's Hamid Karzai. As a sign of the changing times in the region, an Iraqi delegation led by the Kurdish President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari was among the first to pay its respects.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait under the leadership of Saddam Hussein had prompted King Fahd into one of the most difficult decisions of his reign: to allow US troops into the kingdom, seen as the cradle of Islam.

Non-Muslims were barred from the funeral ceremonies. Western heads of state and dignitaries, including Prince Charles and France's President Jacques Chirac, were expected to fly in for today's events. A US delegation, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, will offer Washington's respects.

The brief afternoon ceremony was devoid of the pomp that would normally accompany a state funeral. The late king's body was brought into the mosque on a wooden plank carried by his sons, and placed in the middle of the mosque amid the crowd.

After the ceremony, the body was carried out and driven to its final resting place in an ambulance. In accordance with the kingdom's austere Wahhabist version of Islam, King Fahd was buried beside both his predecessors and commoners on a plain of shrubland with unmarked stones.

Unlike many Muslim states, Saudi Arabia has set no mourning period, in keeping with Wahhabi acceptance of God's will without question.

Saudi flags, emblazoned with the proclamation of faith, "There is no God but Allah", flew at full mast. Shops and businesses opened as usual in the capital, though the mood among ordinary Saudis was subdued.

Despite the pared-down ceremony, tight security was in evidence in a city still in a state of emergency in response to terror attacks. Roads leading to the mosque were closed. Inside, hundreds of security forces mixed with mourners, many drawn from the 10,000 Saudi princes, and snipers were posted around the cemetery in a sharp reminder that attacks by supporters of the al-Qa'ida leader and fellow-Saudi Osama bin Laden had clouded the king's final years.

King Fahd is succeeded by his half-brother Abdullah, who has been in de facto charge of the country since a series of debilitating strokes suffered by King Fahd in the mid-1990s.

Analysts expect the new king to maintain Saudi Arabia's commitment to stable oil markets and its close alliance with the West.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before