Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
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SAUDI ARABIA: A Muslim king's Western dream

July 13, 2008 |  9:56 am

King_abdullah Up the corniche, along the Saudi Arabian coast where boats carrying pilgrims bound for Mecca sailed for centuries, a thicket of cranes rises over whitewashed mosques along the Red Sea.
Steel flashes and blowtorches glow as 20,000 workers build a $10-billion university ordered up by a king who hopes Western ingenuity will revive the economy of this ultraconservative Muslim nation. When finished next year, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will offer coed classes, Western professors, a curriculum in English and other touches loathed as dangerous liberalism by Islamic fundamentalists.
The West may be dependent on Saudi crude, now as high as $145 a barrel, but this campus outside the ancient fishing village of Thuwal is a recognition that the country that is home to Islam’s holiest shrines needs the likes of USC, Oxford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to survive globalization.

Read more about the university in the Los Angeles Times.

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

Photo: King Abdullah. Credit: AFP