- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — King Fahd was laid to rest in an unmarked desert grave yesterday after his body, wrapped in a simple brown robe, was borne from a prayer service by his sons. Vice President Dick Cheney and other world leaders headed to Saudi Arabia to pay condolences and honor Crown Prince Abdullah’s ascension to the throne as the sixth king of the wealthy oil power.

As armed counterterrorist forces surveyed the scene, Saudis lined up after the burial to pay respects to the 81-year-old new monarch, a day before tribal leaders, clerics and officials swear loyalty to King Abdullah in a traditional Islamic investiture ceremony.

Western leaders — including Mr. Cheney, Britain’s Prince Charles and French President Jacques Chirac — were expected to meet with King Abdullah separately today to congratulate him and express their condolences on King Fahd’s death.

Abdullah, the de facto ruler over the past decade during King Fahd’s illness, has worked to establish a bond with President Bush after the September 11 attacks strained U.S.-Saudi ties.

The investiture ceremony, an Islamic tradition known as “bayah,” will seal what the Saudi royal family has been eager to show as a swift and orderly transfer of power, the first in 23 years, in a kingdom beset by worries about the future.

Security was tight during the funeral for King Fahd, who died Monday at age 84. Security forces with automatic weapons, backed by armored vehicles, lined up outside the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque, where a prayer for the dead was held before the burial.

Austerity was the theme for the ceremonies for one of the world’s richest monarchs, who had multiple palaces in Europe, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. Ceremonies were simple, despite the presence of royals — including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the emirs of Persian Gulf nations and the sultan of Brunei — and presidents of Islamic and Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria and Pakistan.

Non-Muslims were not permitted to attend the ceremonies.

King Abdullah and about 300 male relatives, some carrying colorful umbrellas to ward off the punishing sun, gathered for the burial at al-Oud cemetery, a desert plain with patches of brush among piles of dirt and small uninscribed stones to mark graves.

Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Islam known as Wahhabism stresses the equality of all people in death, frowns on weeping and other public displays of grief and discourages the visiting of graves, as is common in other Muslim cultures.

Earlier, the heads of state and dignitaries crowded the Imam Turki mosque for the prayer for the dead, along with thousands of Saudi princes in red and white headdresses.

King Abdullah sat in a chair in the mosque, greeted by Saudis and heads of state — including Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, and the country’s Shi’ite Muslim prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Some kissed King Abdullah’s right shoulder in a traditional sign of respect, others kissed his cheeks or shook his hand.

Women were not allowed at the funeral or burial.

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