The royal family has grown from a group of scrappy desert dwellers into a sprawling clan awash in palaces and private jets. The Wahhabi establishment has evolved from a puritan reform movement into a bloated state bureaucracy.
It consists of universities that churn out graduates trained in religious disciplines; a legal system in which judges apply Shariah law; a council of top clerics who advise the king; a network of offices that dispense fatwas, or religious opinions; a force of religious police who monitor public behavior; and tens of thousands of mosque imams who can be tapped to deliver the government’s message from the pulpit.
The call to prayer sounds five times a day from mosques and inside of malls so clearly that many Saudis use it to organize their days.
“Let’s meet after the sunset prayer,” they would tell me, sometimes unsure what time that was. So I installed an app on my phone that let me look up prayer times and buzzed when the call sounded.
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