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International Studies

The Saudis: Their History, Culture, Future Issues, and Future Challenges


with Tim Nolan

Calendar Apr 19, 2018 at 2 pm, runs for 5 weeks

While Saudi Arabia is an important ally of the United States and a major oil producer, it remains one of the world’s most secret countries.  This is especially the case when it comes to understanding the people of Saudi Arabia, including their society, culture, religion, economy, politics, and tribalism. In this class, the instructor will explore these points in the context of ancient and early Islamic history of Arabia, the creation of the Saudi state and the House of Saud, Saudi Arabian history, the Saudis place in the region and world today, and where the Saudis and their country may be headed in the future.  Some of the topics included in the class are:   Saudi tradition vs. modernization efforts, the role of Islam, economic diversification and reforms, the role of the Saudi government, extremism and radical Islam, the changing role of women in Saudi society, the Shi’a minority, the struggle with Iran over regional influence, the Royal family and succession, and, importantly, the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia’s future.  The class will be primarily based on the instructor's experience living and working in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East, and recent research on Saudi Arabia and the region.  The instructor will use multi-media aids such as maps/graphics, photos, social media and film, and various news articles.  And, of course, participants' questions, comments, and ideas will be welcomed and will add to the content and experience of the class. 

Tim Nolan was a CIA intelligence officer until his retirement.  Prior to that, he worked for the Saudi Arabian Government and for the UN as a development economist.  He has provided intelligence and analysis throughout the Middle East including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and Egypt.  He also lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 17 years where he became familiar with Islam, studied Saudi society, and learned conversational Arabic.  He also traveled throughout the region as part of his job and also as a tourist.  He has taught many classes at Portland State University, the University of Maryland University College (European Division), and Strayer University.

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