Who is he?:
The king of Saudi Arabia, formally known as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. (These are Mecca and Medina.) Abdullah is also prime minister and commander of the National Guard. He succeeded King Fahd upon his death in 2005, but had already been running most of the country's affairs since Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995.
1924 in Riyadh, son of King Abdulaziz Al Saud. Has 36 brothers. Spent time living in the desert with Bedouins. Follows Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) Islam.
It's estimated that the king has married about 30 women over his lifetime, though some say he keeps four or so wives at a time. It's also estimated that he has about 15 sons and 20 daughters. Abdullah breeds Arabian horses, and as an avid reader has established two libraries.
King Abdullah has allowed miniscule freedoms in the traditionally repressive kingdom, such as supporting construction of the first Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia (for foreign workers) He's comfortable on the diplomatic/networking scene, enjoying a good relationship with U.S. leaders and becoming the first Saudi king to visit the Vatican.
Islamic radicals have never approved of the kingdom's close ties with the United States, but King Fahd's decision to let the U.S. use Saudi bases in the 1991 Gulf War particularly inflamed the Muslim world -- and Saudi native Osama bin Laden. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., where 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, Saudi Arabia has waged a high-profile campaign against terrorists in their country.
King Abdullah believes that Saudi Arabia should take greater strides in modern technological advancements, and has planned King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to open in 2009 with a $10 billion (U.S.) endowment. After Abdullah became king, women were allowed to run (and won) for the first time in an election (Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry), and he has expressed the desire for men and women to study side-by-side at his university. Reportedly, women will even be able to drive on campus. He has also called for global interfaith dialogue among monotheistic religions.
"The first step on the path of salvation is the restoration of confidence in ourselves and in each other. Once confidence is restored, it will be accompanied by credibility. And if credibility is restored, then the winds of hope will blow. And when that happens, we will never allow any forces from outside the region to design the future of the region. Then no banner other than that of Arabism will hover over Arab land." -- King Abdullah addressing the 19th Arab League summit in March 2007