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01 October 2023
16 Tishri 5784


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This week, Walter and Jeremy discuss Nagorno-Karabakh, a U.S. government shutdown, the India-Canada spat, why every American institution is liberal, and the time Walter met Winston Churchill

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In Spring 2023, Tablet staff decamped to Riyadh and Jeddah to cover the past, present, and future of the birthplace of Islam, the leader of the Sunni Middle East, and perhaps, one day, Israel’s partner in peace.

Andrea Bruce
Andrea Bruce
Israel & The Middle East section icon
Birth of a Nation

Reporting from the front lines of Mohammed bin Salman’s stupefyingly ambitious mass experiment in modernization, reform, and control

It is impossible to tell how long Saudi Arabia’s Formula 1 course is, where it goes, or how it’s shaped. Whatever’s taking place down below the carving stations and espresso bars inside the soundproofed Paddock Club at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, down on a floodlit straightaway of asphalt so eerily pristine that it seems impossible a car has ever touched it, remains an auto-racing-themed abstraction even during a potential outbreak of real excitement. When defending world champion Max Verstappen’s engine failed mid-lap on qualifying night this past March, sending him to the back of the starting grid for the next evening’s grand prix, the image of his stalled race car on an overhead TV screen barely distracted the club level’s courtiers, VIPs, and professional schmoozers from their wagyu steak. In contrast, cheers sometimes erupted from the opposite grandstand, where a more modest, more sports-focused, and seemingly unrelated event was taking place. That event could be visited by forsaking the wonders of the club lounge and stepping outside. Every few seconds an aeronautical sound-wave would suction the still desert air and a jet engine enclosed in insect skin, piloted by an international sporting celebrity whose face was impossible to see, zoomed by just long enough to hold a flickering perception of the vehicle’s brief physical presence. The brain-pinching whoosh entered through the right ear long before its origin appeared; by the time the whoosh exited the left ear its source was already deep into the unknowable frontier that lay beyond Turn 1. The smell of perfume overwhelmed whatever faint suggestion of combusting organic matter accidentally floated up to the loggia. It was a specifically Saudi perfume, arboreal instead of florid, and like the race car exhaust it had the nose-flooding sweetness of something burning....

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MBS is focused on his domestic reform agenda. If the Chinese can keep the Iranians on a leash until the Americans come to their senses, it’s to his benefit.

Special Edition

Get all of Tablet’s reporting from Saudi Arabia in one convenient printable package from The Tab


Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.