After simple rites, Saudi King Abdullah laid to rest in unmarked grave

Leaders of the Muslim world and thousands of Saudi subjects paid their final respects to King Abdullah at a simple ceremony at a Riyadh mosque Friday before the late ruler was buried in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery.

In accordance with royal custom, the body of the 90-year-old king, who died at 1 a.m., was swathed in white and laid out for visitation at the Imam Turki ibn Abdullah Grand Mosque in the capital, Riyadh.

The afternoon funeral was attended by Middle East monarchs and a few presidents from countries near enough to Saudi Arabia to travel to the ceremonies that by Islamic practice must be conducted before the next sundown following a believer’s death.

World leaders who plan to attend memorials scheduled this weekend sent condolences and praise for Abdullah’s role as a mediator between the West and Islam.


“The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy,” President Obama said in a statement from Washington. Vice President Joe Biden, currently in Southern California, planned to lead the U.S. delegation to commemorations this weekend.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said Abdullah would be remembered for “his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.” Prince Charles announced he would travel to Riyadh to represent the British monarchy at the weekend memorials.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II left the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the funeral and declared 40 days of mourning in his own kingdom.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared “much sadness” at the news of Abdullah’s passing and announced three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised Abdullah for “strengthening cooperation and solidarity in the Muslim world, especially concerning the Palestinian question and the situation in Syria.”

Iran, Saudi Arabia’s chief rival in the Muslim world, sent condolences to the Saudi people and said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would travel to Riyadh to pay respects.

Saudi Arabia’s more austere form of Islam eschews public displays of grief and elaborate ritual, even for its monarchs, who are among the world’s richest men. Abdullah was reported to have a net worth of $20 billion.

The funeral was open to the public, including women in their separate section of the mosque, and shops and businesses will remain open during a three-day mourning period.

Among the heads of state and government in attendance, according to the Saudi Press Agency and state television, were Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Qatari Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Kuwaiti Emir Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

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