Mai Yamani (2004), of Hijazi identity and a Saudi scholar, provides an account of the schism within Saudi Arabian society between the Wahhabism promoted by the Saudi royal family and the Hijazi identity promoted in secret among members who identify with its customs and practices in Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity. By providing and ethnographic and anthropological account of the Hijazi people, their customs and manners as well as their beliefs, Yamani demonstrates how the allegedly homogenous Saudi Arabian culture is split into two distinct identities. The first is the Saudi dynasty that embraces Wahhabism, a more radical and intolerant interpretation of Islam, and the second is the Hijaz culture, a more civilized and cultured identity that pays allegiance to ShafiÆi religious doctrine. These two cultures exist uneasily within Saudi Arabia, two cultures whose ideological and cultural differences often stem from the more cosmopolitan and urban history and culture of the Hijazi compared to the more rural and tribal history and culture of the Najd. As Yamani writes:
The urban-tribal distinction is all the more marked in the Hijaz because of the heterogeneous descent of the urban population. Even urban Hijazis who claim tribal descent are still identified with the city of belonging, whereas both urban and nomadic people in the Najd are typically identified with tribal groupings (2004, p. 13).
In providing an intimate account of the Hijaz people and their customs and beliefs, Yamani demonstrates how the Saudi government and religious police often suppress the identity and customs of the Hijazi through economic, political and legal means. Yamani (2004) maintains that even though the Saudis have tried to eradicate Hijazi culture and influence from Saudi Arabian society, the Hijazi are able to maintain a strong identity in the country.
Even though Saudi Arabia is named after the royal Saudi ...