The Ottomans occupy Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of this period. As in all of their provinces, their presence is minimal outside of the major cities. After the 1600 chartering of the East India Company, the British start to compete with Dutch, Portuguese, and French concerns for control of the lucrative Persian Gulf trade, but the region itself does not benefit from this boon as European traders have found sea routes to circumvent the overland transport of goods through Arabia. Ottoman control of Yemen ends in 1635, and the Shi‘i Zaidi imams return to power at San‘a. In Oman, the al-Bu-Sa‘id clan takes Muscat as their capital, and in Saudi Arabia the present line of kings—the al-Sa‘ud dynasty—is established in 1746.
The Zaidi imams, who had controlled Yemen in the twelfth century, reassert themselves after the Ottoman departure. They survive a second Ottoman occupation of San‘a in the late nineteenth century and continue to rule today.
Sultan bin Saif al-Ya‘rubi wins Muscat from the Portuguese, who have occupied the trading port for over 150 years. The Ya‘rubid imams rule in Oman until 1749.
The Ottoman governor of al-Hasa in the Arabian Peninsula is overthrown. Control of the region reverts to Bedouin chiefs.
A reform movement headed by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) of Najd takes hold in the Arabian Peninsula. This movement stresses the unity of God above all else and holds that the popular faith should be cleansed of all innovations such as the veneration of holy sites and saints.
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd-al-Wahhab concludes an alliance with local ruler Muhammad ibn Sa‘ud, and out of this military power the present line of Sa‘udi kings is born. Their allied forces soon conquer the region and launch raids into Iraq, where they feel a heretical form of Islam is practiced.
Ahmad ibn Sa‘id (r. 1749–83) begins his career as governor of Suhar in Oman, but soon takes over neighboring cities. His successors supplant the Ya‘rubids in Muscat, and then expand to Bahrain, cities on the southern Persian coast, and ports in East Africa.
The al-Bu-Sa‘ids counter the threat of the Wahhabis of Najd by signing a treaty with the British East India Company. The company later stations agents at Muscat.
“Arabian Peninsula, 1600–1800 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=09®ion=wap (October 2003)