RIYADH — The normally jammed streets of Riyadh were largely empty Friday, the first day of the Saudi weekend, as police and national guard officers blocked off scores of major streets around the cemetery where King Abdullah was buried.

[Read: New Saudi king clarifies chain of succession]

The Al Oud cemetery was guarded from early morning by soldiers stationed every 100 feet or so around the perimeter. Crowds gathered and stood for hours as military helicopters hovered overhead.

The  cemetery is starkly different from cemeteries in other parts of the world where national leaders are laid to rest. It is a vast field of beige dirt, with graves marked by small, undecorated stones if they are marked at all.

Graffiti sprayed on the cemetery wall said, in Arabic: “Death is a door through which everyone must pass.”

The graveyard is in a densely populated neighborhood in central Riyadh, surrounded by shabby apartment buildings that are largely home to poor immigrant workers, mostly from India, Pakistan and Africa.


Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Al Oud cemetery in Riyadh on Jan. 23. (Mohammed Mashhur/AFP/Getty Images)

In keeping with the austere Saudi version of Islam, state television showed photos of Abdullah’s body wrapped in a simple beige cloth at a mosque where mourners, including several world leaders, gathered for prayers.

Afterwards, Abdullah’s body was transported to Al Oud, where one of the world’s wealthiest men was buried in a small, unmarked grave, according to Saudi tradition.

“I’m so sad about this, he was a good king,” said Ibrahim al-Dosry, 29, a Saudi man who stood in a crowd near the cemetery entrance. “It is our duty to be with the king in his last moments.”

Dosry and others watched as a steady stream of shiny Black SUVs, Range Rovers, Bentleys and other luxury vehicles carrying royal family members and other dignitaries drove by, escorted by police cars with flashing lights.

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