RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Within hours of his death early Friday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was buried in the simple rite of the Muslim faith.
Men from the royal family carried the 90-year-old king's body to an unmarked grave in al-Od Cemetery in Riyadh. The body was wrapped in a shroud and carried on a litter.
The burial was preceded by funeral prayers at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Grand Mosque open to all Saudis who wished to attend with women sitting in their own section of the mosque.
During the three days of mourning, however, heads of state, prime ministers and their representatives from around the world will be in Riyadh to honor a ruler who was born several years before Saudi Arabia became a country and who in many ways modernized it during his decade-long reign. Vice President Joe Biden will head the U.S. delegation, and Britain's Prince Charles will represent his country.
One of the many sons of Abdulaziz, who became the first king of Saudi Arabia in 1932 after conquering most of the peninsula, Abdullah was born in 1924. He became crown prince in 1982, heir to his half-brother King Fahd, and effectively governed the country after Fahd had a stroke in 1995.
Abdullah became king in 2005.
During his reign, Abdullah expanded women's ability to work and study. He founded King Abdullah University, open to both women and men, and allowed women to work as supermarket cashiers.
But the king also maintained the close ties between the Saudi royal family and conservative Muslim clerics. He opposed the popular uprisings that swept North Africa and the Middle East during the "Arab Spring" of 2011 and never followed through on a pledge to allow Saudi women to drive.