October 06, 2017

Saudi King takes entourage of 1,500 persons and gold escalator on Russia tour

by Neha Monga

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who kicked off a historic visit to Russia, brought with him an entourage of 1,500 people, a golden escalator and his own carpets for a four-day state visit. His visit marks the first ever state visit to Russia by a reigning Saudi monarch.

The 81-year-old leader of the Gulf kingdom arrived in Moscow late Wednesday and stepped out onto the special golden escalator he travels with. However, something went wrong with the escalator and it stopped working midway and the king had to walk the rest of the way. A cavalcade of cars sped the monarch to the center of the city, flanked by Russian police escorts.

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According to a Bloomberg report, a Saudi plane is traveling daily between Riyadh and Moscow to transport supplies and 800 kilograms of food has been brought in.

The Saudi government has booked two entire luxury hotels for the visit: the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. The latter had to ask some guests to cancel their reservations to make room—and even moved out people who live in the hotel permanently, people familiar with the matter said.

Members of the royal entourage also replaced some of the hotel staff with their own personnel, who know exactly how they like their coffee made, the person said.

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A doorman dressed in red livery at the Four Seasons said the entire hotel was booked through October 8 and wasn’t open to the public.

Members of the delegation of Saudi Arabia

The bill for fully booking the two hotels during the visit may run about $3 million, not including what the delegation will spend on services, restaurant meals and spa treatments, said Vadim Prasov, vice president of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia.

During the first visit to Russia by a Saudi monarch, the two countries have already struck a deal on weapons sales and discussed ways to continue to cooperate on stabilizing the oil market.

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“Our main hope is that the visit will give a new, powerful impetus to the development of bilateral ties, because the potential of our ties is much richer than the de-facto situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Friday, reported Al Jazeera.

 

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