Saudi King Comes to Washington, Reigns in Georgetown

Metropolitan Police Department officers and motorcycles in front of the Four Seasons Hotel; King Salman of Saudi Arabia (inset). | Georgetowner/Getty Images

When a foreign dignitary comes to Washington, D.C., it is always kind of a big deal, depending on the nation and its ties to the United States. But when King Salman of Saudi Arabia came to the nation’s capital Thursday, Sept. 3, he arrived in a big way. He and his family along with the Saudi entourage of diplomats and other officials reportedly reserved all 222 rooms of the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown through Saturday, Sept. 5.

Traffic was completely halted for blocks in each direction along Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street for more than an hour Thursday evening. Pedestrians stopped and stared on the motorcade. Three protestors against the policies of King Salman and the Saudi government argued with supporters in front of the hotel. The D.C. police and Secret Service handled it all in stride.

The 79-year-old king was received at Joint Base Andrews by Secretary of State John Kerry, who accompanied him to the hotel, which is about seven blocks from his Georgetown home.

With on-again-off-again closures at intersections, traffic was congested around and beyond the hotel—all those black Mercedes sedans and SUVs parked nearby and on the residential streets did not help, either.

Salman met President Barack Obama at the White House Friday to talk over an array of international issues that affect the U.S. and Saudi Arabia: Iran, Syria, Yemen, terrorism and the oil market, for a start. Of late, America’s relationship with the oil-rich desert kingdom has been a little flat because of Obama’s criticism of some Mideast governments and his push for the nuclear deal with Iran. Salman, who assumed the throne in January, did not attend a conference of Gulf nations, held at Camp David in May.

However, an anticipated $1 billion arms deal with the Pentagon might make this historic, first-ever visit to the U.S. by Salman as the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques very nice indeed.

Also very nice indeed were the regal arrangements at the Four Seasons, known for its luxury accommodations and services, which hit a new high this week.

“Everything is gold. Gold mirrors, gold end tables, gold lamps, even gold hat racks,” a Four Seasons patron informed Politico’s Kate Bennett, who further wrote: “Red carpets have been laid down in hallways and even in the lower parking garage so that the king and his family never have to touch asphalt when departing their custom Mercedes caravan.”

Those in the hotel’s Bourbon Steak restaurant during the afternoon of Sept. 3 had their lunch disrupted by a Secret Service sweep. Security dogs were brought in, and patrons were wanded.

On Friday, a women, waiting to cross the blocked street as the king’s motorcade left for the White House, said she just wanted to get to her appointment at the hair salon George in the Four Seasons complex. On the same sidewalk, demonstrators for the Southern Movement in the Yemeni Civil War thanked the Saudi king for his support.

Meanwhile, the disruption with traffic and of small groups of supporters and protestors continued, and on the front of the Georgetown hotel, instead of the customary Canadian flag in the center between the U.S. and the D.C. flag, the Saudi Arabian flag was hoisted. That should come as little surprise as Al-Waleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family, is a co-owner of Four Seasons Hotels, Inc.

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