June 7th, 2011


On seeing the King

Arab and Islamic governments keep making news these days, among them Saudi Arabia, so I'll take this opportunity to tell how I saw the King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al Saud, several years ago.

I was walking through downtown Madrid and happened to go past the Hotel Palace. It's one of the city's top hotels, the place where statesmen and stars tend to stay. I wasn't surprised to notice security agents outside — I'd seen that before — but I was intrigued by the enormous quantity of them, including Spanish and foreign agents and even Spanish soldiers. An exceptionally Very Important Person was staying at the hotel.

They let me keep walking up the sidewalk toward the entrance (although I got some careful looks) and I saw a big limousine under the carport. Maybe this VIP would come out soon. I crossed the side street and joined a couple of tourists waiting there to see who it would be. The street is old and narrow, and I was surprised that the security agents allowed us to remain so close, but there seemed to be two men in suits with nothing better to do than pretend to read newspapers while keeping an eye on us.

A minute later, a bustle told me that the VIP might be approaching — and out walked a man with a black mustache and goatee, wearing beautiful Arab robes, surrounded by an entourage. He was the walking definition of regal bearing.

He got in the car without a glance at us gawkers and his motorcade took off, sirens blaring. I didn't know who he was, but the next day I identified him as King Abdullah from a photo in a newspaper article.

That's the only royalty I've seen so close, and one brief glimpse isn't worth much, but I came away convinced that this man knew he was important and fully believed that he deserved his place in the world. If there is ever political change in Saudi Arabia, that attitude could matter.

— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional website: http://www.sue.burke.name