Saudi prince had unusual baggage

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A Saudi prince who recently made an official visit to Oslo proved to be a special guest. Not only did he fly in his own Persian carpets and furniture, but the hotel where he stayed converted eight rooms into suites for his royal entourage.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg greeting the Saudi prince during this four-day visit. PHOTO: Statsministerskontor

Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a brother to the king of Saudi Arabia, made his otherwise relatively low-profile visit to Norway at the end of May. It was a busy week when he came, with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg hosting other heads of state at an important climate conference and the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Oslo as well.

But Stoltenberg welcomed the Saudi prince in his offices and so did other Norwegian officials, including King Harald and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported over the weekend that the prince made an impression not least for his fairly elaborate travel demands. Planning for his visit, according to DN, began in earnest in Februry, when the prince sent his ambassador in Sweden over to Oslo to inspect his planned hotel accommodation at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel. It  apparently didn’t quite meet the prince’s taste or standards.

The hotel’s Scandinavian design and furniture was moved out, along with the bar in one of the rooms, and in came large, heavy furniture in rococo design and large portraits of the late Saudi king, the current king and the prince himself. “He was very specific (about what he wanted) and everything had to be brown but not leather,” decorator Camilla Berntsen, hired in by the hotel to help with the project, told DN.

The prince was apparently satisfied, because he passed out gifts to hotel staff including a watch to one of its consultants. He also paid with brand new US dollars still in their plastic packages, preferring cash to credit cards.

DN reported, however, that no one would say who is paying for the remodeling of the hotel itself, the prince or his Norwegian hosts. It wasn’t reported why he stayed at a hotel and not at the state’s official guest house or in guest quarters at the Royal Palace. That’s where Prince Charles had stayed just a few days earlier when he was in town.

The Saudi ambassador in Stockholm told DN that “we were all very satisfied, the hotel fantastic.” He insists the preparations in February were merely part of standard security checks, and called the furniture, carpets and portraits simply “baggage.” 

Saudi Arabia will open its own embassy in Oslo this summer, so more royal visits may follow. “Some guests are more demanding than others,” said the Radisson hotel’s director, Lars Listhaug. “But we do all we can to please our guests.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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