Saudi king takes 1500 people, furniture and a (faulty) golden escalator to Russia

Last updated 08:05 07/10/2017
Saudi Arabia's King Salman gets stuck on his golden escalator at Vnukovo Airport, outside Moscow, Russia.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a welcoming ceremony with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of their talks in the Kremlin, in Moscow.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, in Moscow,.

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Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz brought 1500 people, a golden escalator and his own carpets on his historic, four-day state visit to Russia, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The 81-year-old leader of the Gulf kingdom exited his plane on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) and stepped out onto the special escalator he travels with. But something went wrong: It malfunctioned halfway down, leaving the king standing awkwardly for about 20 seconds before he decided to walk the rest of the way.

A cavalcade of cars sped the monarch to the centre of the city, flanked by Russian police escorts.

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 stabilising the oil market. And as they have done in other cities, the Saudis made themselves at home in Moscow.

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A Saudi plane is travelling daily between Riyadh and Moscow to transport supplies, according to the person, who said 800kg of food had been brought in. 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. King Salman, who's staying at the Four Seasons, also came with his own furniture.

The Saudi government 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.

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

Representatives from the Ritz and Four Seasons declined to comment. The Royal Court in Riyadh didn't respond to a request for comment on size of the delegation.

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US presidents also travel with large entourages, including a bullet-proof limousine and a Secret Service protection force, and sometimes also book entire hotels. Former US President Barack Obama stayed at the Ritz in Moscow during a 2009 trip, and US President Donald Trump also stayed there in 2013 for the Miss Universe contest that he owned.

The bill for fully booking the two hotels during the visit may run about US$3 million (NZ$4.2 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.


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