Saudi King brings limos, escalators, entourage of 1,500 on Asia tour

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud kicks off his visit to Indonesia on Wednesday (Mar 1) on the second leg of his month-long, six-nation tour in Asia.

According to reports, around 1,500 people including 10 ministers and 25 princes and an estimated 100 security personnel are accompanying him on the trip which is also seen as a “logistical feat” in transporting, housing and feeding them. It took them 27 flights to get into Indonesia, and nine flights to depart.

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Along with the entourage, there are “459 tonnes of cargo, two electric escalators to help them on and off airplanes, two Mercedes Benz S600s and vast amounts of halal food”, Dow Jones reported citing a Saudi official. The cargo is equivalent to the weight of three blue whales. Air freight firm Pt Jasa Angkasa Semesta said it would need more than 570 workers to handle the cargo.

The 81-year-old king was seen disembarking his plane in Kuala Lumpur via his personal escalator during the first leg of his tour. His massive entourage completely booked out three luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur for the duration of his stay.

The Malaysia leg of his tour also saw the inking of a US$7 billion investment by Saudi oil giant Aramco in Petronas.

In Jakarta, the king disembarked from his plane using an escalator as he arrived at an airport.

The 81-year-old was greeted by President Joko Widodo and Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian who is standing trial for blasphemy.

Crowds of flag-waving schoolchildren lined the route as a convoy of vehicles carrying the king and his entourage sped through pouring rain to a presidential palace in the nearby city of Bogor, where a marching band played the Indonesian national anthem.

President Widodo hailed Salman’s trip as “historic” and said he hoped it could lead to closer economic ties.

“As the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia will always have a special bond with Saudi Arabia,” he told the king at the palace.

King Salman said he hoped the visit would “contribute to the improvement of the bilateral relationship between our two countries”.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (L) waves beside Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java on March 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Achmad Ibrahim)

King Salman will be in Indonesia till Mar 9 and will spend the last six days of his visit there “relaxing” in Bali. The monarch and his entourage will reportedly stay in five luxury hotels in Bali.

Ten agreements are expected to be sealed during his visit to Indonesia, with a focus on combating militant group Islamic State. The king is also due to give a speech to parliament on Thursday. Indonesia will also seek approval to send more citizens to the annual hajj pilgrimage in western Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites.

Thereafter, the king will travel to Brunei, Japan, China and the Maldives.

According to a royal court statement, the monarch intends to meet with the countries’ leaders “to discuss bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern”.

– CNA/AFP

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