This is an installment from our on-going series on the adventures of American diplomats and the people they monitor. The red button below will take you to another random episode.
Consul General Tatiana Gfoeller meets with a prominent Western businessman who is close to the Governor of Asir, Prince Khalid bin Faisal.
FROM: JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: NOVEMBER 8, 2006
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¶4. (S) The businessman's third encounter with Prince Khalid coincided with the visit of Prince Charles of the United Kingdom. He informed the CG that Prince Khalid and Prince Charles share a love of painting. Khalid opened a "painters village" in Abha, the capital of Asir, called Al Muftah. People, including faces, as well as objects are painted by Al Muftah artists, just as Khalid does in his own works of art. (Note: This is very interesting since painting is frowned upon by many conservative Saudis, and painting people and faces is forbidden according to the Wahabi interpretation of Islam. End note.) The businessman told the CG about a call that he received from a nervous Prince Khalid because of the party that he had offered to host for Prince Charles. During that time Prince Khalid, who has since built a new palace, was living in his father, the deceased King Faisal's old palace. His mother, Queen Effet, lived upstairs on the second floor of the palace, but the first floor needed attention. The palace was described as aged and in dire need of renovation. The businessman recounted how he was called and asked by the Prince, to take care of renovating the ground floor of the palace for a party that would take place in three weeks from the time of the phone call. The businessman asked whether he had a choice, and when told an emphatic "no," then agreed to do it.
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¶5. (S) According to the businessman, the first thing that he did was cut off all electricity so that no one would be able to turn on the lights and see what was taking place. Secondly, he inserted styrofoam into the holes in the walls. Thirdly, he set up projectors to project colors and designs onto the walls. On the evening of the party candles were the only source of lighting throughout the house. The plan was successful as the Prince of Wales commented on how luxurious and beautiful the palace was, despite the fact that it was not. Prince Khalid was very happy and the relationship between the businessman and the prince was cemented. (Note: The prince's old palace has since become a university. End note.)
¶6. (S) The next day Prince Khalid phoned this businessman and invited him to meet the Prince of Wales. What the prince did not know was that while the businessman had sacrificed three weeks to renovate the palace, his sister had been visiting from out of the country and he had other obligations, which he disregarded. The businessman ultimately declined the invitation to meet with the two princes. When he received a phone call and a summons, the next day, from Prince Khalid, he was frightened. He did not know what to expect and he feared the worst.
¶6. (S) When the businessman arrived to meet Prince Khalid he was pleasantly surprised to receive a painting by each of the princes, as gifts. He was also shocked to receive, what Prince Khalid called, a "tip," in the amount of SR50,000 ($13,333). He confided to the CG that Prince Khalid is "known for being extremely cheap." The businessman concluded by reiterating how close his relationship is to Prince Khalid and sharing more fond memories of the "phony dinner" at the prince's palace.