Jordan's King Abdullah II has been in the news recently for his response to popular demands for political reform, not his love of the science fiction series Star Trek. But we were reminded of his fandom today when The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, reported that the King Abdullah II Fund for Development had joined U.S. and Gulf investors in securing $1.5 billion for a new Star Trek theme park in Jordan's coastal town of Aqaba, which was first announced in May. According to the Amman-based Rubicon Group Holding, which is developing the resort, the Red Sea Astrarium "will deliver a variety of multi-sensory 23rd-century experiences, culminating with a state-of-the art space-flight adventure" based on the 2009 Star Trek film. Rubicon's Facebook page features this aerial schematic of the park:
The National isn't particularly surprised that King Abdullah's fund is the primary Jordanian investor in the project, given that the ruler "is known to be a 'Trekkie.'" In 1995, the paper notes, the then-Prince Abdullah made a brief cameo on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. On Twitter, Riyadh-based Twitter user Wael Alroumi digs up the footage to prove it (King Abdullah is the "science division officer" with green shoulder pads who doesn't say anything):
King Abdullah's Trekkie status is well-documented. In a 1999 profile, the BBC called the newly minted Jordanian ruler an "avid fan" of the show, noting that he invited Star Trek stars Ethan Phillips and Robert Picardo to Jordan after his cameo appearance and organized a Star Trek convention during their stay. The Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha quotes an interview Voyager producer Jeri Taylor gave Star Trek Monthly in which she said of King Abdullah's cameo, "Take away the title and the trappings, and at the core you have a Star Trek fan."
In fact, journalists have invoked King Abdullah's fleeting Star Trek appearance several times at the end of interviews to lighten the mood. The normally hard-hitting Tim Russert, for instance, asked the king during a Meet the Press session in 2002 whether he had a future in Hollywood. In an interview with the BBC in 2001, King Abdullah admitted that his cameo was proving hard to live down. He explained that a friend of his had arranged for him to stop by the Voyager set in Los Angeles, only for him to be thrust into a scene unexpectedly:
I was then told well if you want go through makeup and get into uniform and have some pictures taken with some of the crew and I said why not. Then the next thing, when I actually showed up, they said that if you want you can stand in. So it wasn't planned it just turned out that way. I had a great time. It's a job--I am in full admiration of actors because it is very difficult. They are in very early in the morning. For most of the aliens it's is three or four hours of make-up and it's hard work and one that I'm full of admiration that they can do.