Saudi king reported to be taking almost 500 tonnes of luggage, including two limos, on trip

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 12:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 11:12pm

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is heading to Indonesia this week for a nine-day visit.

It will be the first time in 46 years that a Saudi king has visited the world’s largest Muslim nation, and it comes at a time of heightened attention on the economic links between the two nations.

But King Salman has come prepared. According to reports in the Indonesian press, the Saudi royal is expected to bring 459 metric tonnes of cargo with him on his trip - including two Mercedes-Benz s600 limousines and two electric elevators.

Malaysia is the first stop in a rare month-long tour of Asia by the Saudis seeking to build ties and draw more investments to the oil-rich gulf nation. King Salman is also expected to visit Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan.

Adji Gunawan of the airfreight company PT Jasa Angkasa Semesta (JAS) told the Antara news agency that his company had been appointed to handle the cargo, which had already arrived in the country. Adji said that his company was employing a total of 572 workers to deal with the Saudi King’s luggage.

Saudi Royals are often known for travelling in grandiose style. King Salman booked out the entire Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown when he visited Washington in 2015. The hotel, one of the most luxurious in the area, has 222 rooms.

That same year, the king was criticised by some locals after his 1,000-person entourage forced the closure of a beach on the French Riviera for three days due to privacy and security concerns. The local mayor also complained to the French president that the Saudi group had poured concrete directly onto the sand in an unauthorised attempt to install an elevator.

A similarly large entourage is expected this week in Indonesia. The Jakarta Post reports that the Saudi group will total about 1,500 people, including 10 ministers, 25 princes and at least 100 security personnel.

While the Saudi king’s colossal cargo hold may seem large, it is not necessarily out of scale with other world leaders. When US President Barack Obama visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, he was accompanied by 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines, and hundreds of US Secret Service agents tasked with helping secure locations in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Even when Obama travelled less exotic locales, there were reports of a similarly high level of organisation: A 2014 visit to Brussels included a 900-person entourage and 45 vehicles, according to The Guardian. Though the White House later disputed that figure, it said it could not provide a more accurate one due to security concerns.

On Monday Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Saudi Aramco would invest $7 billion in a mammoth oil processing hub in Malaysia, making it the single largest investor in the Southeast Asian country.

Najib made the refinery announcement on the second day of a four-day state visit to Malaysia by King Salman.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia came under the spotlight after it was revealed that $681 million in transfers were made to Najib’s personal bank accounts in 2013.

The prime minister said the “personal donations” from the Saudi royal family have been mostly returned and denies any wrongdoing.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press