PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has arrived in the south of France for a three-week break – but the monarch is not your average holidaymaker.
Locals are already upset after a public beach was closed so he can relax in private, while a 300m (985ft) exclusion zone has been implemented around his villa.
Many businesses are, however, more than happy to meet his demands. They claim the Saudis bring much-needed revenue to the area.
So what exactly is on the King’s holiday checklist? We took a look.
A room (and a throne?) with a view
As the head of one of the world’s richest royal families, it is no surprise that King Salman is a fan of palatial accommodation.
His villa in Vallauris is nestled among the rocks of the French Rivera – and stretches for several hundred metres along the picturesque coast.
Built in 1932 by the architect Barry Dierks, Chateau de l’Horizon – as it was once known – has hosted many famous guests, including Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.
For the next three weeks, it will house King Salman’s family and closest aides.
Preparations have been under way for some time, with locals reporting a flurry of activity in and around the grounds.
New windows have been installed, fresh flowers planted – and there have even been rumours of a throne on the balcony so the King can enjoy unspoiled views.
Several hundred other Saudis are accompanying the King on his visit – more on them later.
Excellent transport links
King Salman and his entourage arrived at Nice airport on Saturday on board two private planes operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines.
A 10-vehicle motorcade was there to greet the 79-year-old monarch and his guests, before whisking them away to his private residence.
At least 400 luxury saloon cars with tinted windows have been hired, according to local drivers.
They will be used to transport the King’s relatives and friends around the region to local tourist spots and beaches.
“They ask us to take them to restaurants, or they say they want to visit Saint Tropez, Monaco, Nice or villas in the area, because they want to buy property,” one driver told AFP.
Good company – and lots of it
Summer holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend time with family and friends – but inviting 1,000 of your nearest and dearest may seem excessive.
King Salman’s huge entourage of relatives, staff and military officials have taken up residence along the French coast.
While his inner circle will spend time at his seafront mansion, around 700 others are staying in lavish hotels in Cannes.
The influx of visitors from the oil-rich nation has led to increased security in the area.
Police vans have been pictured at the entrance to the King’s residence, while security guards have been spotted relaxing on sun loungers.
Some locals are irked by the exorbitant attention being given to the monarch and his guests, while others are happy to accommodate them.
“The economic impact for us, but also restaurants, chauffeurs and all those who worked at his villa, is real,” said Serge Reinhard, the director of the four-star Hotel Montaigne, where half of the rooms have been booked by Saudis.
Perhaps the tallest order on the King’s checklist.
The sandy shores of La Mirandole run alongside his Vallauris mansion – and are usually packed with holidaymakers and sunbathers.
But the beach has now been sealed off by the authorities to allow King Salman to holiday in private. Members of the public are also banned from coming within 300m of his villa by sea.
The move has enraged locals. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against the closure, insisting the beach is a public area that should be “available for the benefit of all”.
Police boats are patrolling the coastline on the look-out for intruders.
The mayor of Vallauris has also written to President Francois Hollande to protest against unauthorised work carried out on the shore.
A slab of concrete was poured directly onto the sand to install a temporary elevator to allow for easier access for King Salman.
“We understand the security reasons and the nation’s greater interest,” Mayor Michelle Salucki wrote. “But nobody can exonerate himself from the laws of the land.”
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