Sunday, December 05, 2021

Excess Baggage

Royals don’t fly economy anyway, but the House of Saud is determined not to constrain diplomacy with frugality.

Written by Editorial |
March 3, 2017 12:20:05 am

The world’s most prominent Muslim nation has reached out to the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and something heavy is going down. King Salman is the first Saudi monarch to visit Indonesia in half a century, and his baggage allowance compensates for the delay. His entourage is 1,000 strong, packs 460 tonnes of luggage and needs a fleet of aircraft to lug it around. This is giving the world’s media heartburn.

Are royals easily picked on because they are the excess baggage of history? No one complains when the democratically elected president of the United States carries his famous Beast overseas, in the hold of his own aircraft, which itself is so ridiculously expensive that Donald Trump wanted the contract with Boeing cancelled. It is as normal for POTUS to carry a small tank overseas as it is for a milkman to load his bicycle onto the local train — the man can’t possibly walk the last mile. But when a Saudi royal packs a few sets of Michelin wheels for the perfectly innocuous purpose of zipping around in Bali, it is suddenly the subject of breathlessly derisive media commentary. It’s simply unfair.

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And so what if 150 chefs travelled to feed King Salman’s delegation of 1,000? Cleopatra would have had 1,000 official tasters, too — one per potential target, prepared to lay down their lives on the field of diplomatic banquetry. But we have left those benighted times behind, when danger lurked in every morsel. We now only fear lifts, which is why the Saudi delegation has packed two of it own. If you have ever been trapped in a public lift with an expired maintenance contract, you would appreciate the reason why. King Salman’s Indonesia jaunt offered an opportunity for the world’s media to rise above such pettiness. It is failing the test.

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