El Rocío, the Saudi royals' Marbella home. J-L
Every summer the Marbella tourism industry wonders whether its revenue will be blessed by a visit from a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family. Since the death of King Fahd, some of his descendants, as well as his brother and governor of Riyadh, Salman, have arrived on the Golden Mile, with their pockets full of ‘petrodollars’, however with more discretion.
Nevertheless this summer the town could see a scenario reminiscent of the days when the Saudi King spent his holidays at his El Rocío palace, accompanied by an enormous entourage. At the royal family’s Puerto Banús home, a replica of the White House, preparations are under way for an event that will mean a significant boost for the local economy. Several sources confirm that the daughter of Prince Salman, Sara Fahd Bin Salman, is to marry Talal Bin Abdulaziz Bandar in Marbella on July 2nd. Celebrations are expected to go on for several days with some 1,500 guests.
Few details of the event have been revealed. Neither the Saudi consulate, nor many of the luxury hotels, have spoken about the wedding, preferring to wait for an official statement. Meanwhile sources report that hotels such as Villa Padierna, Puente Romano, Marbella Club and Kempinski are now fully booked that weekend. Rentals of luxury villas are also expected to do well out of the event as guests arrive from places such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
“It’s very important that they are coming back, as the Arab world had shifted its summer preferences to the Côte d’Azur”, points out Ricardo_Arranz, the owner of the Villa Padierna hotel in Benahavís, where Michelle Obama stayed last summer.
“It’s going to be a ‘boom’ like in the days when King Fahd used to come”, said the Marbella Club Hotel, where 60 per cent of the rooms booked between 30th June and 5th July have been reserved for Arabs.
“It’s good that we can regain our place in that market. They are very demanding guests but they are very elegant in the way they treat everybody”, said a source from another hotel. All of the hotels consulted pointed out that so far the only special instructions they have received is to be discreet.
Meanwhile at El Rocío palace work has been stepped up to prepare everything from the gardens to two halls in case the wedding celebrations should require the separation of men and women at any point. However according to the imam at the Marbella mosque, Allal Bachar, this seems unlikely. “If they are holding it here it means that they want to do things the European way”, he comments.
It is as yet unknown whether the guests will include members of other royal families although the weekend coincides with the wedding of the Prince of Monaco. The Zarzuela Palace have said that as yet they have no news of an invitation for the Spanish royals, although King Juan Carlos is a friend of Prince Salman, the bride’s grandfather.
Meanwhile the town prepares for the event, albeit with discretion. It appears that the family will be bringing their own chefs and other professionals to cater for the event, although certain select businesses have been warned that their services and supplies could be required, especially for the families renting villas. Security is expected to be taken care of by a special National Police unit based in Madrid.