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King Fahd with King Juan Carlos of Spain in his palace in Marbella. SUR
Andalucía's very own Three Kings
Royalty

Andalucía's very own Three Kings

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia used to spend his summers on the Costa del Sol. King Baudouin of Belgium died at his summer residence on the coast of Granada. The king of the Netherlands found love in Seville

Alekk M. Saanders

Friday, 5 January 2024, 15:13

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Today, 5 January, children around Spain wait patiently for the visit of the Three Kings, in this case Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. However the region of Andalucía has had important connections with three real kings, who shared a love of southern Spain.

King Fahd

Fahd bin Abdelazid first came to Marbella in 1974 for a short visit, but five years later the king returned and stayed at the Incosol Hotel for three months. Marbella is said to have reminded the king of the Holy Land. He once even defined it as "the land blessed by Allah".

In the 1980s, after deciding to settle on the Costa del Sol, King Fahd built his Mar-Mar palace on the aptly named Golden Mile. It is a marble and gold replica of the White House, with fixtures made of gold. On the mansion grounds there are luxury villas, swimming pools, a helipad, a small hospital and a mosque.

Next to his residence the king built a mosque for Muslims on the Costa del Sol. It is reported that during one of his first visits, the monarch wanted to make a donation to build a hospital in the town and always helped the Costa del Sol hospital.

The Saudi monarch was more than welcome in Marbella because his visits were of great benefit to the town's budget

The Saudi monarch was more than welcome in Marbella because his visits were of great benefit to the town's budget. In Marbella, the king had a fully staffed compound. The entourage of the famously profligate ruler consisted of 3,000 people. Some 300 rooms in the most prestigious hotels were booked and 500 cars were rented.

It is reported that for one month's stay in Marbella, the royal family spent up to 80 million euros. On one occasion the king left a tip of 235,000 euros, which was the most generous in Marbella's history. Two mega yachts were moored in the Puerto Banús marina. It is believed that El Corte Inglés was opened in Puerto Banús exclusively for the Saudi royal family.

It is reported that for one month's stay in Marbella, the royal family spent up to 80 million euros. On one occasion the King left a tip of 235,000 euros

There are still some legends circulating in the town... about local patisseries that depleted their stocks to serve the palace, the renewal of the fleet of luxury Mercedes models and the private parties at the Olivia Valere nightclub and the Nao Pool Club.

The Saudi sovereign's last visit was in 2002. King Fahd landed at Malaga Airport in his Boeing 747, while his yacht Al Diriyah, almost 71 metres long and just over 11 metres wide, docked at Puerto Banús.

In the same year, the palace (which by that time had been renamed El Rocío) was renovated at a cost of around 120 million euros. Incidentally, it is reported that in 2002, at the initiative of a Marbella business owners' association, the town hall approved the naming of a local avenue between the Marbella Club Hotel and the Río Verde river after King Fahd.

However, it took longer for a public garden and a street in Marbella to be named after him. When King Fahd died in 2005, a three-day mourning period was declared in Marbella.

King Baudouin

Baudouin, the fifth king of the Belgians, often travelled to Motril, the summer capital of Granada province. The royal country residence on the Costa Tropical was the private holiday home of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola, a Spanish noblewoman who, before they met, had worked as a nurse in a Madrid hospital. Incidentally, Fabiola is a sister of Jaime de Mora y Aragon, a promoter of tourism on the Costa del Sol, who became the head of protocol in the mayor's office in Marbella.

King Baudouin and his wife.
King Baudouin and his wife. SUR

The couple purchased the villa known as Villa Astrida (possibly named after Baudouin's mother, Princess Astrid of Sweden) in 1972 to holiday on the Mediterranean coast. In 1993, the 62-year-old king died suddenly of cardiac arrest at his summer residence.

Around midnight on Saturday 31 July 1993, the Spanish news agency EFE issued a bulletin: "According to diplomatic sources, the King of the Belgians has died in Motril."

The king and queen had no children. So after Queen Fabiola's death in 2014, ownership of the Costa Tropical estate passed to a foundation set up by the queen for the benefit of her nieces and nephews. The villa in Motril is no longer the royal residence of the Belgian dynasty.

King Willem-Alexander

The King and Queen of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander and Máxima, have a special love for Andalucía, because their own love was born in the Andalusian capital.

In April 1999, at the Seville fair, the then prince met a 28-year-old woman of Argentine origin working in the US, Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, and introduced himself only as "Alexander".

It is believed that when Willem-Alexander later revealed that he belonged to the royal family, Máxima did not believe it, thinking it was a joke. This meeting led to marriage, and now the couple are the head of the Netherlands.

King Willem-Alexander and his wife.
King Willem-Alexander and his wife. SUR

Willem-Alexander came to Andalucía for the first time in 1998, as a bachelor. On that May visit to Córdoba, he not only admired the picturesque courtyards of the city, but also reportedly participated in a pigeon hunt.

In 2019, the prince travelled to Andalucía with his wife and three daughters, Catharina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane. In Seville, Queen Máxima and her daughters, dressed in faralaes costumes by Fabiola, were seen walking through the fairground.

Moreover, the queen was even brave enough to dance a rumbita. Eventually, the Dutch royal family travelled in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage.

In 2022, the couple travelled to Andalucía again to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. The visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Córdoba was secret

In February 2022, the couple travelled to Andalucia again to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. The visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Córdoba was secret. The monarchs made a private visit to the Mosque–Cathedral completely incognito.

They also toured other iconic sites and stopped for lunch at Los Berengueles, a typical Andalusian tavern with a beautiful patio filled with trees and elegant table setting and such specialities as salmorejo and oxtail stew.

After their stay in Córdoba, Willem-Alexander and Maxima travelled to Seville to recapture special memories. They visited also Granada, Jerez de la Frontera and Ronda.

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