Descending regally from his private plane in a customised gold-coloured escalator, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saudbegan the first visit in almost 50 years of a Saudi leader to the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, on Wednesday.
The Saudi monarch clearly did not view the visit lightly. Accompanied by an entourage of 1,500, including 25 princes and several government ministers, King Salman also brought 459 tonnes of luggage for his nine day trip.
Two elevators and two Mercedes Benz S600s were included among the travel essentials for his three day visit to the capital, Jakarta, which will be followed by six days of “relaxing” in the popular holiday resort of Bali.
The Indonesians, who hope the visit will bring Saudi investments of up to $25 billion, were equally eager to impress. Enthusiastic crowds, including tens of thousands of students, lined the route of his heavily guarded motorcade to the presidential Bogor palace.
Great care was taken to cover statues of naked men and women in the palace grounds, out of courtesy to the Saudi visitors.
King Salman and his entourage will be staying in four luxury hotels in central Jarkata, with about 10,000 security personnel deployed to protect them.
More than 150 chefs are on hand to provide 24/7 halal Middle Eastern and local food, including grilled seafood and exotic fruits.
On Thursday the king, 81, is scheduled to give a ten minute speech at the House of Representatives. He will also visit the Istiqal mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, where a new toilet has been added for the occasion.
The last visit by a Saudi king to Indonesia was 47 years ago when King Faisal came to the archipelago.
“This is an extremely historic visit for us,” said Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.
Indonesia expects to sign agreements with Saudi Arabia on raising the frequency of flights from the Middle East and increasing visitor numbers.
Indonesia is the second stop in a tour of Asia countries to advance the kingdom’s economic and business interests.
On his first stop in Malaysia, Saudi Aramco signed a $7 billion deal to take a 50 per cent stake in a Malaysian oil refinery. King Salman will also visit Brunei, Japan, China and the Maldives.