A Tale from My Saudi Archives

In the summer of 1972, at the ignorant age of 18, I accompanied my father on a visit to Tai’f, Saudi Arabia. Tai’f is a picturesque summer resort one-hour drive from Mecca. In his previous capacity as advisor to the Saudi Ministry of Information, my father often met with King Faisal and Senior Princes to offer his analysis on regional Arab issues.

On this particular trip, I sat in the Majlis inside the old Ismael Palace (I think that is the name) watching King Faisal receive everyday citizens to listen to their grievances and solve their problems. Being so young, I sat far from my father who sat close to the King. Just before noon, King Faisal stood up, which signaled the end of the Majlis and everyone started streaming outside. King Faisal walked slowly as he consulted with his advisors. We all waited outside for him to appear and drive away before everyone went about his business.

Parked outside the main entrance was a shiny new Rolls Royce (Silver color I think) to drive him away. What happened next, I have not forgotten ever since that summer.

As soon as the King saw the Rolls, he turned slowly to one of his senior aids with a surprise look on his face. The Saudi aid, much shorter than King Faisal, whispered something in his ear. I remember the King stand still for a moment or two then wave with his hand the Rolls. I did not understand the gesture until I saw the Rolls drive away and about 10 minutes later, while King Faisal waited patiently under the heat of the summer sun, an old red Chevrolet Impala parked by the doorway and whisked him away immediately.

Later I learned, when my father and I met with Dr. Rashad Pharaon, the King’s Senior Advisor on foreign policy, that the Rolls was purchased by the State to replace the King’s old Impala on orders from a Senior Prince in the Saudi Government. After the explanation, I turned to Dr. Pharaon and asked him a silly question: Why did King Faisal wait in the sun for his car? Dr. Pharaon responded (Paraphrasing) “The King wanted to let those who took the decision to know he was displeased with them. He also was signaling to everyone not to squander their wealth”.

As far as I know, he still drove around in the red Impala until his death in April of 1975. What happened to the Rolls is anyone’s guess, but after this incident, I learned later that all the Senior Saudi Princes who ordered brand new Rolls canceled their orders. They could not have theirs if the King did not have his. I still remember this event as vividly as I remember yesterday.

Reflect on this story within the context of Khamenei’s $95 Billion empire he built on the miseries of the Iranian people.