Saudi king cuts short controversy-hit holiday

King Salman's luxury villa above the public beach that was closed and the temporary elevator (in red) that sparked anger.
King Salman's luxury villa above the public beach that was closed and the temporary elevator (in red) that sparked anger.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NICE (France) • King Salman of Saudi Arabia has unexpectedly left the French Riviera, cutting short a planned three-week stay, said local officials, adding that a beach that was controversially closed for the monarch's holiday will now reopen to the public.

Eight days after arriving in southern France for what was billed as a three-week luxury vacation, the Saudi king boarded a flight on Sunday to the Moroccan city of Tangiers, local official Philippe Castanet said .

According to the local prefecture, at least half of the king's 1,000-strong delegation also left.

"We can assume that the king has ended his stay at Golfe-Juan," Mr Castanet said, referring to the Cote d'Azur town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan near Cannes where the monarch's luxury holiday villa is located. The Saudi Embassy had earlier said his stay would last until around Aug 20.

Security measures that were put in place around the king's villa would now be "progressively lifted", Mr Castanet said.

The closure of Mirandole beach for security and private reasons had angered locals, generating global headlines and prompting more than 150,000 people to sign a petition protesting against the "privatisation" of the public strip of sand.

The king's installation of an elevator from the beach to the villa, approved for temporary use by the local government, also provoked anger among residents who objected to giving him this privilege.

While some residents had grumbled at the closure of the beach, local traders had rolled out the red carpet for the monarch and his big-spending delegation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Saudi king cuts short controversy-hit holiday'. Print Edition | Subscribe