U.S. President Donald Trump was received like visiting royalty from the moment Air Force One touched down in Riyadh on Saturday morning, after an all-night flight from Washington.
In a series of official arrival ceremonies — at the airport and the Royal Court palace — Trump, his wife, Melania, and an entourage including virtually his entire senior White House staff and some of his Cabinet, were serenaded by military bands, treated to a flyover of Saudi jets, feted in opulent palaces and given the undivided attention of King Salman, ruler of this ultraconservative Muslim nation.
As Trump arrived at Murabba Palace for a royal dinner, hundreds of Saudi men in long, white robes danced the Ardha, a traditional sword dance that is performed on Saudi National Day and in honour of special guests.
President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (left) dancing with swords at a welcome ceremony ahead of a banquet at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh.
BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AFP/Getty Images
Trump, grinning broadly at the festivities, waded in and took a few obligatory dips in the dance. Several of Trump’s male aides, along with Salman, participated with more enthusiasm. Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross raised swords and linked arms with Saudis, chanting to the beat of feathered drums, while Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn also laughed and swayed.
American country star Toby Keith performed at a men’s-only concert in Riyadh on Saturday night, coinciding with Trump’s visit. As Trump and Salman were driven in a golf cart around the palace after dinner, the president trained his eyes on a jumbo screen playing the live concert.
The ebullient welcome reflected a kingdom eager to rekindle its relationship with the United States, and to use the visit to declare and solidify its own leadership role in the Muslim world.
“It was a great day,” Trump said. He cited “tremendous investments in the United States . . . and jobs, jobs, jobs.”