Saudi prince’s Maldives visit makes global headlines

The visit of Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz continues to make headlines today after the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that the prince had booked out Anantara’s three South Malé atoll resorts for nearly one month.

Headlines in Saudi Arabia have suggested that Prince Salman – due to arrive tomorrow – will discuss potential investments and partnerships in energy, tourism, transport, and Islamic affairs, as well the provision of a soft loan facility of US$300 million for the Indian Ocean nation.

“The crown prince’s trip to the Maldives comes in response to the invitation extended by Maldivian President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom,” Maldivian ambassador to Saudia Arabia Adam Hassan told Arab News.

Anantara’s Dhigu, Naladhu, and Veli resorts – all within an hour’s boat ride from the capital Malé – were said to have been reserved for the 78 year old heir to the Saudi throne.

The Daily Mail has reported the comments of “furious” tourists who had reservations cancelled without forewarning or apology.

Staff at Anantara were unable to provide any further information when contacted by Minivan News today. Similarly, spokesman at the President’s Office was unavailable for comment.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry reported last week  that that prince’s official visit to the Maldives came on the invitation of President Abdulla Yameen and would form part of an Asian tour taking in India, Pakistan, and Japan. The President’s Office confirmed the visit but declined to provide further details.

The visit comes amid growing ties between the Yameen administration and the Saudi kingdom. Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, meeting with the Imaam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah.

The vice president stressed the importance the government placed on enhancing ties with the Arab world and in strengthening religious unity in the Maldives. Shortly after Jameel’s return, the government initiated its pledge to introduce Arabic lessons in schools as part of a drive to increase Islamic learning in the country.

After being invited by the Maldives Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, the Saudi Arabian Muslim Scholars Association in January agreed to provide a grant of MVR1.6 million to assist in the provision of Islamic education in the Maldives.

Jameel’s trip followed the January visit of Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, during which time an MoU was signed regarding the increase of air traffic between the Maldives and Saudi Arabia.

Prince Salman is currently in Japan and was today awarded an honorary doctorate from Tokyo’s Waseda University.