Feasting With the Fishes
Traveling with the Secretary of State usually includes surreal moments. A brief overnight stop with Condoleezza Rice in Saudi Arabia had its share.
King Abdullah likes fish. His palaces in both Jeddah and Riyadh have massive aquariums, complete with sharks, according to U.S. officials.
At a sumptuous feast hosted for Rice and visiting Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Jeddah Tuesday night, guests were riveted by the shark-infested aquarium that one attendee described as covering most of a the wall in a palatial room.
The king's fish provided the evening's entertainment. As the U.S. delegation munched away, the fish were also being fed. American guests watched the sharks dart and dance through the water to get their feed.
"It looked like a scene from 'Dr. No'," the James Bond movie, said one U.S. diplomat. "Come in Mr. Bond. We are going to eat you."
The oil-rich kingdom is famous for its multi-course dinners, which have been known to stretch in number to double digits. The abundance of the king's dinner for Rice and Gates apparently impressed even the Saudis. It was the subject when Rice posed for photographers with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal the next morning, when she expressed gratitude because the king is "always generous with his time."
"He's always happy to see you," al Faisal replied.
"Well, I'm always happy to see him, but I always eat too much at dinner," said Rice, who rises early to exercise every morning, even on the road.
Replied al Faisal: "There's always too much to eat."
-- Robin Wright
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