President Trump was received like visiting royalty here Saturday, as his debut on the world stage competed for attention at home with ongoing news of the scandal encircling his presidency.
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 much of his Cabinet, were serenaded by military bands, treated to a flyover of Saudi jets, feted in oppulent palaces and given the undivided attention of King Salman, the ruler of this ultra-conservative Muslim nation.
The 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.
As this desert capital baked in triple-digit heat under a pall of dust, American and Saudi flags flew from lightpoles. The facade of the Ritz Carlton, the palace-like hotel where Trump is staying, was illuminated with massive photographs of the two leaders and the red, white, blue and green of the two nations’ flags.
The only U.S. president to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit, Trump was presented with the highest honor for a foreign dignitary, the collar of Abdulaziz al-Saud, named for the for the kingdom’s founder, which Salman hung on a thick gold chain around Trump’s neck.