Trump’s $68mn Saudi state visit set to be garish display of opulence

Trump’s $68mn Saudi state visit set to be garish display of opulence
Donald Trump’s presidential term is set to reach whole new levels of extravagance when he visits Saudi Arabia this month in his first official state visit. But when it comes to lavish, the Saudis tower over the US president, known for his love of luxury.

The kingdom has allocated 257 million rials (nearly $68 million) for Trump’s visit, scheduled to begin on May 19, which will reportedly be the largest reception in the kingdom’s history, reports the Riyadh Herald, citing leaked documents.

Trump’s extravagant streak should be sated by the visit, with the Saudi royal family known to present world leaders and high-ranking officials with everything from Rolex watches to golden sabers.

One wonders how the Saudis will top the extravagance bestowed upon the UK’s Prince Charles during his 2014 visit, when he was lavished with gold belts, daggers and ceremonial swords.

While Trump Tower reportedly cost $300 million to build (and up to $308,000 per day to protect), this pales in comparison with the eye-wateringly expensive Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to cost up to $1.2 billion when it is completed in 2020.

Trump Tower only reaches a paltry 262 meters into the Manhattan skyline, while the Jeddah Tower is projected to be the world’s tallest building, once completed, reaching a mesmerizing 1,000 meters.

In this regard at least, it seems Trump may have met his match.

Next there are the notoriously expensive travel arrangements created by the leaders of the two countries.

Official figures for the cost of King Salman’s recent visit to Asia have not been released, but it’s hard to imagine Trump could even come close to competing with two golden escalators, 10 aircraft and a fleet of 500 limousines, among other extravagances.

While Trump’s travel figures are far from negligible, they are some way from matching those afforded to the Saudi head of state.

The Donald’s roughly 12.5-hour flight to the Saudi kingdom will cost $1.7 million alone – even without factoring in additional costs for security and medical personnel.

He has already added $60 million to the overall budget for presidential travel and protection (and that of the First Family) for 2018. Air Force One carries an estimated cost of $140,000 per flying hour, according to Judicial Watch's president, Tom Fitton.

"It's a snapshot cost, in the sense that there are other costs obviously involved that we could get, but the government just doesn't want to give it to us or they keep secret for some reason," Fitton told NPR in April.

The administration has been notoriously opaque about expenses, however, and the guesstimation game is proving quite popular, with astronomically high figures being the only constant throughout.

For comparison, former President Barack Obama’s trips to Hawaii were estimated to cost $3.5 million each, with a flight time of 10.5 hours. The current POTUS and his family are expected to outspend Obama’s two terms in office with regards travel arrangements in just Trump’s first year in the White House.