Saudi princes know how to par-ty!
The latest Wikileaks cable from Jeddah is a fun read:
Behind the facade of Wahabi conservatism in the streets, the underground nightlife for Jeddah’s elite youth is thriving and throbbing. The full range of worldly temptations and vices are available — alcohol, drugs, sex — but strictly behind closed doors. This freedom to indulge carnal pursuits is possible merely because the religious police keep their distance when parties include the presence or patronage of a Saudi royal and his circle of loyal attendants, such as a Halloween event attended by ConGenOffs on. [DETAIL REMOVED] Over the past few years, the increased conservatism of Saudi Arabia’s external society has pushed the nightlife and party scene in Jeddah even further underground. End summary.
Elite party like the rest of the world,
Along with over 150 young Saudis (men and women mostly in their 20’s and early 30’s), ConGenOffs [officials of the US consulate – EoZ] accepted invitations to an underground Halloween party at PrinceXXXXXXXXXXXX residence in Jeddah on XXXXXXXXXXXX. Inside the gates, past the XXXXXXXXXXXX security guards and after the abaya coat-check, the scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume. Funding for the party came from a corporate sponsor, XXXXXXa U.S.-based energy-drink company as well as from the princely host himself.
Royalty, attended by “khawi,” keep religious police at bay
Religious police/CPVPV (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) were nowhere to be seen and while admission was controlled through a strictly-enforced guest list, the partygoers were otherwise not shy about publicizing the affair. According to a young Saudi from a prominent Jeddah merchant family, the Saudis try to throw parties at princes’ houses or with princes in attendance, which serves as sufficient deterrent to interference by the CPVPV. There are over 10,000 princes in the Kingdom, albeit at various levels and gradations — “Royal Highnesses” (“Saheb Al Sumou Al Maliki”) signified by direct descent from King Abdulaziz, and mere “Highnesses” (“Saheb Al Sumou”) from less direct branches of the Al Saud ruling family. Our host that evening,xxxxxx (protect), traces his roots to Thunayan, a brother of Mohammad, Amir of Diriyyah and Nejd (1725-65), King Abdullah’s direct ancestor, six generations back. Although PrinceXXXXXXXXXXXX is XXXXXXXXXXXX not in line for the throne, he still enjoys the perks of a mansion, luxury car, lifetime stipend, and security entourage. (Note: Most of the prince XXXXXXXXXXXX’s security forces were young XXXXXXXXXXXX men. It is common practice for Saudi princes to grow up with hired bodyguards from Nigeria or other African nations who are of similar age and who remain with the prince well into adulthood. They are called “khawi,” derived from the Arabic word “akh,” meaning “brother.” The lifetime spent together creates an intense bond of loyalty. End note.)
Availability of black market alcohol, prostitutes, and drugs
Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party’s well-stocked bar, well-patronized by Halloween revellers. The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using “sadiqi,” a locally-made “moonshine.” While top-shelf liquor bottles were on display throughout the bar area, the original contents were reportedly already consumed and replaced by sadiqi. On the black market, a bottle of Smirnoff can cost 1,500 riyals when available, compared to 100 riyals for the locally-made vodka. It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact “working girls,” not uncommon for such parties.
Additionally, though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles and has been seen on other occasions.
Comment: Saudi youth get to enjoy relative social freedom and indulge fleshly pursuits, but only behind closed doors — and only the rich. Parties of this nature and scale are believed to be a relatively recent phenomenon in Jeddah. One contact, a young Saudi male, explained that up to a few years ago, the only weekend activity was “dating” inside the homes of the affluent in small groups. It is not uncommon in Jeddah for the more lavish private residences to include elaborate basement bars, discos, entertainment centers and clubs. As one high society Saudi remarked, “The increased conservatism of our society over these past years has only moved social interaction to the inside of people’s homes.”
It will be very interesting to see if and how the Saudi media reacts to this.