Saudi King Abdullah given rapturous welcome in Bahrain
Saudi King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz arrived in Bahrain on Sunday afternoon to an unprecedented rapturous welcome on his first official visit to the island kingdom since he assumed power in August 2005.
Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, ministers and senior officials welcomed King Abdullah at the Sakhir airport, in the southern part of the country.
The official reception was held a few kilometers away at the Sakhir Palace where the two leaders exchanged greetings.
King Hamad offered King Abdullah a sword that belonged to Saudi leader Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Saud who had presented it to the ruler of Bahrain in 1870 for giving him and his 250 men hospitality. The sword remained for 140 years in the custody of Al Khalifa family.
King Hamad bestowed the Shaikh Eisa Medal of the Excellent Class upon the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques who in turn granted the King Abdul Aziz Medal to King Hamad.
The two leaders then took part alongside ministers and senior officials in an open-air traditional sword dance until a few minutes before sunset.
The official reception complemented outstanding popular and remarkable media enthusiasm for the visit.
Days before his arrival, newspapers have devoted pages to highlight the relations and cooperation between Bahrain, the smallest country in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the six-member alliance.
On Sunday, each of the six dailies in Arabic welcomed the Saudi monarch and published supplements highlighting the historic relations between Manama and Riyadh and the significance of the visit.
Most columnists, regardless of their ideologies and political orientation, emphasized the visit as a historic event that would be highly beneficial in all areas to both countries and peoples.
Several ministers wrote OpEds welcoming King Abdullah and stressing the importance of robust relations between the two kingdoms.
“The visit stresses the special cordiality between the two countries. There are various outstanding and distinguished relations between families from Saudi Arabia and Bahrainis, particularly families that lived in both countries,” Nizar Al Baharna, the state minister for foreign affairs, said, while Abdul Husain Mirza, the oil minister, said that oil has been a positive factor in reinforcing bilateral relations
Commerce and Industry Minister Hassan Fakhro said that the two countries had a common destiny and explained that Riyadh was a strategic partner.
MPs were as enthusiastic about the visit and contributed long pieces in the local newspapers to welcome the Saudi leader and wish for further consolidation of ties and cooperation.
Bahrain Television stopped its regular broadcasting and hosted a series of talk shows in which guests spoke at length about the importance of King Abullah’s visit and Bahrain’s admiration for the Saudi leader. Rare footage of past visits by Saudi and Bahraini leaders to Manama and Riyadh offered spectators invaluable glimpses into decade-old events.
Large billboards and posters welcoming the Saudi monarch and expressing pride with the visit flooded Bahrain’s roads and streets while green and red flags fluttered on lampposts on the major roads.
Capital Governor Shaikh Humood Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa inaugurated an exhibition of pictures that “reflected the depth of bilateral relations and the strength of bonds” between the two countries.
“We extend the warmest welcome to the Custodian of the Two Mosques in Bahrain and this exhibition is a testimony to the relations between the two countries initiated by our grandfathers,” Shaikh Humood said.
In the Southern Governorate, a folkloric festival highlighted the “special and robust relations between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.”
“Our ties with our brothers In Saudi Arabia are not a matter of borders and frontiers, but rather a reflection of co-existence,” Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Southern Governorate, said.
Q & A:
Never has a leader visiting Bahrain been given as much official and popular attention and care as Saudi King Abdulallah on his official trip to Manama on April 18.
How many times has King Abdullah visited Bahrain?
It is the first visit by King Abdullah to Bahrain since he became king in August 2005.
Have other Saudi kings visited Bahrain?
How long will the visit last?
King Abdullah’s visit is scheduled to last 36 hours. He flies in Bahrain, but leave via the King Fahad Causeway.
Are there borders between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?
The two countries are linked through a 25-kilometre causeway inaugurated in November 1986. The causeway was named after King Fahad who laid the founding stone in 1982 alongside Bahrain Amir Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa during the GCC summit.
Have other Saudi kings visited Bahrain?
King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the founder of the Saudi kingdom and father of King Abdullah, visited Bahrain in February 1930 and in May 1939.
King Khalid visited Bahrain in March 1976.
King Fahad laid in 1982 the foundation stone of the causeway that would bear his name
Has King Hamad visited Saudi Arabia?
King Hamad has paid more than 40 visits to Saudi Arabia since he assumed power in 1999. The last visit was to take part in Al Janadirya Festival in Riyadh in March 2010.
What is the level of trade relations between the two countries?
Saudi Arabia is Bahrain’s largest partner. Trade volume between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia moved from SR 6.46 billion ($1.8 billion) in 1999 to SR39.78 billion ($10.5 billion) in 2008.
More than 500 Saudi companies operate in Bahrain.
Bahrain imports all it soil needs (220,000 b/day) from Saudi Arabia.
More than 3,500 Saudis have real estate in Bahrain while 318 Bahrainis own property in Saudi Arabia.
How many people use King Fahad Causeway?
More than 171 million people used the Causeway between November 1986 and December 2009. The average crossing in both directions today is 48,600 passengers and 23,000 vehicles every day.