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Monday, 27 July 2015

Life's a beach for Saudi king






What do you do if you're the king of Saudi Arabia holidaying at your private villa on the Côte d'Azur in the south of France for a month with an entourage of around a 1,000 people and you discover there's a public beach (albeit small) at the foot of where you're staying?


The answer is simple really.

You flout the laws of the land, start constructing your own personal lift (after all, it would be too stressful to have to walk) and block access for anyone else.

It's a story that has been brewing for the past fortnight when French national media began reporting that preparations were underway for the impending one-month-long stay of the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at his luxury villa in the town of Vallauris.




"The White Palace on the water", Vallauris (screenshot BBC news report)

 To avoid any unwanted hoi polloi upsetting the king's holiday plans and to ensure his privacy and security (and that of his family), the Mirandole beach at the foot of the villa was closed temporarily while the necessary construction work (without permits) was undertaken.

Some locals, upset by the manner in which a public beach seemed to have been commandeered without any consultation  were concerned that the closure would be extended for the duration of king's visit.

It's a fear that has become a reality as, even though  Michelle Salucki, the mayor of Vallauris, put a temporary stop to the work and wrote to the French president, François Hollande, to argue against the de facto privatisation of public property, she was overruled by higher powers with the sous-préfet, Philippe Castanet, invoking the need to provide security for a visiting head of state and Hollande...well, not reacting at all.

Yes, it's all a question of security...oh and the not-so-small matter of purchasing power.

Cash rich and shopping happy Saudis apparently come with the reputation of spending - big time.

And several reports have appeared on French telly showing how pleased local (luxury, of course) shop owners are at the prospect of all that lovely lolly passing through their hands.

Sod principles and the fact that public beaches are exactly that - public - and supposedly accessible (although there are plenty of other exceptions that prove the rule) to all.

And ditto for the petition that has so far attracted over 100,000 signatures insisting that the beach should be "available for the benefit of all".

"I'm talking about the equality of citizens before the law and the respect of coastal law," local councillor Jean-Noel Falcou said in  BBC news report (see, this story has captured the interest of media outside of France).

"A natural area, a public beach, is an inalienable. It's part of our common property. The point we wanted to make is that not everything can be bought."

Sadly Monsieur Falcou, it appears it can if the power behind the money is one authorities don't wish to offend.



Vallauris: la famille royale saoudienne veut... par afp

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