Secrets of the Saudi Royal Family

Until he became too sick to travel, Saudi King Fahd would arrive every August in his personal 747 aircraft with a huge entourage to spend the summer at a palace he had built outside Marbella, Spain, used, at most, just one month a year.

The south of France is also a popular vacation destination for the Saudi royal family, including Saudi Prince al Walid bin Talal, the king's nephew, who has summered in Cannes for the past 30 years.

"We're just vacationing like any other vacationers," said Saudi Prince al Walid, 47, from on board his 281-foot yacht, "The Kingdom," in Cannes this past August. Formerly owned by Donald Trump, the yacht comes complete with its own disco studio and helicopter. "I am with my daughter and my son here. They're jet skiing right now. You know, it's like any other family."

According to clerks in the luxury stores in Cannes, one Saudi prince bought a $1.2 million emerald and diamond necklace, while a Saudi princess purchased a $10,000 Christian Lacroix outfit with pink and purple raccoon boas.

"The princes are sleeping. They are spending in Europe," Yamani said. "This spending is happening while the terrorists on the Web sites are threatening guerrilla war."

The first woman from her country to earn a doctorate from Oxford, Yamani saw firsthand the lavish lifestyle of the Saudi royal family when her father, Sheik Yamani, served as oil minister of Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.

"Conspicuous consumption. All the waste and the style of life that they are living," she said. "And I think of the anger and the rage of those young men, the Saudis, who are reading about all this and discussing it on the Web sites."

Perhaps the most immediate threat to the Saudi royal family is that of Osama bin Laden, who comes from a wealthy Saudi family and has urged his al Qaeda followers to end the royal family's reign.

In a 1998 interview with John Miller of ABC News, bin Laden said, "They sin and do not value God's gift. We predict their destruction and dispersal."

In May and November of last year alone, suicide bombings at housing compounds in the capital city of Riyadh accounted for more than 50 deaths. Recent months have seen a rash of Americans being kidnapped and subsequently killed in Saudi Arabia, shown in gruesome details in videos posted on the Web. Groups affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Prince al Walid said he travels with a large group of bodyguards, but said he does not worry about bin Laden's threats. He also refuted charges that the royal family was ignoring a security crisis.

"And I think that all indications that we're winning the war in Saudi Arabia against al Qaeda," he said. "This is not a crisis, these are issues that any country has to face."

Described as the fifth richest man in the world at an estimated $22 billion net worth, Prince al Walid defended the riches of the Saudi royal family, as well as their spending habits.

"Wealth is a blessing," he said. "You know if wealth is used properly, it is not abused but rather used, there's nothing wrong with that."

But the royal family's jet set lifestyle lies in sharp contrast to the way most people live back in Saudi Arabia.

Many young Saudi men with college degrees say finding a job is nearly impossible if you don't know the right people.

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