I recently had cause to attend a celebration at the Palais Liechtenstein in honor of the National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Assuming that I would never have this chance again, I accepted.
My invitation fluttering in my hand, I walked down that red carpet with my mouth a little agape at the extravagance of it all. A shiny black car pulled up to the end of the red carpet, expelling a diplomat from its shaded ranks. Walking closely behind him, I entered into a bedouin scene recreated in the very well-lit entrance to the museum. A small tent, draped in wonderfully colorful and slightly musky fabrics, was erected in the foyer. Large piles of the Quran in translation as well as children’s books, travel guides, scientific analyses of political events and phenomena in Saudi Arabia, posters, pens, and dried dates were available as parting gifts for the esteemed guests of the event. I made a mental note to take a Quran with me as I left and then proceeded to climb up the main staircase which is wide enough to rival the boulevards of Paris. I passed into the main hall where further tents were erected, emitting warm yellow light and offering plush cushions for sitting, chatting, and sipping small cups of a traditional tea that was too thick, yellow, and bitter for my taste.
The food, on the other hand, was beautifully presented and quite delicious. A large buffet was set up along the side of the room offering fresh cuts of lamb, saffron-infused ravioli in a pomegranate cream sauce, thin slices of fresh tuna, small pumpkin souffles, mixed vegetables, and a myriad of delicious dips and sauces to name a few. The dessert buffet was also beautiful and delicious – note the exotic fruits used as decoration. The event was decadent to say the least and I was very happy to be a fly on the wall sucking up all kinds of exotic fruit juices in the absence of alcohol.
Although I felt out of place among the politicians and the friends of politicans floating around, I was very pleased to have this opportunity – it appears to be one of the perks of living in a hot seat of international activity.
Happy National Day to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!