Saudi Leadership Profiles: Prince Sultan Bin Salman

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¶1. (C) During a warm introductory meeting with Ambassador
Smith on January 2, Secretary General of the Supreme
Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan
bin Salman discussed his desire to foster a better
understanding of Saudi Arabia, its people, and its culture
through increased tourism and by highlighting its unique
heritage. Sultan spoke of the importance of U.S. – Saudi
partnership, especially in science and technology, and
readily accepted the Ambassador’s invitation to co-host the
Embassy’s 2010 National Day celebration in March. Sultan
followed the Ambassador’s National Day request with one of
his own – U.S. support for the SCTA’s push to designate
al-Diriyyah, an historical site in Riyadh, as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. Well-known for his famous voyage into outer
space and a rising star among King Abdulaziz’s grandsons,
Sultan is a progressive royal who believes in a strong U.S. –
Saudi bilateral relationship. (Note: Sultan is one of only a
handful of King Abdulaziz’s grandsons to hold ministerial
rank – ref A. End Note.) With a powerful father who is the
Governor of Riyadh and a strong candidate to be the next
crown-prince, Sultan is well positioned to move up the Saudi
government ranks. End Summary and Comment.


¶2. (SBU) Secretary General of the Supreme Commission for
Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan bin Salman
warmly received Ambassador Smith on January 2. In a relaxed
and friendly manner, Sultan discussed the importance of Saudi
heritage and his push as Secretary General of the SCTA to
increase tourism within Saudi Arabia. Sultan opined that
Saudi Arabia is often known only for its oil and as the “Land
of Islam,” rather than for its rich and unique heritage.

¶3. (SBU) In an effort to foster a better understanding of
Saudi heritage, the SCTA is launching a massive campaign this
year, which will showcase Saudi heritage around the world
and, “receive an enormous amount of international coverage”
according to Sultan. The campaign will kickoff with a
special Saudi “civilization” exhibition at the Louvre in
Paris during Summer 2010 – the peak tourist period for the
Louvre noted Sultan. (Note: An invitation to the
grand-opening was extended to the Ambassador. End Note.)
The exhibition, which will include lectures and Saudi
treasures and antiques, will travel to many famous museums
around the world over a period of 3-5 years, including
multiple destinations in the U.S.

¶4. (SBU) Sultan expressed his hope that by putting Saudi
heritage on the international scene, Saudi Arabia would
become a greater tourist destination. (Comment: Sultan
seemed to be aware of the balance he is forced to strike
between increasing tourism and Saudi’s conservative religious
establishment. References were made to “tour groups” as
opposed to individual non-Muslims being allowed to visit the
Kingdom on their own. He clarified that Muslims traveling to
Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or Umrah fall under the Ministry of
Hajj, not the SCTA. End Comment.)

¶5. (SBU) Sultan mentioned that he and his wife, Princess
Haifa bint Saud al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, founded the Turath
(Heritage) Organization, a non-profit created to preserve and
promote Saudi heritage. Currently, the organization is
working on a documentary entitled, “Heroes of Heritage,”
highlighting people from around the world who have gone to
great lengths to preserve their own country’s heritage.
During this discussion, Sultan was passionate and appeared
genuine in his belief that through improved cultural
understanding of Saudi Arabia’s heritage and unique customs
and traditions, misconceptions of the country could be
overcome and stronger partnerships forged, especially between
the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.


¶6. (SBU) Sultan quickly and enthusiastically accepted the
Ambassador’s offer to co-host the Embassy’s 2010 National Day
celebration on March 24. With the 25th anniversary of his

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space expedition approaching later this Spring, Sultan was
eager to highlight U.S. – Saudi partnerships in science and
technology, the theme of our 2010 National Day. Sultan also
capitalized on the theme of partnerships, requesting U.S.
support for the SCTA’s push to designate an historical site
in Riyadh — al-Diriyyah — as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ambassador stated that this was a possibility and, after
looking into the situation, would get back to Sultan with an
official U.S. position.


¶7. (C) A progressive who is technologically savvy and
popularly-known in Saudi society as the “Astronaut Prince,”
Sultan was intelligent, charismatic and affable during his
meeting with the Ambassador, and extended several invitations
to the Ambassador to visit his farm. Referring to King
Abdullah as a “breath of fresh air” and a “doer,” Sultan
applauded the King’s reform agenda, particularly education
reform, stating that “the best chance for the future of
humanity is with the next generation.” He agreed with the
Ambassador’s assessment, however, that the biggest problem
facing King Abdullah was creating new jobs. Referring to his
own son who is almost 20 and attends St. Andrew’s University
in Scotland, Sultan recognized the importance of
understanding and talking to the next generation — a reason
why President Obama was so successful in the elections
according to Sultan’s son whom he proudly quoted and agreed


¶8. (C) Since learning to fly in the mid 1970s while
attending undergraduate and graduate school in the U.S.,
Sultan has visited almost every state. He joked with the
Ambassador that “perhaps the only states he has not yet
visited are the Dakotas.” Sultan expressed respect and
admiration for the American people and culture, stating that
“some of the best days of my life were in the U.S.” and that
he hopes to “live and fly in the U.S. again someday.”
(Comment: Sultan shared a few personal stories with the
Ambassador that demonstrated that his years living, studying,
and flying in the U.S. positively impacted his view of the
U.S. and U.S. – Saudi relations. End Comment.)

¶9. (SBU) Sultan’s love of flying does not appear to have
lessened over the years. Both the Ambassador and Sultan
exchanged stories of flying and talked about mutual friends
in the field of aviation. Sultan mentioned that every year
he returns to the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin. Although he
used to train with Gulf Stream in Georgia, Sultan now trains
with Emirate Airlines. Sultan told the Ambassador that
“being a bush pilot is a hidden passion,” and that he often
flies within Saudi Arabia and in the Alps. Along with
flying, Sultan is an avid skier and mentioned that he would
be taking a business/pleasure vacation in the French Alps
this winter.