Saudi King Saud's meeting with American President Franklin Roosevelt: Another AnecdotesteemCreated with Sketch.

in saudi •  8 months ago


Ibn Saud had been born in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most backward and impoverished lands in the world.

He, too, was a scion of a famous family, but it had fallen on hard times and was living in exile in Kuwait.

Ibn Saud had restored his family’s rule in the Arabian Peninsula, fought numerous battles, and had gone on to expand the borders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to dominate the peninsula.

He had a prodigious sex life, producing forty-three acknowledged sons and at least fifty-five daughters.

He told a confidant, the Englishman Harry St. John Philby, that he had “married no fewer than 135 virgins.”


Roosevelt said he must start his voyage home (it would take sixteen days to sail back to Virginia).

The king was appalled.

Under Arab custom it was imperative that the king now host the president for a meal on the USS Murphy.

The president had hosted him for lunch, now honor demanded the king host the president.

Always astute to the needs of his interlocutors, FDR said for security reasons the USS Quincy must leave.

Ibn Saud turned to [William] Eddy and blamed him for this insult, not the last time an ambassador was to take the blame for a decision he had no role in making.

Then the king suggested a compromise: he would serve the president Arabian coffee.

Two coffee servants appeared in minutes and poured the king and president cardamom-scented Arabian coffee.

Gifts were exchanged.

The king gave FDR four complete sets of Arab robes, a solid gold knife, and a vial of perfume.

His retainers also gave Anna and Eleanor Roosevelt Arab gowns, perfumes, bracelets, anklets, rings, pearl earrings, and belts.

Roosevelt gave the king a gold medal and told him that he was also arranging for a twin engine DC3 to be provided to the Kingdom with an American crew for the king’s use.

When it arrived later it had a swivel throne chair so the king could always face Mecca while airborne.

Finally, the president’s navy physician gave the king’s doctor a small box containing the new medicine penicillin.

The king’s doctor asked if it would cure venereal disease, and the physician said it would. The king was very impressed.



There was one final moment of drama.

After the president’s party had departed and the king was transferred to Cairo, his personal physician approached Eddy to report that the king’s medicines had been inadvertently left on the Murphy.

They had to be retrieved.

Eddy immediately sent word to get them and also asked the chief medical officer of the U.S. Army in Cairo to review the list of medicines and see if they could be reproduced from U.S. military stocks.

The army doctor reviewed the list and reported 210 of the 240 items on the list were aphrodisiacs, most of which were entirely phony and unavailable.

Fortunately, the crew of the USS Murphy found the original medicines on the ship and they were returned without the king ever knowing of their loss.

His doctor went on to be Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France.

'Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR' by Bruce Riedel

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