Everyone loves Target-- even princes
January 27, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me identify what foreign dignitary, or royal family member with loads of secret service detail, I saw at Target today?

This afternoon, I went to pick up a prescription at a Target in Alexandria VA (Potomac Yards), and noticed a little extra buzz about someone in the store.

Here's what I know:
- Speaking Arabic
- a perhaps late 40ish man, with black hair kept quite short, but with a few flecks of grey
- little facial hair - no big beards, mustaches, etc, but some facial scruff
- on the lean/skinny side
- probably about 5'7" or so
- He didn't seem to be familiar with Target, and needed an employee to help him. They only shopped for groceries (lots of trail mix and apples).
- He kind of resembled Ahmadinejad
- Rumor from Target employees was that it was "an Arab prince" but that's unconfirmed

He was with an assistant, also speaking Arabic, around 30 years old.

Traveled with about 10 wired secret service. They drove off in a fleet of about 4-5 black Escalades, at least one was a police vehicle with flashing lights.

Any thoughts about who could it have been? Any way to find out a current list of dignitaries or royalties visiting Washington?
posted by raztaj to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
King Abdullah of Jordan was in the US just a few days ago, but it sounds like he's back home now.
posted by gimonca at 12:10 PM on January 27, 2012

My sister lived and worked in the UAE for years and said that the royal families were so enormous and ubiquitous that this might not be easily answerable.(Friend who lived in Saudi for 25 years said the same.) From what she described, many members of the royal families get this style of treatment.

The reason you had local police is possibly because of the unwanted political strain in the very unlikely event something happened to him.

Not that I'm saying he is from the UAE...he could be from Saudi, Bahrain...anywhere, at any level. Not necessarily a level high enough to warrant being gazetted by the government...especially not if he's buying apples. So possibly a random prince.
posted by taff at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: taff -- yeah, that's what i'm thinking. i don't know much about other royal families in the Middle East, but I know that the Saudi royal family is pretty enormous. I went to high school with a "Saudi princess" but there are like hundreds of Saudi princesses (if not more!). She never had security though, so for as much as this guy had, it seemed like it might be one of the less ubiquitous members of a royal family (though I have no idea!). When I got to the store, he wasn't there yet, but there was still security set up ahead of time.
posted by raztaj at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan was in the US just a few days ago

He likes the Georgetown Safeway.
posted by jgirl at 12:40 PM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

The Saudi ambassador? (If so, those were State Department Diplomatic Security agents, not Secret Service!)
posted by JoanArkham at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2012

The thing is, they don't have the same system that developed in Europe because of ties to specific property, where it was best for one child to inherit and the others lost out. If I'm not mistaken, every male descendant of ibn Saud -- the founder of modern Saudi Arabia -- is worthy of the title Prince and of a signficant stipend from the royal wealth.

Since there's a lot of activity regarding Syria right now, and among the major players are Saudi Arabia and Qatar (as well as others in the GCC), it's possible a representative of one of them, or of the Arab League itself, was in Washington. The FM of Saudi Arabia is an elderly man, but the FM of Qatar [1][2] The purchases and apparent self-fending, however, may point to a junior aide or someone else who is also, being a royal, entitled to Diplomatic Security Service protection (it's a State Department agency in principle similar to the Secret Service).

Jubeil is a good guess, JoanArkham, but the circumstances just don't sound like an ambassador who's living here with an official residence and all, or even necessarily someone here as a dignitary unto themselves. This is why I suspect aide, but with the protection necessity warranted a royal.
posted by dhartung at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2012

Any way to find out a current list of dignitaries or royalties visiting Washington?

Not really. A lot of this information isn't public, and to the extent that it is, people tend to avoid compiling it in any particular place. The security concerns should be pretty obvious.
posted by valkyryn at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2012

Response by poster: Not the Saudi ambassador, nor one from any of the other Arab Gulf countries. He definitely didn't seem like he lived in the area, or did this kind of thing often. It seemed like it was both Mystery Guy and his assistant's first time in a Target.

dhartung -- An Arab League representative, or related royal aide might be good suggestion.

I forgot to mention clothing - he was wearing a near ankle length charcoal wool coat, with a striped wintery scarf (odd, that it's like 65 degrees today). Fairly casual dress. The assistant was a bit more formally dressed, in a sharp black wool coat, black pants, and very polished appearance (more polished than the main guy).

From their general interactions, it seemed like this was their thinking process:

Mystery Important Guy: We need snacks. Food and snacks. Lots of them.
Assistant: Would you like me to arrange something?
Mystery Important Guy: I want to pick them out myself this time. Can we do this in Washington?
Assistant: There's a shopping center nearby that the Obama's frequent sometimes. They have food, among other things. We will need a lot of security though. I can make the necessary arrangements.
Mystery Important Guy: Go ahead and arrange it.

They send out some security ahead of time, then go in themselves, go and spend like 10 minutes just picking out jars and jars of trail and party mixes, among other food things. Mystery Important Guy is rushed back to a car with some security, while the assistant stays and pays. Then a woman in the security entourage says something to the cashier, and leaves.

This is probably sounding terribly terribly mundane, but my curiosity is killing me!
posted by raztaj at 1:27 PM on January 27, 2012

I've traveled to the far corners of the earth and understand nationalities. I may be able to help you.

He was NOT Saudi (they know DC like a 2nd home).

But he's from a country that is oil rich and strategic to the U.S. (Hence, the tremendous security)

Potentials: Iraqi, UAE or Kuwaiti.

His lack of English is a clue: Iraqi or Kuwaiti. UAE guys know English.

His resemblance to Ahmadinejad:

Only 1 answer - you witnessed a member of the Iraqi executive council.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:12 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Washington Post gossip pages used to compile reports of sightings like this... "Labor Secretary so-and-so was spotted buying a couch at the Such-and-Such Furniture store", that kind of thing. Keep an eye on the paper the next few days, there's an off chance someone else noticed. (Or possibly you could call up that section of the Post and see if anyone there has a clue.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:49 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

The President's daily schedule is posted on the White House website and usually includes official meetings with world leaders, although there don't appear to be any today.
posted by bbq_ribs at 2:58 PM on January 27, 2012

Call up the Target and ask someone? Or better yet, go in and find a manager and strike up a friendly conversation. It's probably not a state secret if the guy was there during business hours.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:19 PM on January 27, 2012

Obama's scheduling isn't going to be much help, he's in Michigan today, and I think he's actually been on tour the last couple days as well...
posted by FlyingMonkey at 4:18 PM on January 27, 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan could fit the bill.

(Yes, that's him in a Star Trek uniform. As a Prince, he had a walk-on part on Star Trek: Voyager. It's good to be the Prince!)
posted by Sunburnt at 4:54 PM on January 27, 2012

Abdullah wrapped-up his US trip on the 20th, and was in Amman as recently as Wednesday. I'd be surprised if he were engaged in hardcore shuttle diplomacy.
posted by mumkin at 7:45 PM on January 27, 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan speaks substantially better English than Arabic (and used to be made fun of for his poor Arabic before it improved). He'd be very unlikely to speak Arabic anywhere in the US. Also, he went to an American boarding school in Michigan for pretty much his whole secondary education so I think it's unlikely that he would be unfamiliar with Target.
posted by atrazine at 11:20 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

(and according to wikipedia he also spent some time at Georgetown, so he'd be familiar with the DC area)
posted by atrazine at 11:22 PM on January 27, 2012

Abdullah is definitely a red herring here. Consider that his wife, Queen Consort Rania, has a HuffPo blog. Slightly less relevant is the fact that his stepmother is American. Basically, that whole dynasty is as Westernized as they come.

As to the Presidency Council of Iraq; here's a recent shot. Almost to a man they're western-suit-wearing technocrats, so just possible, from your description.

Anyway, there are lots of cabinet-level guys who could have been over here having some sort of bilateral discussion without it hitting the papers; oil ministers, for example.
posted by dhartung at 2:03 AM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: Definitely not King Abdullah - I would have recognized him immediately (with or without Trekkie garb!). My hunch is that they were from one of the Gulf countries - likely Saudi, Qatar, UAE, or Oman. Possibly Yemen. Maybe I don't understand the various positions and significance of those positions, but I don't understand why someone like an oil minister would need/request that much security (unless it was more a status thing, than a security thing). They had 2 wired secret service or diplomatic security persons at the end of each aisle he was in, and others scattered a little further back, and outside the store. No one at the store knew, except rumor of some "prince."
posted by raztaj at 6:28 AM on January 28, 2012

Oil ministers are extremely important and very well guarded.
They rank *higher* than many heads-of-states of other countries in security allocation. The fear is of hostage-taking. Shows you the value of oil.

In the 70s there was a very famous incident where terrorists attacked and took hostage, OPECs top oil minister in Vienna (by the notrious Carlos The Jackal). Deaths occurred.

If this was an actual Mid East Head-of-State, you would see dozens & dozens of cop cars, military helicopters, ambulances and security detail a mile long.
posted by Kruger5 at 8:38 AM on January 28, 2012

Just a guess, but maybe it was Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai ? He is the Oman ambassador to the U.N. and lives in NYC but comes to the D.C. area regularly because his wife is the ambassador to the U.S. from Oman and lives in D.C..
posted by gudrun at 12:30 PM on January 28, 2012

The AP reports that (disgraced, injured-in-uprising, former president) Saleh of Yemen arrived in the US for medical treatment Saturday. The location where he's receiving treatment is not disclosed, nor are other details. But maybe it's a slim chance that you saw someone preparing for his/his team's arrival?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:25 PM on January 28, 2012

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