- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

Maybe it was the whirling dancers, one balancing a sword, the other a lighted candelabra on her head.

Or the masses of full-blown roses, the candles floating in the center fountain, the couture-gowned women glamming it up with political, media and entertainment stars.

Whenever Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his impossibly blonde and beautiful wife Rima request the pleasure of your company, it’s always over the top — and exclusive.

Even the guests of honor, Saudi Arabian Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal and his wife, Princess Nouf bint Fahad, were impressed by the crowd gathering to pull out the welcome wagon at Kuwait’s Alhambra-esque embassy Wednesday night.

Prince Turki, 61, a son of the late King Faisal, served as Saudi Arabia’s chief of intelligence services from 1977 to 2001 and as ambassador to Britain and the Republic of Ireland for three years after that. Since replacing his brother-in-law, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, as ambassador last July, he has been traveling around the United States on a PR campaign to improve the image of his country. The first thing people told him was “get out of Washington,” and he’s been doing exactly that.

Keeping a low profile? Maybe, but not for long judging by the high-level guests that included Cabinet members Carlos Gutierrez, Michael Chertoff, Alphonso R. Jackson, Norman Y. Mineta and Jim Nicholson; World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz; International Monetary Fund Director Rodrigo de Rato; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Justice Stephen G. Breyer; and Rep. John D. Dingell, dean of the House of Representatives.

Those-in-the-know noted that the prince’s reputation for gravitas had preceded him in the halls of power here. “Turki’s been around for 30 years and knows more secrets of American government than most of the people in charge today,” noted journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave, a longtime friend. “Those turkeys have only been around four or five years.”

Asked who had the tougher job: the ambassador of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, Mr. Al-Sabah said, “Oh, he does. Definitely. But he’s young and very smart and he’s going to do a wonderful job.”

That was the general consensus as the prince conversed amiably with guests along with his wife and his sister, Princess Haifa Al-Faisal. Prince Turki seemed especially pleased to recall his student days at Georgetown University, where he graduated in 1968 (“The class that didn’t inhale”) along with Bill Clinton. The former president, he noted without elaboration, “was a good friend who helped me out a few times.”

Chatmistress Barbara Walters sat at the guest of honor’s right in a long, beaded bronze (“This old thing?”) Badgley Mishka. Grega Daly was elegantly chic in an ebony Prada beaded jacket. Ditto actress Bo Derek in an ivory silk jacket and white pants and Sedi Flugelman in purple LaCroix. NBC’s Norah O’Donnell drew glances in Audrey Hepburn off-the-shoulder black. So did Georgette Mosbacher in deep cleavage and actor Ron Silver in GQ-style shaggy hair.

Also sighted: Mandy and Mary Ourisman (dodging questions about her impending ambassadorship), Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, George Stephanopoulos, Lucky Roosevelt, Jim Hoagland and Jane Hitchcock, D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty and Cafe Milano’s Franco Nuchese (talking to Sally Quinn about her son’s recent birthday dinner at the celebrity-central restaurant),

The evening’s highlight? Probably the American girls doing traditional Saudi folkloric dances — after which the prince’s eyes were definitely twinkling.

“Maybe one day,” he told the crowd, “we’ll see Saudi girls doing American dances.”

— Stephanie Mansfield and Kevin Chaffee

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