The arrival of two princes from Bahrain at the quiet resort hamlet of Rosemary Beach last week caused quite the stir.
Reports are that the princes and their entourage filled all the rooms at the newly opened luxury boutique hotel The Pearl, and the B&B across the street, The Pensione.
The princes flew into Pensacola in a private 747 — one of the largest planes ever to land at the airport — to participate in the Ironman Florida, which took place last weekend in Panama City Beach. Their stay, however, lasted nine days.
While their presence in the town was supposed to be kept quiet for security purposes, not long after their arrival social media sites lit up with talk of the arrival. The reports said the group would be difficult to miss since the princes were always accompanied by bodyguards and surrounded by members of their group. And if, per chance, you didn't notice the group it might have been difficult to overlook the plethora of long black Escalades driven by men in suits and ties. Not the everyday sight at the beach.
The princes reportedly spent much of their time training for the Ironman event by running, swimming, and working out at the gym. They also spent some time shopping at our local outlet malls and Bass Pro Shop.
From the sampling of posts on social media sites, while everyone was abuzz about the princes, thoughts on their presence were divided. Some seemed to enjoy the presence of royalty and the amount of money they spent while here.
Realtor Bruce King saw the princes. "Not up close and personal, but I was in their general area. My limited interaction with their security detail was very pleasant. They asked me if I would mind pausing for just a moment for his safety and allow the Sheikh and his party to pass," said King.
Others were indifferent. And still others thought they should not have been allowed to participate in the Ironman calling attention to the protest raised by a human rights organization, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, that sent a letter to Ironman CEO Andrew Messick requesting that the princes’ applications to compete in the race be denied. The organization said it was attempting to “alert” Ironman officials of “grave allegations of deeply unethical behavior, including defamation, arbitrary arrest and torture directed and carried out by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad and Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.”
Bahrain, an island nation situated between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, has endured an ongoing political uprising since February 2011 with citizens calling for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its crackdown on protests.
Following the visit, Shaikh Nasser was quoted by the Bahrain News Agency as vowing to bring an Ironman tournament to Bahrain. "We had not brought the magic carpet with us to achieve our good results, but we competed with you fairly," he said in jest, adding that Bahraini team simply wanted to honor their country.
This marks the second time royalty has recently stopped by the South Walton area. In late October, Destin played host to King Safrotwe Kakradae IV, ruler of the Aduana-Abrade clan in the eastern region of Ghana. He spent seven days on the Emerald Coast and met with area business leaders and prospective investors.