Saudis In Town

Friend: Hollywood Reporter had an article last year about how Gulf royals and Chinese now account for something like 60% of consumer spending in BH, where the dept. stores hire Mandarin speakers (with no shortage of those in SW L.A. County of course). It had a great quote from some local realtor/restaurateur/hype artist: “The Saudis I know complain now about how many other Saudis there are in town.”

Accusations against Arab royalty are the talk of Beverly Hills

…Jimmy Delshad, former mayor of Beverly Hills, says his friends are asking: “Who the hell do they think they are, coming here and behaving like that?”

But Delshad, who emigrated in 1959 from Iran, is also quick to point out that these incidents are anomalies and that the strength of his city’s economy increasingly relies on the largesse of these elite Arab visitors.

They’re certainly spending with abandon — renting lavish beach pads for $100,000 a month and buying furnished penthouse condos along the Wilshire Corridor for their children at UCLA and USC, according to real estate brokers.

“Many Middle Easterners are low profile,” said Jeff Hyland, an agent who works with wealthy clients. “The ones we’re hearing about are the royals who splash the flash and have the Lamborghinis.”

Visitors from the Middle East — particularly Saudi Arabia — have long boosted the bottom lines of luxury boutiques and hotels in Beverly Hills, said Julie Wagner, chief executive of the city’s Conference and Visitors Bureau. In recent years, Beverly Hills has also seen tremendous growth in tourists from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, who find Arabic-speaking staff members to serve them in upscale shops.

Emirates and Etihad airlines have direct flights to Los Angeles from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways plans to begin service in January.

Middle Easterners, Wagner said, spend the most on Beverly Hills-area hotels among international travelers, and they are second to Chinese visitors in retail spending. Muslim women in head scarves dine in large numbers at the high-end Ivy restaurant and Urth Caffe, two popular people-watching spots.

The Peninsula Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Boulevard is one of many opulent hotels offering amenities such as prayer rugs, arrows pointing toward Mecca and pillowcases monogrammed in Arabic. “We have had repeat guests that have come to visit us year after year,” said Offer Nissenbaum, the hotel’s managing director.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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