Location: Southwest United States – Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park – South Kaibab Trail
Date: May 2011
Who: The Prince of Saudi Arabia
Le petit prince, big ego, Grand Canyon.
When the phone call came with a request that a VIP owner of the Four Seasons and the fourth richest man in the world wanted to see Grand Canyon, we couldn’t get to Google fast enough. Images of the prince, and more importantly for the boys in the office, images of his gorgeous wife bedecked in expensive sunglasses, popped up on the screen in a collection of paparazzi shots.
The Napoleonic man with the the personality of the Asian continent wanted to see one of the worlds’ deepest canyons. And I was to head up logistics.
So I went back and forth with Mr. T, his bodyguard, a few times, planning when the private plane would land and how the entourage would smoothly enter the nations’ most famous National Park.
Eventually, the Prince and 15 of his favorite consorts and one lovely wife made it to South Kaibab trailhead. The lead guide for the day, Josh Kloepping, attempted to give a safety speech about footing, what to do when the mules came down the trail, drinking water –
The Prince would hear nothing of it. He took off in front of this seasoned guide and marched into the chasm of ancient limestone walls with pomp and princely pride. Josh awkwardly pushed his way through the cluster of dainty consorts, smiling as he passed the Prince’s pretty wife who smelled like the essence of desert flowers in Spring. He stumbled briefly.
Forty-five minutes and three photo shoots later, the Prince grew bored of going downhill. He stopped. So did everyone else. I heard muffled communication through the radio on my backpack.
The Prince had spotted a large bird.
“Is this an American Eagle?” he wanted to know.
“No sir,” began Josh in his Texas drawl. “That’s a condor. They’re a protected – ”
Disappointed that this was not, in fact, the famous American Eagle he’d read of in books, the Prince waved Josh to quiet. It was time to ascend.
And so, in loafers, tight jeans, and his posh sunglasses, the Prince began up the South Kaibab trail, giggling, short-of-breath consorts and wife respectfully walking behind him.
An hour later, the Prince of Saudi Arabia came to the top of the trailhead. He sipped some Evian, climbed into his black Escalade, and headed back to the jetway.
So ends the story of the ego that couldn’t shake the walls of the most magnificent canyon in the world.