File photo of Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman | Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
File photo of Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman | Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
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July 2015 

The models arrived first, one boatload after another of long-legged young women pulling up to the dock at Velaa Private Island. The resort’s butlers and housekeepers were amazed. There were just so many of them, around 150 in all, and most had traveled for days, flying from Brazil or Russia to Male, the capital of the Maldives, a tiny nation in the Indian Ocean. From Male the women took smaller planes to a northern archipelago, where they boarded boats across a turquoise expanse of the Indian Ocean to Velaa. The resort had staffers on hand to greet each woman and politely shuttle her by golf cart to a medical center to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Only after the testing was done and the women had settled into their villas did the seaplanes carrying Mohammed bin Salman and his friends arrive.

It was the summer of 2015, and Mohammed was closer than anyone could have predicted to the Saudi throne. In the six months since his father had become king, he had hit Riyadh harder and faster than any prince in recent memory. Mohammed had taken charge of the economy of one of the richest nations on earth and was free to spend its money however he deemed fit. He was leading a war in Yemen and getting to know politicians in the world’s capitals. And that came after three workaholic years of reforming his father’s charities and building political capital with powerful Al Saud members. Now it was time to celebrate.

That required a discreet place in keeping with his outsized new status. The Maldives were the perfect choice: a stunning setting in the open ocean replete with tucked-away resorts that could be closely controlled for as long as the prince wanted, overseen by a government so sympathetic to the Saudis that it was discussing selling an archipelago to the kingdom.

Mohammed had first visited Velaa about a year earlier with his father’s entourage and was taken by the resort. Since the Maldives government prohibits resorts from putting up buildings higher than the surrounding trees, Velaa’s developer installed extremely tall palm trees along one beach so he could erect a tower with a view over the ocean. Its roof just reaches the crowns of the transplanted palms. Beneath that tower is a cellar stocked with exorbitantly priced French wine. And that’s separate from the resort’s main restaurant, which is built over the water so diners can watch sea turtles swim below while eating meals prepared by a gourmet chef.

Velaa has a combination of service and secrecy hard to match anywhere in the world.


Also read: Saudi crown prince MBS has made mistakes. The world’s watching if he can redeem himself


It was a vacation fit for a prince, starting with what workers called a “buyout” of the resort. That meant Mohammed and his guests had the entire island to themselves for close to a month. The Miami rapper Pitbull agreed to attend, though he stayed at another resort on a nearby island. The Korean pop star Psy and Afrojack, one of the world’s most popular DJs, came too.

Money wasn’t an issue for Mohammed. His office agreed that each of the resort’s three-hundred-plus employees would get a $5,000 bonus, a big deal for workers who made $1,000 to $1,200 per month. And that was before the expected cash tips.

To maintain the prince’s privacy, Velaa managers told staff they were not to bring smartphones onto the island during the visit. Each could bring a basic Nokia 3310 or no phone at all. Two Velaa employees got fired on the spot for breaking the rule.

There was a good reason for secrecy. Mohammed knew that Saudi Arabia’s young people were tired of decades of obscene spending by the ruling family and frustrated by online accounts of princes’ ostentatious homes, spending sprees at Harrods, and sports cars racing through the streets of Mayfair. He was cultivating the image of a reformer and didn’t want to be seen in the same light as the famously spoiled princes of his generation— like King Fahd’s son Abdulaziz bin Fahd, for example, a powerful prince famous for traveling the world with an entourage of two dozen, which has been dogged by sordid tales of sex and violence described in court filings.

He’d seen what could happen during the Arab Spring, when the Muslim Brotherhood, a ninety-year-old Islamist movement, temporarily won the presidency of Egypt citing the high-flying, alcohol-drenched ways of Saudi royals as proof of the corruption of the Gulf regimes.

So it was especially important that the Saudi people not find out that Mohammed was paying Velaa some $50 million for a vacation with his entourage.

Once the sun went down and the entertainers arrived, the men emerged. A DJ (some nights a band) set up on the main dance floor, near the pool, while smaller acts set up on other stages around the island. One night Afrojack, a Dutch DJ who performs for stadium crowds, put on a show. He was playing electronic beats that started calmly and climaxed to throbbing dance grooves when an excited Mohammed climbed onto the stage. The men and models cheered when Mohammed took over the DJ table and started playing records of his choice while Afrojack skulked away muttering, careful to curse out loud only when he was out of the prince’s earshot.

The parties continued until dawn, when many of the men retired to a villa. They’d emerge late in the afternoon.


Also read: Saudi Prince MBS is testing his grip on power with desert raid, oil price war


Even during a time of revelry, Mohammed seemed unable to completely lose himself. Walking during the day in shorts and a T-shirt with a couple of friends, he seemed to turn inward, says someone who observed him there. While the other men spoke animatedly, Mohammed was silent, apparently thinking about something more serious than women and music.

Then all of a sudden it was over. News of Mohammed’s visit leaked in a local publication, and Iranian-backed news picked it up. Less than a week after the trip started, Mohammed and his delegation were gone. The women left soon after.

Mohammed was also buying some serious toys. He rented the Serene—a 439-foot yacht that Bill Gates rented in 2014 for $5 million a week—for a half day after spotting it from the air. Mohammed loved it. The yacht had an underwater viewing room, a jacuzzi, two helicopter pads, and a business-style conference room. It was sleek and luxurious, perfect for hosting VIPs, but it could also transform into a party palace for nights with close friends.

Over the subsequent six weeks, Mohammed’s team negotiated with agents of Yuri Shefler, the owner. They finally reached a deal for 429 million euros, about double the original cost. His team also bought a garish French chateau near Versailles—with fountains, stately grounds, and even a moat—for more than $300 million.

Watching from Riyadh and their multi-million-dollar homes abroad, Mohammed’s rivals were increasingly uneasy.

This excerpt from Blood and Oil: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power by Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck has been published with permission from John Murray/Hachette.

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29 Comments Share Your Views

29 COMMENTS

  1. Looks a fabricated story by someone paid by anti-MBS personel. Doesn’t make sense in the living world since such lavishly decorated is proofless

  2. Looks like you exposed yourself …shame on you both the so called authors of “blood and oil”, Bradley hope and justin scheck, its more like you both live these kind of extravagent lives , lives full of vulgarity and no meaning and how cunning of you, that you portray a leader in a false image which in reality is yours, just for sake of publication and attention. I bet you both have spend your weekends right after this your book was published,just like you mentioned.

  3. Whether he did that or not, that’s his personal life. One would choose such a topic and make it raunchy to get more clicks, but honestly, it doesn’t matter and you should focus on real issues affecting the public.

    • Dont agree with you. These Saudi Rulars are custodians of Muslim’s 2 Holy Mosques. MBS and most of the Saudi Ruling family are debauch.

  4. That’s a big lie of the country against MBS
    How could believed these fabricated rumours and allegations without evidence or even pictures

    • Are you a paid agent of that debauch killer MBS ? He killed Saudi Journalist Jamal Kasshoggi n abducted Prince Nayef and also killed many of his poletical opponent. Fear Allah SWT and The Day of Judgement and dont support a killer n womeniser

  5. Believe it or not!
    150 women from all over the world!!!!
    this is a joke why the author didn’t say 20 or 30 women at least somebody stupid may believe it.
    I want to know the persons who counted the 150 women ha ga ha

  6. How is this a “lie toooo big to be believed”. It has happened in past. How can it not happen now? Why is it so difficult to believe?

    MBS MBZ are all God-fearless bastards. Their fathers are Israel, The US and India. Whom they also consider ‘God’. Don’t their actions speak louder than words?

    Damn astrayed leaders! May Allah have his course as early as possible! Ameen.

    • You and your parents lived on the alms given by MBS and his father. Respect your real parents. Pakistanis have issues with identifying their real father.

  7. I do not think it is a true story. I am not sure about the veracity of this tailored episode. Supposing it a true story, one can imagine it’s fall out in KSA. So stop wasting energy, time and even paper on such misadventures.

  8. It is clear that the Qatar money will finish and MBS will be still survive. I think that this Man is going to be our leader whether you like it or not

  9. It reveals Hope and Justin’s failed attempt to monitary bargain with MBS, the party held in the year 2015 has now turned to be sensational episodes for Blood & Oil publishers.

  10. Just a shame to Indians. Saudi supports India on Kashmir and this is what Indian do in return post fake vulgir reports against great leader.

    • This book is full of fabrications in fact it’s prepaid work to destroy reputation of mbs but they will not succeed.
      Qatari petrodollar is wasted

  11. All I can say the propaganda you people are making towards crown prince is false. As we know you are jealous of our country how we are progressing towards greater economy. We thank almighty allah how he has blessed us with rulers of our country . Who have made us proud.
    May allah destroy all of you who are making false propaganda against our beloved country

  12. This is journalism of worst kind.Sex,sleaze,drugs.Crude journalism at its best.Why would we be interested in private life of a leader.Are you Print or Mastram.

  13. And at the end the author wake up from a long dream.
    There is a saying, how did you know if someone is lying, i knew because the lie is toooo big to be believed

  14. STOP telling lies against Saudi Arabia and it’s beloved Kings. Whole Muslim world loves Mohammad Bin Salman… You should not spread or defame lies against Saudi Arabian Kings or Kingdom.

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