Saudi prince stars in TV commercial, marks royal change

Sun Apr 18, 2010 1:04pm EDT
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By Souhail Karam

RIYADH (Reuters) - The appearance of a young Saudi prince, a grandson of the king, in a television commercial may have raised eyebrows in his country, but it shows Saudi Arabia's royal family is slowly changing.

Prince Abdullah bin Meteb's lead role in an advert for Saudi Arabia's second-biggest mobile phone operator Etihad Etisalat

(Mobily), has sparked a debate among diplomats and Saudis alike on what it could mean for the absolute monarchy, which has always been secretive about its internal affairs.

"Why is a Saudi prince on a television commercial? And why did it have to be the grandson of the king and not someone else?" one Riyadh-based Western diplomat mused.

The advert starring Prince Abdullah, a professional rider, and his sponsorship deal with Mobily, exposes discreet changes that have been affecting the Saudi royal family in recent years as it becomes ever larger and younger, said a Saudi analyst who is familiar with some royals.

There are several thousand Saudi princes, all descendants of the kingdom's founder King Abdulaziz, who died in 1953.

"They are getting closer to the public. The number of young princes eclipses the number of patriarchs in the Saudi monarchy which is getting more bourgeois in its lifestyle," the analyst said.

"Whether through their involvement in business life or in philanthropy, royalty is becoming part of the Saudi elite."   Continued...