ABU DHABI – Monday’s announcement by the Spanish royal household that emeritus King Juan Carlos I has been in the United Arab Emirates since Aug. 3 set off a new round of speculation about exactly where the former monarch is staying.
The UAE, comprising seven emirates ruled by six different royal families, is a land of palaces, elegant villas and five-star hotels.
Officials here remain tight-lipped about the whereabouts of Juan Carlos and the tightly controlled local media are unlikely to dig too deeply into the mystery, while independent journalism is nearly impossible.
Juan Carlos’ many powerful friends in the UAE include Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, found responsible last year by a court in London of abduction, torture and intimidation in connection with actions toward one of his former wives, Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussain of Jordan, and the couple’s two daughters.
The retired Spanish monarch has also been photographed countless times with the de facto ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, informally known as MBZ, who shares with Juan Carlos a passion for luxury automobiles.
One of the spots mentioned as a possible haven for Juan Carlos is the Emirates Palace hotel, which looks out onto the Persian Gulf with the dramatic Abu Dhabi skyline as a backdrop.
Not far from the presidential palace, it seems like the perfect place to hide a king and EFE visited the hotel in search of anything that might confirm the presence of the 82-year-old Juan Carlos.
Some at the hotel say they don’t know if the Spaniard is in residence, while others are emphatic that the emeritus king is somewhere else.
“He is probably on some island belonging to one of his friends, but not here,” a hotel employee told EFE on condition of anonymity.
Built 15 years ago at a cost of $3 billion, Emirates Palace belongs to the Abu Dhabi government, but the establishment is run by Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental.
Hotel staff confide that it is common to see bodyguards when a VIP is staying at the Emirates.
While extra security is not in evidence at the moment, that is not conclusive, as the hotel has separate parking and concealed corridors to allow VIP guests to come and go without being spotted.
Indeed, even hotel employees rarely catch a glimpse of a visiting VIP.
“They have their own staff, we don’t see them, even if there is a king we won’t know,” one employee tells EFE.