US President Donald Trump along with other male White House officials participated in a ceremonial sword dance in Saudi Arabia outside the Murabba Palace, the media reported. Trump arrived here accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump on Saturday on a two-day trip, beginning his first foreign trip as President that includes visits to Israel, the Vatican City, Belgium and Italy where he is to take part in NATO and G7 summits.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner were also travelling as part of the presidential entourage. Video of the dance shows Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross dancing with swords perched on their shoulders as part of a line of men in traditional Saudi garb ahead of a state dinner, reports CNN.
Trump, surrounded by Saudi officials, bops back and forth with a smile on his face, while White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn appear more reserved in their moves.
The traditional men’s sword dance is known as the ‘ardah’. The performance combines dance, drumming and chanting poetry, and it signifies the start of notable occasions like religious holidays or weddings. Other world leaders have similarly participated in the ardah. Britain’s Prince Charles donned traditional robes and a sword as part of his tour of the Middle East in 2014, and former US President George W. Bush in 2008 held a sword, CNN reported.
Ahead of the dinner, Trump sealed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $350 billion over 10 years, with nearly $110 billion to take effect immediately. According to the White House, this deal will bolster security “in the face of Iranian threats” and the “package demonstrates the US’ commitment to partnership with Saudi Arabia, while also expanding opportunities for American companies in the region.”
Trump also held meetings with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his government, including the powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On Sunday, Trump will participate in a meeting with member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as a summit with leaders and representatives from around 50 Middle Eastern and Islamic countries.
Parallel to these meetings, a forum for the fight against terror and extremism is to be held, sponsored by the Saudi-led anti-terror military coalition. He will fly to Israel later on Sunday.