Sunnis and Shi’ites, tribal leaders, royal family members, soldiers and civilians – they came from all over the kingdom to proclaim their allegiance to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler.
And others came from further afield – princes, presidents and prime ministers keen to secure the friendship of King Abdullah who assumes the throne of the world’s biggest oil exporter.
De facto ruler for the past 10 years until King Fahd’s death on Monday, Abdullah now greets foreign heads of state and government as his own man as they fly in to pay their respects.
French president Jacques Chirac and Britain’s Prince Charles and prime minister Tony Blair were among the early arrivals. US vice-president Dick Cheney and former US president George Bush Senior were among the many others also expected.
Abdullah, seen as a cautious reformer, is considered unlikely to change Saudi Arabia’s position as Washington’s strategic partner in the Middle East. It is seeking to stabilise runaway oil prices, and Abdullah has launched a crackdown on al-Qaeda-linked groups,