The crown prince of Abu Dhabi was incorrectly identified in yesterday's late editions. He is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zyed Nahayan.
If you could put price tags on party guests, it would have cost you at least $100 billion to buy the assortment that collected last night at a party for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
That was the estimate one guest put on the turnout at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates where Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahiyan was the ranking potentate.
The high-priced OPEC merchandise attracted some high-powered shoppers and browsers: Secretary of the Treasury G. William Miller, departing energy secretary James Schlesinger, Citibank chairman Walter Wriston, and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.
"What does the prince do, anyway?" Volcker asked. "I mean, does he have a job?"
Whatever he does, he gets a vacation from it. For the past month he has been on "holiday," seeing what he considers a cross-section of America -- including the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the Madison Hotel in Washington and other similar addressed in San Francisco and Los Angeles
What impressed him most was what he called "the advancement of technology" that enabled him to go to the Empire State Building, for instance, "to the highest floor, and get hot water and electricity."
And to answer Volcker's question, yes, the price does have a job. He is commander-in-chief of the United Arab Emirates armed forces and backup to his father, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the seven-member United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf.
Two decades ago, Abu Dhabi was just another camel stop on the caravan circuit. Then somebody struck black gold in 1958. Today, that sheikdom the size of West Virginia has the highest per capita income in the world ($11,667), produces 1.8 million barrels of oil per day, grosses $8 billion a year from it and last night, with its six other emirates, spent barely a drop of it on the party for Prince Sultan.
But in Washington terms the drop was lavish, paying for escargots, roast lamb, roast beef, shrimp, cracked lobster, baklava, cheeses, fruits, four musicians, two bars and at least one carved wooden box emitting puffs of incense passed by a servant under the prince's nose.
There was also a full complement of alcohol popular with both westerners and some Arabs. Because of Ramadan, a month-long religious observance, the more devout Moslems fasted from sunup to sundown and even then abstained from alcohol.
Tension about the week's developments with the American position on the Palestinian question fed rumors that raced through the yellow-and-white-striped tent like a sandstorm.
The big rumor of the evening was that a member of the PLO was in the crowd.
"If he's here, I'd know him," said Secretary-general Alejandro Orfila of the Organization of American States. "As observers, we sit next to each other at the United Nations."
Another rumor was that the Secret Service was trying to find him.
In fact, the mystery guest was Dr. Hatem Hussaini of the Palestine Information Office here, in charge of what someone called "cultural" matters -- "you know, like Russian and Chinese cultural matters."
"He's a guest just like anybody else," said the prince.
The 32-year-old prince wore a banker's black business suit with a hot pink and black tie. He stood on his terrace overlooking the 300-plus crowd that included most of the Arab ambassadors, university and think tank intellectuals, oil lobbyists, bank executives and the predictable Washington socialites delighted that there was something to do on an otherwise slow August night.
The prince, speaking to guests through an interpreter, considered questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East with painstaking thoroughness. He said he thought the United States should not veto the resolution supporting Palestinian self-determination.
"It's a problem of uprooting people from their homeland and this would be inhuman, against the principles of humanity," he said.
As for U.S. prestige now in the Arab world, he sidestepped the question.
"We have high hopes that the United States will use all its good will to provide for uprooted Palestinians. If they are without hope it may create an unfavorable situation," he said.
In another part of the tent, Schlesinger and Volcker were deep in conversation.
"We've solved all the world's problems," said Volcker triumphantly.
The prince soon will return to Abu Dhabi as will the United Arab Emirates ambassador, Hamad Madfa, who will become minister of health. His wife will stay here to complete her master's degree in English literature at Georgetown University.
Badria Madfa wore an elaborate "thawb," a silk chiffon robe with ornate gold embroidery. She also wore what had been her wedding present, a heavy gold necklace, dangling gold earrings that matched and "don't forget the bracelet," she said. "It has to be this way, otherwise it's not a complete set."
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) came and congratulated himself more than once on being the only member of Congress who showed.
"I thought somebody ought to be here to represent the Congress," he said, marveling at what he branded -- and energetically consumed -- as "one of the finest meals of any emabssy. There you've got seafood, you've got roast beef, you've got lamb, you've even got the mint jelly with it."
The prince didn't eat much, but instead sipped orange juice and dodged questions on his net worth, estimated by other sources to be in the multi-millions. When asked in five words what it amounted to, his interpreter spent five paragraphs and much consultation explaining it all to the royal visitor. They finally arrived at the following answer.
When it comes to being on paper, other businessmen are worth much more. Money is a means and not an object. You may not believe it but it's true."