President Donald Trump, in the first stop of his maiden trip overseas, received a regal welcome Saturday in Saudi Arabia, feted by the wealthy kingdom as he aims to forge strong alliances to combat terrorism while pushing past the multiple controversies threatening to engulf his young administration.
Mohammed al-Issa, secretary-general of the Saudi-based Muslim World League and director of the Defense Ministry's new Ideological War Centre, told reporters the centre would open tomorrow in an inauguration ceremony with Trump and Saudi King Salman.
As he arrived, the president waved from the doorway of Air Force One and then descended the steps, joined by first lady Melania Trump. The medal, given to Trump for his efforts to strengthen ties in the region, has also been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump's daughter, Ivanka, a senior White House adviser who is accompanying her father, also did not cover her head. "Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead".
It's his first stop on a busy, nine-day trip.
US President Donald Trump (C-L) is welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on May 20, 2017, followed by First Lady Melania Trump (R).
Trump said in a 2015 tweet that, while many people applauded Mrs. Obama's decision, the people of Saudi Arabia "were insulted".
President Donald Trump is preparing for a busy day of meetings in Saudi Arabia.
The president began his visit with a coffee ceremony with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Air Force One had barely taken off when it was announced that James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief fired by Trump, had agreed to testify publicly about Russian interference in the United States elections. The 81-year-old King Salman, who used a cane for support, was brought to the steps of the plane in a golf cart.
The speech will be especially sensitive given tensions sparked by the Trump administration's attempted travel ban targeting several Muslim majority nations and accusations of anti-Islamic rhetoric on the campaign trail.
"President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone", said H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser.
In Riyadh, a five-story image of Trump's face was projected on the exterior of the hotel he is staying at. And during her time as first lady, Laura Bush generally went without covering her head, though she once briefly donned a head scarf she received as a gift. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was "a great honor" to be there. A military brass band played, cannons boomed and seven Saudi jets flew over in V-formation, trailing red, white and blue smoke. White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for US actions in the region.
The visit is aimed at building stronger partnerships to combat terrorism in the region. He's also hoping to move past the controversies engulfing his administration.
A red carpet was rolled out and staircase rolled up to Air Force One after it landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh shortly before 9:50 am (0650 GMT).
Before departing, the president tweeted he would be "strongly protecting American interests" on his marathon eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. The scheduling choice is designed in part to show respect to the region after months of harsh anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric. After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and meet with allies at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.