This week it's the Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan that's closed to the public and where a similar number of top Saudis are lodged under very different circumstances. Members of a huge delegation led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudis are part of a three-week tour of the U.S. aimed at increasing ties and helping with Riyadh's ambitious plan to remake its economy into one based less on oil.
Shut to the outside world -- and flying the Saudi flag alongside the stars-and-stripes -- it's business as usual inside the Plaza. Past the metal detectors, smooth jazz plays in the lobby while a flurry of people work late into the evening. There are containers of sticky brown dates on each table in the cafe. The bar is demurely dry, a wall of champagne bottles stretching up to the ceiling untouched, a nod to the fact that alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia.
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