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Who is the Sultan who took over Leuven?

The sultan had reportedly been struggling with his health since 2014. Credit: Wikipedia

The sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said al Said, who was staying in Leuven since Saturday 7 December, to receive treatment at the Leuven University Hospital, has since left the city.

Qaboos bin Said al Said, the 79-year-old sultan of Oman, has struggled with his health since 2014, according to Het Nieuwsblad. He has undergone months of treatment in Germany before, and is now in Leuven, where he is also receiving treatment.

According to the official press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the sultan is here “to undergo a series of medical examinations.” Details of the treatment at the UZ Leuven are not available, but according to reports from The Economist, the sultan suffers from an unspecified cancer. He has rarely been seen out in public in recent years, except to prove he is still alive.

The sultan is not married and has no children, making him an exception among the Arab heads of state. The uncertainty about who will follow in his footsteps after his death causes lots of speculation in the Arab world, which is why the reports of his stay in Leuven have aroused a great deal of interest.

Qaboos is not only the sultan of Oman, but also its Commander in Chief of the Army, and Prime Minister. He holds the official titles of both Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence, but has other Ministers who are responsible for the departments by proxy. He is currently the longest-serving leader in the Middle East and the Arab world.

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The sultan was staying in the centre of Leuven, in a four-star hotel that has closed its doors to all bookings until the end of January, to receive him.

The several hundred guests who had booked rooms at the hotel and tables at the restaurant in the Leuven hotel over the holiday period will have to make alternative arrangements. So far, the hotel has declined to comment on any aspect of the matter, including the possibility rejected guests will be compensated in any way.

Earlier on Monday, several Belgian media reported that the sultan had several black vans parked on the Grote Markt in Leuven, which normally bans all motorised vehicles except police and public transport from entering of parking in the pedestrian area of the city. However, a spokesperson for the local police, Nicholas Del Pieron, told HLN that police were aware of the vans’ presence in the square and that all measures were “taken in accordance with the security services.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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