AFP/Getty Images
August 05, 2015

Saudi King Salman is spending his summer vacation at a villa on the French Riviera—and the locals are not happy about it.

While denizens of the small seaside town of Vallauris are glad for the boost to their economy, the residents are protesting the closure of the municipal beach—and its nude-bathing zone—to accommodate the privacy and security needs of the Saudi king and his 1,000-person traveling party.

Now, nearly 140,000 people have signed a petition contesting the privatization of the public La Mirandole beach for the duration of the king’s three-week stay.

The petition, as translated by the International Business Times, calls for France's government to recognize “the unanimous wave of indignation" about the closure, and urged the government to recognize “the equality of all citizens before the law,“ and re-open the beach to the public.

Related: The Best Beaches in France

The mayor of Vallauris, a Cote D’Azur town previously best known as the spot where Rita Hayworth married Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan, also wrote to President Francois Hollande to protest unauthorized work done by the Saudis at the property.

Apparently, their work crews poured a slab of concrete directly onto the sand in order to install a beach elevator, which would allow the King to descend to the ocean in style, instead of taking the stairs.

The Daily Mail reports that King Salman has rented the Chateau de l'Horizon, a $10 million-plus mansion that was previously used by Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Marilyn Monroe. 

However, La Mirandole is a popular destination for fishermen, families, and nudists who use a specially designated area for full-body sunbathing, and residents are furious that they’ve been denied access to the beach. To demonstrate their outrage, they’ve staged a naked demonstration near the villa, complete with nude swimmers approaching the beach from the sea, in spite of the ban on coming within 300m of the villa by sea. (Don’t worry, The Mirror has photos of the naked gathering.)

While some locals may be in an uproar, business owners are thrilled by the influx of visitors. The King’s entourage is staying at luxury hotels up and down the French Riviera. Michel Chevillon, president of an association of Cannes' hotel managers, said the visit was "clearly good news" for hotels and the local economy, telling the BBC, "These are people with great purchasing power."

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