More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against King Salman and his entourage having the beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coast to himself during his summer holidays.
The petition insists the public beach in Vallauris should be “available for the benefit of all”.
The Saudi monarch arrived in the French Riviera on Saturday. His plane landed at Nice airport and he was driven away to his villa in a 10-vehicle motorcade, the local prefecture said.
King Salman and his 1,000-strong entourage are on a three-week holiday, with the king staying at the family’s seafront home in Vallauris.
The king’s inner circle is staying at the villa – between Antibes and Marseille – while about 700 others will stay at hotels in Cannes.
Michel Chevillon, president of an association of Cannes’ hotel managers, said the visit was “clearly good news” for hotels and the local economy.
However, the closure of a section of La Mirandole beach beneath the king’s villa has outraged many local residents.
The Mirandole beach beneath the property has been closed for privacy and security reasons.
“We’re sick and tired of this messing around,” one local woman said yesterday.
“I can see it’s normal that you need to guarantee their security, but they should let us go for a swim.”
A resident who lives next door to the beach said: “The fact that they are allowed to pay to shut it off is an outrage.
‘This is public property – a place which everybody should be allowed to enjoy, not just very rich Saudis.”
A petition against the “privatisation” of the beach, saying it “should not be reserved exclusively for the King of Saudi Arabia”, has been signed by more than 100,000 people.
“We recall that this natural zone, like all maritime public estates, is an intrinsic public property that should be available for the benefit of all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners or people passing through,” the petition says.
“We ask the state to guarantee the fundamental principle of the equality of all citizens before the law.”
Jean-Noel Falcou, who launched the petition, said: “We cannot accept that there is one law for the rich and powerful and one law for everyone else”.
Mr Falcou insisted that his demonstration against the Saudis had nothing to do with Islamophobia.
Illegal construction work by the villa has also poisoned the atmosphere.
The mayor of Vallauris wrote to Francois Hollande, the French president, to protest against unauthorised work done by the Saudis at the property, where concrete was poured directly onto the sand to install an elevator.
Workers had tried to install a fence to close access to the beach during the king’s arrival, but local authorities intervened and it was removed, as was a metal catwalk bolted to the rock cliffs upon which the villa sits.
The Saudis had promised to remove the cement platform, poured on to the beach to provide a lift up to the king’s villa, when they leave.
With several hundred members of the royal entourage staying in the area, hotels, restaurants and luxury shops along the Mediterranean coast are all expecting a boost.
“The economic impact for us, but also restaurants, chauffeurs and all those who worked at his villa, is real,” said Serge Reinhard, director of the four-star Hotel Montaigne in Cannes.