Egypt's top cleric cancels Saudi trip over slight

January 23, 2013 - 10:32 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Cairo airport officials say Egypt's top Muslim cleric cancelled a visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of its monarch when he discovered that senior delegates traveling with him were assigned economy class seats by their Saudi hosts.

The officials said Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar — Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning — angrily disembarked from a Saudi-bound airliner shortly before takeoff on Wednesday and instructed his delegation to follow suit.

Al-Tayeb was assigned a first class seat.

The Egyptians were due to perform the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, or umrah, before flying to the Saudi capital Riyadh to attend Monday's award ceremony for the King Faisal International Prize for scientific and religious achievement.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.