After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry in May, they will jet off to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia, where they will attend a monster truck rally in Jeddah and open a branch of Hooters in Riyadh.
That was, at least, the entirely fictional forecast reported by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, a well-known satirical site in the Middle East.
But Arabi 21 missed the joke — and reported it all as fact.
The news website on Saturday regurgitated the satirical claims that Saudi Arabia had paid $60 million to host the royal honeymoon — despite what it called an “austerity situation” in the Kingdom.
It repeated the Pan-Arabia Enquirer’s humorous claim that Prince Harry would open a branch of Hooters — the US restaurant chain famous for its scantily-clad waitresses — in Riyadh.
Several anti-Saudi, widely-followed Twitter accounts and news sites were also quick to retweet the story and comment negatively — all without bothering to verify its authenticity.
Arabi 21 apparently realized its mistake and unpublished the story. The website — one of several reportedly backed by Qatar as part of its “soft power” attempts — could not be reached for comment.
The founder of the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, who prefers to remain anonymous, was quick to poke fun at the site.
“We doff our hats to the fine people at Arabi 21 for picking up our entirely made up story about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle choosing to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News.
“In this age of fake news, when respected journalists are being widely dismissed as propagators of untruths, we’re thrilled to see a news organization throw caution to the wind and publish something without bothering to check the source material. Bravo!”
It is not the first time a news outlet has fallen for the site’s satirical stories.
In 2014, The News International, one of the most established English newspapers in Pakistan, ran a report in which it was claimed that — at a time of heightened tension in the Gulf — Qatar had banned Saudis, Bahrainis and Emiratis from entering the London department store Harrods.
It based its story on an entirely fictional report by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer.
Another of the site’s jokes that left many people fooled included one from 2013 that stated the Dubai airline Emirates would introduce shisha lounges on board its planes. Even some members of Emirates cabin crew believed the story, according to media reports at the time.
Others fell for a spoof story about British model Katie Price, also known as Jordan, suing the country of Jordan over naming rights.
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer — often likened to “The Onion of the Middle East” — has a long history of poking fun at the region.
In 2013, it joked that a Saudi airline would introduce the religious police in aircraft cabins as “a free in-flight service.” The same year, it ran a satirical story about Qatar having “sensationally swooped in to win the hosting rights” for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.