High tea at the Ritz-Carlton is perk of the job for diplomats’ wives

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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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The wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations pose for a group photo at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (AN photo)
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Updated 21 February 2018
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High tea at the Ritz-Carlton is perk of the job for diplomats’ wives

RIYADH: High tea at the Ritz-Carlton is an extravagant and lavish occasion, enjoyed in exquisite surroundings fit for royalty.
On this occasion, however, the guests were not royals but the wives of ambassadors from a number of countries and UN organizations.
They were given a tour of the hotel and, over tiny sandwiches, scrumptious cakes and fancy herbal teas, they discussed issues close to their hearts, including feminism, women’s rights, religion and, of course, fashion.
Many of the women are working to help communities, and gather monthly to better understand the culture of the country in which their husbands are stationed, and their role within it.
They are split into groups based on the country or organization their husbands represent. There is also an executive committee, and each group has a coordinator, vice coordinator and treasurer.
“We organize activities,” said Nafisa Ahmed, the wife of the representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to the Kingdom. “The main object of the group is to make the stay of the families accommodating and comfortable — a support group, you might say. But our main objective is to strengthen our relations with the Saudi community, to learn more about them and to let them learn more about us. Who better than women to be socially active in this field?” During their monthly meetings, the women visit different parts of the city to add to their understanding of the country, and experience as much of it as possible.
Jo Allento, the wife of the Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, has been in Saudi Arabia since November 2017. She converted to Islam when she met her husband and, like other Muslims among the wives, feels blessed to be in the country of the Two Holy Mosques.
“I love this place, because in such short a time it has given me the opportunity to profess my religion,” she says. “I performed my Umrah — it was amazing. It is such a feeling, I can’t explain. “I’m enjoying Saudi Arabia immensely, although it's different and we have to understand the culture.”
Grisel Sandoval Schellenberg, wife of the Swiss ambassador, has been in Saudi Arabia for more than four years and has seen immense changes in social and environmental awareness.
“When I first arrived here, they were washing the streets with water,” she said. “This makes no sense. We live in the middle of the desert and water resources are very precious. But now, I see awareness and people are more conservative in their use of natural resources. Even the pool heater this year was turned off during the winter because saving energy was crucial.” Sabine Farra, whose husband is the Argentine ambassador, is a big fan of the Ritz-Carlton.
“The hotel reflects the generosity and hospitality of the Saudi people,” she said. “We have fond memories of it, especially when [soccer player Lionel] Messi and the Argentine [national soccer] team stayed at the Ritz. We had a wonderful dinner.” Gerrit Graef, the hotel's general manager, said: “It was an honor and pleasure to host these ladies and I’m glad that they enjoyed their tour of the Ritz-Carlton as well as the afternoon tea time and the cooking demonstrations at Azzuro we prepared for them. We look forward to seeing them again.”




 


King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

Millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi national day on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 23 September 2018
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King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

  • More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Day, celebrated every year on Sept. 23, has come a long way in broadening the concept of unification over the years.
Though the National Day meant unifying disparate sheikhdoms under the nation’s founder, the late King Abdul Aziz, its implications across the political, socioeconomic and cultural spectrum have not been lost on successive rulers.
It was King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who fine-tuned the definition of unification as an operating philosophy. This is why millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi National Day on the streets on Sunday.
The capital city, along with other Saudi cities, will witness fireworks and the unfurling of the largest national flag. More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom.
Car owners, limousine drivers and young Saudi motorcyclists said that they planned to go for drives, particularly on the fashionable streets of the capital city, to celebrate. Grocery shops, stationery shops and vendors were selling bunting, flags, banners and pictures of national heroes.
“We went around the city to see the lighting and fireworks,” said Saleh Al-Omri, a local pharmacist. “Green and white balloons fill either sides of Riyadh streets,” he said.
In his National Day congratulatory message, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said: “The wise policy of the leaders of this country contributed to peace, security and stability.”
Fakhr Al-Shawaf, chief executive of Al-Bawani Contracting Co., said: “We are celebrating the 88th anniversary of our unification, a day when the late King Abdul Aziz established the Saudi nation.”
Ali Al-Othaim, a member of Riyadh Chamber’s board of directors, said: “The Kingdom is on the path of comprehensive economic and social development under Vision 2030.”
Shafik Namdar, a taxi driver, said that he had bought an SR10 flag for his car and planned to work and also drive with his friends to look at the city and its landmark buildings.
Several young boys, including Arslan, 12, and Mishal, 14, said that they had bought bunting, badges and flags to decorate their houses. They planned to celebrate with a special meal at home with relatives, before going into the city streets for dance and music. Some of them had plans to organize celebrations in public parks.