Saudis who studied in Britain honored for career achievements

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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis speaks at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Nouf Alnumair won the social impact award. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas speaking at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
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Saudi graduates of UK universities were honored for career achievements at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Riyadh. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
Updated 27 February 2018

Saudis who studied in Britain honored for career achievements

RIYADH: Three Saudi Arabian graduates of UK universities have been honored for their career achievements in their home country.
Turki Altubaiti, Abdullah Adlan and Nouf Alnumair were the recipients of the third annual Study UK Alumni Awards, during a ceremony on February 26 at the residence of UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Simon Collis. He opened the event by stating how proud he was to be hosting it for a third time.
“I am very happy to see such a large number of candidates every year contributing to the betterment of Saudi society,” he added.
He also paid tribute to this year’s nominees, saying: “I have been Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Saudi Arabia for three years now and I consider it an honor. But I am not the only representative of the UK present here tonight; there are nine others here with me representing the UK and upholding its positive image, as well as that of their own home country of Saudi Arabia.”
The awards, organized by the British Council and British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, celebrate the outstanding achievements of alumni who have used the experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their community, profession and country.
Altubaiti received the Professional Achievement award, Adlan the Entrepreneurial Award, and Alnumair the Social Impact award.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas — who received the Social Impact award at last year’s event — gave a speech during the ceremony that highlighted the importance of education and experience in facing the challenges and changes that both kingdoms are undergoing.
“Such awards, especially in the social impact category, are not — and should not be — ends or goals themselves,” he said. “They are merely an indicator they we are hopefully on the right track of doing something that matters.
“The exciting and challenging times we are living here in Saudi Arabia can only be turned into a success by utilizing the passion, expertise and most importantly the knowledge that people of the caliber of tonight’s nominees have.”
Amir Ramzan, the British Council director in Saudi Arabia, said that discussions had taken place to ensure that Saudi citizens continue to have opportunities to study in the UK.
“The British Council has been working with various organizations, including the Ministry of Education, to ensure that the number of Saudi students able to go to the UK to study remains consistent,” he said.
He also highlighted the recently established Gulf-wide UK Alumni Network, which already has of over 2,500 members.
“We are always looking for ways to use that network to build connections between both the UK and Saudi Arabia,” he added.
There was also a surprise visit to the ceremony from Alistair Burt, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East and Minister of State at the Department for International Development.
“We’re very proud of our education system, and prouder still of those that come to us to make use of it, and use it for such good,” he said.
To be eligible for an award, candidates must have completed a degree at a UK university within the past 15 years.
The ambassador, Simon Collis, said: “There are no specific criteria for the degree studied. The focus of the prize is not the type of the degree but rather what you did with it when you came back to Saudi Arabia.”
This article has been corrected to amend the remarks by Amir Ramzan.

Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Updated 20 September 2018

Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • Outgoing British Consul General Barrie Peach will remember the beaches, the historic sites ... and the delicious seafood
  • Peach offers valid reasons for optimism that Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success

JEDDAH: British Consul General Barrie Peach has reached the end of his third posting in Saudi Arabia. His two years as Consul General in Jeddah — preceded by three years in Riyadh — ends in September.

As he prepares to continue his diplomatic career elsewhere, Peach sat down for an interview with Arab News to reflect on his time in the Kingdom and the optimism he feels for its future in light of Vision 2030. It was, he pointed out, an apt final interview.

“When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, my first job was in charge of communications, so I was the press officer,” Peach said. “So, I’ve had a very long relationship with Arab News. In fact, the very first time I was interviewed by a newspaper was by Arab News in 2003.”

As Peach explained, it was no surprise that he came to work in the Middle East as a diplomat. 

“I studied Arabic in Scotland and in Lebanon, so I guess the foreign office was a logical choice,” he said. “I’ve been with the Foreign Ministry since the year 2000. Since then, I have worked in a number of Arab countries. I suppose as a diplomat I’m slightly unusual in that I’m coming to the end of my third posting in Saudi Arabia. Most commonly, diplomats will go to a country once in their career, maybe twice at most. In addition to that, I’ve also served in Qatar, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya.”

Peach was already well versed in both the language and customs of Saudi Arabia when he became consul general in Jeddah, having worked in the Kingdom for many years. “I have spent more of my adult life in Saudi Arabia than I have in the UK. So, I guess I really do consider myself in many ways to be part of the fabric of Saudi society,” he said. “I’ve lived here through many changes, many experiences, and I’ve always found Saudi Arabia to be a very warm and welcoming place that I’ve very much enjoyed living in.”

Peach cited the consulate’s coordination with Saudi authorities to provide British pilgrims with security and hospitality during their travels to Makkah as one of the highlights of his time in Jeddah.

“I would say one of the most important functions that our consulate has carried out has been our care toward British pilgrims. When I speak to my Saudi friends and colleagues, they are often surprised at just how many British Muslims visit Saudi Arabia each year. This past year, we’ve had around 130,000 pilgrims visit, including, most recently, 26,000 pilgrims for Hajj. As you know, for many people, this is one of the most important journeys of their lives, and we are ready to help them if — God forbid — they get into any trouble. We are very grateful to the Saudi authorities for the huge efforts that they make in facilitating the pilgrims with safety, security, and tranquility. Thankfully, the vast majority of visits have been trouble free.”

As consul general, Peach has witnessed first-hand the progressive reforms that the Kingdom is going through, and offers valid reason for optimism that the ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success.

“An important role of the consul general is to promote trade between our two nations, and I’m delighted to say that over the past year we have increased mutual trade between businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UK. We’re expanding into new areas, so we’re mapping our work onto Vision 2030, following the creation of a Strategic Partnership Council as a result of the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK earlier this year,” he said.

“So, we’re looking for opportunities in new areas such as the creative sector, which we see Saudi Arabia is opening up to, not forgetting the more traditional areas where we have longstanding relationships — commerce and manufacturing.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the future of Saudi Arabia. It’s a country that has been blessed with many resources. The oil has been a blessing, the pilgrimage has been hosted here for centuries, and I know under Vision 2030 there are plans to significantly increase the number of pilgrims — which I’m sure will be very successful.” Peach also believes that the Kingdom’s tourism drive has great potential, describing it as “one of the most exciting things” about Vision 2030.

“I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for over nine years, and I’ve been very fortunate to visit most of the country. It’s an amazing country from the mountains in the North, to the greener lusher mountains of the South, and world-class beaches along the Red Sea. I’m hugely optimistic that, in the future, tourists from around the world will get to experience the Kingdom that I’ve seen. Saudi Arabia has a very young population, and that means a very creative, dynamic population who want to change things and who want to work hard.”

While he may be leaving his official post in the Kingdom, Peach said the country’s natural beauty will certainly lure him back for frequent visits in the future.

“Jeddah will always be a special place for me,” he said. “It’s the first place where I’ve held the head post, and there are certainly unique responsibilities that go along with that. It’s been a very important place for my professional development, but also a place that I’ve been very much made to feel at home. I’ve found the people to be very open, friendly, warm and welcoming. I’ve built up many new friendships and partnerships and I’m sure those relationships will endure. In the years to come, I’m sure I’ll be a regular visitor to the Kingdom.

British envoy Barrie Peach with Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Jeddah is perhaps the most familiar environment to me as I enjoy spending time at the beach, the Red Sea, and eating some great fish. Some of my more memorable experiences though, are from my time in Riyadh, from camping in the desert to eating some of the more interesting foods that we might not be so familiar with in the West. I will always miss my jareesh (a Saudi dish). 

“Al-Ula in Mada’in Saleh is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular places that I’ve ever visited — a mixture of beautiful natural landscape, desert mountains, and ancient civilization. When I’ve been there in the past, there were so few tourists, unlike — for example — the Nabatean ruins in Jordan, where you’re there with thousands of people. It was actually a really special experience to be at Al-Ula and almost completely alone. I also had the pleasure of organizing the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mada’in Saleh a few years ago, which was quite a unique experience.” 

“A career in foreign service is a uniquely rewarding experience. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might not have otherwise visited,” he said. 

“To have been able to travel and experience new cultures and languages, for me, has been the most rewarding part of my career in the foreign office. My advice to anybody who might enjoy that kind of lifestyle would be that a career in diplomacy is an excellent way forward.” 

As Saudi Arabia and Great Britain usher in a new chapter of diplomacy, the departing consul general made sure to welcome his successor.

“I would like to wish him the very best of luck during his time as consul general. For me, he has one of the best jobs in foreign service. I hope that he will very much enjoy it. He’s arriving here at a very interesting time of change, and a change that the UK is very happy to be part of to help and support,” he said. 

And finally, what’s next for the outgoing consul general? Peach kept it short and sweet. “A very long holiday,” he said with a laugh.