German missions offers a range of activities aimed at encouraging outreach to Saudi society 

The German missions held a Winter Journey in December, 2018, in Saudi Arabia. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 03 October 2019

German missions offers a range of activities aimed at encouraging outreach to Saudi society 

  • Entertaining and productive results of diplomacy in action
  • An enthusiastic audience of young Saudi musicians, artists and music lovers, gathered to perform during an ‘open stage’ event in November 2018, at the German Embassy in Riyadh, in front of an international audience. 

RIYADH: Every year, Germany’s Embassy in Riyadh, its Consulate General in Jeddah and the country’s other institutions in Saudi Arabia organize and host a wide range of activities, many of them aimed at encouraging outreach to Saudi society.


German Business Circle

Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, the main business hubs in Saudi Arabia, are not only attractive destinations for business delegations from Germany but also popular bases for Saudi-German joint ventures and subsidiaries of German companies.

Therefore the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs (GESALO) organizes a monthly German Business Circle meeting in Riyadh, and bi-monthly meetings in Jeddah and the Eastern Province, for business people with links to Germany. A high-ranking delegation from Germany visited Jeddah and Riyadh last year to mark the 40th anniversary of GESALO, while the German Consulate General in Jeddah celebrated 50 years of Lufthansa air service to
the city.


Workshop for Saudi singers

In October 2018, the German Embassy in Riyadh organized an a capella workshop featuring three singers and music teachers: Gregor Praetorius, Steve Kuechler and Johann Beger, who studied music education and perform as an a capella Group Die Kinder vom See (the children of the lake). 

They come from Halle, a city with a long tradition of choral music, and were keen to share their love of unaccompanied singing with young Saudis. During the two-day workshop, at the Goethe Institute in Riyadh, they demonstrated the techniques of a capella singing to the participants, who were all self-taught Saudi music enthusiasts. The following day, the Saudis showed off their newly acquired skills during a concert at the German Embassy.


Open stage for musicians

An enthusiastic audience of young Saudi musicians, artists and music lovers, gathered to perform during an “open stage” event in November 2018, at the German Embassy in Riyadh, in front of an international audience. The evening concluded with some rock music from Madani Band, and improvisation by Salih and friends. 


Winter Journey

In December 2018, the German Missions in Saudi Arabia staged “Winterreise” (Winter Journey) by Franz Schubert, a selection of German poems augmented by a dramatic declamation in Arabic in the storytelling tradition. The Münster-based Debussy Trio toured Jeddah, Thuwall and Riyadh with the show.  The trio also commemorated the centenary of the death of composer Claude Debussy and the end of World War I.


Business delegation

In January 2019 a business delegation from the German-Arab Chamber of Commerce visited Riyadh and Dammam. It was headed by Dr. Peter Ramsauer, a member of the German Bundestag (Parliament) and president of the Ghorfa Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The delegates met Minister for Transport Dr. Nabeel Al-Amoudi, the Saudi-German friendship group of the Shoura Council, and Vice Minister for Industry Abdulaziz Al-Abdulkarim. 


Political meeting

State Secretary of the German Federal Foreign Office Andreas Michaelis visited Riyadh in January 2019 and met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. The visit focused on regional issues and bilateral relations.

 between the two nations with a view to enhancing cooperation in a variety of fields.


Jeddah Arts Festival and Grenzgänger

One of the most captivating visual-arts events in Jeddah each year is the 21,39 International Art Festival, which is organized by the Saudi Art Council and showcases emerging artists. In December 2018, festival curator Dr. Effat Fadaq and a group of visual artists from the Kingdom were invited on a 10-day contemporary-art study tour of Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden, organized by the Goethe Institute.

Meanwhile, three German artists — Charlotte Spiegelfeld, Niklas Binzberger and Felix Bonowski, who have very different artistic approaches, ranging from analogue photography to numerical physics simulations — were invited to participate in the 21,39 exhibition “Al Obour”. As an official complement to the exhibition, the Consulate General commissioned the synesthetic art installation “Grenzgänger” (The One Walking across the Border), a Saudi collaboration between Bricklab (the architect-artist duo of siblings who created the Saudi pavilion in at the 2019 Venice Biennale) and sound artist DesertF!sh.


German Opportunities Fair at the Goethe Institute in Riyadh

The Goethe Institute Riyadh hosted a German Opportunities Fair in February 2019, in partnership with the German Embassy, the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs, the German School in Riyadh, the German Academic Exchange Service, as well as representatives of German companies in Saudi Arabia. The fair included taster sessions in German, and questions and answer sessions with Ambassador Jörg Ranau. It highlighted the opportunities that are offered to young people from Saudi Arabia by the German language, a German school or university education, or working for a German company.


Contemporary Saudi art in the German Embassy

An exhibition of contemporary Saudi art, hosted by German Ambassador Jörg Ranau and his wife, Heike Ranau, at their residence in February 2019, showcased the works of seven artists: Sculptors Talal Al-Tokhais, Mohammed Al-Thaqafi and Ali Al-Tokhais, and painters Najla Al-Saleem, Fahad Al-Naima, Shuruq Al-Safran and Talal Al-Zeid.

During the event, the ambassador and Al-Zeid unveiled a Saudi-themed “Buddy Bear,” which is a symbol of Berlin that can be found on display in the city and around the world. Each one is based on the same fiberglass model but is decorated differently, usually by a local artist from the place where it is displayed, as a way of highlighting the connections between the countries. Al-Zeid’s bear, the first Buddy Bear in the Kingdom, features a street-art design inspired by Saudi motifs.


Visit by German politician Sabine Weiss

Weiss, the parliamentary state secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Health, visited Jeddah and Riyadh in March 2019. In Jeddah, she participated in the fourth Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety, an event that began as a British-German initiative, and met Saudi Minister for Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. Their talks focused on strengthening bilateral cooperation in the medical field. In Riyadh, Weiss met a group of Saudi doctors who had completed their medical-specialist training in Germany, and Dr. Jasir Al Herbish, the vice minister at the Ministry of Education. She also visited a hospital and a rehabilitation center.


European culture and German language in Jeddah

Germany is a steadfast supporter of the European Union, which promotes economic and political integration while preserving the diverse cultural identities on the continent. An artistic discipline that frequently showcases the richness of these diverse European traditions is filmmaking. The German Consulate General staged the opening of the 2019 European Film Festival in Jeddah, featuring a screening of “Young Goethe in Love,” a film about the renowned German poet’s experiences on his journey to fame.


Triple Voltage and Quantum Leap

German music stands out not only thanks to the music of classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven, but also its techno and electronic-music pioneers. The Consulate General in Jeddah hosted performances by three generations of Berlin-based musicians — Gudrun Gut, Pilocka Krach and Charlie B — who were joined by locals Cosmicat, DesertF!sh, Hats&Klaps and Vinylmode for the Triple Voltage series of events in November 2018.

The following April, SpinnZinn and Angie Taylor flew in from the Time Warp techno festival in Mannheim to perform at the Quantum Leap and Subzero music shows, give workshops, and present live video streams introducing Saudi artists to an online audience.


Garden Concert with Saudi-German Jazz

The Bigge Trio from Germany teamed up with Saudi singer Nawaf Al-Harbi to perform at Al-Khozama garden in the Diplomatic Quarter in April 2019. The event, which was organized by the German Embassy in Riyadh and the Diplomatic Quarter Authority, attracted a crowd of about 360 music lovers. Johannes Bigge, Athina Kontou and Maximilian Santner played a number of original compositions before inviting Al-Harbi onto the stage to perform favorites such as “Summer Time” by Gershwin and “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. The show was followed by performances at the German ambassador’s residence, the Goethe Institute in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah.


Internship program for Saudi students in German industry

During the summer this year, a group of Saudi students were given the opportunity to gain first-hand insights into the operation of leading German companies during a 10-week internship program. The initiative, organized by the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) and the German-Saudi Liaison Office for Economic Affairs, aims to teach students about modern skills and practices in the fields of engineering, business management and information technology, while offering valuable on-the-job training in a culturally diverse environment.


Saudi-German medical training program at the Charité hospital

The medical-specialist training program for Saudi doctors at the prestigious Charité hospital in Berlin welcomed its latest trainees in September 2019. The Saudi doctors have the chance to study and work for six or seven years at the hospital. All of them have completed their medical studies and some already have a few years of work experience. In Berlin, they will spend their first year studying the German language. In year two they will begin specialized medical training, and from day one they will be based in the hospital and working with patients. The program was launched in 2015 by the then Saudi ambassador in Berlin, Dr. Ossama bin Abdul Majed Shobokshi. It is one of a several medical-specialist training programs in Germany.


Coming soon: G20, German Cultural Days and the Joint Economic Commission

Looking ahead, the coming year will be even more packed with high-profile visits and events.

Saudi-Arabia’s G20 presidency will place the Kingdom in the international spotlight and include a large number of ministerial meetings, culminating in the G20 summit, including high-ranking visits from Germany.

To highlight thriving Saudi-German cooperation, the nation’s Embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah plan to organize German cultural days in November this year. These will feature a wide-ranging program, ranging from architecture to visual arts and music.

At the end of the year, a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission in Berlin is expected give additional momentum to Saudi-German economic and business ties.

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

Updated 27 min 31 sec ago

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

  • “It (Saudi Movies) will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi,” Shahrukh Khan 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia took another step toward establishing its place on the global entertainment map with a major industry event in Riyadh on Sunday.

The Joy Forum19 brought together entertainment promoters and pioneers from around the world, along with global stars such as Indian actor and film producer Shah Rukh Khan; Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director Jackie Chan and Belgian actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The event was organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which signed several important agreements on the day, including a financing guarantee program for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Participants are ushered in on the first day of the Joy Forum19 event in Riyadh. (Social media photo)

“Our message is for both, locally and internationally. Me and my generation suffered a lot, we had lots of time on our hands,” GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event.

“Today you are witnessing things we have never had in Saudi Arabia. We have 300,000 visitors to our events, and our sales have hit 80 percent.

“Saudi Arabia has never seen anything like Riyadh Season, we have over 400 sponsors, which is unprecedented.”

Al-Sheikh announced that the authority had named a stadium after singer Mohammed Abdo, the “Artist of Arabs,” and another after Abu Baker Salim, the father of Khaleeji music. 

READ MORE: Three MoUs signed at opening day of Joy Forum19 in Riyadh

Drunken master

The actors expressed what it meant to be movie stars and how wide-reaching their influence could be.

Jackie Chan recalled that when he was a new actor, he often acted like a drunken fighter until he realized that he has a responsibility towards younger fans. 

Jackie Chan: no longer a "drunken master". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“All over the world I keep drinking and fighting (in films).  I realized that I made drunken master cool — so I stopped,” he said. One of Chan's most popular movies was the 1978 action comedy martial arts film "Drunken Master".

“When you’re 20 you don’t have this inner thought — anything that makes the audience laugh you do, but later on especially (when I went) to Africa so many years ago — they started doing the drunken style — the children look up to me. So, I realized we have a responsibility to the children so all those years I corrected those actions: no dirty comedy words or action,” he said.

He attributed his awareness in being responsible for the content he produces to the fans. “I’m really thankful to the fans in making me a good actor.”

Chan spoke about his experience in acting martial arts in both the United States and Asia. “I realized we have two different markets one for America another for Asia. They are totally two different things.”

The safety measures the US takes for stunts is very impeccable making sure of the wellbeing of the actor comes first. However, in Asia it’s a different story, “In Asia when I want to do a stunt, I roll, jump (and then go to the) hospital, he said laughingly.

“It’s so difficult sometimes in the USA so many rules- Jackie Chan movies: NO RULES!” he said and received applause from the audience.


Good start

Jean Claude Van Damme gave a shout out and a big thank you to all his “brother and sisters from Saudi Arabia,” He said he got a royal treatment fit for “Kings and Queens”. He went on to reveal that his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh was so big he could easily “roller-skate” in it.

Jean Claude Van Damme: "Let's do a movie together". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I’m honored to be invited here. I know it’s your first time to do this event, but I know it will have a very bright future and I hope next year you will invite more people,” he said.

He said he may not be a “good talker” but expressed his joy at being in Saudi Arabia saying. “I’m happy to be here and I hope to have more connection later with the audience.”

Van Damme remarked how that in every country in the world you have treasure actors and movies with different cultures, “In the Middle East I don’t know what the taste will be, but I know they love American, Asian and Indian movies. They have a broad taste. (Saudi Arabia) should do a movie with all of us together!”


Crossing barriers

Sharukh Khan emphasized the importance of every country telling their story through movies; “As long as we are telling the story in whatever language it doesn’t matter. Cinema crosses all barriers.”

Shahrukh Khan: "I'd audition for a Saudi movie". (Social media photo)

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to the world and Cinemas, he said, “I can’t wait to talk about the Saudi films...It will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi.”

“The stories that you tell should talk about goodness and people should be engaged with the content and it should bring them together. People want to laugh and sadly have to cry, to be entertained and to feel.”

Sharukh noted that Saudi Arabia has started to make movies and he’s watched the King Faisal movie, "Born a King". 

“You’ll always find gems in all movie industries and I think there’s are gems in Saudi and as a matter of fact one of the things I’d like to do is audition for a Saudi movie … Please give me an opportunity!” he said, eliciting a thunderous applause from the audience.

Red carpet

Abdulaziz AlMuzaini, co-founder and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Myrkott Animation Studio; gave a heartfelt thanks full of gratitude to King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying: “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this moment or this panel.”

Some of the celebrities invited to the event walk the red carpet. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lebanese actor Wahid Jalal, who was the voice of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, came onstage for the opening of the event. “Children love heroes and they try to imitate them,” he said. 

He also delighted the crowd by performing Silver’s famous laugh.

Some of the celebrities who walked down the red carpet were American actor Jason Momoa, star of Aquaman; Amr Adeeb, Balqis Fathi, Yusra, Boosy Shalabi, Lojien and Aseel Omran, Mohammed Hamaki, Nawal AlZoghbi, Talal Salama, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, Hussain AlJismi, Suad Abdulla, Ibrahem Alharbi, Tariq Alali and Abdulnaser Darweesh.

The gala dinner hosted 500 guests and was a private event, but the red carpet captured the essence of where Saudi is moving to culturally.