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
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.
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.
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.
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.