Danish diplomat leaves Saudi Arabia a witness to ‘historic changes’

Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg, former political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Saudi Arabia posing in front of the embassy commemorating two years in her role in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg, former political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Saudi Arabia posing in front of the embassy commemorating two years in her role in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg, former political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Saudi Arabia(right) hiking in the Edge of the World in Riyadh with her colleague from the Royal Danish Embassy. (Supplied)
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Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg, former political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Saudi Arabia(right) hiking in the Edge of the World in Riyadh with her colleague from the Royal Danish Embassy. (Supplied)
Stoltenberg alongside her colleague Julie Andersen cultural and media officer in the Embassy of Denmark(left) posing outside of The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture known as Ithra museum in Dammam. (Supplied)
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Stoltenberg alongside her colleague Julie Andersen cultural and media officer in the Embassy of Denmark(left) posing outside of The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture known as Ithra museum in Dammam. (Supplied)
Stoltenberg alongside Andersen visiting The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture known as Ithra museum in Dammam on their trip to Dammam and Al-Khobar. (Supplied)
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Stoltenberg alongside Andersen visiting The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture known as Ithra museum in Dammam on their trip to Dammam and Al-Khobar. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 March 2021

Danish diplomat leaves Saudi Arabia a witness to ‘historic changes’

As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has seen Saudi women embrace the empowerment brought by Vision 2030   

RIYADH: As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom.

But for a woman from a liberal Scandinavian nation such as Denmark, it has been the changing roles of Saudi women that have resonated the most.

“I think the increased focus on improving women’s role in society in line with Vision 2030 has had the largest impact on the people in Saudi Arabia,” Stoltenberg told Arab News after recently leaving the Kingdom for her next job. “Due to Vision 2030, the discussions on the role of women and women themselves have become more visible in the Saudi Arabian society,” she said.

Stoltenberg worked as a political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Riyadh. She covered political, economic and cultural developments in the Kingdom, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.

In her role and personal life living in Riyadh she witnessed the many changes and developments implemented by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program.

From women being allowed to drive to the transformation in women’s roles in the workplace, Stoltenberg witnessed first-hand the immense female empowerment and social changes the country has gone through.

“I am happy that I have been able to experience two years of the impressive and important transformation that is taking place in Saudi Arabia. It is truly a historic time,” she said.

Stoltenberg, along with other expats who have attended conferences and seminars, has seen women leading discussions and inspiring future generations in the Kingdom.

She has also seen women launching many businesses that are now contributing to the growing private sector.

“I am pleased to see that many men and women acknowledge the benefits of improving women’s role in society and support the reforms,” Stoltenberg said.

One of the biggest initial changes for women came in September 2017 when King Salman announced the royal decree that would end the driving ban in the Kingdom. Soon after, Reema Juffali became Saudi Arabia’s first professional female racing car driver.

The changes have also had a large effect on the Danish community living in the Kingdom, as well as tourists visiting the country.

Female Danish residents can now freely navigate through the country in their cars.

“The lifting of the driving ban for women in June 2018 and the increased mobility have affected Danish female residents and my female friends and colleagues in a positive way,” Stoltenberg said.

She explained how tourism law changes in Saudi Arabia have affected the way the Danish community interacts with the Kingdom.

Tourist visas were launched in 2019, opening international tourism to more than 49 countries, allowing many Danes the opportunity to explore Saudi Arabia and visit their loved ones living and working in the Kingdom.

The easing of restrictions on women’s dress has also allowed expats more freedom and to not have to wear an abaya in public.

“Many Danish residents have enjoyed being able to go to the cinema, concerts and other entertainment activities which have been available as part of the Saudi Seasons,” Stoltenberg said in reference to a series of entertainment events.

Stoltenberg has been able to travel through the eastern province and to Jeddah, and discovered many similarities between the Danish and Saudi Arabian people in culture and hospitality.

“I found that Saudis are curious, very hospitable, friendly and helpful, she said. “I have often been greeted with a ‘welcome to Saudi Arabia’ in supermarkets, malls and restaurants.”

More broadly, Stoltenberg said that she was impressed with the reform steps taken in Saudi Arabia.

“I have experienced that there is a real will to change, and the pace of the reforms during the last two years is striking,” she said. “Change is never an easy task, and it will take time, but it has been very inspiring to meet the driven and passionate people in Saudi Arabia that are supporting and working toward reforming the country.”

Stoltenberg closely followed the conferences and events being led by Saudi women and hosted by the Danish embassy. The embassy hosted an event in January 2021 inviting many prominent female leaders in to exchange ideas.

“Women empowerment is high on the agenda in both Denmark and Saudi Arabia, and it was a great opportunity to share experiences, industry insights and ideas on how to overcome challenges and further improve the role of women,” Stoltenberg said.

Now based back in the Danish capital Copenhagen, she said that she looks forward to coming back to the Kingdom to see the changes that will take place in the future.

“My fondest memory of Saudi Arabia is a combination of the people I met, the different experiences I had, the places I visited, and the challenges and opportunities that come with leaving my comfort zone and being on unknown territory,” she said.

“I tell my friends and family that they should visit Saudi Arabia as soon as COVID-19 is over. Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer and experiencing the country, the people and the modernization progress first-hand has made a big impression on me, and I am sure it will on others too.”

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Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths
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  • A total of 6,801 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 10 deaths from COVID-19 and 964 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 402 were recorded in Riyadh, 215 in Makkah, 157 in the the Eastern Province, 39 in Madinah, 36 in Asir, 19 in Tabuk, 18 in Hail, 15 in Jazan, 12 in the Northern Borders region, 10 in Najran and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 387,020 after 918 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,801 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6.7 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


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Updated 16 April 2021

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  • The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan on Thursday.

JEDDAH: The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“If the international community was honest, it would have (acted on) UNSC Resolution 2216, demanding the Houthis relinquish the arms they seized from military and security institutions and cease all violence. The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should ‘confront power with power’ when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis (cause) a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.

He added that if attacks on the Kingdom continue, then Saudi Arabia should take military action. “The Houthis are using power and this power should be confronted with power. We have tried the international community for seven years, but unfortunately (nothing has been done).”

The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.

Those attacks were the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Jazan University was one of the targets, as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, adding that such actions amount to war crimes. He also said that the attacks originated from Yemen’s Saadah governorate and were a “continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians.”

The Houthis, who took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014, have been widely condemned for their actions against the Kingdom.


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The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,219 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 166 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
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Each country involved in the competition is represented by a team of four female mathematicians of school age, This year’s EGMO was hosted by Georgia, but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia was represented by four students who have all been members of programs run by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
In the past, Saudi teams have won 20 medals at the EGMO. This year, Rafaa Qanash from Jeddah won a silver medal, while Lara Munqal from Jeddah, Joud Bahwini from Yanbu, and Fatima Al-Ghanam from Al-Ahsa all won bronze medals.
All four students have been members of Mawhiba’s Program for International Olympiads and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
Mawhiba works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to qualify Saudis to compete in scientific Olympiads. Over 1,300 hours of training are provided annually to prepare students to participate.
The EGMO — launched by the UK in 2012, when 19 countries participated — seeks to encourage female students to compete in mathematics tournaments and to increase female representation in international Olympiads. Currently, only 10 percent of participants in math-based Olympiads are female.


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  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
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It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
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