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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Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
Saudi police arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
  • Health Ministry reports 948 new cases, 775 recoveries, 9 deaths

JEDDAH: Eastern Province police on Saturday arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions, after they were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

Regional police spokesman Lt. Col. Mohammed bin Shar Al-Shehri said they had been caught in Dammam, Abqaiq, Al-Ahsa and Alkhobar and that all preliminary legal procedures had been taken against them for their cases to be referred to Public Prosecution.
People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both.
If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.
COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in Saudi Arabia, with 948 new infections reported on Saturday to bring the total to 404,054.
The country has 9,449 active cases and 1,018 of them are in critical condition.

FASTFACT

People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both. If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.

Riyadh reported the highest number of cases with 419, followed by Makkah with 210 and the Eastern Province with 133. Three regions reported cases in the single digits: Najran with nine, Baha with eight and Jouf with seven cases.
There were 775 new recoveries, taking this total to 387,795, and a further nine deaths due to COVID-19 complications. The death toll is 6,810.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. Approximately 20 percent of the Kingdom’s population has now received at least one jab.
There were 51,126 PCR tests carried out in the past 24 hours, raising the total number conducted in the Kingdom to more than 16.12 million.


Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
Visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups. All carpets were disinfected after every group. (SPA)
Updated 48 min 25 sec ago

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
  • More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months
  • The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data

JEDDAH: Dozens of the world’s finest carpets cover the floor of Rawdah Al-Sharifah (the Prophet’s Chamber) at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, as part of the Saudi government’s care for the Two Holy Mosques.
There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.
Bandar Al-Husseini is head of the carpet department at the Services Affairs Administration of the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. He said that the carpets had scheduled sweeping and cleaning programs that were carried out on a daily basis.
“In case a carpet is damaged it is immediately removed and replaced with another carpet,” he said. “The carpets are also subject to disinfection and sanitization processes around the clock.”
He told the Al-Ekhbariya channel that visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups, adding that all carpets were disinfected and sanitized after every group.
The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data.

HIGHLIGHT

There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.

“These chips can give information about a certain carpet since it was made and information about the cleansing history of the carpet and its future cleaning schedule,” Al-Ekhbariya reported.
More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, this step is part of precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of worshippers and visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also said that fragrances were used more than 7,743 times to perfume the mosque during the same period.

Mosque committees have been changing 450 carpets, and replacing the ones used in the Prophet’s Chamber every 10 days.

The mosque has also been applying preventive measures by distancing people, using marks on the carpets to avoid congestion.


Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of Saudi Arabia’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly. (SPA)
Updated 41 min 55 sec ago

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
  • Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands

JEDDAH: Charity platform Ehsan has received SR260 million (($69.3 million) in donations in the first 24 hours of its launch.

King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, philanthropists and companies are among those supporting Saudi Arabia’s latest national charity campaign.
Among the largest donations received are: SR40 million from Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi; SR25 million from the late Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi’s charities Nama and Ataa; SR15 million from Saudi Aramco; SR10 million from Saudi Telecom Co.; SR7 million from Al-Rajhi Bank, and SR5 million each from Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Saudi National Bank.
The donations, which continue to be made, will benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of the Kingdom’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly, helping dialysis patients, and housing orphans.
Each cause has a set limit and users can select which area to donate to and follow the progress of their contributions.
Ehsan has also integrated other charities’ services into its systems: Furijat, an Interior Ministry platform to help prisoners convicted of financial crimes, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
It also allows users to pay Zakat, a form of almsgiving treated as a religious obligation or tax that covers immediate needs such as food, water, shelter and medicine for those in need.

FASTFACTS

Among the largest donations received are:

SR40m Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi

SR25m Nama and Ataa charities

SR15m Saudi Aramco

SR10m Saudi Telecom Co.

Ehsan CEO Abdulaziz Al-Hammadi told the Al-Ekhbariya news channel that the campaign’s initial results had been exceptional, demonstrating the extent of giving from members of the community as well as their social solidarity.
“More than 2 million visited the site in the first four hours of the launch of the website, with more than SR70 million donated by private citizens alone so far,” said Al-Hammadi. “Through the platform, more than 500,000 people have promptly benefitted from the donations and more than 300 causes have reached their goals.”
Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands.
Jameel G., a 67-year-old retired businessman, has traveled to a number of East Asian countries during the past four decades and made strong bonds and connections in a number of Muslim provinces and regions.
He said that, through this network, acquaintances would ask for help to build water wells or mosques in poor communities.
Over time, and amid less frequent traveling, he observed that construction prices were increasing and so were the funding demands. Also, the final results of the projects were not what were initially agreed on.
“Though most of my contacts are good and trustworthy people, it’s the third parties that I found to be making these demands and something was off,” he told Arab News. “The moment I found (out) that the money I was sending was swindled was when two mosques were being built at the same time and the pictures that I received were one of the same, same surroundings, same white-washed exterior and details. This incident happened 10 years ago and that was the last time I did any kind of philanthropic work.
“As I’m not very tech-savvy, I’ve requested the help of my daughter to show me how I can use the Ehsan platform to donate and I’ve also encouraged many of those I know who would like to donate money to go through the system. Too many Saudis have lost money with the aim for it to go to a good cause. It isn’t right. It’s not the Muslim way. Ehsan relieves us from that burden.”
Ehsan was launched on Friday by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA).
The platform aims to promote the values of charitable work in Saudi society by encouraging donations and developing the nonprofit sector, increasing its efficiency and reliability, and contributing to enhancing the reliability and transparency of charitable and development activities.


Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs
International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular. (AFP/File)
Updated 39 min 51 sec ago

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs

Saudi expats’ Ramadan agony as loved ones pray for end to flight curbs
  • International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular

RIYADH: While most families look forward to gatherings around the iftar table during the holy month of Ramadan, many expatriates in the Kingdom face an agonizing wait on relatives stranded in their homelands by flight suspensions.
Every Ramadan, with sunset nearing, families sit together during iftar to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, giving everyone a chance to catch up during the month-long festivity culminating in Eid Al-Fitr.
However, many expats are anxiously watching airline schedules as countries ease travel curbs, opening the way for family reunions.
International flights suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions will resume on May 17, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority GACA said in a circular.
Anwar Pasha Ansari, an Indian expatriate working in Jeddah, told Arab News that his daughter Heba Anwar is stranded in India.
“No father and mother should go through this agony,” he said.
Ansari said that his daughter left Jeddah to appear for her bachelor’s final exam in New Delhi, hoping to rejoin her family to celebrate Eid last year.
“But perhaps destiny was preparing another fate,” he said.
Ansari said that travel bans “brought the curtain down for all parents like us whose children were held up in India.”
He added: “To add insult to injury, all students were asked to vacate their hostel and make their own living arrangements, which was a nightmare for parents working overseas.”

HIGHLIGHT

Every Ramadan, with sunset nearing, families sit together during iftar to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, giving everyone a chance to catch up during the month-long festivity culminating in Eid Al-Fitr.

With no end to travel restrictions in sight, Ansari’s daughter planned to travel to Saudi Arabia via the UAE after spending 14 days in Dubai.
Ansari said that when his daughter arrived in Dubai in January, they were elated at the prospect of reuniting with her.
But with only three days left of her quarantine, a temporary traveling restriction from Dubai to Saudi Arabia came into force and all hope was gone.
“Heba spent a substantial time hoping against hope that flights would be resumed and checking any news pertaining to flight resumption to Saudi Arabia,” said Anwar.
“She was only a couple of hours away from us.”
Finally, after all options were exhausted, Heba was forced to return to India, bravely telling her parents: “Papa and mummy, stay well, this phase will pass, too.”
Ansari’s story will be familiar to thousands separated from their children as the coronavirus pandemic challenges everyone’s patience, endurance and capacity to endure the hardships of separation.
Technology and video apps help, but are not enough to bridge the gap as families face even more time apart.
Raafat Aoun, a Lebanese expat working in the Kingdom, told Arab News: “The closure of flights has affected many expat families. My brother-in-law had to travel to Beirut to attend to an emergency. Now he finds himself in a very difficult situation as he is stuck there, and his wife and four young children are all alone in Jeddah.”
Aoun said that his brother-in-law had been stranded for more than three months.
“I am supporting them and extending them all the help I can. But this festive season is becoming very difficult for me, too. I hope and pray flights resume soon so that my brother-in-law can return to his family.”
Pakistani expatriate Syed Faiz Ahmad said that two of his relatives were stranded after traveling
to Pakistan.
“One went to help his ailing father, leaving his family behind in Riyadh. But he got stuck. His wife and two children are all alone here and are desperately waiting for him to return, especially during this month of Ramadan.”


Who’s Who: Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz, chairman, Olympic Council of Asia’s education committee

Who’s Who: Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz, chairman, Olympic Council of Asia’s education committee
Updated 48 min 56 sec ago

Who’s Who: Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz, chairman, Olympic Council of Asia’s education committee

Who’s Who: Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz, chairman, Olympic Council of Asia’s education committee

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz was recently elected as a member of the executive office and chairman of the education committee of the Olympic Council of Asia.

He is also the vice president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, president of the Saudi Triathlon Federation and chairman of the Saudi Camel Federation,

He has been the president of the West Asian Triathlon Federation since December 2020, when the federation’s general assembly recommended that Prince Fahd head the organization. 

Prince Fahd graduated from Riyadh Schools in 2003 and studied at King Saud University for his bachelor’s degree in law. 

He obtained an MBA in international relations from the University of Wales in 2012, and three years later received an executive master’s degree in sports organization management from Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium.

Between 2007 and 2014 he was a legal and international relations adviser at the Ministry of Sport, previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare.

Prince Fahd was the president’s adviser of international relations at the Saudi Sports Authority between 2015 and 2017.

In November 2016 Prince Fahd became the president’s adviser of Olympic committees and federations at the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees, and a member of International Relations Commission at the union. 

He is also a member of the international relations committee at the Association of National Olympic Committees.