Sir William Patey

Chair’s Annual Report 2019-20

The past year has been a challenging one for the Society as it has been for the wider world. I took over as Chairman from Sir Derek Plumbly at the last AGM in June 2019 and I want to pay tribute to Derek for his leadership of the Society over the previous three years. For the first half of the year the Society operated as normal with our annual events, Ghazi al Gosaibi lecture and the Rawabi Awards held as usual. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March forced the Society to go into virtual mode which I am pleased to say has been a success (more of that below).

Past reports

Sir Derek Plumbly
We have had three main events over the past 12 months. On 21 June 2018, following the Society’s 29th Annual General Meeting, Martyn Best, architect and CEO and founder of the consultancy Cultural Innovations, gave a talk entitled “Saudi Arabia: Projecting Heritage from 1989 to Vision 2030”.
Sir Derek Plumbly
Society activities have again centred on the delivery of a programme of talks relevant to its mandate of promoting understanding of Saudi Arabia and its culture and history: each talk was followed by a modest reception designed to enable members to engage with the speakers.
Sir Derek Plumbly
On 1 June 2016, following the last Annual general Meeting, Ms Salma al Ajaji of Aramco, gave a detailed presentation entitled "Saudi Aramco: Its Role and Future Development".
Sir Derek Plumbly
On 9 June 2015 following the last AGM I gave a talk entitled In Pursuit of Stability, which drew on my experience as a diplomat and international official in the Arab world, including most recently as UN Under Secretary General and Special Coordinator for Lebanon.
Sherard Cowper-Coles
On 22nd October 2014 we were entertained by Roger Harrison, author of Wings Over Arabia who showed us aerial views of Saudi Arabia taken when he accompanied Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz and Prince Bander Bin Khaled Al Faisal on an expedition by glider over the western region of Saudi Arabia.
Sherard Cowper-Coles
The Society has hosted a number of exceptional events this past year. These included: The Ghazi Al Gosaibi Memorial Lecture, The Ghazi Al Gosaibi Memorial Lecture, Lecture by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a Lecture on bee-keeping in Arabia.
Sherard Cowper-Coles
During the year we have had, as usual, three main events. On 19 September 2012, our former Chairman, Sir Alan Munro, spoke about his recent book of memoirs, Keep the Flag Flying. He described his time as Ambassador in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, and of his experiences as a diplomat in Arabia and around the world.
Sherard Cowper-Coles
On 12th October, the Society was privileged to hear from Her Majesty’s Ambassador at Riyadh, Sir Tom Phillips, in a well attended meeting. Sir Tom’s talk showed his evident sympathy for the Kingdom and Arabia more generally. He has now left Riyadh, and retired from the Diplomatic Service, to be replaced in post by Sir John Jenkins.
Sir Alan Munro, KCMG
The Society has maintained a good level of activity during the past year. The evening talks continued to be popular with members with subjects that aroused particular interest, and indeed broke some new ground for the Society’s programme.
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