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Sir Derek Plumbly

Chair’s Annual Report 2016–17

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”.

The Society was among those sponsoring Saudi participation in the 2016 London Design Biennale. The curators, Basma and Noura Bouzo from the team behind Oasis Magazine and Saudi Design Week, gave a talk on developments in design in Saudi Arabia on 7 September.

On 28 November the Society’s Patron, HRH Prince Turki al Faisal, gave the 2016 Ghazi al Gosaibi Memorial Lecture at a very well attended meeting of the Society. His authoritative and thought provoking address was entitled “A Saudi View of Developments in the Middle East”.

On 1 December members of the Society were invited to the Royal Geographical Society to hear Mark Evans describe his journey across the Empty Quarter in the footsteps of Bertram Thomas.

The Society’s Annual Dinner was held on 15 February 2017 in conjunction with the presentation of the Rawabi Awards, thanks once again to the great generosity of Shaikh Abdul Aziz al Turki. Awards were given to Hoda al Helaissi, a UK graduate and Saudi academic and one of the first woman members of the Shura Council, and Mark Thompson, Assistant Professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and a writer and speaker on youth and societal change in Saudi Arabia. The prize winners’ acceptance speeches eloquently addressed issues relating to change and development in the Kingdom.

On 15 May members were invited to a conference at SOAS entitled “Tolerance in Islam” at which the keynote speaker was the former Saudi Justice Minister, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al Issa.

Summaries of some of the talks mentioned above are available on the website, The committee is working on a programme of events for the autumn, reference to which can also be found on the website. It has established a sub-committee chaired by Caroline Montagu with a view additionally to looking at a discrete programme focused on cultural developments in Saudi Arabia.

Finally, in addition to its share in sponsorship of Saudi participation in the London Design Biennale in 2016, the Society also donated to Al Madad Foundation (, a UK registered – and in part Saudi led – charity promoting literacy and education among disadvantaged, mainly refugee, children in the Middle East.

Sir Derek Plumbly 
June 2017

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