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Chairman’s Annual Report 2009–10

Sir Alan Munro

This has been a full and successful year for the Society. Our talks have all been well-attended. Engineer Mubarak al Khafra, a Deputy Minister for Industry, spoke in September on the development of the Saudi industrial scene in a meeting we shared with the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce. In October Robert Lacey gave a fascinating talk to launch his new book, ‘Inside the Kingdom’, and signed copies for members.  In April, Ali Almihdar, a Saudi Lawyer who also practises at the English Bar, spoke on the origins of Sharia law.  The talk was attended by several London barristers.  Members have also been invited to talks by sister societies on the Shi’a communities of the Eastern Province and on Saudi marriage.  Dr Khalid Maeena, Editor-in-Chief of the Jeddah-based Arab News, has agreed to address our Annual General Meeting with a talk on the Saudi press.  Accounts of several of the Society’s talks are available on our website, which has been recently updated and is being well received.

A highlight of the year was the first tour to Saudi Arabia to be organised by the Society in association with a Saudi tour operator.  Ably led by our Honorary Secretary, Ionis Thompson, herself the author of a guide to touring in the Kingdom, the group visited Riyadh, Al Jowf, Sakkaka, Meda’in Saleh, and on down the old Hejaz Railway line to Medina and Jeddah.  Seventeen members, some newly joined, took part in the trip.  In view of its success a second tour is being planned for January 2011.

The award of the two annual Al Rawabi Holdings Prizes for a contribution to Saudi–British relations was made this year to Prof. Nigel Heaton of Kings College Hospital for his work in the field of liver surgery and to Col. Nigel Bromage, former head of the British Mission to the National Guard, in recognition of his long service to the Kingdom. The presentations took place in January with a buffet dinner, and were made by their donor, Mr Abdul Aziz Al Turki. Members are invited to put forward candidates for the 2011 awards.

A new two year cultural, artistic and educational exchange programme entitled Painting & Patronage has been announced under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalid al Faisal, Governor of Mecca, and HRH The Prince of Wales.  The Society fully supports this important initiative and has been invited to participate in some way with the programme.

It is good to report that, as a result of economies and steps to tighten management of administration taken by your committee, the Society’s finances, which were starting to give some concern last year, have been brought back into a positive state.  Our membership is increasing and now stands at about 200, plus a clutch of corporate members.  There have been some changes in the membership of your committee.  In particular we were sorry to lose the helpful advice of Councillor Abdullah Shagrood, Deputy Head of Mission at the Saudi Embassy.  His successor, Mr Abdulrahman al Suhaibani, will be joining the Committee.  Our close link with the Embassy is most important to the success of the Society.  We also welcome the presence on the committee of Dr Samira Osailan, a consultant at Guy’s Hospital, who has linked us with the activities of the Saudi Arabian Women’s Association, which she has formed in Britain.  We should also thank the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce and the Middle East Association for the use of their premises.

Alan Munro

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