First International Cultural Festival Presented in Bahrain

The future UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General will have a big role to play in the comeback of tourism after COVID-19. It will be of utmost importance to focus on the achievements of each candidate as the election draws near. There are only 2 candidates vying for this position, the current SG Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia and Her Excellency Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa from Bahrain.

Under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, as well as Chairperson of the Board of Directors the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH), and in cooperation with the ASEAN Bahrain Council, Royal University for Women held its first International Cultural Festival at the University campus in Riffa, Bahrain.

The event was attended by His Excellency Sheikh Daij Bin Issa Al Khalifa, President of ASEAN Bahrain Council, and Her Excellency Dr. Sheikha Rana Bint Isa Al Khalifa, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as a number of ambassadors and representatives of the international communities in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The ceremony began with a speech by Dr. David Stewart, President of Royal University for Women, during which he expressed the honor of having the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa and her presence in the festival celebrating cultures organized by the Royal University for Women in cooperation with ASEAN Council.

He said: “The Royal University for Women embraces many different communities and cultures from more than 28 countries around the world. This is reflected in the academic faculty, administration, and students in which it is creating a kind of cultural open-sphere communication and an environment that encourages openness and tolerance among cultures.”

He added: “Today, we celebrate our traditions, languages, and history, and the atmosphere that the Kingdom of Bahrain has provided for coexistence and tolerance between cultures and religions. The Kingdom of Bahrain is the best example of the unity of individuals in [a] multiculturalism environment and it’s showing the best adoption of the meaning of coexistence since the creation of this land and through the many civilizations that have passed on it.”

In connection with her candidacy for the new UNWTO Secretary General position, it must be noted that HE Sheikha Mai was appointed by UNWTO in 2017 as the Special Ambassador of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In 2010, she was the first laureate of the Colbert Prize for Creativity and Heritage, and she has launched a variety of annual cultural and tourism initiatives in her own country.

HE Shaikha Mai has also been recognized by the Arab Thought Foundation where she received the Social Creativity Award. Her achievements in advancing the cultural infrastructure in Bahrain have been recognized regionally and internationally. 

A speech from His Excellency Sheikh Daij bin Issa Al Khalifa followed in which he expressed the pleasure of cooperating with the Royal University for Women as a higher education institute and the participation of multiple embassies as it plays a significant role by commending: “events like this that act as a point of establishing greater things for the period to come. Overall, I would like to emphasize on the fact that today is just a milestone towards paving the path to stronger relationships and opportunities across multiple countries and verticals.”

HE Sheikh Daij added: “The ASEAN Bahrain Council has been at the forefront of creating a friendly business climate for investors from the ASEAN regions to invest in Bahrain. We have been doing trade shows across the ASEAN countries and have hosted a few friends from the ASEAN in Bahrain as well.” Sheikh Daij also gave a special thanks to Lulu Hyper Market for their support in making this event a success.

Mr. Banna from the Embassy of Thailand expressed that the strength of the Kingdom of Bahrain relies on its diversity: “The event highlights Bahrain’s strength which is diversity. I have no doubt that a recent survey ranks Bahrain as the second-best place in the world for expatriate[s] work wise, and the fifth-best place life wise. We, the people, may come from different nations, languages, religions, cultures, and so on, but we live in Bahrain peacefully and happily.”

The event witnessed a huge attendance from the public and enjoyable moments with many popular cultural events during the festival including traditional dance performances of the Republic of Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as traditional costumes of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Korea, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, and Malaysia, along with live cooking of traditional cuisines of ASEAN countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, and other participating countries.

Organizers of the event from the International Club of the Royal University for Women expressed their overwhelming happiness on the success of the event. Ms. Asma Almelhem, President of the International Club, said: “We had a vision and an action plan for this day; we worked hard on it as we were aiming to celebrate our diversity here in RUW.”

Ms. Houria Zain, Vice President of the International Club, also added: “I am truly proud to organize this event and celebrate the diversity of Bahrain. I am proud to be part of the cultural diversity in Bahrain and the Royal University for Women where women excel. Such events help us to become one family despite our different cultural backgrounds.”

The election of the next UNWTO Secretary General will take place at the 113th session of the Executive Council to be held on January 18-19, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. Only the members of the UNWTO Executive Council vote in this election, and the candidate that wins needs to be confirmed by the General Assembly in October 2021.