The Duke’s official visit to Saudi Arabia began with a call on the country’s Deputy Crown Prince, HRH Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz. The two men exchanged good wishes on behalf of their families, before discussing areas in which UK-Saudi cooperation might be further reinforced. These included entrepreneurship, as The Duke recounted details of the recent Pitch@Palace event in London, and looked forward to a similar session with Saudi start-ups later in the week. On education, there was agreement on the potential for Saudi academic institutions to benefit from British expertise, and for more young Saudis to study in the UK.
The theme continued with a visit to the Ministry of Higher Education, where The Duke was shown scale models illustrating the ongoing expansion of university provision in Saudi Arabia. The Vice Minister for Higher Education, Dr Fahad bin Abdullah Rahman Balghunaim, explained that some 15,000 Saudis are currently studying in Britain, mostly at a postgraduate level. The Duke and his hosts agreed on the importance of vocational education in addressing the needs of business.
Next came a visit to the Saudi Stock Exchange, the largest in the Middle East. HRH was received by the organisation’s CEO, Adel Saleh Al Ghamdi, a Saudi-British dual national. The Exchange has drawn on UK expertise in addressing its technology and training needs. A presentation also highlighted the growing role at the Exchange of Saudi women, whose staff numbers have doubled over the past year.
For lunch, The Duke was received at the historic Al Muraba Palace by HRH Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was appointed Governor of Riyadh earlier this year. The city is currently undergoing significant urban development, with British architectural and transport expertise to the fore. Later, The Duke visited the British Embassy residence in Riyadh, and joined Saudi and UK business leaders and professionals in a round-table discussion about bilateral partnership, specifically in the fields of health and education.
The first day of the visit ended with a dinner hosted by HRH Prince Abdul Aziz bin Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz at the Al Khaldiya Resort.