By Mudassir Raja
The 728th Swiss National Day was celebrated with elegance at Grand Hayat Doha Hotel & Villas. The glittering event was attended by a large number of Qatari dignitaries, including high-ranking government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, prominent business people and notable members from the Swiss community in Qatar.
The prominent guests among those present on the occasion were namely; HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, HE the Minister of Municipality and Environment Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie, the Director of Protocol of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhro, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ali Ibrahim Ahmed, Ambassador of Eritrea to Qatar; and Margret Kiener-Nellen, a member of the National Parliament of Switzerland.
The ceremony began with the national anthems of both Qatar and Switzerland. Edgar Dörig, Ambassador of Switzerland to Qatar, along with the Qatari dignitaries cut a cake to mark the national day celebrations.
A musical band called Nidwaldner Huismusig, comprising of Severin Barmettler, Christian Würsch, and Andreas Gabriel, came all the way from central Switzerland to perform at the programme. Singer Evan Pyne also joined the band as they presented Swiss music to amuse the audience who relished the Swiss cuisine specially prepared by two Swiss chefs.
Ambassador Edgar Dörig, in his speech, welcomed the gathering. “As our special guest from Switzerland, I extend a warm welcome to MP Kiener-Nellen who has travelled to Doha with seven other Swiss MPs and two from our friendly neighbour, the Principality of Liechtenstein, to attend the 140th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, headquartered in Geneva.”
“Let me also pronounce friendly greetings to the numerous Swiss nationals present tonight who have made Qatar their second home. As highly dedicated professionals, they contribute to make Qatar thrive in the hospitality, air-transportation, education, culture, infrastructure and other industries.”
The ambassador explained: “Due to the extreme summer heat in Qatar, we celebrate our national day four months ahead of its actual date of August 1. On August 1, we remember the Federal Charter of 1291 / Pacte du Rütli, placed in early August when three Alpine cantons, Schwyz, Uri and Unterwald, swore the oath of confederation. This action later came to be regarded as the founding of Switzerland.”
Speaking about bilateral ties, the ambassador said: “The relations between Switzerland and Qatar are unique and special, as they go back to 1973, only two years after Qatar’s independence.
This bond has led to an ever closer relationship over the last decades. They will culminate just after the FIFA Football World Cup in 2023 when we celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. It is now six years since we officially opened our embassy in Doha. I am the third resident ambassador to the country and very happy to be here with my family and to work with you to develop new joint projects.”
Appreciating Qatar’ headway, he said: “The city of Doha is barely recognisable after all those years when an iconic Pyramid building was a standalone feature on West Bay, inaugurated in 1982. Infrastructure development and construction have unfolded at a breathtaking pace as the country is getting ready for 2022.
“Huge changes have also taken place in the social and cultural fields. The cultural scene of Qatar has proven to be a fertile ground for some of today’s best architects and artists. It is in this context that our two countries have co-operated in numerous cultural events. This year’s 6th European Jazz music festival – at the beginning a largely Swiss-driven initiative – will once again see our participation, a further enrichment to the more and more vibrant Qatar music scene. We have already confirmed our participation at this year’s European Film Festival – a largely Austria driven initiative - which is set to showcase award-winning productions, mainly from our extremely diverse continent.”
Switzerland hosts the majority of relevant international sports associations and international sports movements beyond FIFA, such as the Comité International Olympique (CIO), Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), and Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). I have just mentioned those who co-organised exciting international sports events here in Qatar recently.”
Touching upon the bilateral economic and tourism relations, he said: “Qatari businesses have invested substantially in the Swiss economy over the years. Recently they did so in the field of hospitality, the high-end Bürgenstock-resort in the Swiss canton of Nidwalden, which was officially opened last year. There is a respectable number of Swiss companies active in different sectors of the Qatari economy. Growing Swiss exports to Qatar amounted to a total of $760 million last year. “Switzerland is a prime tourist destination for Qataris and expats alike, not only to cool down in summer but also to ski on the slopes or hike on the paths of our pristine mountains during wintertime. Swiss tourists are increasingly heading to Qatar to visit the desert and the country’s state-of-the-art museums.
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