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Lebanese community in Jeddah ‘vibrant and energetic’

Lebanese Consul in Saudi Arabia General Ziad Atallah has praised what he described as the “energetic and loyal” Lebanese community

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Lebanese Consul in Saudi Arabia General Ziad Atallah has praised what he described as the “energetic and loyal” Lebanese community while reviewing his work in the Kingdom over the past year.

He also unveiled the “Made in Lebanon” exhibition and the new consulate building, expected to open soon.

Talking about the Lebanese community in Jeddah, Atallah said: “Let me begin with the fact that I worked as a diplomat in a wide number of countries since 1996 and, as we all know, Lebanese communities are spread worldwide.

“However, I have never seen a community that is more active, vibrant, united and energetic than the Lebanese community in Jeddah.”

He attributed this to three factors.

First, the long time Lebanese community has lived in the Kingdom and that most of them are from the middle to upper middle classes.

Second, they do not feel like emigrants due to the close distance to Lebanon.

Third, their link with Lebanon is constant as they send kids to Lebanese universities for more exposure and to learn more languages.

To Atallah, these are the factors that give Lebanese community in the Kingdom the edge compared to other Lebanese communities he has worked with.

“Hence, they are financially doing well, they have their link with Lebanon, they never lost their touch with Lebanon and luckily, since Saudi Arabian laws do not encourage the forming of political parties or activities, we see that the community members here didn’t bring with them their differences that they have back home.

“Of course they have their feelings, orientations or inclinations toward the events in Lebanon, but they don’t have any troubles because of their political backgrounds, religious or even regional, despite all what is happening.”

Atallah said he has not had the chance to visit Lebanese communities in Tabuk and Jazan, but promised to do so once he gets an assistant. As Atallah promised a year ago, the consulate has established itself as major hub for Lebanese community activities.

The consulate hosted more than 34 events in the past year that were related to the arts, culture, entertainment and education, among others.

He said: “It is true we contributed to the development, growth and rise of the economy of Saudi Arabia, yet the Kingdom has provided us with a respectful way of living and paid care to Lebanon at all times.”

“I’m humble, yet proud that I’m on the right track.

“I feel that the Lebanese community is reacting very well and understands my aims and is helping me.

“We are now doing our best to have all the contacts for the 40,000 or 50,000 Lebanese that are in the region.

“I want people to know that we are proud of them and want them to be proud of us and that the consulate is there at all times.”

The consulate is working on rebuilding its website, said Atallah.

He also unveiled the “Made in Lebanon” exhibition that will be held in cooperation with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry from April 5-7.

The exhibition will host all fields of industry and production from Lebanon, including hotels, tour operators, furniture and construction.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, seminars, meetings and one-on-one interviews with Saudi and Lebanese businessmen are scheduled. There will also be a handicraft exhibition.

Atallah said: “I was surprised by the number of Lebanese companies interested in exhibiting in Jeddah.

“Even a company that exports 70 percent of its products was still interested in participating.”

Another key achievement is the consulate’s new building, which is being built in collaboration with the Lebanese community and Lebanese business council, which helped provide all raw material, equipment, tools and manpower and expertise.

Construction work on the new building is complete and the consulate expects to move there in June.

Atallah said he plans to expand and enlarge the Lebanese club’s activities so it is active on a daily basis and under the direct control and sponsorship of the consul general and a board of volunteers running sub-committees for students, women, and businesses.

Atallah also praised the Saudi government for its support for the Lebanese community and consulate. He also promised the Lebanese community would remain a vibrant, active and well-respected community.

(This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Jan. 7, 2014)