120310–Book Fair!

by Irina Bernebring Journiette

Just got back to work after a great weekend. First I spent the day working at the Book Fair here in Riyadh, where Sweden is an honorary guest. Super intense but a lot of fun. A showed the KSA 2 crew around our pavilion in live TV and then apparently was dubbed “Miss Sweden” by news outlets. “I’m soooo glad you are not blond and blue-eyed,” an anonymous source proclaimed after. I could not agree more. Promoting Sweden here is also about challenging many of the stereotypes that people have about our country up in the far north. “No, we are not all blond,” “No, English is not out official language, we speak Swedish and that is not English,” “No, we don’t speak like we do because we are to cold to speak normally” (this was by far the best question of the day). At the same time I feel as if it’s as important to remember to promote Saudi Arabia back home in Sweden. It is a totalitarian country, and there are many things here that most swedes, Scandinavians or westerners might not like. But we have to remember to look past stereotypes. On Thursday for example we hosted a poetry recitation at the embassy and I was lucky to meet several empowering and inspiring women.