Congruence of culture

Shilpa Chandran
Filed on October 14, 2021

The Spanish culture, community spirit and bilateral ties with the UAE came under the spotlight during the country’s National Day this year

Spain celebrated its National Day this year within the Expo 2020 Dubai premise on October 12.

Dignitaries, members of the Spanish Business Council (SBC), members of the Spanish community, Expo authorities, and notable Spanish business personnel gathered at the Spain Pavilion on Tuesday night to commemorate the linguistic and cultural heritage of the country.

Ambassador of Spain to the UAE Iñigo de Palacio España, the Deputy Commissioner of the Spain Pavilion, Carmen Bueno, and the President of the Spanish Business Council, Guillermo Cobelo Fernández, hosted the event.

Lt-Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, visited the Spain Pavilion on October 12. Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, and Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, also guests of honour, attended the event and visited the Spain Pavilion whose motto is “Spain, Intelligence for Life”.

For the first time, the Government of Spain and the Spanish Embassy recognised prominent Emirati institutions who have actively worked in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Spain and the UAE in the last year. The Emirati entities honoured with the award ‘Friends of Spain’ were Suaad Al Suwaidi, President of School Council of the Spanish School of Abu Dhabi, Shehab Al Suwaidi, Director General of Advance Technology and Research Council of Abu Dhabi and its Technology Innovation Institute and Lieutenant Colonel Hamdan Alyammahi, Deputy Director General of Bureau of International Affairs of UAE’s Ministry of Interior.

Ambassador Iñigo welcomed guests with words of gratitude towards the Expo 2020 Dubai authorities, as well as ‘Accion Cultural Española’, under whose responsibility this extraordinary pavilion has been completed, the Spanish Business Council and the Spanish Embassy.

Having taken charge of office a few weeks ago, he thanked his predecessor Antonio Alvarez Barthe, and his wife, Maria Jose, and said it was still too early for him to share more details on initiatives and activities that were carried out by the Embassy last year.

However, he added, “Many more initiatives will unfold at the highest level in the coming year in the context of this landmark World Expo and in the trail left during the visit of our foreign minister last February.”

He expressed admiration of the team behind building the Spain Pavilion, saying it is a ‘cutting-edge show of sustainability and design’. “It encompasses many of the traits that define the past, present and future of Spain: historic diversity and a rich cultural imprint in the world, sometimes unknown to others. Our intertwinned history with the Arab world is brought to the fore here with pride, as well as the many past and contemporary contributions that Spain has made to the world in history events and in the field of science, technology and innovation. It is a perfect, though necessarily limited, showcase of new technologies and innovation around the theme ‘Intelligence for Life’.”

Addressing the SBC, he added, “I have found a wealth of Spanish involvement in the UAE, whether in business, science, research, public affairs, or culture. This makes us very proud and confident in the future of our presence here.

Congruence of culture (

Highlighting the Expo 2020 Dubai, he added that it comes at a very promising moment. “In many ways it encompasses the hopes of our societies for a better, more diverse, more sustainable future. In achieving this, technology and innovation will be the main levers that will define the key to our success in creating a more equal world. Covid-19 has deepened inequalities across and within societies around the world. Technology will bring us forward together in health, education, mobility, public services, and the like. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going to embark very soon on a more thorough and ambitious digitalisation process, better to cater for the needs of our nationals abroad and foreign visitors. Spain is moving ahead, fully committed to working with our partners and with friends around the world. We shall recover from the pandemic’s crisis, it is happening now before our eyes.”

Congruence of culture (

President of SBC, Guillermo Cobelo Fernández, also delivered a short speech. “This year, my first and deepest feeling is ‘gratitude’. I would like to express my appreciation to all the members of the Spanish Business Council that during this time, still full of challenges and uncertainty, they have shown generosity, they have shown commitment to our Chamber. Without you, the event would not be possible!

“In 2020, for the first time in our history, we held a virtual national day, and I still remember using the words of our Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes: ‘Trust in time, which tends to give sweet exits to many bitter difficulties’. Today, one year after, I think that we have left our darkest hours behind, being a strong and united community, we have managed to move forward. I must congratulate our hosting country, considered by many of us as our home, the UAE have not only demonstrated an excellent management of the health crisis but has been able to foster at the same time the commercial relations between our countries. And, thanks to the UAE to bring this amazing opportunity: Expo 2020 Dubai, a platform of unlimited value, that they have put at our disposal ‘to connect people, companies and build a better future’.”

Regarding plans for this year, he explained that the Spanish Business Council has a very positive balance – having increased number of partners, activities, and impact on media.

Additionally, they have been re-elected as vice chairman of all the chambers of commerce of Spain for the Middle East and Africa.

The evening also hosted three cultural shows — Flamenco Fusion by guitarist Keco Fontana and percussionist Gilberto Moncada, Medieval Music from Spain by music group Artefactum, and Asturias by Albeniz featuring violinist Fabiola Salinas and dancer Raquel Reina.

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