Wednesday, it must have been Riyadh
First time I have been in Saudi Arabia, as it was in Abu Dhabi. Fascinated by the region, but the real opportunity in Riyadh turned out to be time spent with the likes of Paul Hawken of OneSun Solar, Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild, Nick Parker of the Cleantech Group, Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation and Mabel van Oranje of The Elders. Spent pretty much all the time in the Four Seasons Hotel, doing sessions and meeting people.
Chaired a plenary session with Fadi Ghandour of Aramex, Professor Wu Qing, People’s Deputy at the Beijing People’s Congress, and Magatte Wade of The Tiosanno Tribe. Magic moment when I greeted the audience with Salam alicum – and it seemed that the whole lot of them answered back. That said, it was clear that there remains a fair gap between the Saudis and the incomers on many of these agendas. Striking example was the Greenovation session, where the backdrop to several of those mentioned above was a series of centre-pivot irrigation systems, notorious for quarrying fossil water from aquifers.
Enormously impressive session by Bill Clinton, which had me tweeting energetically (@Volandia), but striking how he sucks the oxygen out of the surroundings. The session that followed his struggled to get airborne, with a constant flashing of cameras from behind the scenes where he was being feted. A bit like the electrical storm that flashed through last night, the rain still crashing down as I headed out to the airport today with a nice driver from Syria.