The King of Sweden has visited Expo 2020 Dubai and pledged that his country will stand together with the UAE to tackle climate change and build "sustainable societies".
King Carl XVI Gustaf addressed senior government officials and groups of cheering Swedish citizens on Wednesday, as the Scandinavian nation celebrated its country day at the world's fair.
He said a shared spirit of innovation would be crucial to dealing with the pressing issues facing the world.
“Our two countries have excellent bilateral relations and share a desire to strengthen them further. We also face many common challenges, including the need to build sustainable societies and to work together against climate change,” he said.
“In dealing with these challenges, Sweden and the UAE stand united behind one word: innovation."
The combined work of Swedish citizens placed the country high on global innovation rankings, he said.
The monarch spoke of the UAE’s impressive achievements as a young nation, including reaching space with the Mars Hope probe.
He said it was “inspiring that 80 per cent of the scientific team of the Emirates Mars Mission are women".
"It is my hope that the UAE will continue its ambition to include all parts of its society in driving Emirati innovation."
The king hoped partnerships between visiting Swedish companies and UAE businesses would benefit the global market.
“Innovation is not born in a vacuum. Innovation thrives through co-creation. Simply put, we are smarter together than apart,” he said.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence, echoed the desire for further co-operation.
The UAE is Sweden’s second largest export market in the Arab world and home to more than 250 Swedish companies.
“Sweden is a reliable partner in energy, technology, business and education,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“We will explore new areas of co-operation as we gather together at Expo 2020 Dubai to capitalise on our shared experiences, engage in dialogue and collaborate towards the making of a new world.”
The UAE’s Swedish residents gathered around Al Wasl Plaza waving flags while sporting blue and yellow clothes reflecting the nation’s colours.
They applauded after the speeches and joined in songs sung by a popular Swedish singer.
An audience with a king
For many including several naturalised citizens, it was an opportunity to see their king up close.
“We respect him. This has always been a dream for me to see the king,” said Teim Hasan, 12, a Dubai resident visiting Expo with his family.
“This is the first time for me to see him like this. I have only seen him on TV.”
While Teim was born in Sweden, his mother moved to the country from Iraq when she was 13.
The family is grateful for the opportunities the country has given them. Sweden is often praised by the United Nations Refugee Agency for its contributions to refugee protection and resettlement.
“I came to Sweden in 1994 from Baghdad,” said Amina Al Hussaini, Teim’s mother.
“My children were born in Sweden. It is the best, they help people from other countries.”
The Expo is fast becoming a favourite family spot – on her fourth visit, she planned to revisit the Swedish and other pavilions.
“Expo is a nice opportunity to see people from all the world, to learn about their country and talk to them,” Ms Hussina said.