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RIYADH: Sweden’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Petra Menander has highlighted the significance of the traditional Swedish dress she wore while presenting her credentials to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Underlining the cultural similarities between the two Kingdoms, she told Arab News: “I feel at home because I really connect with people; I think we all build a lot on trust.

“Even though we are kingdoms and countries that are far away from each other and on the surface may look different, I still feel very much that we connect as people because we want to be honest and sincere.”

Menander presented her credentials to the crown prince at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah last month.

“It was a unique, very prestigious moment because it’s at the palace, with the guards; it’s a very festive moment but it’s also very important because it’s when I become the full ambassador to the Kingdom,” she said.

“My credentials, of course, are a letter from my head of state to the head of state of Saudi Arabia, and it’s only then that I become a formal ambassador.”

On behalf of King Salman, the crown prince received Menander’s credentials along with those of ambassadors-designate from the US, Ukraine, South Africa, Zambia and Canada.

Menander emphasized the importance of highlighting her culture and traditions when presenting her credentials.

“It’s important for me because I’m representing my country as an ambassador. I’m representing my country to the Kingdom,” she said.

“But I also know that the heritage and traditions here are very important, and … this dress is quite similar to many of the traditional dresses you can find in the south and the west of Saudi Arabia.”

Following the presentation, Menander posted a photo on X which attracted a flood of comments, many expressing their admiration for the traditional dress and describing it as “beautiful.”

“I have been amazed by the response to sharing the image on social media. Some people have taken the picture, posted it, and discussed it, along with the values of traditions and also reflecting on how nice it is that I have shown my own heritage,” she told Arab News.

“To me, that’s actually a very positive surprise and it makes me feel extra welcome. That is something I had not expected; I was just proud.”

Some users compared her attire to that worn by women in southern areas, such as Abha. Menander said wearing the traditional Swedish dress not only represented her country but also connected the two kingdoms through their shared cultural values.

“It was a way for my heritage and my traditions to connect to the Saudi traditions because I feel that there are many similarities,” she said.

“That’s one thing that I have really learned, and there’s also this extreme hospitality that also makes me feel very welcome; this I knew already before coming here, but it’s very nice to experience it personally.”

Menander also highlighted other areas where she sees similarities between the two countries: “We (Sweden) are very far in the north and maybe not always had a very easy life, and I think in the past before, it was also a tough life here (Saudi Arabia) getting by. Now, it’s two very modern societies and I think in this new modern age we all look for innovation and so on.”

Discussing her dress, Menander said it originated from Bara County in Sweden.

“Bara is a place in the south of Sweden, and the tradition we have with these dresses is from the very southern part of Sweden, where I come from,” she said.

The ambassador explained the dresses were worn for particular celebrations and important occasions.

She said: “This is a tradition from the past, and it is a tradition that I have inherited from my grandmother and my father; they were very strong on this heritage and the local tradition.”

Menander explained she created the traditional attire nearly 20 years ago when she worked with a heritage center to acquire the proper fabrics. The dress features many delicate design aspects, including hand-embroidery that she did herself.

“To go with it, you have a special type of silver jewelry that is also something special, and you have to go to special places to buy it,” she said, adding that presenting her credentials was a “very important lifetime experience.”

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