Hissa Alotaiba, United Arab Emirates

Hissa Alotaiba represents one of the most innovative countries in the world and she was the first female ambassador to be posted abroad: Now in Bern, she holds the position of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambasssador.

Article published in the info letter July 2023.

Hissa Alotaiba...

... took up her post as Head of Mission in Bern in June 2022.

... is very proud to be the first female UAE ambassador to be posted abroad: first to Spain in 2009, to the Holy See (Vatican) and the Principality of Andorra, then to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2019, where she also served as Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

10 questions to Hissa Alotaiba

What are you responsible for?

My main responsibility is to represent my country, to strengthen the relationship between the UAE and the Swiss Confederation while protecting the interests of the UAE and its citizens in Switzerland.

I continue to build on the strong bilateral relationship between our countries by building bonds with the different cantons, attending cultural or academic events. At the same time, I am raising awareness about the UAE, its investment opportunities, its commitment to sustainability and to the empowerment of its people.

Which projects are you most excited about right now?

I am very excited about the upcoming golden jubilee, marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the UAE and the Swiss Confederation. We will be hosting cultural events throughout Switzerland in August, showcasing traditional Emirati musicians in spaces that can be accessed by the general public. There will also be an economic forum, bringing together Swiss and Emirati companies to highlight investment and other opportunities between the two countries.

When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?

I was surprised by the similarities between Bern and Abu Dhabi. There is a diverse population in both capitals, and both places are committed to sustainability and tolerance. Another pleasant surprise was seeing a live bear, which as a lover of animals, I loved very much.

What do you appreciate about Bern?

I really appreciate the beauty and cleanliness of Bern, the variety in landscape from rivers to forests to mountains, and the fresh air they provide. I also love Berne's old town, where I can wander through the architecture and enjoy the stores and cafés in the open air, thanks to the temperatures, which in Switzerland are not too high.

Is there anything you would change about Bern?

I really appreciate Bern as it is. No need to change anything.

How do you most like to relax after work?

By walking and reading.

What are the similarities between your culture and the culture in Bern?

There are many similarities between Bern and Abu Dhabi: both capital cities show a keen interest in museums, in the coexistence of different nationalities and in promoting peace. Both cities are also committed to sustainability and environmental protection.

What is still on your “to-do list”?

Visiting the museums and learning German.

Cheese or chocolate? Albert Einstein or Paul Klee? Hike or Ski?

I would say Paul Klee because, although Einstein is a great mind who contributed a lot to science and humanity, Klee’s contribution to the arts and extensive works combining so many mediums holds a special place in my heart. The Paul Klee Center is not far from my home and I really enjoy walking around that area and and admiring both the art and the architecture of the museum.

Skiing has been part of my family’s winter tradition ever since my children were little. Although I don’t ski anymore myself, I love being in the mountains with the snow, and of course the “heisse Schoggi” (hot chocolate).

Have you tried to learn Swiss German and, if so, what’s your favorite word?

Yes, I have been learning German and trying to understand Swiss German. Inshallah with more practice I will improve!
The word that comes to mind and that I like is “genau” which means “exactly”.

Who would you like to hear from next?

Berta Fernández-Alfaro, Chief of Mission of the IOM Coordination Office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein.