Jordan Time Zone UTC+02:0
Capital City Amman
Currency Jordanian dinar
National DAY May 25
THROUGHOUT OUR MEETING, Jordan’s new Ambassador Omar B. Al-Nahar refers to how ‘lucky’ he is. An accomplished career diplomat with over 25 years in the business, he’s also a humble and gracious man. Arriving in London in October last year, his wife and two children remain in Amman to complete the school year. However, he hopes they will join him here shortly, and “get to experience the world-renowned UK education system.”
Mr Al-Nahar returns to the Embassy after a 15-year absence; he served here as Second Secretary and Consul from 2000-03. He says, “The city has not changed much – it’s still beautiful. There’s more traffic, of course, and I’m still learning to cope with the bicycle lanes!” Since his return, he’s observed that “social media platforms have taken the diplomatic world by storm. Whilst London retains all the tradition and personal contacts that are so important in diplomacy, I admit I am still getting to grips with social media. However,” he says, “the good people are still good people, and I often run into friends from the past, and my network is constantly expanding.”
As a young boy, Mr Al-Nahar recalls being fascinated by history, politics and world affairs. When there was an opening at the Foreign Ministry after he graduated from university, his late father advised him to give it a shot. “I’m really very lucky, as I’m paid to do a job that I enjoy!” he remarks. “If you like something, it flows naturally, and of course, it becomes easier to advance ahead.”
His first overseas posting was in Tel Aviv, and then London, after which there were roles in “His Majesty’s office” (at the Royal Hashemite Court), and the Prime Minister’s office, eventually becoming Advisor. After three years back at the MFA, he took his first Ambassadorial posting in the Republic of Korea in 2010. There, Mr Al-Nahar’s first task was to open an embassy, which was no mean feat in a country far from home, where he didn’t speak the language. “Seoul is a huge cosmopolitan city, so I had to be careful where to establish the address, plus certain criteria had to be met. Hiring Embassy staff was another challenge – again, due to the language barrier.” Despite these challenges, he says “Seoul is a place that I’m happy I have served in, and remarkably, I soon discovered certain cultural similarities to those at home.”
Before coming to London, Mr Al-Nahar served as Special Advisor to his Foreign Minister and as Director of the European Affairs Department at the MFA, which helped “realign [his] thinking and knowledge,” after six years in East Asia.
So, what are his main plans and priorities as Ambassador in the UK? “I need to keep this ship sailing and hold the interests of my country in the UK!” he remarks. He says he’s been learning by meeting lots of people, both old and new, plus engaging with the Jordanian youth, “who are here in abundance in the various parts of the UK.”
He says “I know Brexit is a huge challenge for the UK. But I also believe that in every challenge, there is an opportunity.” For Jordan, he says the region is their greatest diplomatic challenge. “Our agenda is one of advancing peace, stability and security in the region and the rest of the world.” Firstly, establishing peace with reference to the Israeli Palestine question remains high on the agenda. He says: “Hopefully together with our friends in the international community peace will happen. We cannot lose hope, or the consequences would be disastrous.”
He explains that regional circumstances also mean that “unfortunately Jordan finds itself in a difficult position with close to 1.3 million Syrian refugees – almost 20 per cent of the entire population. The responsibility of providing housing, education and healthcare amongst other things for these people to sustain their lives until the dust has settled and they can return home is a huge task logistically and economically for any country. But we are doing this on behalf of the international community. We find ourselves challenged due to circumstances that we had no hand in creating.”
Despite the troubled region, Mr Al-Nahar is happy to report that tourism continues to flourish, with numbers increasing year-on-year. Furthermore, Ryanair will soon fly into Jordan from 14 destinations, making it even easier to get to the country than before. He says, “The ICT sector is also on the rise, and the government is working on economic plans to take Jordan from an aid reliant country, to one that is self-sustained.” Education is also a top priority, so his work here will have a major focus on that.
But largely, Mr Al-Nahar is looking forward to travelling around the UK, engaging with British people and the Jordanian communities in and outside London. Considering his career, Mr Al-Nahar says, “There has been huge diversity in the places where I have served. I find diversity offers a lot of knowledge, which makes life very interesting!”