King Harald V and Queen Sonja ended a three-day state visit to Jordan on Wednesday, their first official visit to the Middle East. The royal couple hailed Jordan’s efforts to take in thousands of refugees from Syria, and seek solutions to conflicts in the region.
Just as debate has reignited over Norway’s refusal to take in more than around 5,000 refugees this year, Jordan has been taking in hundreds of thousands for years. The royal couple visited a school west of Amman that runs double shifts, so that both Jordanian and Syrian students can obtain an education under difficult circumstances.
The Norwegian government has donated money to refugee aid projects in Jordan but is under fire at home for so far refusing to take in more refugees at a time when demand is higher than ever. Norway has instead opted to pay other countries to help refugees, insisting that it’s better to help them where they are instead of bringing them to Norway.
Norway’s national football federation (NFF) is backing a project at Salt in Jordan, where football fields have been built to promote integration of Syrian refugees with Jordanian children of the same age. King Harald and Queen Sonja sat through a football match during their visit to see first-hand how integration can be accomplished through sport.
The royals were also once again used as door-openers for potential business cooperation between Norway and Jordan, with a business delegation from Norway along on the trip to check out opportunities for cooperation within fields such as renewable energy, water technology, tourism and technologic innovation. Queen Sonja spoke at a seminar on female entrepreneurship in a country where only 14 percent of women work outside the home. There were also promotions of Norwegian seafood and music, with Sami artists performing at a dinner hosted by the royal couple and drawing links between Sami and Bedouin culture.
There was also some time for sightseeing on the visit hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. Norway’s king and queen visited the ancient city of Petra on Thursday as the state visit ended after the “friendship dinner” hosted by the Norwegian guests.