Dubai gets a taste of Swiss culture
Swiss celebrities, cows and culture have taken centre stage at a "Swiss Festival" at the Deira City Centre shopping mall in Dubai.
The event was opened by Switzerland's economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, and is part of the "Swiss Horizons" exhibition taking place this week.
A host of Swiss companies and cultural groups are taking part in the five-day festival, which highlights not only traditional aspects of Switzerland but also the country's cultural diversity.
Switzerland's consul general in Dubai, Jean Claude Hagmann, who accompanied Couchepin said: "The purpose of this promotion is to enhance the Swiss presence in the Gulf by showcasing the best of Switzerland along with Swiss tradition and culture."
A wide range of activities were on offer including captive flights with a hot air balloon from Chateau d'Oex, as well as exhibits on transport, environmental protection and modern handicrafts.
Swiss round-the-world balloonist, Bertrand Piccard, was among those invited to speak and described his experience of circumnavigating the world. Piccard told swissinfo: "I never got the chance to see Dubai when I was in the Breitling Orbiter [balloon] but it's good to see it with my feet on the ground now."
Visitors to the Deira City centre will also have the opportunity to travel with the world famous balloonist. "If the weather is good people will get the chance to fly with me," said Piccard.
Another Swiss celebrity in attendance, Montreux Jazz Festival founder and president, Claude Nobs, told swissinfo he was also interested in coming to the event because of the Montreux Dubai Jazz Festival, which was started three years ago.
Wooing the shoppers were alphorn blowers from St Moritz, musicians from the Italian-speaking region of Ticino, and flag throwing bell ringers from central Switzerland.
The 20 life-size fibreglass cows painted by children at local schools were also among the star attractions. Similar cows have already been used in Swiss promotional events in Chicago and New York.
Visitors to the shopping centre were asked to vote on the best-decorated animal before they were auctioned off for United Arab Emirates charities at the Swiss Horizon's gala dinner on Tuesday evening.
by Tom O'Brien in Dubai
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