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Janadriyah Festival gets bigger and better

The 29th Janadriyah festival, the national heritage and culture extravaganza named after the village on the outskirts of Riyadh where it is held annually, reflects Saudi lifestyle like no other. It celebrates symbols of its identity, unity and integrity.
The first event of the annual festival, which was traditionally a camel festival, was held at the initiative of the late King Fahd in 1985.
Showcasing the customs, traditions, crafts, arts, moral values and ethics of the Kingdom and the Arabian Peninsula, the festival is also an important event for intellectuals and writers to express themselves through literary and cultural activities, such as, symposiums, seminars and poetry sessions.
The 17-day long festival organized by the National Guard was inaugurated by Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, on Feb. 12 amid a colorful ceremony attended by dignitaries, heads of state, members of the royal family, high-ranking Saudi officials, diplomats, scholars and poets from across the world. The Saudi national anthem was played on the occasion.
Prominent guests included Bahraini crown prince Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, president of the Court of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamid bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Riyadh Governor Prince Khaled bin Bandar, Riyadh Deputy Governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah, SCTA President Prince Sultan bin Salman and Madinah Governor Prince Faisal bin Salman.
Also present were about 50 ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries, including the Greek minister of tourism Olga Kefalogianni and the Moroccan tourism minister Lahcen Haddad.
In keeping with tradition, this year’s events started with a camel race in which hundreds of participants competed over a distance of 20 kms. The winners were awarded cash prizes and cars.
Speaking about the festival, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, minister of the National Guard, said: “The Janadriyah festival plays a crucial role in preserving the Kingdom’s national heritage and projecting the country’s glorious image locally and internationally.”
He further asserted that the festival is important for citizens to help encourage a sense of religious, national and social unity. The minister also thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for supporting and promoting the event.
Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al-Tuwaijiri, deputy minister of the National Guard, said the event “celebrates Saudi identity by showcasing the arts and rich culture.”
A committee was formed for all assistance and arrangements related to the festival. Participants in the camel race came from across the Kingdom as well as from the Gulf region.
Women volunteers from the Red Crescent and the Civil Defense are also on field to help female visitors.
According to the Red Crescent, “There are six ambulatory teams of 18-23 members from the women’s volunteer center, Riyadh, and the teams are co-operating with the visitors. There are special teams in the camps for Hail, Qassim, Madinah and Al-Baha for help.”
Saud Al-Rumi, spokesman for the festival committee, said “the event is bigger than last year’s and is expected to draw more than five million visitors from the Kingdom and abroad.”
According to Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, Commander of Security and Guarding Unit of Janadriyah Camp, so far, more than 1,400,000 visitors have visited the Janadriyah festival to enjoy
the activities of the festival, which are being promoted with fanfare in the media and are broadcast live on TV.
The unprecedented crowd necessitated the opening of the Western Gate to the festival ground for the first time in 15 years.
Large contingents of police and security forces are deployed because of the anticipated huge crowds. Visitors flocking the festival venue were full of praise for the beautiful display of rich heritage and culture, saying they were enthralled by the programs featuring an operetta, a performance of the traditional Saudi folk dance, Ardha, in which Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, also participated.
Actors from the Makkah region performed a traditional dance on Feb. 19, which drew thousands of spectators.
Various regions of the Kingdom and other Gulf states are represented by pavilions in the ongoing festival, which aims to showcase the diversity of cultures and traditions in Arabia.
A huge number of tourists from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were also seen soaking themselves in the rich Janadriyah experience. This year the UAE is the guest of honor at the festival.
Expressing his gratitude on the honor, UAE Ambassador Mohammed Saeed Al-Zahiri hailed the initiative taken by the organizers of Janadriyah festival. “Selection of the UAE as the guest of honor for the national festival of the Kingdom indicates the profound and solid bilateral relations binding the two fraternal countries,” Al-Zahiri said.
Cultural programs are being held in the King Faisal conference hall on a regular basis during the course of the festival.
Speaking during a symposium entitled “Saudi Arabia and Salafist movements in the Arab world,” participants affirmed that the Kingdom is following moderation urged by the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.
A seminar entitled ‘Kingdom and economic achievements in Infrastructure’ was held, asserting the importance of the role played by infrastructure in the expansion of the national economy to raise productivity, improve quality, expand the circle of competition and attract foreign investment.
Moreover, the SCTA has set up a bigger stand this year with the apex tourism body’s pavilion showcasing the travel and tourism history of the Kingdom, which is attracting a huge number of visitors. Seven tourism companies are organizing daily trips from all over the Kingdom and Kuwait to the festival grounds. The tour program also includes visits to the tourism and heritage monuments in the Saudi capital.
Apart from operating three tourism information centers on the festival grounds, the SCTA is also offering a number of tourist guides to the visitors. The centers provide the tourists with printed material, maps and photos of the festival and those of the touristic and historical sites in Riyadh.
Additionally, to promote tourism facilities, activities and services, the commission has established five information centers at the Kingdom’s major airports.
Meanwhile, more than 6,000 visitors to the festival have benefited from the health services provided by Jeddah Health Affairs over four days.
Apart from that, various ministries have set up their pavilions showcasing their work, as well as to host interactive sessions on current and upcoming projects, visions and missions to redress public grievances
Maj. General Abdulrahman, Commander of the Security and Guard Unit at the national festival, said: “Most of the pavilions received a rush of visitors on the second and third day.”
As locals and expatriates continue to visit the festival premises in huge numbers, the hotel occupancy rate in the Saudi capital has gone up to 90 percent.
Judging by the response of visitors, it appears that the Janadriyah festival has already fulfilled the promise of its founder, the late King Fahd, who started the festival to bring Saudis together and preserve the nation’s heritage.

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