Janadriyah festival celebrates the best of Saudi heritage

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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
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Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages. (AFP)
Updated 22 December 2018
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Janadriyah festival celebrates the best of Saudi heritage

  • Since it was first held in 1985, the Janadriyah festival has offered a variety of activities and programs, including the establishment of a heritage village
  • The annual Janadriyah festival opened on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Janadriyah Festival has emerged as a creative project that is wholly Saudi. It reflects the leadership’s care for the history of the Kingdom and its keenness to introduce the Islamic civilization and shed light on folk arts, culture and heritage.
Visitors to the Janadriyah festival can explore the great cultures and heritage of its small villages, with participants who have come from across the Kingdom to play a part in this national event. The festival captures the great history and heroism of the Saudi people since the unification of Saudi Arabia by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud.
Since it was first held in 1985 (1405 AH), the Janadriyah festival has offered a variety of activities and programs, including the establishment of a heritage village that presents the cultural history of all provinces in the Kingdom, and includes a commercial market and exhibitions of objects and tools used by Saudis in the past.
The second Janadriyah Festival in 1986 (1406 AH) was even more ambitious and attracted more than 500,000 visitors in 14 days. During the festival the Cultural Committee organized a number of seminars, lectures and poetry evenings, in which more than 100 Arab intellectuals and writers were invited to participate.
The success of the event motivated its organizers to hold the third festival between March 19 and April 2, 1987. They also decided to organize an annual symposium to discuss the festival’s Arabic literary subjects.
The fourth festival opened on March 31, 1988, and over the following fortnight other GCC countries also took part in a number of events and activities. Sixty professions and folk trades were displayed from across the Kingdom, and the first Saudi book fair was held with the participation of 16 government and regional bodies and 22 Saudi publishing houses.
During the fifth Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture, which opened on March 9, 1989, an exhibition presented a number of political, social and historical documents that highlight important milestones in the history of Saudi Arabia and the struggle of the founding king, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud. Six seminars were also held on topics that included the global phenomenon of rediscovering heritage, the Palestinian Intifada, and drugs.
The 10th festival, which kicked off on Oct. 26, 1994, saw the participation of Saudi women in cultural activities, in addition to a book fair and an exhibition that included about 300 documents and over 120 photos.
The 11th Janadriyah was held on March 1, 1996 with an agenda that included camel and horse racing, operetta, folklore performances, folk dances and plastic arts. The festival also saw the largest seminar on “Islam and the West,” in which Western intellectuals and Muslim scholars participated.
The 14th festival, which was launched on Feb. 22, 1999, coincided with the centenary of the founding of the Kingdom. Its activities had a different organizational theme that befitted the importance of the occasion. In addition to the Saudi Ardha dance, the festival’s programs included the “Fares Al-Tawheed” (The Knight of Unification), a poetic drama that captured the struggle, the unification and the construction of Saudi Arabia in a show of creative poetry and unrivalled innovation.
The 15th Janadriyah Festival, which kicked off on Feb. 2, 2000, attracted more than 1.6 million visitors.
The 16th festival was launched on Jan. 18, 2001 with cultural and heritage activities that reflected the identity of Saudi Arabia. The festival saw the participation of Bahrain in a museum in the souq, as well as a book fair.
On Jan. 23, 2002, the 17th edition of the festival was launched, and the most prominent cultural activity was a lecture delivered by Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz under the title “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Palestinian Cause.” Several seminars were also held, including Palestine: Man and Land, Globalization: An Islamic Vision, The Question of Palestine: Palestine and the Western Media, Creativity in Literature, and Islam’s Position on Terrorism.
The 19th edition kicked off on Dec. 17, 2003 with many cultural and heritage activities, including the “Areen Assad” (The Lion’s Den) operetta, which showed the stages of the Saudi state’s establishment and the accompanying political and social transformations. The number of guests invited to the festival was 114 from the Kingdom and 90 from other countries.
On March 10, 2010, the 25th Janadriyah Festival was launched and attended by King Abdullah and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain. To mark the occasion, a photography exhibition, in which France participated as a guest of honor, was organized.
The 26th Janadriyah Festival was inaugurated on April 29, 2011, at which Japan was the guest of honor. More than 350 intellectuals and writers from across the world attended seminars that included topics such as the Information Society and the Knowledge Economy, the Axis of the West and Islamophobia, and the Kingdom and Science: A Strategic Vision for the Future.
The 27th Janadriyah Festival kicked off on Feb. 9, 2012 with South Korea as a guest of honor, along with the participation of all Saudi provinces and other GCC countries. The entertainment events were canceled upon the directives of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz out of sympathy for the tragic events that had taken place in some Arab countries.
China was the guest of honor at the 28th Janadriyah Festival, which kicked off on April 3, 2013 and attracted more than 5 million visitors. The festival also saw the development of the Bedouin display, where the inclusion of many small details from the past helped to foster a great sense of realism and break many stereotypes.
The United Arab Emirates was the guest of honor at the 29th Janadriyah Festival, which was launched on Feb. 13, 2014.
The Federal Republic of Germany was the guest of honor at the 30th Janadriyah, which kicked off on Feb. 4, 2016 to introduce the festival’s visitors to the cultures and heritage of other countries.
In the 31st edition of the festival, which was held on Feb. 2, 2017, Egypt was the guest of honor and the Janadriyah smartphone app was launched to introduce users to the festival and provide them with a map for the Janadriyah’s pavilions and corners.


90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

Updated 18 January 2019
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90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

  • Middle Eastern fans fondly look back at two comic icons who share a birthday this year, although they’re not without controversy
  • An Egyptian publisher printed Tintin in Arabic, while Popeye was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 and Spacetoon

Popeye, the scruffy sailor who remains one of the most loveable characters of all time, has been a popular fixture in Middle Eastern pop culture since the early 1980s. In addition to mountains of merchandise, particularly stuffed toys, being available in local shops, the cartoons were broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 (in their original English) and on Spacetoon (with Arabic dubbing). 
“I remember the first time I watched Popeye,” Zainab Basrawi, a 36-year-old insurance lawyer and self-professed Popeye enthusiast, told Arab News. “I learned to love spinach just from watching him save Olive every time. I believed him. I think he was a great influence on children to subtly ease them into eating their greens.”
Just one week after Tintin first appeared in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” Popeye made his debut on Jan. 17, 1929 as a side character in the daily King Features comic strip “Thimble Theatre.”
Created by the American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar, the one-eyed sailor with bulging forearms quickly grew in popularity, becoming the star of his own strip, an animated TV cartoon and a 1980 movie starring
Robin Williams. The theme song from the cartoon, “I’m Popeye the Sailorman,” is one of the most recognized pieces of music in pop culture history.
Compared to boyish, clean-cut, good- natured Tintin, Popeye is his polar opposite.
The sailor is rough, gruff and extremely tough, famous for the super-strength he gets from eating canned spinach, and his never-ending love triangle with his girlfriend Olive Oyl and rival Bluto.
Like Tintin, as a relic from another era, Popeye has also been criticized for racial stereotypes. In “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves,” he is shown beating up poorly made caricatures of Arab men. In “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap,” the Japanese characters in the cartoon get the same treatment.
However, literary critic Sophie Cline said the comic strip is reflective of the time it was created in, almost a century ago. “I think it’s important not to ignore these pieces of our history, or hide them away, but rather to own up to our mistakes and learn from them,” she told Arab News.
She alluded to the new disclaimer that now precedes old Looney Tunes cartoons, informing viewers that their outdated “racial prejudices” no longer reflect Warner Bros. values but are “products of their time.”
“Popeye cartoons reflect the common view of the era,” she said. “A disclaimer should be enough.”

Tintin, one of the world’s most famous fictional journalists, traveled the world seeking stories and adventure, so he naturally spent a good amount of time in the Middle East.
Created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known by his pseudonym Herge (say his initials in reverse out loud in a French accent), Tintin travels the region in four of his books: “Cigars of the Pharaoh,” “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” “Land of Black Gold” and “The Red Sea Sharks.”
Tintin gained more of a foothold in the region when Egyptian publisher Dar Al-Maarif began printing the comics in Arabic in 1971. Renaming him “Tantan,” Dar Al-Maarif continued to publish the comics weekly
until 1980.
“Tintin has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember,” said Haytham Faisal, a journalist from Cairo. “I literally became a journalist because I wanted to be him. My dad used to take me to buy the comics from the local bookstore. I remember them being so expensive, so they were a rare treat. I’d always think twice before buying them, but I couldn’t always wait for the next comic to see what new story they have next. I still have some of them, they were that precious to me.”
Before appearing in book format, Tintin and his constant companion, the dog Snowy, were first introduced to audiences in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” or “The Little Twentieth,” a supplement to the Belgian newspaper “Le Vingtieme Siecle” (The Twentieth Century) on Jan. 4, 1929. Herge, however, maintained that Tintin was actually “born” on Jan. 10, when “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” began its serialization in the paper.
Despite the fact that he never seems to hand in any stories, the loveable and quirky Tintin is portrayed as talented at his profession, so much so that he is shown to be in high demand, with many press agencies offering him bribes for his dispatches.
Over the years, Tintin’s face has been used to advertise quintessentially French items such as Citroen cars and La Vache Qui Rit cheese. Enthusiasts of Tintin lore, known as Tintinolo- gists, have written entire books devoted to him.
Since 1929, more than 250 million copies of the Tintin comic books have been sold. His adventures have been translated in more than 110 languages, and the books are sold in almost every country in the world.
Tintin continues to grow in popularity, even 90 years on. He was the star of a full-length feature film, directed by Steven Spielberg, in 2011 and of an animated television series. The latter was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 between 1991 and 1992 and a dubbed version has been on MBC 3 since 2003.
However, the history of Tintin has not been without its hiccups. Over the years, critics have argued that, like many of the comics of the era, it should undergo censorship or even outright banning from bookstores and libraries. One of the more troublesome ones is his second adventure, “Tintin in the Congo.”
The natives Tintin visits are crude stereo- types of African people, who are portrayed as ignorant and uneducated, and the references to slavery, such as when the natives refer to Tintin as “master,” make the comics hard to stomach.
Similarly, “Land of Black Gold,” which takes place in a fictional Red Sea state named Khemed, is also banned in several Middle Eastern countries today for its stereotypical portrayal of Arabs.
While some argue the comics are simply byproducts of their era, they are nonetheless somewhat difficult to revisit in the modern era. Attempts have been made to soften some of the references, with edits being made to “Tintin in the Congo” in 1975, but is that enough?
Not according to the London-based human rights lawyer David Enright, who wrote in the Guardian newspaper that “Tintin in the Congo” shouldn’t be sold to children. “Books are precious, but so are the minds of young children. It is vital that our children learn and explore the grotesque history of slavery, racism and anti-Semitism, but in the proper context of the school curriculum.”