Watch: Christian expats celebrating festive season in Saudi Arabia

Photo of happy Santa Claus waving at children in a private celebration in Jeddah. (Screenshot)
Updated 24 December 2018

Watch: Christian expats celebrating festive season in Saudi Arabia

  • Santa Claus sat around a pile of gifts where each present had a child’s name written across it to be given to them individually for the Christian annual celebration

JEDDAH: Images showing Santa Claus giving out presents to happy children could have been shot anywhere in the world, possibly except in Saudi Arabia. This is why when a recent Snapchat video emerged showing a festive season celebration occurring in the Saudi city of Jeddah it immediately went viral and raised questions.
However, it is true… Santa Claus did come to town and the private celebration took place in Jeddah on Saturday as a group of Christians came together to celebrate this religious occasion before they went on annual leave.
The small gathering portrayed the Christmas spirit, where children were sitting happily as they anticipated a smiling Santa’s calling. Santa Claus sat around a pile of gifts where each present had a child’s name written across it to be given to them individually for the Christian annual celebration.
The video was shot by a Saudi presenter Hashim Abdullah, who was invited to MC the event. His Snapchat account is dedicated to covering events across the Kingdom. The Kingdom has been encouraging peaceful coexistence and interfaith tolerance as of late, especially after King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman initiated interfaith dialogue with Lebanese Maronite Christian Patriarch in November 2017.
The visit was followed by many; the king met with the chairman of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue at the Vatican earlier in April, while Crown Prince Mohammed met with Archbishop of Canterbury during his UK visit.
As the video of the Christmas celebration went viral, a minority misunderstood the contents of the video and criticized it, causing Saudis to step up to defend the celebration, calling it a normal occurrence and stating that it makes them happy to see celebrations of other faiths.


Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 18 October 2019

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.

 

GEA president Turki Al-Sheikh gave an opening speech: “Our dearest people, in the beginning of this season, we welcome you and our guests in Riyadh.

“I want to share a story with you all; once upon a time, I was from a middle-class family. My mother and father would gather both their salaries to have us travel to see the world, and then we would stay in Riyadh for a year. These were our capabilities (at the time) and there was nothing to do in Riyadh. Who would've thought that we’d see all of this in Riyadh, and in our beloved country?

“This wouldn't have been possible without -of course Allah first- a person who has the qualities and vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

He tweeted: “Riyadh traffic police estimated we have exceeded 600K which means ten times the capacity.”

In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.

The parade had a special surprise; the appearance of DJ Carnage who took to the stage dressed in complete Saudi attire and performed his successful electronic show.

The musician also took to Twitter to celebrate the night and how he had had a hand in “making history,” tweeting: “A huge thank you to @Turki_alalshikh  ..... what you did for your country last night... was so special... thank you for having me... we made history.”