RIYADH: The largest multinational festival in Saudi Arabia opened on Wednesday in the capital Riyadh.
Thousands of people gathered at Exhibition Park on Eastern Ring Road for the Global Town Festival, an historic, cross-cultural experience of “unforgettable” moments.
Reema Al-Ruwaysan, chief executive officer of festival organizer MOLHIMA Group, said: “It’s a feeling that can’t be described, to see the Saudi youth, men, and women partake in a cultural event of this magnitude. I’m just happy to see it.”
Reema Alruwaysan, CEO of MOLHIMAH Group. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
It will be the second time Riyadh has hosted the two-week festival which sold out on its first day with 5,000 visitors. Countries from around the world will be showcasing famous landmarks, markets, folklore, and songs, and cafes and restaurants will serve traditional cuisines.
Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons entered the main plaza to kick off the festival in the largest motorbike parade in the Kingdom’s history.
Welcoming crowds, Al-Ruwaysan said: “I hope you enjoy the festival that brings all cultures and civilizations in one place.”
Cultural dances, virtual reality games, and traditional food were some of the first-day experiences, with a number of ambassadors attending the opening ceremony.
Abdulhakim Al-Ouda, 35, from Riyadh, a speaker with the Vision 2030 team for training and development, said: “I’m here for the games, magic, and festivities. I visited stands that sold clothes, and paintings and I went to restaurants. It’s wonderful.”
Tickets available online priced SR40 ($10.60) sold out two days before the festival opening. Admission for under-12s is free, and the festival is open from 4 p.m. until midnight every day until Nov. 9.
Startups and family businesses were given spaces on Charity Street to sell their products as part of the Molhimah Al-Khair initiative.
Noora Alassaf, a certified decoupage artist and trainer from Qassim, said: “I tried to gather art from various cultures and place them altogether in one booth. Decoupage art comes from France, you can see some inspiration from (Spanish painter Pablo) Picasso here and these masks are Italian inspired.
“The reception at my booth has been amazing, and what’s beautiful is every year I see the Saudi people’s love for art increase. I see families now wanting to instill a love for art in their kids from a young age, and I absolutely love it. The art culture in Saudi Arabia is without limits,” she added.
Another startup at the festival was Spoilz, a mobile-gaming company founded by 29-year-old Musaab Al-Malki from Riyadh, who was showcasing its latest game “Smack Sack.”
A highlight from the evening's entertainment. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
“We’re here in partnership with ThinkTech by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to show off our games and engage with our community. Our plans are to reach a global audience, to publish more games, and to become the largest game developer in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“I like the idea of mixing civilizations and showing different cultures (at the festival), and this is what we’re focusing on with our games, to show Saudi Arabia’s culture,” Al-Malki said.
Over the coming days, visitors can expect to begin their journey through the festival on Saudi Street, starting with a historical route through ancient Najd, Darwaza al-Tumairi, and Souk Al-Muqaybara.
Accompanied by an exhibition that displays the most prominent achievements of the Kingdom’s rulers, Saudi Street aims to showcase the country and what it has to offer in terms of culture and knowledge, Al-Ruwaysan told Arab News.
Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Djibouti will join in performing festive dances and serving traditional food on African Street.
One of the attractions on Egypt Street will be El-Fishawy cafe, which dates back to 1771. Known for attracting great thinkers, kings, and princes of ancient Egypt, its fame increased after the international writer and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz used it as a place of inspiration for his novels.
Meanwhile, visitors were able to see Pisa’s famous leaning tower on Italy Street.
As well as walking around the attractions, visitors can rent electric scooters and bicycles.