DUBAI: An excited crowd gathered outside the Saudi pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Jan. 7, their images reflected on its award-winning LED mirror-screen display as they awaited the start of the Saudi Culture Parade.
It was one of more than 18 events in celebration of the Kingdom that took place on Friday as part of the country’s special national day at the Expo.
The parade on Al-Ghaf Avenue, in front of the pavilion, was led by 80 members of a military band playing trumpets and drums. It also included women in traditional and contemporary Saudi dress, and men on horseback representing the Kingdom’s rich equestrian traditions.
The Saudi pavilion is proving to be one of the most popular attractions at the expo, attracting “over 2 million visitors over the first three months,” according to Hussain Hanbazazah, the commissioner general of the pavilion.
This is “the largest number of visitors to any pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai,” he told Arab News. The figure equates to about 30 percent of the total number of visitors to Expo 2020 since it opened in October, according to event organizers.
Friday’s special events paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural past but also offered a snapshot of the Kingdom’s present and a glimpse into its future.
They showcased contemporary trends and reforms, the revolutions that are taking place in technology and business, and the mega projects that are underway. Together they reflect an era of great transformation in the Kingdom, reflecting the aims of Saudi Vision 2030’s plans for development and diversification.
“Today we are celebrating the motivation that we want to take forward in the next three months of our participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, and the culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Hanbazazah said.
“We also are celebrating the great transformation that is taking place in the country and our investment in Vision 2030. We are inviting everyone to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
In his speech, Turki bin Abdullah Aldakhil, the Saudi Ambassador to the UAE, said: “Today, we gather for Saudi Day to celebrate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its achievements at Expo 2020 Dubai, kindly hosted by the United Arab Emirates. Through this event, we express our pride in our ancient history, our continuous progress, our ambitious vision, our rich culture, our authentic open identity, our love for humanity, and our tireless work with the world for the prosperity of life, the spread of stability, and the advancement of humankind.
“Much of this can be seen in the Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, whether through the Saudi men and women working at the pavilion – the real wealth of our country – or through the diversity of contents and exhibits of the pavilion which has hosted about 2.5 million visits at Expo so far,” he added.
“On Saudi Day, we are proud to share with the world our culture, our renaissance and our vision, towards a common global future, in which we see ourselves with you, and with all those who aspire to build a better future for humanity.
“Through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which was blessed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and formulated by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its hands to the world and opens its heart to humanity. It welcomes everyone and invites them to visit and discover its rich civilization, culture and humanity, as well as its numerous attractive investment opportunities.”
The day’s events also included the Saudi Business Briefing, in the pavilion’s Business Connect Center, at which dignitaries and business leaders joined representatives of the Ministry of Investment.
The delegates heard updates about investment opportunities and programs in the Kingdom, including the latest news from the Red Sea Development Company, NEOM, Diriyah Gate Development Authority, and ROSHN, Saudi’s largest real estate developer, about their projects.
After the Saudi Culture Parade a fashion show took place on an outdoor, circular runway in Al-Forsan Park, as part of the Saudi Experience Festival. It showcased contemporary collections by the next generation of Saudi designers and labels, including 1886, R9 Designs, Kaf by Kaf and Reem Al-Kanhal.
“This is my first-ever fashion show,” said Saudi designer Reem Al-Dossary, who presented the latest collection from her label, R9 Designs. “I am so proud to represent my country in such a big event. My brand is inspired by my heritage and my country — it is where culture meets fashion.”
Al-Dossary said that her new AlUla Collection is inspired by the landscape and heritage of the ancient desert region.
Fellow designer Reem Al-Kanhal told Arab News: “Many of my designs are inspired by Saudi culture but through a modern way. We are showing pieces from the Comeback Collection, whereby I have revived the pieces that have been inspired by our Saudi culture. One, a white shirt, for example has been inspired by … the Najd culture.”
The Saudi Experience Festival also included a traditional craft section, including several of the Kingdom’s famous “Flower Men.” Predominantly from the Qahtan tribe in Asir region, they are renowned for their intricate floral headpieces, examples of which they made for visitors to wear.
The day of celebrations concluded with the Saudi Cultural Show in the evening at Expo 2020’s Al-Wasl Plaza. Broadcast live on the dome’s huge LED screen, the largest of its kind in the world, it presented visually rich narrative that revealed the Kingdom’s rich cultural past and its exciting plans for the future.
Attended by an audience that included VIPs, government officials and business leaders, the show also included live performances by a 90-member orchestra and an opera singer, and a display of the ardah sword dance in honor of traditional Saudi culture. A fireworks display marked the finale of a day that celebrated the country’s incredible past and looked forward to a bright future.
“We are sharing our culture, our achievements and our future goals with the rest of the world,” said Hanbazazah.