RIYADH: The strong ties between Saudi Arabia and Italy date back to 1932 when a friendship treaty was signed, giving way to the formation of bilateral relations between Rome and Riyadh.
For decades, Italy and Saudi Arabia have used their diplomatic relations to cooperate in economic, political and cultural affairs, and Italy has long been a key trading partner of the Kingdom.
The cordial relationship that the Kingdom and Italy have enjoyed over the years has allowed citizens of both countries to sample each other’s diverse and rich cultural heritage, as documented this year by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Archaeological findings indicate common roots between the Nabataean civilization in the Arabian Peninsula and the Roman Empire in Italy.
The Italian presence along the Red Sea’s coastal areas and the Gulf is well documented, as is the presence of Arabs in Italy, on the island of Sicily during the Arab-Norman era.
In 1973, a bilateral agreement was signed in which Italy committed to offering scholarships to Saudi students as part of a cultural exchange initiative.
This agreement allowed Italian university lecturers to be seconded to universities in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Italy has also been committed to the establishment of professional training programs aimed at encouraging locals in the Kingdom to teach Italian.
Through funding from the Italian government, Italian professors drawn from different research centers and universities across Italy have also held seminars and lectures.
Hundreds of Saudi students have taken advantage of these cultural exchange programs and graduated from different universities in Italy, especially in the fields of engineering and architecture.
Italian cuisine has also enjoyed a growing interest in Saudi Arabia among locals. The Saudi Ministry of Cultural Authority has been actively promoting heritage foods, which has further contributed to the increased popularity of Italian dishes — and the Mediterranean diet, associated with healthy aging and an increased lifespan — in the Kingdom.
Music has also served as an instrument of cultural exchange. Over the years, Italy and the Kingdom have organized concerts attended by artists from both countries.
The Saudi National Music Band, which was formed in 2019, played for the first time in November 2022 at the 12th Museum in Music concert, which was held at the Sala Della Protomoteca, one of Rome’s oldest museums.