The Al Janadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival is a two week long annual jubilee normally held in February or March that celebrates the colorful cultural treasures of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In essence, it is a national festival that showcases not only the Kingdom’s traditional and colorful art forms but, also, brings together in one place virtually all aspects and richness of art and literature in the Arab world.
Janadriyah is located approximately 28 miles (45 km) outside of Riyadh. First held in 1985, the event is organized by the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) on behalf of The Kingdom of Riyadh and is one of the oldest such celebrations of its type. Long ago, Janadriyah was known as 'Rowdhat Souwais' and was mentioned by numerous historians and writers.
Festival activities draw more than one million visitors per year and include local music, dancing (the Ardha and Mizmar), poetry, literature, plays, intellectual discussions, the sampling of the KSA national cake (carrot cake) and, of course, a camel race.
All in all, the Al Janadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival is considered to be one of the most significant cultural events of the year and offers the greatest opportunity for immersing oneself in the Saudi and Arabic cultures.
Sample the delicious foods of the Makkah area. Try the special drink Subiya, the mouthwatering Kabab meero, special Saudi dumplings and the flat bread made on the fire. Enjoy your foods while watching a traditional Makkawi wedding party at the nearby auditorium.
Watch the famous Al-Baha region dances. Get carried away by the catchy quick paced rhythm of the drums and watch in amazement as the dancers leap high in the air with their daggers in hand. This area gathers the most spectators for a reason!
Take a camel ride at the Qassim region square. Children will especially enjoy this activity while parents can sample the tasty fresh Kleja bread and mammoul from the nearby Qassim souk.
Browse the Al Madina Al Munawara marketplace for exquisite perfumes, Saudi style leather sandals in a multitude of colors, fresh herbs and spices, colorful woven baskets, a wide selection of dates, gold jewelry and antiques
See the hunting falcons at the Eastern Province area. The bravest visitors can get a chance to hold one too.
Get in the festive mood by decorating yourself with a necklace made of Jasmine flowers at the Jazan region marketplace. Men can join in on the fashion craze and wear a headband of flowers.
Discover the traditional treasures on display at the Najran area. Here you can find and purchase the traditional women’s dresses, unique Bedouin jewelry, pottery and wooden handicrafts all made by skillful Saudi craftsmen.
Wander around the Hail region museums and discover how people used to live in a traditional mud house.
For the best views of the Janadriyah Village, climb the Abha house up to the third floor. Don’t be discouraged by the rather unexciting appearance of the house from outside; once you step in you will be blown away by the colorful interior.
Get quick henna tattoos on your hands at the women’s only building while admiring the skillful Saudi women weaving carpets from goat hair.
PHOTOs of Interest:
56 -64: Religious Police
As US Embassy employees, family and contractors we were escorted by security forces of the Ministry of Interior (MOI). As it turned out, it was fortunate that we were for at about this point in our tour, we learned that members of the Mutaween, المطوعين, the ‘Religious Police,’ had been observed literally ‘circling’ around the perimeter of our group, looking for an apparent opportunity to make their way into the center of our group to accost any of the women accompanying us where were not wearing hair covering.
Interesting enough, while our security elements and the Mutaween are both groups under the auspicious of the MOI, Mutaween are an essentially rouge component free to harass as they see fit. Fortunately, for us…and the women accompanying us…our escorts proved to be more than capable in securing the ‘outer perimeter.’
The Mutaween المطوعين in Saudi Arabia are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). The Mutaween of the CPVPV consists of "more than 3,500 officers in addition to thousands of volunteers (many of wom are believed to be ex-convicts whose only job qualification is that they had memorized the Qur'an). They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. Additionally, they actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of other religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned. They even enforce the banning of New Year’s celebrations and Valentine’s Day.
In perhaps the most arrogant application of their misplaced authority on 11 March 2002, Mutaween representatives prevented young schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca, because the girls were not wearing headscarves and abayas (black robes), and not accompanied by a male guardian. Nor would they allow firefighters to enter the school to fight the fire because the girls were not properly ‘covered.’ Fifteen girls died and fifty were injured as a result.
106 -114: Sword Dance
The national dance is the men’s sword dance known as the ardha. The ardha is a combination of singers, dancers carrying swords and a poet or narrator. Men carrying swords stand in two lines or a circle, with a poet singing in their midst, and perform the traditional dance. Poetry is especially important to Arab cultural life, and has long been considered one of the highest expressions of literary art. In the days when the Bedouin were constantly traveling, poetry was primarily an oral tradition. People would gather around a storyteller, who would spin tales of love, bravery, chivalry, war and historic events. This was both entertainment and an oral preservation of history, traditions and social values.
Poetry remains popular among Saudis today. They gather at cultural events, most notably the Jenadriyah National Culture and Heritage Festival, and avidly read the works of established poets that are printed in Saudi Arabia every year.
122 – 158: Falconry
Falconry, the true “sport of kings,” may be traced to around 2,000BC in China. For centuries Middle Easterners didn’t perceive falconry as a sport, considering it only as a means of obtaining food. It developed first among nomads. In 1486, the Book of St. Albans spelled out the pecking order: a king must hunt with a gyrfalcon (an arctic falcon, and the largest of the species); a lady, with a merlin (a small falcon, also known as a pigeon hawk); a knave, with a kestrel (another small European falcon).
Today, within the Middle East, falconry is not only considered a sport of the privileged few but also an important aspect of the region’s cultural heritage. However only a few of the wealthy, and those bedouin who dedicate their lives to such birds, have the resources and time to engage in this appealing art.
Falconry is a popular sport among Saudis who envision it as an aspect of their Bedouin heritage. Falconry enthusiasts usually head to desert places during weekends to witness the birds hunt for prey, a chase that can last for days. The high prices of some falcons - with some rarer breeds costing millions of Saudi riyals - do not seem an obstacle to many of the sport‘s enthusiasts, who are willing to pay lots of money to obtain them.
197 – 199; 263 – 264: Panoramic Views of the fest area
219 – 222: Kaaba Kiswah (a cut piece for display)
The Grand Mosque in Mecca is site of Islam's holiest place, the Kaaba الكعبة “The Cube.” Also known as the House of God or the House of Allah, the Kaaba is the direction Muslims are expected to face when performing salat (prayer).
The Kaaba is a granite bricked cuboid structure approximately 13.1 m (43 ft) high and with sides measuring 11.03 m (36.2 ft) by 12.86 m (42.2 ft).
The Kaaba is covered by the Kiswa, a black silk and gold curtain which is replaced annually during the Hajj pilgrimage. Two-thirds of the way up the Kiswa is a band of gold-embroidered Quranic text, including the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith.
236 – 242: KSA National Guard display
308 – 333: Dates…who thought there were so many varieties…at least 70?
Saudi Arabia is the home land of the Date Palm Tree. With more than 10,000 years of age it is one of the oldest trees in the world. Many nations transferred the palm trees from Saudi Arabia (used to be called Arabian Peninsula) to other places in the world.
In Islam, dates have received more attention than any other fruit. For instance, PROPHET MOHAMMED (PEACE BE UPON HIM) encouraged Muslims to break their fast at the sunset during the month of Ramadan by dates and water. He once said that if a person has some dates in his house then he is not poor.
Today, Saudi Arabia is the second largest producer of dates in the world.
Waiting in a parking lot outside of the US Embassy in the DQ.
Out of respect for the culture, US female citizens generally done an abaya "cloak" (In Iran, it's called a chador; in South Asia, it's referred to as a burqa). Some, though not all, will also wear a headscarf to cover the hair.
Feeling mighty 'special' with our VIP escort.