Greetings from Riyadh where it’s another day of sunshine and a Happy New Year for 2019! We kicked off the New Year with a visit to the Janadriyah Festival which is the biggest cultural heritage and folk festival in KSA and the largest festival of its kind in the Gulf – and it was so much fun!
The festival runs for around three weeks and this was the 33rd annual event. Other years there have been days assigned for men or families only, but this year it was open to everyone from the beginning and it had such a lovely friendly atmosphere.
Stephen and I went with his two American colleagues from work and we were the only Westeners we saw there – so many of the Saudis stopped us to say ‘Welcome’ and ask us where we were from (the US always gets a bigger reaction than Ireland or Belfast).
The festival is divided into sections according to the provinces of KSA and each area has a pavilion to showcase its culture, architecture, foods, dances, traditional dress etc. Some Government departments also have pavilions – but more of that later…
We were welcomed with Arabian coffee and dates – the coffee is made with unground green coffee beans and is flavoured with cardamom (mostly it tastes like very strong cardamom water) – they make it in huge distinctive coffee pots and sip it from small cups (like espresso cups) – a little goes a long way!!
Then we were invited to hold a falcon called Sultan who was v handsome – any photo caption suggestions??
Of course we saw some traditional dancing and singing with much waving of swords and sampled some local vegetable curry and rice. We also met a lovely group of guys at an olive oil stall. The olive oil is produced in the north of KSA in the Al-Jouf region close to the Jordanian border where they have over 16 million olive trees. They have received a certificate of merit from the Guinness World Records as the largest modern olive farm in the world. KSA consumes more than 30,000 tonnes of olive oil each year. The sellers from the Al Jouf Agriculture Development Company were keen to take our photos purchasing their products and were v happy for us to take their photos:
We also purchased some chocolate from a lady called Sophia who had every flavour imaginable – but we opted for a bar of plain chocolate wrapped with a photo of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
There was so much going on we only got to see a small part of it all – with performances, singing, stalls, exhibitions etc What really bowled us over though was the atmosphere – it was so joyful and so friendly. We were so pleased to have the opportunity to interact with Saudis and learn a bit more about their culture.
Some of the most popular exhibitions were the line of military vehicles from the army and airforce – and in particular the opportunity to see inside a helicopter – it’s always a draw no matter what nation :0)
One of Stephen’s colleagues also got chatting some children who were very keen to be photographed for his instagram – I took a quick snap as they posed:
And finally we visited the Department of Public Prosecution who took our photo…! Is that a good thing lol?? One of Stephen’s colleagues is in the photo with us..
It was a v fun evening – people could not have been friendlier – I would highly recommend if you’re ever in Riyadh in Dec/Jan!!
Until next time,