RIYADH: King Salman on Wednesday patronized the opening ceremony of the 32nd National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Janadriyah village on the northern outskirts of the capital.
The 18-day festival, organized by the Ministry of National Guard, is part of a major initiative to generate awareness of Saudi history and heritage.
India is this year’s guest of honor. Previous guests of honor have included Turkey, Russia, France, Japan, South Korea, China, the UAE and Germany.
Upon arrival at the venue, the king was received by the Minister of National Guard Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf, who is also chairman of the festival’s supreme committee; and Abdulmohsin bin Abdul Aziz Al-Twaijri, deputy minister of national guard and deputy chairman of the committee.
King Salman received senior officials from Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE. Then the Saudi national anthem was played, and there was a grand camel race while folkloric bands performed popular dances.
At the end of the camel race, King Salman gave prizes to the winners.
The festival “seeks to encourage our people to uphold values and heritage as well as enhance cultural exchange,” said bin Ayyaf.
Started in 1985, the festival features a variety of activities including a camel race, horse race, sports, dance, arts, history, falconry, and traditional arts and crafts.
The first five days, from Feb. 7 to 11, are for men only. Women and families will be allowed to visit from Feb. 12 to 24.
The festival is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Organizers say they expect millions of visitors from Saudi Arabia and abroad.
Earlier, King Salman received India’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sushma Swaraj during her three-day visit to the Kingdom.
During the visit, the minister witnessed the opening of the Janadriyah festival.
Saudi Ambassador to India, Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Sati, said: “India’s participation in Janadriyah as a guest country reflects the excellent cordial ties between the two nations. India and Saudi Arabia have historic and friendly relations… and the Kingdom, today, is home for about 3.2 million Indian nationals.”
Speaking to Arab News, Al-Sati said that Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner — bilateral trade exceeded $25 billion in 2016-17.
He described the festival as “a melange of living experiences,” including a camel race, equestrian shows, Saudi folklore, folk costumes, falconry, an art exhibition, as well as traditional arts and crafts such as pottery, weaving, woodwork, metalwork and leatherwork.

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