JEDDAH: The Consulate General of Italy in Jeddah hosted a celebration of the country’s National Day with a two-day cultural event, part of which focused on music from the Middle Ages.

This an era from which it is easy to spot similarities and shared mutual influences between Western Christian and Arab Islamic music. To illustrate this, musician Stefano Albarello performed a concert during which he played both the Arab oud and the European lute.

“The similarities were evident during the performance by maestro Albarello,” said Elisabetta Martini, Italy’s consul general in Jeddah. “The first part was dedicated to Arab music and the second to Christian medieval music. It was very difficult to know which part belonged to which culture and country.

“It was beautiful to witness these similarities, and this also goes for the recent opening of the Saudi establishment and leadership to inter-religious dialogue. The visit of the cardinal here in Riyadh, and the visit of the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the Vatican, for us marked an important turning point in the inter-religious dialogue between the Muslim world and the Christian world in a time when it is much needed.”

The musical performance also helped to shed light on the cultural bonds between Italy and Saudi Arabia, and the mutual respect and tolerance. Through the event, part of a wide-ranging Italian initiative called “Italy, culture, the Mediterranean,” Martini said she wanted to offer her guests a unique and innovative experience, combining traditional music and the latest visual technology, presented by an Italian musician and a Saudi-Italian entertainment company called Top Hat.

“The first day included a 15-minute performance by maestro Albarello backed by 3D mapping in an immersive atmosphere,” she said. “The next day we had a 50-minute concert for those who are more interested in the music.”

In addition, Italian Research Day took place on May 14 at the Italian Cultural Center.

“We want to celebrate the scientific research of Italian universities and communities (and their contribution) to recent and past discoveries,” said Martini. “In particular, since I want to underline what unites Italy and Saudi Arabia, I want to celebrate it together with the Italian scientific community based here in Saudi Arabia, particularly at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).”

She explained that Italian Research Day included a conference titled “Future Environmental and Biological Scenarios Between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,” featuring two Italian professors from the universities of Padua and Genoa in Italy, and one based at KAUST. 

“It is about the future of the environment of the Mediterranean on the basis of what is happening in the Red Sea,” said Martini, adding that it highlights the similarities between the seas and the environmental changes and issues they face as a result of climate change.

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