The festival, organized by the Saudi National Guard, a branch of the military, was opened in Riyadh by Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Kingdom’s Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
The annual event, named for the village where it takes place, is designed to “celebrate Saudi identity by showcasing the arts, sword dancing, various symposiums, poetry and cuisine,” said Abdulaziz Al-Twuwaijri, deputy minister of the National Guard, at the inauguration ceremony.
This year’s opening ceremony featured an operetta, a performance of the traditional Saudi Ardha folk dance, and an event to honor two Saudi cultural personalities, Saad bin Abdulrahman Al-Bawardi and Abdullah bin Ahmad Shabat, as well as speeches by national leaders.
The first event of the annual festival, which was established on the initiative of the late King Fahd in 1985, is traditionally a camel race.
This year’s race featured hundreds of competitors, over a 12-mile (20 kilometer) course. The winners took home a mixture of cash prizes and new cars.
Several cultural events are scheduled In the upcoming days, including panels and readings with leading Arab writers and intellectuals, such as Qatar’s Abdulhamid Al-Ansari, and poets Qasim Haddad from Bahrain, Muna Hasan from Sudan and poet Shirin Al-Adwi from Egypt.
There will also be several pavilions by government ministries, showcasing their work in the Kingdom, with interactive exhibits on current and future national projects.