Al Janadriyah Festival: Soak in the colour of culture of Saudi Arabia

قرية الجنادرية The crowd at Al Janadriyah tends to grow as evening sets in, with a large number of families as also youngsters in big groups, arrive | via official release from the Saudi government

Just an hour's drive out of the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, a gleaming modern city of tall buildings and wide roads, transports you to a place that brims over with all things that are traditionally Saudi, giving you a taste of what life is like in the peninsular hinterland.

This is the Al Janadriyah Festival, a three-week event that is held on the outskirts of Riyadh every winter, showcasing the local architecture, cuisine and the arts and crafts of different regions of Saudi Arabia.

The festival was inaugurated on December 20 by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Known as the national cultural festival of Saudi Arabia, it is a big draw for local Saudis, who turn up in huge numbers. The fair is now being promoted as an important stop for tourists visiting the country.

The crowd at Al Janadriyah tends to grow as evening sets in, with a large number of families as also youngsters in big groups, arrive.

The various pavilions are designed to recreate the local architecture of the provinces they represent, and there are stalls which offer to the visitors the traditional food and local handicraft from those regions.

Camel races, falconry and performances by traditional dance troupes liven the atmosphere. There is no dearth of traditional colours and flavours as a large number of stalls sell the Arabian 'attar' (perfume), leather accessories, kitchenware, carpets, and dates, and there are numerous outlets offering Saudi coffee and mint tea.

“It is fun to come here with the entire family. There is something for everyone, for the ladies and the kids. There is lots of food and plenty of souveneirs to be bought,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a Riyadh resident, who was at the fair along with his wife and two daughters.

This is the 33rd edition of the festival, which was held for the first time in 1985. The festival is also an occasion for the Saudi government to showcase the country's military might and the developments made in various spheres of life.

In the last edition of the festival, India was invited as the guest of honour, and the minister of external affairs had led a contingent to Saudi Arabia to inaugurate the event. This year, Indonesia is the guest of honour, and there is a pavilion that showcases Indonesian history and the contemporary life of the people of that country.