(MENAFN - Arab News) Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain at the opening of the Janadriyah Festival in Riyadh on Wednesday.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah opened the grand National Heritage and Culture Festival at Janadriyah village northeast of the capital on Wednesday.
The event, popularly known as Janadriyah festival, started with a breathtaking 20-km camel race in which hundreds of contestants participated and the winners awarded trophies by King Abdullah himself during the opening ceremony.
The colorful inaugural ceremony was attended by several members of the royal family, senior diplomats and a number of foreign dignitaries. Besides King Abdullah, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman, Makkah Gov.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and National Guard Commander and Minister of State Prince Miteb ibn Abdullah attended the opening ceremony, which began with the recitation of the Holy Qur'an.
The national anthems of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were also played.
The festive mood at Janadriyah village was dampened a little by a vicious sandstorm that ripped through the capital city Wednesday evening. The festival's plans and programs were hampered after strong winds and sands blew virtually nonstop. As the gales whipped up sand that blotted out the sun, transforming early evening into night, many people decided not to visit the festival on the opening day.
Speaking on the occasion, Prince Miteb, who is also the head of the festival organizing committee, said: "This event has become an international cultural festival where poetry, intellect, culture, art, theater, heritage and history all meet together."
He said the participation of the king is a matter of honor for the National Guard and his support reflects the strong commitment to art, culture and creativity.
Japan, a close ally of the Kingdom, is the guest of honor at the festival this year. He said Japanese participation reflected the depth of the strategic partnership between Riyadh and Tokyo.
As the first guest country from Asia at this festival, Japan has set up a highly innovative Janadriyah Pavilion. The pavilion presents a comprehensive picture of Japan including exhibits by 12 top Japanese companies. The pavilion features advanced technologies related to water, environment, energy, automobiles and digital appliances as well as traditional arts and crafts such as swords, armors, modern Japanese games and fashion.
More than 350 Japanese artists, craftsmen, musicians and men of letters led by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Hisashi Tokunaga are representing Japan at the event.
The festival, organized by the Kingdom's National Guard, depicts a wide range of programs including a breathtaking annual camel race, a national folk dance with swords called "Al-Ardha," craft exhibitions and culinary specialties. A large number of guests and scholars have been invited to take part in the cultural and intellectual events to be held on the sidelines of the festival.
Janadriyah village, spread over 1.5 sq km, houses over 30 huge areas or replicas representing different regions of the country. The festival features a lot of arts and objects made by carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers, weavers and other craftsmen from different regions of the Kingdom.
"The event has always been a big hit among Saudis and expatriates, particularly youths, who throng the village to get a glimpse of the Saudi heritage and culture," said a member of organizing panel.
"The folk and heritage festival, moreover, gives Saudi and foreign visitors a chance to take a closer look at the social tableau of an earlier era," he added. "The arts pavilion this year is more attractive in terms of the number of works on display," said the member.
Artists from the Gulf region are exhibiting more than 200 paintings focusing on their love for King Abdullah, he said. This is the 26th festival, the first being held in 1985. The event will conclude on April 29.
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan