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Janadriyah Cultural Festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I arrived in Saudi Arabia 3 weeks ago. So much has happened that it feels like boarding that plane early one dark cold February morning to start the 40 or so odd hour flight was months ago, not less than a month ago.

I`ve written a couple of email letters about Cairo and two about Saudi Arabia, so if you`re interested, let me know by the comment note at the bottom of this post, and I`ll add you to my email newsletter list.

Here are some photos from a cultural festival that happened outside of Riyadh the first week I was here. It was called Janadriyah.

On the way there, we hit a huge long traffic jam. The view of an endless expanse of sand instead of prairie or forest, and camels instead of cattle in the back of an open bed truck ahead brought home that I was far, far way from everything I was used to.

camels on the freeway

camels ahead of our van on the freeway

The company I work for arranged transport for us for free to this festival. It was worth the fuss and bother to get there.

The buildings looked like sand block fortresses. The people were all in what is considered normal dress here, and 99% of the women were covered up leaving only the eyes unexposed. I don`t know how the kids could tell their mom from the rest of the black masses, to be honest.

Janadriyah Festival entrance buildings

Janadriyah Festival entrance buildings


lantern decorations between pillars at the entryway

lantern decorations between pillars at the entryway


Say Cheese

Say Cheese

Each area of Saudi Arabia was represented with reproductions of typical buildings artesanal crafts and representations of the lifestyle of that area. Here`s a picture of a Bedouin kindly and proudly showing off a gorgeous falcon outside a their big tent.

woman posing for a picture with a falcon

woman posing for a picture with a falcon

yours truly with my new feathery falcon friend

yours truly with my new feathery falcon friend

There was a marketplace as well, selling perfumes, incense, gold and gold jewelry, dates and nuts.

perfumes and incense

perfumes and incense


perfume bottles

perfume bottles

Traditional music - drumming and singing

Traditional music - drumming and singing

There was a library and buildings representing government institutions of note.

crowd scene

crowd scene


The Library

The Library

And of course, there was food. Not much, but there was some. And it was very tasty. There was a hot chick pea salad that was obviously simple to make, and surprisingly good. A spoonful of hot boiled chick peas was ladelled into a dish, topped with a juicy mixture of grated cucumber with a bit of carrot, squirted with lemon juice, oil, hot sauce and then sprinkled with salt and a spice that looked like paprika.

chick pea salad, Saudi style

chick pea salad, Saudi style

Instead of french fries, potatoes were served like this: they took a potato, peeled it and speared it into a rod that was laid down inside a machine. A hand wheel was cranked, rotating the potato along a knife edge, cutting it into one long perfect spiral ribbon. The potato was removed and a wooden skewer was inserted where the rod had been, and the spirals delicately separated. The whole skewer was then deep fried until golden brown. It was served with generous squirts ketchup and loads of salt. Tasted better than fries somehow.

deep fried potato spiral, coated in ketchup

deep fried potato spiral, coated in ketchup


water boiling on the fire for tea and coffee

water boiling on the fire for tea and coffee

Night falls at 6:00 p.m. It gets dark quickly. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but things were wrapping up and our van was leaving soon. Just before we left, a beaming young Saudi Arabian man came on board our van to thank us for coming, welcome us to Saudi Arabia and wish us well, hoping we enjoyed the festival.

I feel quite lucky. It was a rare opportunity that only comes once a year. Had I arrived one week later to Saudi Arabia, I would have missed it completely.

night falls on a family resting in a corner on a blanket

night falls on a family resting in a corner on a blanket

Minaret Tower at nightfall

Minaret Tower at nightfall

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