The Saudi Arabian Cultural Festival is held once a year to celebrate all aspects of Saudi culture. Several people recommended that we attend the festival as it is really worth experiencing. One friend cautioned me, "It is really interesting, but completely chaotic, as all Saudi events are." And she was right.
The festival is about 45 kilometers outside of Riyadh. We drove by the camel market. The above picture isn't great, but if you look closely, you can see the camels in their pens. It was a cloudy day with a lot of sand in the air, so the picture isn't very clear. (That, and a certain two-year old used my camera and had a good time smearing his fingers over the lens. I didn't discover this until the END of the event.)
Things were busy when we reached the festival. There were lots of Saudis walking with their families, exploring the exhibits. There were several vendors selling perfume, honey, and food of all sorts. We were with a Saudi and he encouraged me to try the perfume, but I am terribly allergic to perfume--it makes me sick to my stomach and gives me a headache. When I declined, he said, "this perfume is very special--like nothing you've ever smelled before. " I couldn't make myself try it because I didn't want to feel sick for the rest of the event.
We loved trying the honey. There was honey from Yemen and Oman. They had special couple's honey, which, I gathered contained special ingredients for husbands and wives. I didn't try that honey, I didn't want to be responsible for the consequences!
There was an exhibit with three camels operating a water pump. The camels were hooked up to the water lines and then the camels would walk down the line and then turn around. Naturally, this exhibit had a lot of spectators. Water is incredibly precious in the desert. And displays of water typically demonstrate wealth and prestige. One Saudi man saw my interest in the display and moved, gesturing for me to get move closer to the fence so I could see better. When he saw that I wanted to take pictures, he kept giving me suggestions for good shots. Then he insisted I photograph his son with my kids. He wouldn't let me photograph him, but he didn't mind his children being photographed. We enjoyed seeing the various displays of traditional artisan crafts--of men carving barrels and water troughs out of logs, metal smiths, and basket weavers.
I had read there might be camel races, so we pressed forward looking for the races. Sadly, we didn't get to see a camel race. However, my older three boys were able to ride camels. A was too scared to ride a camel without me and they wouldn't let adults ride. Bubba J wanted to get on, but I didn't think it would be safe, even with W.After the rides, we continued to explore the festival. It was really fun to walk around, to see families enjoying the festival, and to get a closer look at Saudi culture. For Saudis, families are the most important thing and they guard the privacy of their families with great rigor. This was really a special opportunity to see families up close and to interact with Saudis.
There was a lot of food. The Saudis love eating. B and I had decided that we should eat at the festival but then B reminded me that it would be wise to have some anti-diahhrea aids on hand the next day. Fortunately, no one got sick. (I think we all have iron stomachs.) Some of the kids had hot dogs. B and I enjoyed shawerma and falafel.
Our last stop was the cultural museum which featured several exhibits depicting life in the past for Bedouin tribes. We also saw aspects of ship-building. I had no idea Saudis built ships, but evidently they do. We had so much fun exploring the festival.