How Saudi Arabia plans to celebrate its first Founding Day

Heritage, history, photography and storytelling will illuminate the kingdom's past and present

Saudi founding day firework and drone display. Photo: SPA
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Preparations for Saudi Arabia's first Founding Day are under way as Saudis look forward to three days of celebrations that begin on Tuesday.

King Salman announced a public holiday to commemorate the foundation of the First Saudi State, the Emirate of Diriyah, by Imam Mohammed bin Saud in 1727.

In February that year, bin Saud inherited leadership of the central Arabian town of Diriyah, which was established by his ancestors in the 15th century.

Founding Day activities will include traditional art and exhibitions of early photos to bring an audience of modern Saudis closer to their heritage and customs.

Children across the kingdom are encouraged to take part.

"I dressed my girls in traditional fustans [dresses] and they were super excited to not to have to wear their school uniform to celebrate Founding Day," said Samah Adullah, who lives in Riyadh.

"My daughter's school worked on creating an elaborate display of paintings and other artworks once Founding Day was announced," Jeddah resident Raneen Bandar told The National.

"All the children were assigned different works – some informative and some creative.

"My daughter, who is 11, chose to write an informative piece with facts and history of the kingdom. All their works are displayed in the school hall, which gives kids a sense of achievement and pride that they could participate in a national activity," Ms Bandar said.

Founding Operetta, a keynote theatrical and musical performance featuring Saudi stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Abdul Majeed Abdullah, Rashed Al Fares, Majed Al Mohandes and Dalia, will be staged in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The show shines a spotlight on six historical figures who shaped the land and its people over three centuries.

The Nejnaj is a countrywide event that will explain the kingdom's development and achievements through presentations in Jeddah, Dammam, Taif, Hail, Tabuk, Riyadh, Abha and Al Baha.

Photography will be used to bring the history of each region to life, and storytellers will share tales of real lives from Saudi Arabia's past.

The National Museum in Riyadh will host a traditional majlis event from Tuesday to Thursday that will include interactive workshops to celebrate all Saudi culture.

In Dhahran, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra) will celebrate Founding Day with activities that include a camel parade, traditional A’arda dance at the Lush Garden, a poetry night, and an Ithra fashion competition and fashion show to celebrate traditional couture. The events run from Tuesday to Saturday.

Restaurants throughout Saudi Arabia will mark Founding Day. In the capital, David Burke restaurant will host a live music performance by Saudi singer Sarah Chafei on Tuesday.

On Thursday, celebrations will end as the sky over Riyadh is lit up with fireworks and drone displays.

Updated: February 21, 2022, 9:03 AM