Sunday, March 17, 2013

THINGS TO DO & SEE OUTSIDE OMAN: now that Muscat Festival is over why not check out Saudi Arabia's cultural festival?

If you are at all like any one of the OPNO girls, you love getting involved in the culture of the place where you live. We love meeting locals, talking to them, learning their traditions, finding out their opinions. Muscat Festival,  which just ended for this year, is of course, a beginner's easy access to Omani/Arabian culture all in one easy, photgraph-able location.
 But for things to do and see outside Oman, other such GCC states have their own cultural festivals and heritage. While I myself personally sometimes bore of Emirati cutlural festivals (which usually are a good dose historically inaccurate and can sometimes be represented as a hodge-podge of an amalgomated/wishful reimagination of the past where chunks of culture and history from Oman and Bahrain are stated to in fact be Emirati) one place that has always remained pretty exclusively authentic is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
 As much as my Omani friends rue it, Saudi Arabia has perhaps the closest cultural ties with Oman when it comes to make-up of the population regarding expatriates, a large size of land mass with various regional cultures and traditions across its expanse, and relatively comparative class system strucure when it comes to the economy and education of its citizens. I am sure if the parts of Saudi Arabia that used to belong to the Sultanate were still Omani and if Saudis in general didn't make Muslims worldwide smack their heads in woe at a horrible representation of Islam and how it treats women ect, that I'd not hear my Omani friends grimace at that description.
 Now, as a tourist, I am absolutely certain most people, unless they are a Muslim heading to Mecca and Madinah on a holy pilgrimage, have never entertained the idea of travelling to Saudi Arabia for the purposes of tourism. But for the more adventuress, it can be done, and is often rewarding, because Saudis in general find the very rare traveller to be a person to be regarded with kind curiousity. At least, in my experience, Europeans and Westerners in general.
 So having just read about Saudi Arabia's equivelent to Muscat festival, called The Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival, I encourage people to get to know Saudis before forming an opinion of them. Same as I encourage people to get to know real Omanis who uphold Omani culture and heritage ect.
For those interested, the Janadriyah Cultural Heritage Festival 2013 starts on the 3rd of April and continues for 2 weeks from that date. To see more photos and a descrpition of the event from the blogger I first heard about it from see this post:
Janadriyah is located about 43km outside the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. It is a two week event that showcases how life was in the Kingdom before the event of oil. Is opens with a camel race which was the only traditional international event the country held previous to 1930s, I believe?
As someone who has attended events in Canada hosted by the Saudi Students association, henna, music, and traditional dance always feature along with regional dress, and foods, so I encourage people who are able to get a visa to go:) . Witnessing a culture that only a very hardy traveller can adventure through to make it to is one of those dying arts, living in such a highly globalized world.
Travelling to the festival:

*advance visas are required for all foreigners desiring to enter. The only significant exception is citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, usch as Omani nationals. Nationals of Israel and those with evidence of visiting Israel will be denied. To attempt to apply for one or at least be directed to where to do so, I suggest dressing modestly in an abaya and a headscarf for women, or just plain old modestly for a guy, and visit the saudi Embassy here in Oman during their working hours which are generally the same as any government building in Oman. They tend to be really friendly at the saudi embassy here in Muscat, as opposed to phoning what would be considered the proper authorities. If I can get more defined information for y'all I will add it. I am thinking of going to the festival myself next year.

*Do not tick off "atheist" or "jewish" on your visa application if you can help it if you want to be assured of your request being accepted. Many other entry requirements, such as a dress code of arms and legs covered for men, and black abaya for women, and restrictions on unaccompanied females, still apply. As it is difficult for women who are unmarried to travel and are forbidden to drive I suggest travelling here with your husband or if you have a female friend living within Saudi who can arrange you visa, hotel, and transportation. That's why I said for the more determined adventuress types;).
For my Arabic-literate readers the festivals own webpage:

For english-readers although I cannot claim to know how up to date or legit this site it (I'll ask the KSA embassy first):

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"While I myself personally sometimes bore of Emirati cutlural festivals (which usually are a good dose historically inaccurate and can sometimes be represented as a hodge-podge of an amalgomated/wishful reimagination of the past where chunks of culture and history from Oman and Bahrain are stated to in fact be Emirati"

Interesting! Would love to see a post on more of that ;)