The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a culturally rich country, with customs that are centuries old. Even though some customs and festivities in Saudi Arabia have become open to modernization, they’re still very inclined to keep true to their roots.
Saudi Arabia may not seem to be a very festive place as the country’s only official holidays are that of Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-al-Adha. These holidays are based on the Islamic calendar and are celebrated in all Muslim countries of the world.
Like the rest of the Muslim world, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr commences with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, which continues into greater feasts and more energetic celebrations amongst family and friends.
Saudi children receive money and extravagantly decorated gift bags from their elders, several shopkeepers even add free gifts to all purchases, and the men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.
Among all festivities in Saudi Arabia, Eid al-Adha is another prominent Muslim festival which lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah.
Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.
All Saudi Muslims also celebrate the birthday of their Holy Prophet Mohammad, which is also known as Milad al-Nabi, by intricately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while the elders tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments.
Large feasts and street processions are among other traditional activities held during this celebration. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year as it is celebrated according to the Islamic calendar.
However, Unification of the Kingdom Day, which is the anniversary of modern Saudi Arabia, is among the few holidays and festivities in Saudi Arabia on a set day on the Western calendar instead of the Islamic calendar. The two-week Janadriyah National Festival, held each February, is about as lively as Saudi festivals get.
Saudi Arabia’s biggest cultural festival takes place for two weeks, every year in the month of February about 30 miles outside Riyadh. Thrilling horse and camel races are among the best parts of what may be the Kingdom’s liveliest non-religious public gathering.
Artisans from across the country sell and display their crafts, while some of the most talented poets recite their latest compositions, amongst a variety of other attractions as people from all over the country gather to attend it.
However, no other Saudi festival is as tourist-friendly as the one which takes place in the port city of Jeddah between the months of June and July. The first Jeddah Festival was held in 2000 in order to attract more tourists to the second-largest city in the Kingdom.
The festival has now grown to include over 200 exciting events such fireworks display over Jeddah’s stunning corniche, gold and jewelry festival associated with raffle draws, and concerts by famous Saudi stars. It also has tributes and exhibitions of folk art, traditional dishes, and displays of literary and scientific evenings.
Finally, the Unification of the Kingdom Day. It is the country’s only secular public holiday. It takes place each September 23rd on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding.
Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags in the streets as well.
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