It’s time for the annual cultural heritage festival of Saudi-Arabia, Janadriyah. The festival has been held for 26 years in the Janadriya village outside Riyadh. It’s about an hour drive from city center towards Thumamah. The area covers 1.5 sq km and has replicas of buildings representing all the different regions of the country such as Jizan, Farasan, Abha, Mecca, Medinah, Qassim, Najran and many others. Visitors can buy handicrafts made by carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers and weavers or they can try the different foods available from around the Kingdom. The festival boasts Saudi culture at its best and is a must see for all expats at least once!
Visitors can taste all the different delicious Saudi traditional foods from the various regions.
Although the buildings are the same every year it still always makes for an interesting visit again and again, especially because of the Saudi people. Saudi women are very friendly and will try and make contact with western women at the festival. I often notice them secretly taking video or pictures of my western friends with their mobile phones. Like in this photo:
Some even come up and ask if they can be photographed with us. Sometimes I feel like a western woman at Janadriya is more of an attraction than the festival itself! I haven’t figured the exact reason for why we seem to be such a peculiar sight.. But it’s fun and interesting anyways!
During the course of four years I’ve attended the festival there has been some changes I’ve noted, some for the better some for worse.
Some improvements include they finally made maps of the area available and some info points. I noticed a lot more trash cans and staff for cleaning the area. They had put up more benches and toilets and in general the area looks much nicer this year.
The best improvement this year was the scarcity of the muttawa! I only saw a few at the gates and some patrolling the area. I heard this year they have cut down their numbers. Three years ago there were so many of them it was really annoying. I saw the muttawa scolding some young boys for their clothing choices. I guess they were not thrilled with the pink pants.
This year there was much more traditional music and dance performances, poetry recitals and all sorts of performing arts. Perhaps this is related to fewer members of CPVPV present?
A change for the worse were the appearance of way too many fastfood stalls.
I guess they are part of the modern day Saudi culture and therefore have a place at the festival..The only traditional aspect of this Herfys is the gender segregated sides for ordering!
During all these the 26 years the organizers still didn’t think about organizing the parking. Now if 2 million people visit the place annually, you might think they would have a decent parking space for all those cars..But no. The parking area is utter chaos. There are no signs where the entrance or exit are. There’s no one controlling the parking and worst of all they actually “forgot” to put in the white lines for parking spaces. So basically you can park anywhere, anyhow you feel like. How you suppose Saudis do with that :)
Recommended to arrive early! Check my Events section for details and timings.
The reason I love going to the festival is you never know what you’re going to find there. This year it was a Saudi “Santa” handing out candies to children :)
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the founder, author and manager of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 69 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Having visited all corners of the Kingdom with over a decade of experience, I have a vast knowledge base about travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia.