Saudis celebrate kingdom's largest cultural festival

Saudis celebrate kingdom's largest cultural festival
Saudi Arabia kicked off its most important cultural celebration in the calendar, the al-Janadriyah Festival, with the Germany's foreign minister attending in a bid to ease Saudi-Iranian tensions.
2 min read
03 February, 2016
This is the first year King Salman is leading the traditional festival [Getty]

Saudi Arabia began celebtations for the annual al-Janadriyah festival on Wednesday in the country's capital Riyadh.

King Salman al-Saud kicked off the cultural festival, which includes a wide range of traditional events that highlight the Kingdom's rich and unique culture.

The festival featured a camel race with 1,200 jockeys from around the Gulf taking part for a grand prize of $400,000 and several luxury cars.

Other events include a performance of an Ardah ceremony, folk dance and music as well as various activities for children.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will attend the festival only a day after meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

Steinmeier is trying to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran after frictions between the regional rivals were heightened when Saudi Arabia executed a leading Shia cleric early January.

See Also: Photo gallery: Saudis celebrate the al-Janadriyah cultural festival

The execution sparked protests in Iran that led to the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the Gulf kingdom then severed all ties with Iran.

Others have been critical about the festival.

Jordan-based Palestinian poet Zuhair Abu Shayeb said last month that he would boycott the festival in protest of the death sentence handed down to fellow Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh last November for "apostasy".

Saudi Arabia reduced Fayadh's sentence to eight years in prison and 800 lashes on Tuesday, following widespread international criticism of the ruling.

The al-Janadriyah festival is named after a village located around 40 kilometres northwest of Riyadh and has a regular event since 1985.