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১৯ জানুয়ারী ২০১৮, শুক্রবার      
মূলপাতা arrow English Articles arrow Stepping into Janadriya Festival
Stepping into Janadriya Festival প্রিন্ট কর
Jamal Hasan   
বৃহস্পতিবার, ১৬ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০১৭

Al-Jenadriyah (In Arabic Maharajān al-Janādrīyah) is a cultural and heritage festival held in Jenadriyah (or Janadriyah) near Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia each year, lasting for two weeks. It is organized by the Saudi National Guard, and the first was held in 1985. Activities include a camel race, performance of local music and dancing of the Ardah (Type of folklore dance in the Saudi Kingdom) and the Mizmar. Mizmar is a folkloric dance of the Hejaz region of KSA, which involves moving while twirling a bamboo cane, to the music of drums.

The festival draws more than one million visitors every year. The festival "normally falls during the month of February or March...Long ago, Janadriyah was known as 'Rowdhat Souwais' and was mentioned by numerous historians and writers. In the year 2017, the 31st Janadriya Festival started on the first of February. This is the season when winter is still very much present. Occasional rainfall lowers down the temperature quite unexpectedly.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to join the festival with a few of my associates. Our Filipino driver took us on an hour long journey to the vast exhibition area. The big festival field was divided into eleven zones. These are, namely, (1) Emirate Najran, (2) Emirate Hail, (3) Emirate Jizan, (4) Qaseem Province, (5) Madinah Al Monawarah, (6) Public Market, (7) Eastern Province, (8) Egypt Guest Nation, (9) Asir Province, (10) Makkah Province, (11) Baha Province.

After going through the security check points, our tour group entered the arena. I felt like I was visiting a country fair in USA. It also resembled Bangladesh’s trade fair to some extent. There were small shops and street vendors. We were told because it was meant to be a family festival, the men should not congregate without any female companion. That is why I made sure our subgroup always had abaca clad colleague accompany us.

The Saudi Kingdom is still a very conservative society. In all restaurants and in shops in Riyadh, women and men cannot comingle. There are separate women’s areas in such stores like H&M or Gap. Janadriya Festival is a place where women could walk freely (of course with a male escort) any place they like to go. Although head scarf is not a mandatory dress code in the country anymore, the Saudi women hardly uncover their heads in public. In Janadriya Festival most Arab women were in full faced veils.

I found one interesting aspect of the evolving Saudi culture in the festival. Idols and human figurines like mannequin are mostly discouraged in the Saudi Kingdom. I visited one pavilion where Saudi life was part of the exhibits. I saw stuffed figurines in traditional Saudi garbs in a number of settings. They looked like mannequins without faces or full limbs. Similarly, my sudden encounter with a Saudi Mickey Mouse gave me the jolt. Almost nine years ago, an influential Saudi cleric declared the poor Mickey to be a sacrilegious item. The cleric also demanded the Mickey to die. Now as I was hugged by the roaming Mickey I thought time definitely has changed. The Mickey talked to me in plain English and was curious to know my nationality. In reply when I said I was from North America, he was jumping like a frog. He shouted with excitement, “Obama, Obama!”

The Saudis seem to have great respect for anything American. I saw a few vendors selling soft drink with the brand name Mike Tyson (not sure if Mr.Tyson got any royalty for his name). The cans bore an image of the American heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson. It was very noticeable that the beverage maker decided to photoshop the boxer’s face with a very unique tattoo.

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