“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Milestone 29 – Distance: 4,802.9 km (98.4%) – 4 May 2021

KSA has benefited from a rich culture borne out of the imprint of ancient civilizations, its Islamic and Arabic heritage and Bedouin traditions.

There are many facets to the Saudi culture, this is just a selection: –

Calligraphy is an important artform across the Arab world. The de facto standard for the Holy Qur’an, we see Arabic calligraphy displayed in many forms of artwork. Saudi museums display rare manuscripts for those of you who are interested, and we will see this theme continued in metalwork, ceramics, glass textiles, painting and sculpture throughout KSA as well as other Muslim countries.

Saudi folk music stems from the nomadic Bedouins, the ‘desert people’ who make a living rearing livestock, and pilgrims from distant shores. The music varies from region to region, e.g. in the Hijaz, the music of al-sihba combines poetry and songs of the Arabs who once occupied Andalusia.

The ancient tradition of dance is a popular pastime among Saudis, especially the national sword dance, the ‘arda’, performed by men with roots from the central area of the Najd, which requires singers, a poet or narrator, as well as the dancers.

Poetry has long been a means of capturing the history, traditions and social values of the Bedouin nomads, as well as a form of entertainment. Perhaps you can picture the scene: in the desert, families grouped around roaring fires listening to an elder regaling stories of love or tales of chivalry.

The annual Jenadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival, which takes place near Riyadh, was postponed from November 2020 due to COVID-19 and again in Q1 2021. It’s a celebration of all aspects of Saudi culture. However, a new festival (of light), Noor Riyadh, took place in March this year finishing at the beginning of April – sadly, we missed it by weeks!

The 2021 theme, ‘Under One Sky’, alludes to KSA’s central position as the cultural meeting point of east and west. Over 60 works of art across multiple locations lit up the night sky for two weeks.

Medina, the second holiest Islamic city, after Mecca, is located in the Hejaz region of western KSA. It is celebrated as the place where Muhammad fled after Mecca and set up the Muslim community. The Quba Mosque, on the outskirts of Medina, one of 3 mosques which lay claim to being the first mosque to be built by Muhammad in the early 7th century, has been rebuilt several times and is a relatively small mosque in comparison with the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca or the second mosque built by Muhammad in Medina, Al Masjid an Nabawi. The latter is the final resting place of the prophet cementing Medina’s importance in the Islamic world; his tomb is located below the Green Dome which is consequently an important stop on the Hajj pilgrimage.

Jabal an-Nour, near Mecca, houses the cave where Muhammad received his first revelation and is a popular tourist attraction.

There are many more cultural sites in KSA, maybe we’ll see some more on another mission in the future.

Now we’re heading full speed to Jeddah.

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