Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

Zean Alshirian, cultural and historical validation senior officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA). (AN Photo/ Abdulrahman Bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

  • ‘We celebrate the long journey of a great nation,’ says Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority
  • Founding Day, on Feb. 22, marks the establishment of the First Saudi State in 1727, while National Day, on Sept. 23, marks the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932

RIYADH: Saudis across the Kingdom will celebrate their lineage, heritage and national identity on Feb. 22 at events marking the third annual Founding Day, which commemorates the establishment of the First Saudi State by Imam Mohammed bin Saud almost 300 years ago.

“We’re celebrating rich and deep history … as Saudis, we celebrate the long journey of a great nation,” Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News.

Founding Day, which was established as a national holiday by royal decree in 2022, is a celebration of Saudi identity, she said, a day that connects the nation’s people to their roots and heritage. As such, it honors the first step on a path that led to the modern-day Kingdom, she added.

The First Saudi State, or the Emirate of Diriyah, was founded in 1727 by Imam Mohammed. Known for his bravery, leadership skills and generosity, he brought security and stability to Diriyah and under his leadership it flourished, becoming a hub for culture, commerce and education.

“The first treasury of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was here in Diriyah, in At-Turaif, (which is now) a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Alshirian. “This treasury was built to allocate (resources to meet) the needs of the people here. And that speaks to the peak of where the First Saudi State actually reached.”

The First Saudi State, its development, which was advanced for the time, and its cultural, economic and humanitarian initiatives helped to shape embryonic beginnings of what would become the modern Kingdom we know today. Founding Day therefore gives Saudis a chance to remember the origins of their nation, its people and their traditions, and to celebrate this connection between past and present.

“We, as the people of the Kingdom, are ever so connected to our predecessors, we’re ever so connected to our ancestry,” Alshirian said. “So beginning to understand that our traditions, our cultures, date back to 300, 400 years ago, we can then understand how rich they are.”

To fully understand the groundbreaking nature of Imam Mohammed’s historic achievements, one must be aware of the broader history of the Arabian Peninsula, Alshirian said. Prior to the founding of the First Saudi State, city-states were common but nation-states were not.

“When he (Imam Mohammed) founded the First Saudi State … this was a huge step forward. This was a momentous moment in history, something that signifies his character,” Alshirian said.

He founded the state at the heart of of the Arabian peninsula, in Al-Yamamah region, and by doing so enhanced local security, unity, education and culture, she added.

“So this huge step forward is something visionary from Imam Mohammed bin Saud,” Alshirian said.

The cultural history of the First Saudi State is revealed by the manuscripts of the time.

“We can understand it through their handwriting and the colors that they use. They were connected to their environment,” Alshirian said.

Some people might be confused about the difference between Saudi Arabia’s National Day and its Founding Day, which mark two pivotal, but distinct, events in the history of the Kingdom.

“National Day is Sept. 23, when we celebrate the unification of the (modern day) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Alshirian said.

“But when we talk about Founding Day, we are talking about the founding of the First Saudi State about 300 years ago.”

If we consider the timeline of the evolution of the nation, the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 was in a sense the final step on the path, while the founding of the First Saudi State in 1727 was the start.

“When we understand that, we understand the domino effect, the butterfly effect of how this great journey started. So we’re celebrating the beginning of a journey, in a sense,” Alshirian said.

“But the after is as important as the first, and vice versa.”

Alshirian added that it is her hope that Founding Day helps the Saudi people to better understand and celebrate their national roots and history.


Saudi Arabia, Japan to collaborate on original anime, gaming content

Updated 11 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia, Japan to collaborate on original anime, gaming content

  • Officials in Tokyo discuss localizing Japanese media through translation
  • Kingdom will host this year’s Esports World Cup in July

TOKYO: Saudi and Japanese officials are exploring plans to localize gaming and digital entertainment offerings in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Arabia-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum’s digital entertainment roundtable discussed Saudi efforts to build a local gaming industry, which includes localizing Japanese games for the Saudi market, collaborating with esports tournament organizers and investing in digital entertainment.

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Abdullah Al-Swaha and Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih attended the event in Tokyo, with the former giving a short speech during the opening.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al-Saud, vice chairman of Savvy Games Group, was also part of a panel discussion at the event.

The forum focused on promoting cultural exchange by creating content that appeals to both Japanese and Saudi audiences.

Officials discussed how to localize Japanese manga and anime by translating content through Saudi publishers, who will in turn distribute the content throughout the Middle East.

They also agreed to explore co-publishing agreements to create new and original content.

Saudi Arabia’s gaming sector is expected to grow to $1.3 billion in value over the next two years, with 58 gaming companies operating in the Kingdom. About 67 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population (about 24.8 million people) are active video game players.

The Kingdom will host this year’s Esports World Cup in July, which features about $60 million in prize money.

Saudi Arabia has previously collaborated with Japanese companies on entertainment, providing the Kingdom with expertise and cutting-edge technologies to improve the digital entertainment industry.


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KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

Updated 21 May 2024
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KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

  • Agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan
  • Nearly 600 shelter kits distributed in Pakistan's Gwadar to 4,000 people

Saudi Arabian aid agency KSrelief distributed hundreds of food aid packages and shelter kits to thousands most in need in Sudan and Pakistan, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan, while nearly 600 shelter kits were distributed in the Gwadar district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefitting more than 4,000 people.

The assistance is part of a series of relief and humanitarian projects implemented by KSrelief across the world.


Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo

Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo

  • Focus on mutual investment growth, says Saudi official
  • Manufacturing, entertainment and health are key areas

TOKYO: The Saudi Arabia-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum took place in Tokyo on Tuesday with over 300 industry officials and leaders discussing ways to boost trade, investment and cultural ties.

In her keynote speech, Sara Al-Sayed, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of international partnerships at the Ministry of Investment, outlined plans for further collaboration between the two nations.

“Under the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, we aim to take this partnership to a new level,” she said. “We want to leverage our mutual strengths, drive sustainable mutual economic growth, enhance technological innovation, and promote cultural exchange. We will be able to unlock the potential to expand the Japan partnership to be a key driver of growth.”

She added: “We have noticed in the last decade the strength of the partnership between Saudi Arabia and Japan. Over the last decade alone, the number of companies that have been established in Saudi Arabia by the Japanese has doubled and we have over 50 headquarters that have been established in Saudi Arabia. This forum will act as a catalyst to accelerate this growth and translate interest into investment.”

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry SAITO Ken attended the forum, each giving a speech commemorating the relationship between the two nations. 

Saito said the Japanese government will extend its maximum support to expand business with Saudi Arabia, while Prince Abdulaziz said the Kingdom “will bring collaborations to the forefront and will make sure that in all of the forums, we advocate the same aspirations in the national transition process attending to energy requirements.”

Al-Falih said in his closing remarks that the Kingdom’s non-oil income has “doubled and is looking for an accumulated investment of over $3 trillion that offers big chances to Japanese.”

He added that Saudi Arabia has a “bubble of projects as it will host expo 2030 in Riyadh.”

Saudi Arabia will also host the Winter Olympics in NEOM, and the World Cup 2034, that offers investment chances for the Japanese companies to participate, he explained.

Sessions at the forum included “Forging stronger manufacturing collaboration between KSA and Japan,” “Collaboration in the new era of sustainability and circular economy,” “Reinventing entertainment and gaming industries across borders,” and “Expanding the area of cooperation in healthcare.”

Additionally, the forum hosted a “Digital Entertainment Roundtable,” to discuss Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build a local gaming industry, which includes localizing Japanese games for the Saudi market, collaborating with esports tournament organizers, and investing in the digital entertainment sector. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information, Abdallah Alswaha, and Minister of Investment attended the roundtable, with the former giving a short speech during the opening. 

Saudi Arabia’s gaming sector is expected to grow to 1.3 billion dollars in the next two years, with 58 gaming companies operating in the Kingdom. 67% of Saudi Arabia’s population (around 24.8 million people) are active video game players.  

The Kingdom will be hosting this year’s Esports World Cup in July and will be giving away approximately $60 million in prize money to further grow the gaming sector.

Saudi Arabia has previously collaborated with Japanese companies, which have provided the Kingdom with expertise, knowledge, and cutting-edge technologies to improve the overall quality of projects and elevate the reputation of the digital entertainment industry.     


KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

Updated 21 May 2024
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KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

Saudi Arabian aid agency KSrelief distributed hundreds of food aid packages and shelter kits to thousands most in need in Sudan and Pakistan, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan, while nearly 600 shelter kits were distributed in the Gwadar district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefitting more than 4,000 people.

The assistance is part of a series of relief and humanitarian projects implemented by KSrelief across the world.