Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Janadriyah Festival 2012

It took us three years to finish seeing the whole of the Janadriyah Festival showcase. Or maybe three years worth of visiting. We started in 2010 where we saw the various pavilions of the Ministries. And then in 2011, we saw the pavilions of Jizan and Hail. This 2012, we saw the other province pavilions and a few more areas we haven't visited before. We now come full circle.

We went to the 27th Janadriyah Festival on its last week, three days before it closes. It was already a bit late compared to the usual schedule we followed for the past years. It started rather early (April last year) but it drew a bigger crowd of more than five million. Wooow! At first, we were already a bit weary because we know we'll be seeing the usual stuff. Our boss even asked us, "Aren't you bored yet?" Haha.

How do we answer that question? Uhm, yes and no. Yes because we know we'll be seeing a lot of familiar things and no because we haven't seen everything. Therefore, we can choose the areas which are new to us. Their guest country for 2012 is South Korea. (France in 2010, Japan in 2011). It has always been a must for us to see the festival because it's refreshing to see the Saudis mingle and celebrate. It's not all the time we see them in this setting. We like knowing more of their culture and tradition, their handicrafts and various provincial products. Also, it's not usual to whip out our cameras and shoot like crazy without being reprimanded for it. What did we say about opportunities? Grab it!

So we left the workplace around 4 in the afternoon. Again, the ride was ho-hum. I was sleepy the entire bus ride so I cannot, for the life of me, remember any landmark to point you in which direction you'll take to go to Janadriyah. All I know is you'll have to take one of the exits before you reach the airport. We arrived around 5 o'clock and thank goodness, the place wasn't packed yet. Ergo, no traffic in entering the site. We weren't stuck in the road waiting for a parking slot for minutes, yey!

This time, we entered through the North Gate. The same one we used in 2010. Last year, it was the West Gate. There were reports that they beefed up the number of muttawas in the place. Well, that didn't bother us. I mean, why should it? We were bothered with reports that some youth cause a raucous on the first few days of the Janadriyah festival but obviously, that wasn't enough to keep us away. So... our first stop is of course, the camel.

Hello, nice to see you again!

Why is it that every time I tell family and friends in the Philippines that I'm based in Saudi Arabia, they always primarily ask about camels? Have you seen a camel? Have you ridden a camel? Do you own a camel by now? Hello?! The only camel I own is a kikay camel! Haha. So for my friends who haven't seen a camel in Saudi Arabia, here is one. And he's famous because he's always been in the Janadriyah Festival. Say hi!!! :)

After saying hello to our friend animal, we saw this huge crowd... What's up? Eyecandy and I inserted ourselves into the crowd (more like forced and elbowed our way into the crowd, hehe) and we were treated to a musical performance by the police band. Niiiiice!


Our tour guide was talking about the provincial pavilions and he was suggesting we go find the ladies' pav and the Eastern province pav where there were flowers (yey, roses!!!) so we set out looking for them. I was telling Eyecandy we should visit the Madinah and Makkah pavilions too... if we can't go to the real places (because we are of different religion), maybe we can enter a portion of them right?! We noticed one pav packed with people so we decided to go there first.

Enter the Al Madinah Al-Monawarah Pavilion...

So glad we found the Madinah pavilion first. It was a wonderful pav, which proved to be one of the most popular areas of the festival this year. I was surprised we haven't seen this before. The design of the place was truly like a market or town from long ago, where merchants sell their wares on the side and people mill on the center of the paved roads. We stopped for a while and inhaled the souq atmosphere.

The souq of Arabian nights vision

Love, love the experience. This is what I was looking for in an old Arabian town. Something charming, quaint, traditional... like this! I imagined I was in old Arabia (or in Morocco, haha). The supplies in the stalls are said to be flown in everyday from farms in Madinah. We tried the fresh honey which sells for SR200 a bottle. Wow, that expensive huh! We also tried a grape drink in a stall that has huge containers filled with juices of various colors. There were freshly-baked breads too and of course, dates. What's a Janadriyah without the dates? Oh so much to see and buy!


I'm not a honey lover but this one offered by the friendly vendor is really good! It's delicate and smooth. The roses are for tea. It enhances the aroma and flavor of the drink. What's an Arabic market without the mahmoul (date pastry)?

After that, we proceeded in looking for the Abha pavilion (because we thought we heard our tour guide suggest it). We were looking at this map in the middle of the road. Bummer, everything was in Arabic! Haha! We decided to enter this pavilion with a fortress... 

Sights and sounds of this year's Janadriyah

This is the Baha Pavilion, the best pavilion last year. There was a performance going on and the visitors seemed to be having so much fun swaying to the rhythm. This is where the folk art performances were held. During the past Janadriyah, we stayed to watch sword dances, known as the "ardah," but this time, having seen it before, we just roamed around the area and found this huge portrait of King Abdullah. From afar, it looked like a painting but it's actually made of buttons! Amazing, yes? We also saw the entrance to the Qassim province but having seen it last year, we just took our photos, haha.

I realized I was carrying a pink bag and E wearing a pink scarf. Pink tarhas talaga?! 

We came to an information booth a few meters away and the security or police or guide got frustrated when we kept on insisting that he point us towards the Abha pavilion. He finally, fortunately, handed us a map. After all these years, this is the first time we got ourselves a map of the festival. And we found out there was really no Abha pavilion. Haha.

The nearest stop where we were was the Ladies Pavilion. Camera and photography were not allowed so I'll just have to story tell what's inside. There were booths and stalls manned by women, of course, that sold traditional Arab dresses (not the abaya), trinkets, veils, etc. All women stuff. Outside, there is a courtyard that sold food. The popular one was the Arabic bread, khubz. We spent a few minutes watching an old lady traditionally bake the bread in a tannuur (tandoor), get a warm one, slather on a generous helping of butter and za'atar, fold it, and hand it over to the kids waiting eagerly. There were a few dishes made of sticky rice, vegetables, and chicken all mixed in. Like an Arabian version of paella. When we went out the door of the pavilion, we saw a lot of men standing there waiting for their wives. Some were getting impatient. Lol. The ladies pavilion was interesting and we're glad we visited it this year.

We went inside the South Korea Pavilion next. There was a stage outside for music performances but we didn't catch any of their shows. The line was unusually long inside the pav. Turned out there was a movie theater inside showing... we didn't know. Haha. We did not want to wait that long so we immediately went to another area where huge earthen jars were displayed.

The jars were amazing. The opening had a television with "water" on it. You have to wave your hand over the "water" for the short presentation to start. E and I were wondering how they did it; even imagining how they actually managed to fit a television inside this round jar. And a round television at that?! How amazing is that? Hahaha. What's your guess? Click here to see the jar in 'action'. I hope the cinemagram I made is working in your browsers.

We finally asked one of the Koreans around and he told us that it's just a projector from above.  That got us! Around this time, a group of ladies asked Eyecandy if she was Korean. Well, with her chinky eyes, sige na nga. Papasa na! :))) Sana sinama namin si Sampaguita Pride! Hahaha. E wanted to have a picture taken with the Korean guy near the exit but the women and children were all over him. I mean, they were taking his photo the entire time. We didn't get our chance!

After that, we went to the Asir Pavilion (Abha, btw, is the capital of the Asir region). In the last two years that we went to the Janadriyah, we always bypassed this pavilion because there were too many people inside. It had a stage where musicians perform and a lot of monoblock chairs. The tower became a playground for kids so it really drew the crowds in. This time, we braved the crowd and entered. 

The pavilion was a little bit small compared to the Madinah pavilion, but it still featured the best of the Asir region. I saw this miniature Arabian tent and it was creative! The paintings and photographs exhibited in one booth were phenomenal!


Outside the Abha gate, we came upon this group of bedu ladies having fun with the stuff they were selling. One of them wore this huge ribbon headband and we asked her for a photo. She was so shy she took this huge chopping block to cover her face and just show the lit-up headband! Haha.

There's a woman behind this, swear! :P

We were deciding what to do next when the last salah for the evening came. We bought our shawarma and fries before settling into this bench in the middle of the food area. I also bought some red velvet cupcakes and cookies from the Munch Bakery stall. While E was waiting for me, a Yemeni woman came up to her and asked her if she wants a henna tattoo done in her hand for SR10. Perfect timing! We want!!!


The girl drew flowers and hearts in our hands. We waited 15 minutes for the henna to dry. Yes, we had trouble eating properly having to mind the tattoo but we still ate! We removed the flakes after and the tattoo looked real in our hands (as opposed to temporary, that is). Until now, while I'm writing this entry, I can still see the faint trace of the design in my right hand. (I swear I wash my hands many times a day! Haha!) It was just hard to remove and I'm not really in a hurry to remove it. It looked really pretty. Astig pretty.

While eating our quick dinner, several kids came up to our bench askinng what our nationality is. They asked E if she was Korean and E played along saying "Anyong haseyo" a couple of times. Haha. The kids were impressed and asked us a lot of things... in Arabic. E is the Arabic-speaking one so she was answering for both of us. They went as far as asking us if we were Christians. Yes, our dears, we are. We bid the cute little girls goodbye when the salah was finished and the exhibits resumed.

We went to the Public Market in front of the Bayt al-Madinah and saw booths of handicrafts complete with demos on how to do them. There was one man weaving hats and baskets, another molding pots. There was one making swords. There was a lot of things going on! We watched a game being played in one of the pens. It was like a combination of our luksong baka and dodge ball. The boys looked like they were having tons of fun. We were so engrossed we didn't take a photo!

I was looking for something to munch on again when I saw Poto King (watta name!). Are you familiar with this long, huge potato stretched to twirl in a stick? Well, I like those and good thing, there were a lot of Poto King stalls in the festival. On the first stall we went to, there were a lot of people. I was craning my neck to see how the potatoes attain their twisted state when E was approached by two Saudi women who wanted to take a picture with her. Haha. Her Korean streak was really popular! After her encounter with the sweet ladies, I told E that we should just open up a stall there and charge SR10 for a photo with her. :P

The men of Janadriyah
We didn't get to visit the Makkah Pavilion where the rose carpet was. It was made of 6,000 roses!!! It was the display of the Bait al Taif. Sigh. We didn't have enough time to see it.

Remember our somewhat disastrous exit at the Janadriyah last year when our bus left without us and we were so lost on what to do next because 1. we were faraway from the city center and 2. we couldn't take a public taxi? (FTR, our bus came back for us much to our embarrassment and gratitude for good Faris!). Well, we couldn't have a repeat performance of that so we were 30 minutes early in the pick up point. Early birds na kasi ayaw nang mapahiya. Hehe. We sat on one of the benches outside the North Gate and marveled at the irony of the country. Wow, deep.

Our bus finally came and we saw our busmates carrying wares and handicrafts they bought from the markets. Others were wearing garlands on their head and some, like us, were sporting brand new tattoos. E had a headband with commemorative pins on it. The kids were extra hyper after their Janadriyah adventure while their mothers looked extra tired. We couldn't blame them. As for E and I, we enjoyed the festival again. We were rather calm this year; not running from one pav to the other hoping to visit every thing in one go.

We missed this year's camel race. Again. So next year, you can bet we'll be there to watch that spectacle! We'll move mountains and deserts to see a camel race! Promise!

So folks, until the next Janadriyah! We hope to see you there. :)

(Wow, I'm quite talkative in this entry! Hehe!)

3 had something to say:

Kim Ronquillo said...

te.. is this in Riyadh?

Kim Ronquillo said...

Te, is this here in Riyadh? where in Riyadh? :)

The Pink Tarha said...

Yes, it's here in Riyadh province. The festival is named "Janadriyah" for the name of the place where it is held annually. It's just outside Riyadh Center (in the outskirts). It's a 2-3 week festival. This year's festival was held last February. :)

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