- Title: SAUDI ARABIA-FESTIVAL Annual festival celebrates Saudi heritage
- Date: 9th February 2015
- Summary: DHABAAN SINGING AUDIENCE CLAPPING
- Embargoed: 24th February 2015 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAEP6CO9O2RLLSOV11DJI4WSTXT
- Story Text: In the arid heartland of Saudi Arabia, people from the oasis city of Unaizah and from across Saudi Arabia, gathered to celebrate al-Ghada tree and Saudi heritage.
An annual al-Ghada festival started on January 15 and will last for the upcoming three months; it ends on March 28, 2015.
The festival was established in 2004 and became a popular destination for Saudi families during the winter break.
The organisers scheduled dozens of activities for Saudi families, like teaching children traditional songs or horse riding.
"This is the art of Al-Huta area. As you see, we teach the children how the people in the past were singing sheelat (traditional desert songs and music)," said a teacher of old traditional songs, Abdulrahman al-Hamdan, who came from the country's south, to teach children songs from his area al-Huta.
The festival also included shows of agricultural methods used in the region in the past as well as water drilling.
The festival has also been an occasion to see work of local artisans and craftsmen.
"We need to revive the heritage. We need to see things that we stopped seeing recently. We have heard about these things, but we haven't seen them. Now we see it all (in the festival) as if we were in the old times," said Oum Mohammad, a woman visiting the festival.
Visitors from abroad also attended the festival.
"My name is Toshio Hayashi. I come from Japan. Very interesting culture - different from Japan," said a Japanese expatriate living in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Ghada tree, from which the festival's name is inspired, has been used traditionally for firewood and it was a vital part of the desert ecosystem in a country where the population has multiplied since the 1970s oil boom.
As Saudi Arabia's population has grown, the tree has been over-harvested for desert campfires and as a result, it has become illegal to cut the tree down.
The festival has served also to raise awareness about the environment.
"This festival is aimed at environmental awareness about this tree. It is a message to protect the environment and the (Ghada) tree," said the director of the al-Ghada festival, Abdullah al-Shamsan.
Music and food was an important part of the festival.
Dozens of people gathered at the festival to hear the new songs of Hamid Dhabaan, a well-known Saudi poet and singer of sheelat songs representing the traditional music.
Dhabaan sang during a concert marking the launch of his new album, titled "Hunting".
"The album is a portrait of desert life, hunting and Bedouin life. We selected Saudi melodies and melodies from the gulf and we have dedicated it to this group (sheelat fans) and thank God it was widely accepted," Daba'an said.
He was applauded by his fans as many of them attended his concert.
"I like hunting and this man promotes it with his sheelat, voice, words, taste and audience. He deserves every good," one of his fans, Musallam al-Subaie, said.
Dhabaan has more than 400,000 followers on his twitter account and the same number on Instagram.
His songs, that are sung without accompaniment, are popular among the more conservative group of Saudi society.
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