Saudi Arabia has opened its doors, welcoming visitors from around the world. Having recently launched the highly-anticipated electronic tourism visas, the Kingdom’s treasures are open to discovery, for adventure and an unforgettable journey.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), which was on Time Magazine’s 100 Places to Visit list in 2018, ranks high on the bucket list of destinations within Saudi Arabia. The creative and public space is Saudi Aramco’s most ambitious citizenship initiative to date and is also the largest cultural contribution to the Kingdom and its people. An architectural marvel, a landmark in the region and a reflection of the Kingdom’s thriving artistic and cultural industries, Ithra is a destination with unique appeal offering something for every person walking through its doors.

1. Architectural Wonder of the World

Ithra was built to communicate a sense of wonder and awe in its physical structure, an indicator of the potential within. Designed by the award-winning Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, Ithra as a structure is a collection of stones that symbolizes unity. The stones themselves embody the resource wealth of the Kingdom and recognize Saudi Aramco’s contribution to the Kingdom’s oil economy and global energy sector.

Built across 80,000m2, Ithra houses facilities and joined components include the four level Library, 18-floor Knowledge Tower, three-level Idea Lab, Energy Exhibit, four-gallery Museum, 315-seat Cinema, 900-seat Performance Arts Theater, Archives, 1,500 m2 Great Hall and Children’s Museum. Instantly recognized by it’s exterior, the building’s façade is made from 370km of steel tubes, intricately and individually formed and bent and wrapped around the structure.

The Center is intentionally built on the location, where oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia. Designed as a purposeful chronological expression of time, the underground components represent the past; the ground level marks the present; and the 90m-tall tower is an inspiration for the future that has become an unmissable icon across the Dhahran skyline.

2. A Hub for Talent Development

Ithra’s components have been created to offer journeys that lead to discovery and it has firmly established itself as a destination, where curiosity leads to creativity. In its first 2 years of operation, it has already welcomed close to 1 million visitors, who have been inspired and transformed by the diversity of its world-class performances, events, exhibitions, workshops and experiences.

Ithra is focused on nurturing and developing local talent and enabling curious learners and aspiring professionals to realize their ambitions by providing them with the necessary resources to advance their skills. Ithra’s curated year-round programming welcomes experts and speakers from around the world covering different industries to deliver inspiring workshops aimed to enhance participant skills.

Ithra’s components such as its Idea Lab, Knowledge Tower, Cinema and Performing Arts Theater offer the space to showcase talent and the resources to gain practical hands-on experience and training.

3. Springboard for Saudi and Arab Art

From championing the diversity of Saudi talent through its initiatives such as Ithra Art Prize, to offering a platform for showcasing the breadth and range of expression, Ithra’s Museum makes a compelling case for a visit. It houses four galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art; Saudi heritage; Islamic art; and the natural history of the Arabian Peninsula. The Museum houses temporary exhibitions, collections on loan via partnerships, as well as a growing permanent collection of art that represent many of the world’s richest cultures.

Funoon Gallery showcases the best of Saudi and Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art and exciting artworks from emerging local talent.

Ajyaal Gallery is a tribute to Saudi heritage and highlights its rich culture throughout the history of its diverse provinces.

Kunooz Gallery is an extraordinary exhibition of Islamic design and heritage and brings together works of significant value in Islamic history dating back to the establishment of Islam in the seventh century with the great diversity of Islamic art from across three continents.

Rehlaat Gallery showcases the natural history of the Arabian Peninsula and is the most interactive gallery. Through screens and sounds, the gallery is brought to life with the various exhibits dedicated to the wildlife and nature present throughout the Arabian Peninsula’s geographical history.

At the center of the Museum is Ithra’s spiritual heart, where Italian master sculptor Giuseppe Penone’s 90-foot high masterpiece “Source of Light”, towers from the symbolic site, close to where commercial oil was first discovered in the Kingdom.

4. Tanween

Tanween, Ithra’s Creativity Season, is currently in play through October 26. Each year for nearly three weeks in October, Ithra convenes creative thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs and industry leaders for a celebration of art, design, science and technology. Through a program of immersive and interactive experiences, Tanween promises a journey of discovery and inspiration for all those who attend.

This year, the second edition is curated around the theme of PLAY, a key ingredient in creative thinking. From workshops and talks, to art installations and activities, Tanween provides an inspiration-fueled environment which appeals to audiences of all ages and interests, from professionals of all levels to families.

5. Unmissable Calendar of Events

From hosting the Saudi Film Festival, a home-grown exhibition of the Kingdom’s irrepressible filmmaking talent, to debuting the art works of the world’s masters in the region, Ithra has ensured that it is constantly stimulating the creative and cultural landscape of the country. Saudi at heart and multi-cultural by nature, Ithra champions diversity, celebrates creativity, shares knowledge and encourages collaboration.

Some of Ithra’s trailblazing events for Saudi audiences include Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus exhibition from Milan; Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s Landscapes of the Soul exhibition from Norwat; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone™ in Concert with the UK’s National Symphonic Orchestra; Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra Theater; the Mahabharata theater performance, an Indian classic; the Manganiyar Connection performance; oud performer Naseer Shamma; the Vienna Chamber Orchestra; Drees Maloumi; Slava’s Snow Show; La Scala; The Wizard of Oz; and several other memorable shows, productions and performances.