Dhahran: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) welcomed its one millionth visitor to date this past weekend, coinciding with the activities of the second edition of Tanween, its annual Creativity Season, which runs from October 10-26, 2019. This significant milestone for Ithra reaffirms the center’s position, both within the Kingdom and the wider region, as a leading creative destination for talent development and cross-cultural experiences, drawing in visitors from the Kingdom and abroad.

Built on the promise to offer compelling cultural and creative experiences to audiences of all ages and interests, Ithra delivers a curated year-round purpose-driven calendar of programs to impact the Kingdom’s creative scene, with Tanween being its annual flagship event. Since opening, the center’s programs have demonstrated continued growth in attendance, attracting students; professionals in the fields of arts, culture and innovation and families, as well as international visitors.

Commenting on the significance of the milestone, Fatmah Al-Rashid, Ithra’s Acting Director said: “Ithra is immensely proud to have achieved its one millionth visitor mark. This milestone represents a million enriching experiences in knowledge, creativity and culture delivered to individuals who have walked through our doors, as part of Ithra’s promise to broaden cultural horizons and offer new experiences to audiences in the Kingdom and visitors from abroad.

We are especially proud to have had this achievement occur during Tanween, our creativity season festival and flagship annual event. Tanween, along with our calendar of year-round programming, represents Ithra’s mission to create a cultural and creative ecosystem, bringing people of all ages, interests and backgrounds together; building bridges beyond borders and celebrating talent. To have now welcomed more than one million visitors through our doors is testament to the growing cultural appetite within the Kingdom, of which Ithra is the cultural and creativity destination via our art exhibitions, theater shows, cinema screenings, book signings, networking and other events. We look forward to welcoming millions more in the years to come and creating impactful new experiences for all who visit, as more and more visitors are welcomed to Saudi Arabia.”

Some of Ithra’s most prominent programs to date include:

- iRead, the national reading competition, which since its launch has received more than 50,000 applicants, and focuses on promoting a passion for literature, reading and education

- The Saudi Film Festival, which provides a platform to support and showcase Saudi’s thriving filmmaking industry

- Seasonal family-focused events celebrating heritage and culture such as Saudi National Day, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha festivities, which welcome on averge between 30,000-85,000 visitors

Incorporating program offerings, the Center’s components proved to attract a high volume of visitors with the biggest draws stemming from international performances as well as special exhibitions and screenings at the Ithra Theater, Cinema and Museum.

World caliber theater shows such as Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra Theater, the Mahabharata-Nalachartiam from Japan, the Indian Manganiyar Connection, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Slava’s Snow Show, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone™ in Concert with the UK’s National Symphonic Orchestra, Rigoletto by La Scala Opera and the Wizard of Oz have attracted audiences of over 60,000.

The Ithra Cinema, the cradle of the 5th Saudi Film Festival and the platform for Saudi-made films and Ithra’s production house, has hosted more than 1,300 screenings for over 43,000 filmgoers and cinephiles from the Kingdom and the region. The Ithra Museum, home to four galleries, includes a dedicated space to showcase Saudi and Saudi-based talent in the contemporary art field whose work attracts the local art community and art enthusiasts. The Great Hall, an impressive space for traveling exhibitions, has hosted international exhibitions such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Codex Atlanticus” from Milan and recently and Edvard Munch’s “Landscapes of the Soul” where 40 original artworks were on display for the first time in the Middle East.

Ithra’s community engagement activities have also been an anchor pillar of its operations with ongoing outreach and collaborations with local schools and universities. Ithra has welcomed more than 1,000 school visits to date, reaching more than 50,000 students and teachers. The Center’s youth volunteering program focuses on youth development through an enriching volunteering experience where they learn from practical experience, working with SMEs, training and participating in skill-development programs. In addition to the participation of 2500 volunteers with more than 200,000 volunteering hours, Ithra provided more than 40,000 hours of practical hands-on experience through workshops, talks and exclusive activities, creating a community of active Saudi youth engaging with Ithra’s diverse programming firsthand. Continuing on youth engagement and skills development, Ithra’s Knowledge Tower has hosted over 120 workshops facilitated by international experts to over 1800 participants.

This year marks the second edition of Tanween as well. Tanween is Ithra’s flagship annual program and the largest creativity festival in the Kingdom, connecting audiences with world-class speakers and experts who deliver inspirational talks, workshops, interactive exhibitions and family activities. A collective of creativity, Tanween 2019 presents an impressive line-up of headline events and activities around the theme of ‘PLAY’.

Key attractions at this year’s Tanween include:

  • The legendary French football player Thierry Henry
  • Luminarium by Architects of Air, a monumental inflatable sculpture and immersive art installation
  • Master storyteller and Pixar animator Andrew Gordon
  • Japan’s first astronaut Dr. Mamoru Mohri
  • Saudi Arabia’s world-champion professional gamer Musaed Al Dossary
  • UX creative director Jean-François Larouche
  • Stanford fellow Stuart Brown MD, the world’s foremost academic of play theory and founder of the National Institute of Play

Tanween 2019 continues until October 26 with key events still to come. Science presenter Greg Foot commenced his adrenaline-fueled stunt show “Greg Foot’s Extreme Sports Battle” featuring free runners and world class trick cyclists. The Season’s concluding weekend will also feature the popular global phenomenon ‘Box Wars’ final battle onsite at Ithra, which will have 100 participants use their Box War workshop-creations.