Riyadh: Cultural Capital of the Arab World for the Year 2000

       Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been chosen by the Arab League Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALESCO) as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World for the Year 2000. A series of conferences, seminars, exhibits and other events scheduled for throughout the year was launched at an inaugural ceremony held at the headquarters of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW) on January 22 by Riyadh Province Governor Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz. The ceremony was attended by President of the GPYW Prince Sultan Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, who is chairman of the Supreme Organizing Committee, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Koshiro Matsura and thousands of scholars, literary personalities and cultural figures from Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.

          A large number of cultural shows, photo exhibits, book fairs, seminars, conferences and other events have already been held and many more are scheduled for the remainder of the year 2000. While most are in Riyadh, many others are being held in cities across the Kingdom, as well as Arab capitals and at Saudi Arabian embassies abroad.

                    The events honor a city that is in the historic heartland of the Arab world. Located in the dry, desert region of central Saudi Arabia, Riyadh derives its name from the Arabic word for garden.

          Throughout most of a history stretching back two millennia, Riyadh was no more than a green oasis known for its dates, fruits and vegetables. When King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud established the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, his capital covered an area of about one square mile with 30,000 inhabitants. Within three decades, it had grown more than ten-fold in size and the population had increased to 200,000.

           As the Kingdom’s socioeconomic development picked up pace, Riyadh’s growth accelerated. By 1988, it covered 200 square miles and had 1.5 million inhabitants. The latest studies indicate that the city covered more than 600 square miles of land and housed 3.4 million people in September 1999, and the population is projected to reach six million by the end of 2007.

           A blend of the old and the new, contemporary Riyadh has maintained its rich heritage while embracing change. Historic sites such as the Masmak Fortress and the souq (market) exist side-by-side with super highways, modern buildings, shopping malls and industrial facilities.

           Museums, libraries, universities and other scientific and cultural institutions combine to make Riyadh uniquely suited to preserve and promote the values and traditions that Saudi Arabia treasures as it seeks to further modernize, diversify and expand its economic base in the new millennium.

The posters are part of an exhibit produced by the Information Office of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC, to mark the occasion of the selection of Riyadh as the cultural capital of the Arab World for the year 2000.


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