Press Release


2021 Calendar Announced at the Ithra Annual Gathering


The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Ithra, hosted its second “Ithra Annual Gathering” on Sunday, January 24, 2021 at the Center in Dhahran. In the presence of important intellectuals, artists, writers and thought leaders, Ithra announced the most prominent programs and events planned for 2021. The events calendar features a vast slate of diverse cultural activities suited for all ages that address the fields of art, creativity, culture, knowledge and society. Ithra’s mission is to provide an environment that stimulates the production and exchange of knowledge, develops talent and provides a rich range of visitor experiences through local and international programming.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major transformations in how we deal with the creative and cultural industries, as society has proven its ability to adapt to the pandemic,” says Hussain N. Hanbazazah, Director of Ithra. “We were keen to provide innovative solutions so we could continue interacting with our audiences. While the threat of the pandemic is receding, we will remain committed to providing various programs and rich content that enhance the rapid growth and the massive transformations being experienced by the Kingdom’s creative and cultural industries.”

Hanbazazah underlined the ability of the creative sectors to enhance communication with others within a humanitarian framework we have not experienced before. He specifically pointed to the UN’s resolution to make 2021 the international year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development as evidence of the sector’s importance. “After all, it was the creative industries – from film and television, books and music to art and gaming – that we all turned to for solace when the situation was bleakest.”

Hanbazazah says COVID-19 revealed the immense potential of the creative industries. “Beyond their restorative and comforting qualities, these activities also enabled us to connect with others in our shared humanity like never before. There are personal and social benefits intrinsic to the industry, but the sector also has much to offer economically as the world works to recover financially.”

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be more mindful of our digital wellbeing,” says Abdullah Alrashid, Ithra’s Head of Programs. “In developing our activities for 2021, we’ve been conscious about not just using technology for the sake of having technological components, but we are continually considering how technology can be employed in a beneficial manner.”

Alrashid says this year will see the inaugural Theater in Schools program — which supports the development of Saudi’s theater and performing arts sector both on and off stage – as well as the launch of the Ithra Academy, in which Ithra partners with world-class institutions and entities to offer scholastic training programs that will provide long-term exposure to the creative and cultural industries.

Other highlights include the immersive Shatr AlMasjid: Art of Orientation exhibition, a deep dive into mosques and the objects they contain; Seeing & Perceiving, based on optical illusion and visual trickery; the return of the flagship creativity and innovation conference Tanween; and the annual Eid and Saudi National Day celebrations.

According to Ithra’s recently released Annual Report, the Center’s Ithra Connect initiative had more than 1 million virtual attendees and over 19,000 participants, while 45,880 visitors attended the Vietnam-oriented inaugural edition of the Ithra Cultural Days festival. Ithra’s livestream video with Neil deGrasse Tyson currently has more than 17,000 views on YouTube. In 2020, Ithra provided training for more than 20,000 young professionals, while the submissions for its National Reading Program iRead exceeded 50,000. Ithra also trained 1,500 volunteers in 2020, delivering 50,000 hours of productivity.

Ithra’s 2021 calendar reinforces Ithra’s status as Saudi Arabia’s premier cultural and creative destination, and Ithra is proud to present programs and activities that are adding so much to the blossoming cultural landscape of the Kingdom.