Tanween Over the years

Tanween, Ithra’s Season of Creativity is the largest creativity platform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A celebration of the risk-taking creatives and change-making innovators impacting the world. An annual event filled season with talks, masterclasses, exhibits, workshops, challenges, performances, meet-ups and festivities bringing a diverse array of perspectives and experiences. An example of why Ithra is a hub for creativity in the region. An inspiring showcase for cultural audiences and creative consumers to enjoy.

In 3 years Tanween has welcomed over 170,000 visitors, hosted 125 speakers, delivered 110 workshops, 30 Exhibits or Installations, and 40 live performances, supporting the creation over 500 pieces of original content.

In 2018 Tanween exploded into the world promoting the power of positive creative ‘Disruption’. In 2019 we encouraged experimentation and imagination through ‘Play’. Then in 2020, along with the rest of the World, we jointly reset our goals for the future in ‘The New Next’. So now in 2021 we are ready to pick up our ‘Tools’ to start making.

See a glimpse of what you have missed in the highlights of previous editions below:

2020: “The New Next”

Tanween 2020 was not a normal year, but while many other reached to get back to a new normality we looked ahead to The New Next. As they say the best way to predict the future is to create it. So let’s get creative.

A hybrid program comprising talks, exhibits and workshops reached a new virtual audience, as well as a socially distance physical one. More than half the program was dedicated to supporting and empowering emerging creatives to gain support, find direction and build their networks. The professional program provided the latest insight into the latest creative industry developments and opportunities. The public program reached to over 40 remote venues across the kingdom.

Dr. Sumaya Al Sulaiman (Head of the Saudi Commission Architecture and Design) presented an impassioned keynote address, while Mahmoud Abdelrahman of HUED and Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney, discussed the “Theory of Creativity.” Other headliners included Sir Martin Sorrell (Founder & Executive Chairman of S4 Capital and formerly WPP), Joanna Peña -Bickley (Head of Research & Design, Alexa Devices at Amazon) and Patrik Schumacher (Principal of Zaha Hadid Architects), while Alan Yau (Founder of Wagamama, Hakkasan and Duck & Rice) explored the future of food.

The diverse lineup included sessions on craft, typography, digital fashion, data visualization, graphic design and food design. An exploration of what it takes to be a successful freelancer sat alongside a discussion on the dedication needed to turn professional, an introduction to building a personal brand, a guide on how to find an authentic voice, tips for starting a creative business in the local market, how to find your passion in life and work and more.

2019: “Play”

Tanween 2019 was presented under the theme “Play,” a key ingredient in the creative process. To quote psychologist Abraham Maslow, “Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.”

The festival explored “Play” across four tracks: Play Process, Play Products, Emergent Play and Play Spaces. Each track was designed to delve deeply into the creative process through learning and education, games and tools, intelligence technology and future cities. “Play” renews a childlike fascination to let our imaginations roam free, to unlock and discover creativity through the power of play.

Football icon Thierry Henry headlined Tanween 2019 with an intimate deep-dive discussion and a special meet-and-greet experience. The Soccer Barcelona Youth Academy offered a sensory exploration of participants playing “the world’s game” with blindfolds. Science presenter Greg Foot fronted an adrenaline-fueled stunt show featuring free runners and world-class trick cyclists, while participants could design and build their own armor and planes made of cardboard in workshops before engaging in the world-famous cardboard Battle Royale Box Wars. The hands-on Tanween Challenges were introduced in this season. Other highlights included the Luminarium installation and a giant puppet show.

2018: “Disruption”

Launched in 2018 under the theme “Disruption,” Tanween was the first major event at Ithra. The festival encouraged visitors to rethink their understanding of creativity and to explore their relationship to disruption. Participants were invited to examine disruption in their own lives, and to explore how disruption can be utilized to create positive change in their own lives and the lives of others.

Prominent speakers at Tanween’s inaugural event included MIT’s Prof. Carlo Ratti, Philippe Blanchard of Futurous, and headlining was the renowned Myth-Buster Adam Savage. Visitors learnt how virtual reality is revolutionizing the medical world, prepared for the future in the “Saudi after Oil” session and took home 3D memories painted with Google’s state-of-the-art “Tilt Brush.” Other exciting activities included day-time fireworks, the Sense + Sensibility exhibition, the international Slava Snow Show, foodie-focused experiences and a fashion exhibition.



Chris Edwards

“This is about creating a cultural expansion. To connect with other people and benefit from collaborating together to spark a new level of creativity.”


Mark Mon-Williams

“Amazing! What a fantastic resource. Reflecting on what has happened in the past, but also looking to the future to understand how we can make the world a better place for the next generation.”


Banan Al Yaquby

“If we elevate, create and nurture design thinkers, we are going to really move forward and evolve design in the region.”