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Half a million visitors enriched by Aramco's iThra Knowledge
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 02 - 2014

Syeda Amtul
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — One of the most successful outreach programs in the history of Saudi Aramco, “iThra Knowledge 2014” concluded in Jeddah on Thursday with half a million visitors enriching their scientific knowledge and experience.
The visitors, who were greeted to a world-class cultural event with traditional Hijazi condiments, learned about a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements by Muslims and how those contributions helped cement the foundations of modern civilization.

The visitors enjoyed calligraphy and pop art workshops and learned efficient use of energy resources.
The workshops, galleries and exhibits ranged from Arabic calligraphy under the guidance of in-house Arabic calligraphers of the Grand Mosque Ibrahim Al-Arrafi and Saud Khan to pop art workshops conducted by new generation artists like Ahmed Emam and Ahmed Al-Ahmedy.
Khan, Al-Arrafi and Abdulmajeed Al-Ahdal discovered a great amount of young talent at calligraphy workshops and encouraged them to continue polishing their skills. The veterans taught the basics of Arabic calligraphy by applying the traditional tools of bamboo stencils and ink.
“I have received great appreciation from visitors and calligraphy enthusiasts of different ages and demographics; it is very rewarding to see how popular calligraphy has become with the visitors,” said Khan.
The iThra Knowledge Program was a complete enrichment package for the whole family.
Arabic calligraphy has so far been one of the most popular activities offered by the Art Café, which also hosts the "Names of Allah" exhibition.
Another program taught teens techniques of producing high quality video content for YouTube using their smart phones. The night ended with a live entertainment show.
Among other highlights of the event was “The Energy Efficiency Pavilion,” which gave an interactive experience to visitors on ways of rationalizing energy consumption. The unique glass house exhibition concept used at the pavilion taught visitors simple and everyday methods in reducing energy intake. In addition, the pavilion highlighted the positive implications of saving energy.
Visitors to the pavilion had the opportunity to pledge their commitment to rationalized use of energy in their daily lives and receive a certificate via email.
Meanwhile, “Creative Studio” held a competition, powered and promoted by YouTube, to develop high-end media material on the social media site with meaningful content, all linked to important topics that promote positive behavioral change in Saudi society. The competition garnered a lot of attention from YouYube celebrities and filmmakers.
“The Traffic Safety Village” was a very popular activity for children. It presented a miniature city-inspired rally that sought to instill basic ethics of road use in children from an early age.
In the village, children faced multiple traffic situations and those who overcame them successfully received a driving license. The program aimed to orientate children to be successful drivers in future.
The Art Café presented Saudi Aramco's official 32nd Children's Art Contest and offered each day of the event more than 500 children a chance to sit down in a customized environment to engage in drawing and painting.
Alternatively on the other side of the tent, an older group enjoyed a weekly schedule of workshops taught by well-known artists, including Grand Mosque calligrapher Khan and airbrush and ink artist Hussam Yamani. There was also an exhibition area that featured various well-known Saudi artists such as Abdullah Nawawi. More than 3,400 individuals took part in the workshops.
Maha Abdulhady of Art Cafe said most modern techniques in graphic design, painting and mixed media as well as ink art, air brushing and sculpturing were taught at the workshops.
"These workshops targeted more than 3,000 participants,” she said. “We are very proud to have prominent international artists such as Japanese calligrapher Nobuko Sagawa on our roster of instructors.”
All workshops were extremely popular to the extent that there was often a waiting list of participants.
Outside the Art Café, there was an exhibition that displayed over 20 artworks of various mediums.
“The Live Performance Theater” was by far one of the most popular offerings at the iThra Knowledge Program mainly due to its absence in the region. It offered carefully selected local and international performances such as the Circassians Folklore, which promotes world culture by highlighting a somewhat forgotten culture of the Circassia people in a highly entertaining stage performance.
Other events included performances by winners of 2012 Arabs Got Talent, ‘Khawater Al-Thalam', talk shows such as ‘Ignite' and ‘TedX', and a percussion show from Egypt.
Over 10,000 boys and girls from 160 schools across Jeddah visited the event. "The excitement on the kids' faces really made me feel that we are living up to our promise of giving them a never-seen-before experience," said Waseem Sindi, education program developer at the iThra Knowledge.
Following its successful run in Jeddah, the program will continue its tour in various other Saudi cities.
Although the program succeeded in bringing together interactive exhibits and cultural activities with a good balance between art and science, the real success however was attributed to the crowd management and the support services.
The program had the support of 500 local male and female volunteers who toiled hard to make the program a big success. While the occasion gave volunteers an opportunity to gain unparalleled experience in management, communications and logistics, each one of them made their own unique contributions to the program.
The “1001 Inventions” exhibition was an award-winning international science and cultural heritage brand, reaching over 70 million people around the world. This interactive exhibition revealed a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements from across the Muslim Civilization spanning from the golden age in the 7th century until the present.
Volunteers were given special training by experts under the direct supervision of Saudi Aramco ahead of the event to prepare them to become qualified guides and tour managers at the “1001 Inventions” exhibition.
"The volunteers showed a great level of dedication in an highly demanding atmosphere and this was an inspiration for all of us," said Omar Bader, director of the iThra Knowledge Program.

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